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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Charlotte Closes Waddell High & Other Segregated, Failing Schools

Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board Votes To Close E.E. Waddell High School & Other Segregated, Failing Schools

Tuesday night the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board voted to shut down 10 schools, expand other schools, and change boundaries.

In the most controversial vote of the night, the board voted 5-4 to shut down Waddell High school and give its building to Smith Language Academy.

That vote also means that Harding High will lose its math and science magnet program to Phillip O. Berry High, and Harding will become a partial neighborhood school instead of a full magnet school. Harding will keep its IB program.

Both Harding and Waddell parents expressed disappointment after the vote.

The four members who voted not to shut down Waddell and make the change to Harding were Tom Tate, Joyce Waddell, Richard McElrath, and Trent Merchant. Board chair Eric Davis, Joe White, Kaye McGarry, Rhonda Lennon, and Tim Morgan voted yes.

The school board also voted to make a host of other changes which are listed at the bottom of this article.

Not long after it began, the Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board meeting was disrupted Tuesday night when a group of people started chanting from inside the board chambers.

Several folks began chanting, "No justice, no peace," and were led out of the room by police officers from Charlotte-Mecklenburg police.

At least two people were arrested during the meeting, including CMS parent Niksa Balbosa. She shouted, "There is a bigger plan than public knows! Fight for your children! Fight!" as she was being taken, in handcuffs, into the elevator at the Board of Education.

Police tell us that Balbosa will be charged with disorderly conduct and she was being taken to the Mecklenburg County jail. NAACP members told WBTV's Dedrick Russell that they were planning to bail Balbosa out.

The meeting interrupting lasted for several minutes. When police escorted some of the chanters outside, the chants continued in the hall.

In the lobby, NAACP President Kojo Nantambu lead a group of protests in chanting, "Push Back the Date!" referring to their demand that the board not vote on a host of controversial measures Tuesday night.

A woman fell during the chanting and an ambulance was called to check out her injuries which appeared to be minor. Its not clear how she fell.

There are 25 measures the board is scheduled to consider, which include school closures and other big changes. A crowd of close to 500 showed up, including many who had to watch in the government center lobby and two overflow rooms.

Before the disruption, board member Joyce Waddell had tried to get the board to delay voting on all the measures.

"I am asking that this be delayed until the February meeting," Waddell said.

But Waddell's motion was shot down 7-2, with only board member Richard McElrath joining Waddell.

Here are the changes the board voted to make:

These are the schools that, except for one, will be closed by next school year:

* Irwin Avenue Elementary (students would be sent to Dilworth or Ashley Park elementaries; IB Primary Years magnet program at Irwin goes away; the board originally planned to turn Irwin into CMS offices, but instead decided Tuesday night that the Villa Heights Learning Immersion/Talent Development program would move into the Irwin facility)
* Lincoln Heights Elementary (Lincoln Heights students will go to Bruns Avenue Elementary)
* Oakhurst Elementary (students will be sent to either Rama Road or Billingsville elementaries; Paideia magnet program at Oakhurst will close)
* Pawtuckett Elementary School (Pawtuckett students will go to Whitewater Academy)
* Davidson IB Middle (the IB program will be relocated to Alexander Middle)
* John Taylor Williams Middle
* Bishop Spaugh Community Academy (Middle School)
* Wilson Middle School
* Waddell High School (Smith Language Academy will move into Waddell's building and take the Waddell name)
* Amay James Pre-Kindergarten (closing a pre-K does not require a board vote, so this closure was not voted on Tuesday night)
* University Park Elementary (it will not shut down until the 2012-2013 school year; at that time its creative arts magnet will be combined with First Ward Elementary's creative arts magnet)

Here are some other changes the CMS board approved Tuesday night that will start next school year:


* Community House Middle students who live north of 485 will now go to South Charlotte Middle
* Some Garinger High students will go to Cochrane Middle, which will eventually become a 6-12th grade school by 2014; Cochrane will not have sports but students will be allowed to play for Garinger
* Some Nathaniel Alexander and Hornets Nest elementary students will now go to Winding Springs Elementary, which without its magnet will now become a neighborhood school
* Students at Tuckaseegee Elementary School will go on to Whitewater Middle School
* Students at Barringer Elementary will go on to Sedgefield Middle School
* Students living in the Dilworth and Eastover elementary zones who formerly went to Bishop Spaugh Middle will now go to Alexander Graham Middle


# Create a learning immersion/talent development partial magnet at Mallard Creek Elementary
# Create a Primary Years International Baccalaureate (PYIB) partial magnet program at Blythe Elementary School


# Harding High's math and science magnet program will move to Phillip O. Berry High; Harding will keep its IB program and no longer be a full magnet school -- some kids will be assigned to it as a neighborhood school


* Berryhill Elementary
* Reid Park Elementary
* Druid Hills Elementary
* Byers Elementary
* Ashley Park Elementary
* Bruns Avenue Elementary
* Thomasboro Elementary
* Westerly Hills Elementary

Charlotte School Board Closes Segregated, Failing Schools Including Waddell High But Saves Harding High

In a night marked by split votes, angry protests and accusations of racism, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board approved a sweeping plan to close 10 schools and make other dramatic changes.

In the most controversial item, the board voted 5-4 to close Waddell High and make it the new home for Smith Language Academy, a K-8 magnet. Harding High, which had also been considered as a home for Smith, will turn into a neighborhood school housing many of Waddell's students, along with the International Baccalaureate magnet now at Harding.

Most other efforts to block or revise the plan failed, often with the board's only two black members on the losing end of votes.

"That's a racist vote," speaker John White told the board after the seven white members rejected a move by Joyce Waddell and Richard McElrath to delay a vote on all proposed changes.

Race was a common theme as more than 100 people made one last attempt to sway the board on its historic decision.

The votes change life for about 25,000 students next year. It is the first time the district, which has long grappled with the challenges of growth, has faced massive closings and reassignments because of a shrinking budget.

Most speakers were critical of the plans crafted by Superintendent Peter Gorman and hashed out after five months of board meetings and public forums. Many noted that closings and other major changes would land disproportionately on schools serving minority and low-income students.

Only about 5 percent of students in the schools slated to close are white, compared with a third district-wide.

"Everyone should share the pain, including our suburban families and communities," said Adrian DeVore.

"You are about to wake a sleeping giant called the civil rights movement," said Darrell Bonapart.

Gorman, board Chair Eric Davis and other members say the changes are based on low enrollment and/or academic weakness, not on race or clout. And they say it's just the start of a quest to cut up to $100 million from next year's $1 billion budget.

Before public comments began, Waddell and McElrath argued for pulling the vote off the agenda. Waddell said by waiting until February, officials could craft a fairer plan.

Other members said they needed to vote now to be ready for the 2011 magnet lottery.

After the motion was voted down, a handful of activists began chanting "No justice, no peace." CMS and Charlotte-Mecklenburg police led them from the meeting chamber.

A gray-haired woman collapsed into the space between rows of seats. The board watched quietly as officers worked to get her to her feet.

"You knocked her down?" someone called.

"No," others said.

Another woman, whom police later identified as Niksa Karina Balbosa, 39, was led away in handcuffs. "They are voting to destroy our children," she shouted. "We won't stop until we're heard."

She was charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing, CMS Police Chief Bud Cesena said.

Charlotte NAACP President Kojo Nantambu arrived 15 minutes after the meeting began and tried to get into the meeting chamber, but was turned away. He led a group of roughly 30 people, some with signs, who began chanting in the lobby, calling on the school board to push back the vote.

Even after the board voted to keep the closings plan on the agenda, many speakers urged members to start over. Sarah Stevenson, a former school board member, was among them.

"You have a golden opportunity to be fair and equitable to minority children and minority communities," Stevenson said. "You'd be the first board of education to do that in the 60-something years that I've been active in politics in this community."

The local League of Women Voters also called for a do-over, saying the current plan creates too much disruption and distrust for a relatively small savings.

"This is not the time to be penny wise and pound foolish," said co-president Janet Brinkley.

But some speakers from Smith Language Academy, which now moves to Waddell, urged members to vote.

"It's not fair to the students and the parents to delay the process any further," one said.

Joyce Waddell also made a motion to scrap a plan to close three high-poverty, mostly minority middle schools and move the students into new pre-K-8 schools. She said Gorman hasn't shown that students will benefit from the move. Her motion lost on a 5-4 vote.

Five and a half hours into the meetings, feelings were running high. Audience members shouted at board member Joe White as he spoke from the dais. He snapped back that he hadn't interrupted them when they spoke.

"No wonder we have kids who don't know how to behave," White said. He quickly added that some of the best and most civil speakers earlier in the meeting were students.

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Sources: WBTV, McClatchy Newspapers, WCNC, Google Maps

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