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Monday, April 26, 2010

Charlotte's Lame NAACP Finally Addresses CMS' Re-Segregation

Here's a recent story about Charlotte-Mecklenburg's Segregated Public School system the Charlotte Observer intentionally chose NOT to report.

Its a totally Biased media hack.

Did you really think it would publish an article about local Minority citizens finally speaking up for Racial Equality in Education?

On the other hand Charlotte's NAACP chapter is so lame and quiet, maybe the Observer forgot they existed.

"Violence is Black children going to school for 12 years and receiving 6 years' worth of Education".

Julian Bond

Charlotte NAACP Considers CMS' Redistricting Plan Re-Segregation

The Charlotte NAACP is taking aim at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' plan to redraw school zones, saying the CMS Board of Education is on the verge of Re-Segregating Public schools.

The "Civil Rights" organization plans to rally at the board's Tuesday night meeting.

CMS district officers say the learning community restructuring plan would help the district save about $3.6 million as it reduces the zones from six geographic areas plus an achievement zone to five areas.

The Rev. Kojo Nantambu, President of the Charlotte NAACP, claims learning communities are an attempt to segregate children by putting all Title I schools, which typically serve Low Income and Minority students, in just two zones.

He calls the plan "Blatant Racism, Unconstitutional and Immoral".

While school officials say they're trying to have as little an impact on students as possible, the zone restructuring plan is a necessary cost-cutting option.

"Even though they continue to make that kind of statement and say that it is about all children, it's not about all children,” Nantambu said. “Because if it is, they would work vigilantly to make sure that what they do includes all children and not continuously separate the poor and the low income from other children."

CMS officials do say the district's Title I department will be reorganized as well to provide additional support to Title 1 schools.

News 14 Carolina called several school board members Saturday afternoon for comment on the NAACP's claims but we have not heard back yet.

New CMS Segregated "Re-districting" Zones Draw Kudos & Major Criticism

A cost-cutting shakeup of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools administration has a hidden twist: Starting in July, 64 of the district's highest-poverty schools will be grouped in two "central" zones, regardless of where they're located.

The other 107 will report to three offices based on geography. Affluent central neighborhoods such as Myers Park and Eastover, for instance, will be part of the new southwest zone.

Some see that as official acknowledgment that CMS has become a dual system, with urban schools abandoned by white and affluent families - just like many other large cities.

It won't take long for people to figure out that "central" means poverty and for stigma to follow, said Louise Woods, a former school board member who works with League of Women Voters education projects.

"I think that's just creating an extremely divided community," she said. "Not only the parents who are seeking schools but the children are extremely troubled by these labels."

CMS leaders says it's a pragmatic move to cut bureaucracy while grouping schools that share challenges. All schools in the central zone have poverty levels of 75 percent or higher, which means they qualify for millions of dollars in federal Title I aid.

CMS board Chair Eric Davis says the top priority is scaling back administrative costs and making a smaller staff work as well as possible for schools. Gorman's shakeup of satellite offices saves about $3.6 million, cutting 35 jobs, as well as supplies and contracted services.

"We're trying to turn a problem into a solution," Davis said.

John Dornan, president of the Raleigh-based Public School Forum of North Carolina, calls the approach innovative and intriguing: "It could be a practice that others might follow - especially in large districts."

Symbolic messages

From a practical standpoint, CMS's administrative structure means little to the average citizen. But it often carries symbolic value.

When Gorman became superintendent in 2006, CMS was widely perceived as huge, bureaucratic and out of touch with suburban concerns. His solution, in part, was creating six "learning communities" scattered around the county.

For parents, that means if they're summoned to a meeting about serious discipline problems, they no longer have to go uptown. But mostly it's employees, especially principals, who use the regional offices. District leaders say that when principals can get quicker answers with less time on the road, schools benefit.

But cost-conscious critics quickly emerged, saying CMS merely relocated a large bureaucracy and added the cost of leasing buildings.

Gorman also created a seventh office, dubbed the Achievement Zone, to supervise about a dozen of the district's most troubled schools. Those schools got priority in recruiting new hires and transferring teachers. They had special staff to help analyze data, figure out curriculum and publicize accomplishments.

Gorman cites academic gains at some of those schools, from Shamrock Gardens Elementary to West Charlotte High, as proof that the approach worked. Eliminating the Achievement Zone "happened kicking and screaming because of the great work that team has done," he said.

Poverty Zones

All schools in the Achievement Zone had high poverty levels, but the other zones contained a mix of high- and low-poverty schools, as well as magnets and non-magnets.

Schools in the new central zones - one covering 44 elementaries and five prekindergarten centers, the other covering 12 middle and eight high schools - are roughly clustered in an east-west band across Charlotte, jutting north almost as far as Huntersville and south to Pineville. Affluent neighborhood schools that used to be considered central and nearly all magnet schools are carved out.

The 75 percent poverty cutoff creates some quirks. West Charlotte High is in the southwest zone, based on a recent calculation that put it just under that level, while many of the elementary and middle schools that feed it are dubbed central. Oddest of all: Garinger High is divided into five small schools, which share a cafeteria, library and sports teams. Four will report to the central zone and one to the east zone.

Most students in the central schools are poor and black or Hispanic. Six percent are white, compared with 33 percent in CMS.

"It's like the old 'separate but equal,'" Woods said. "Separate has never been equal."

Richard McElrath, recently elected to represent west/southwest Charlotte on the school board, says he's also concerned that grouping the schools into special administrative zones will stigmatize them. "When people find out that's what we've done, I don't think they're going to be very happy."

Potential benefits

Gorman says his goal is to spread some of the aid the Achievement Zone got to more schools, though he acknowledges that will be tough with shrinking staff and money and a much longer list of schools.

Not all high-poverty schools have low academic performance, though test scores and graduation rates tend to be lower on average. But they share challenges in recruiting teachers, getting families involved and providing support for students whose lives may be in turmoil.

Dornan, whose group focuses on advocacy and research, said last week he's never heard of a plan like Gorman's, but he sees potential.

"A lesson we've learned is that the more alike schools and/or districts are, the easier it is to get people to be candid about challenges they face," he said in an e-mail. "Specifically, if you have a district like Chapel Hill that is well staffed, well resourced and high performing in a group with a county like Halifax, which is the opposite on all counts, you can expect the Halifax group to essentially close down and be defensive. Grouped with counties facing similar issues, they interact and learn from one another."

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Sources: Channel 14 News, McClatchy Newspapers, NAACP, U.S. Dept of Education, Google Maps

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