Saturday, November 13, 2010

Our schools: Sharing the pain, or dismissing it?

A friend told me a story a few years back about a mother, whose child previously attended a Charlotte private school, getting a tour of Eastover Elementary.

It happened in the teeth of the recession, and the school change probably was the product of bigger changes. The mother quietly but politely listened to the tour guide talk about one of Charlotte’s finest public elementary schools, until finally she broke down.

She couldn’t believe, she explained, that her child had to go to Eastover.

It’s a story that’s prompted some combo of eye roll and smirk each time I’ve told it. It seems even more appalling if you saw much of Tuesday’s CMS school board meeting, at which the CMS board closed 10 Charlotte schools, most underfilled or underperforming, in one painful night.

If you did watch, you saw dozens of parents, angry and despairing, asking the school board to reconsider its decision. You saw students who should be worrying about grades and sports and dates, instead learning that the place they walked into that morning would be gone within a year.

It was sacrifice – 10 times over, a painful price of a budget crisis. It’s a story we’ve seen a lot the past three years, in schools and in so many places, and we’re still struggling with what it brings out in all of us.

We’ve become accustomed to a trajectory in our lives – or at least the expectation that our quality of life will improve if we do what we should be doing. It’s as American as anything else about us. We see it, too, in our schools, which have features and offerings that they didn’t have decades ago.

Cutting back on schools has been – and will be – a hard swallow. Any step backward is.

We’ve seen that play out two ways in Charlotte. In the past few months, parents of struggling, low-income schools have lashed out because those schools might close just as they were getting better. The response: To question why the pain is all theirs – and why it isn’t shared with more affluent suburban schools.

In the past few years, we’ve seen those affluent and suburban parents grow weary at overstuffed campuses yet reluctant to reopening talks about school zones. The response, from many: Find alternatives such as private schools and charter schools – or find their way into neighborhoods that are more insulated from change.

That clash of perspectives, of course, is decades old in cities like ours, and now there are more budget cuts coming. We’ll probably see the same approach CMS has used to this point, which is to give struggling schools as many resources as possible to improve, without hitting parents in other schools with enough pain to make them flee.

And for those who wonder what pain they’ve had, an example: At Myers Park High School, 175 classes this year have more than 35 students. At Ardrey Kell High in South Charlotte, it’s 137. At Harding High, it’s two. At West Charlotte, zero.

Tempting as it might be, the school board hasn’t trumpeted numbers like these, and that’s smart. Nobody wins when you start counting and comparing burdens, because inevitably, you start minimizing everyone else’s.

But there’s been a lot of that going around. It’s wrong to dismiss Tuesday’s anger by reasoning that the school closings were prudent, even if true, or that most of the affected students will likely end up in stronger schools.

It’s also wrong to assume that the richer you are, the less you feel the pain.

I thought Tuesday night about the mom on the Eastover tour, not because her sacrifice paled to those last week, but because she didn’t deserve my smirks or anyone else’s. She was, like any of us, a parent who wanted the best she could give her child, and she had constructed a life that offered just that, and now it was being changed.

We’ll be facing a lot of that change in the months to come. There are significant budget cuts on the way. Sacrifices. It would be nice if we could suffer them together.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Many high achieving schools have lost more teachers (many transferred to lower preforming schools) than lower preforming schools. This is no longer an overcrowding issue. It is a combination of weighted student/teacher ratios at Myers Park/Ardrey Kell and Providence. IF 40 children can highly achieve, why not pack the class with 45-50. More bang for the buck.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Gorman and the BOE have destroyed CMS within a few short years.

Anonymous said...

My parents, myself, my daughter attended schools in Charlotte many the same for all of us. The only change I have seen over the decades of change is the equalizing of the bad. Equalizing of the good was supposed to be the goal and we never even moved in the correct direction.

Anonymous said...

I still think we should pool a small percentage of school fund raiser to assist all schools and the fund should be allocated by a county-wide PTA made of the officers of each school. Work together.

wiley said...

CMS and public education as a whole was broken long before Gorman got out of high school.

It will continue to be broken as long as the status quo continues by federal and state regulations and educators running the system.

Anonymous said...

You know I am not trying to discount any child loosing their school because I felt the same exact way in the 70's when they did the same thing to us.....I guess I don't see it as drastic as most because it truly has been happening for decades.

Kids are resourceful and resilient, it is the parents who aren't and keep their child in turmoil! The more accepting the parents are the easier it is on the child.

Anonymous said...

Education for many is a waste too expensive and vastly overated. Basic simple reading, writing & math is all many need espec those who never pay any taxes. Jobs are what really counts whether manual or skilled labor. You cant teach truck driving brick laying plumbing carpentry engine repair electrical etc in the classrooms.
Revamp the whole system. Change the laws. Save billions. Solve the problem. Pay to play or you dont play.

therestofthestory said...

I'm sorry Peter but I am numb to this new "pain". We have carried this school system sacrificing our children for too many years as it is. We are willing to get out and work with our teachers and our children for the benefit of their education. We have labored long hours running PTSA's, fund raisers so the less fortunate could go on trips, chaparoning trips, etc. We have been the pawns of past school boards because they needed us white middle class families to change from school to school to help the percentages.

When I found out that my last child was going to attend 3 middle schools and at least 2 high schools due to pupil reassignment, I worked the system and got it my way. In the infamous words of George Dunlap, "we do not care what you say because we will still get your tax money".

The students now suffer from sardine campuses, overloaded classrooms, etc. If this was a private institution doing this to my family, they would not be in business much longer.

So Peter, get off your high horse and get with the program. These folks like Rev Kojo love to use you and jerk you around for their personal agenda. It is time to give us real choices in public education and that means giving me part of my tax dollars back.

Anonymous said...

Closing schools to cut budjet is crazy. Kids should not be worrying about where they will be going to school. These should the best years of their lives, yet for many, their life is filled with turmoil. The best way to save money is to cut out some of the administrative jobs, thats where the money is going. How can you justify a salary upwards of $60,000.00 in a school system where that person is not even in a classroom teaching a child. Disrupting the livelihood of these kids is paving the way for many to just give up,get lost in the shuffle or not attend anywhere. I can guarantee that not one of the board members have a school aged child that would be affected by all this mess.

Anonymous said...

MY CHILD IS NOT A SOCIAL EXPERIMENT NO MATTER WHAT GORMAN THE BOE OR KUJO THINK!!!

Anonymous said...

My son was a senior in 1999 and Dr. Smith held meetings explaining this very issue was projected to happen. The School Board was asking for bond money to avert the problem or at least attempt to address them. The Board of Commissioners decided to attach the Bobcats Arena to that same bond package. It was voted down but still built. Thank you Board of Commissioners!

Lynne Stevenson said...

Once again the real losers are the children who are not getting the education they need in order to compete in a global economy. These kids are our future doctors, lawyers, teachers, politicians, and maybe even future Presidents or Vice Presidents. They deserve only the best education that our tax dollars can provide and they are clearly NOT receiving it...

Anonymous said...

"Lynne Stevenson said...
Once again the real losers are the children who are not getting the education they need in order to compete in a global economy. These kids are our future doctors, lawyers, teachers, politicians, and maybe even future Presidents or Vice Presidents. They deserve only the best education that our tax dollars can provide and they are clearly NOT receiving it...

November 18, 2010 12:40 PM "


Get off the crack. They already get the best education somebody elses money can buy now and half of them turn out to be drop-outs and crackheads. Start educating based on the amount of taxes you paid into the system and then you will see zero schools zero education. Nothing should be free. Pay to play or you dont play ....

Anonymous said...

Jeez what a brainwashed idiot. Global economy? Thats ignorant liberal barf and a major reason America is in a worse depression than 1929 when the banking sector was the only problem. Today its every sector and globalization where 1.5 billion population China is devaluing the US currency to sell goods 50% cheaper and where 10 million jobs have been shipped to SE Asia stealing them from America not to mention the millions sent over to Mexico and other places in in the southern western hemisphere taking jobs away while tens of millions of millions of illegals pour over the border costing hundreds of billions.

Go examine your liberal nations of the wretched Marxist 3rd world status in Africa South America or SE Asia. The USSR gave up on liberalism 20 yrs ago.

Pie in the sky ignorance is bliss.

Anonymous said...

November 18, 2010 12:40 PM

Is that some kind of cruel joke of a post? Somebody trying to jerk somebodys chains? Real funny.

We are just trying to keep them off the streets in school out of trouble. They can be dog catchers or ditch diggers. Anything is better than dealing drugs and terrorizing the community with crime and going to jail.

Anonymous said...

Hey yo. Lower your expectations. Join the real world.

Anonymous said...

First, the school system is too large and should be split apart. There seems to be this big push in government that centralization is the answer and saves money. What we really see is a reduction in service, poor management, and costs going up. If the school system is split up and one of these smaller systems gets it right, they can be a model for the others to follow. Second, Charlotte is a wealthy city with a lot of wealthy people. Ask the wealthy to get their checkbooks out and donate to the school system.

Anonymous said...

There are 10 times more poor people than rich people who wouldnt have to pay but 10% in taxes and could equalize what the rich pay to keep schools open.

Use your welfare checks & food stamps to pay taxes. Collect bottles and aluminum & sell to pay your fair share of taxes.

Cut down on eating & staying fat as hogs. Donate it to pay taxations. If all would do this the schools could be saved. It would take a whole nation of villages to save schools if only you paid your taxes and stopped cheating.

Remember "pay to Caesar what is Caesars and pay to G-d what is G-ds"?
Are you living up to this?

Anonymous said...

Mark 12:41-44 41 And he sat down and beheld how the multitude cast money into the treasury and many who were rich cast in much. And there came a poor widow who cast in two mites which make a farthing. And he called his disciples and said, Verily I say unto you, This poor widow cast in more than all the rich, for they did cast in of their abundance but she gave all she had.

Anonymous said...

Good article. Thank you.