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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Charlotte NAACP Fights To Keep Failing, Segregated Schools Open: Stupid!!

Hundreds Fight For Segregated Westside Schools; Teacher & Charlotte NAACP Leader Arrested

Parents turned out by the hundreds Tuesday night to fight for Charlotte's Westside schools, saying the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools closing plan threatens the city's most fragile students and neighborhoods.

"They're not targeting the schools that have these giant PTAs.
They're targeting our children because we are who we are," said Tasha Houston, parent of a student at J.T. Williams Middle.

Kojo Nantambu, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was handcuffed and charged with disorderly conduct when he led a chant of "We want more time!" as the public forum ended at 8 p.m.

CMS teacher Hans Plotseneder was then charged with trespassing when he refused CMS police orders to clear the room.

The proposed 2011-12 school shakeup includes the latest step in CMS's quest to improve results in neighborhood schools where most students are Poor, Black and Performing below grade level.

It calls for closing three such middle schools - Wilson, Spaugh and Williams, in west and central Charlotte - that serve about 1,500 students. Eight nearby elementary schools would convert to prekindergarten through eighth grade.

More than 300 people came to the Government Center to challenge the CMS plans, which also include closing University Park and Irwin Avenue elementary schools. Speakers said schools slated to close are mainstays of communities that will see crime and economic instability rise if the buildings stand empty next year.

"We're losing jobs. We're losing our homes. Now we're going to lose our schools?" said Niksa Balbosa. "It's time to stop losing. We need to stand up and fight for what's ours."

CMS is studying changes to about 70 schools in a bid to save money and boost academic achievement. The board expects to vote Nov. 9 on 2011-12 changes that could include closings, mergers and changes in programs and enrollment.

One of the most dramatic changes is the proposed shift from middle schools to pre-K-8 schools in some low-income neighborhoods. Superintendent Peter Gorman and his staff say the new structure will prevent the academic slump many students suffer when they move up to middle schools.

"I know that kids leave Ashley Park on grade level, and by grade seven they're not on grade level," CMS planner Dennis LaCaria told one discussion group. "The data says that."

"Why don't we make all schools K-8?" a woman asked.

"That's probably where we're headed. This is the vanguard," LaCaria said, adding that it's harder to merge large suburban schools.

A Johns Hopkins University study that Gorman gave the school board recently raises doubts about the effectiveness of such conversions, especially when most of the students are impoverished and minorities. That is the case for all the CMS schools involved.

Except for Berryhill Elementary, on Mecklenburg's western border, all of the elementary schools that would add grades 6-8 had poverty levels over 90 percent and pass rates below 60 percent last year and are in the midst of efforts to improve student achievement. Three - Byers, Druid Hill and Reid Park - had pass rates below 50 percent, failed to show adequate progress and are on the state's low-performing list.

The high poverty levels mean the schools get extra federal money, Gorman told parents who questioned the plan at a community meeting earlier in the day. And he noted that the potential savings from closing the three middle schools are roughly equal to salaries for a high-school staff.

Ericka Ellis-Stewart, who has children in CMS magnets, questioned whether it's worth it: "In sacrificing these kids for the money, are we really going to see the gains?"

Middle-school students in the new pre-K-8 schools might have fewer "electives," or optional classes, than students in larger middle schools, officials have said. The latest plan calls for them to ride buses to traditional middle schools to take part in sports and other after-school activities.

Several parents of Williams students said their kids are being penalized for adult failures.

"If the middle-schooler ends up going backwards to elementary, it's like an emotional demotion," said Alison Boulding.

Debra Goldman Holds Forum On Wake County Schools

With uniformed officers at every exit, Wake County school board member Debra Goldman held a forum on the divisive issue of student assignment at Cary Town Hall on Tuesday night.

The meeting was orderly and quick, absent the heated emotions that have become staples at recent full board meetings on the topic.

Some attendees thanked Goldman for breaking with the board majority last week and voting to pull the plug on a plan to put a community-based assignment policy into effect by creating a series of school assignment zones. The plan would have dropped socio-economic diversity as a criterion for student assignment.

“I just want to thank you very much for standing up in a very difficult situation and doing what you did,” attendee Mary Ann Meagher said.

Others at the meeting voted for Goldman last election and expressed feeling of betrayal by her recent departure from the board’s majority.

“Your double talk and empty promises serve no one but yourself,” parent Allison Backhouse said. “I think I speak for many when I ask, ‘What’s next?’”

Goldman said she still supports a neighborhood school model for Wake County, but said she changed her mind because too many people were being left out of the decision making process.

Goldman stressed to those in the crowd that whether they agree or disagree with her decisions, she valued their thoughts.

“It’s really important to hear the opinions and get the feedback from as many people as possible,” she said.

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Sources: McClatchy Newspapers, NAACP, WCNC, WRAL, Google Maps

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