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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- CMS is once again launching a new program aimed at turning around low performing schools.

The Beacon initiative will focus on figuring out how best to help 14 schools. Harding University High is one of them.

It's been a bumpy ride there lately.

Last December hundreds of students protested when CMS was considering closing their school.
Instead, Waddell closed - and those students moved to Harding.

The school's principal, John Floyd, says, "It went from 800 kids to 1,800 overnight."

And merged two very different cultures that are still struggling to co-exist.

"It's going to bridge two different cultures from one side of town, west Charlotte also from the Nations Ford area, a large African American community and a large Hispanic community under one banner, which is a Harding Ram."

That's why the school's new principal is excited that Harding was chosen as one of 14 schools to be part of a new CMS program - the Beacon Initiative - aimed at helping struggling schools turn things around.

"Just kind of look at everything to how we use our time, how we use our people and how we use our resources," he says.

The 14 schools that will be part of the Beacon Initiative next year include four elementary schools (Briarwood, Albemarle Road, Nations Ford and Winterfield), four PreK-8 schools (Druid Hills, Bruns Academy, Reid Park and Westerly Hills), three middle schools (James Martin, Whitewater and Martin Luther King Jr.) and three high schools (Harding, Garinger and Vance).

Superintendent Dr. Heath Morrison says this latest effort to turn around schools is different because each school will get a plan designed specifically for them.

Harding University's principal says they specifically need help with English as Second Language students and young teachers.

"About 50 percent of my staff are in their first through third year of teaching and this initiative will provide extra support for those teachers."

It's a program with the University of Virginia - and those representatives will be at the CMS schools in September to evaluate their needs and there should be a plan in place by January.

The program will cost more than a million dollars over two years. Money for this is coming from title one funds and from the local budget

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