Diverse Schools Important

Katie Hughes, PhD to the CMS Board of Education
October 13, 2015

Katie HughesGood evening ladies and gentlemen of the school board.

I am here tonight to voice my opinion about the upcoming student assignment plan that is going to take place next year.

I live in Huntersville and I do not want my son to go to a school where everyone around him is from the same social and socio-economic background. I want him to grow up in a school system that makes him do group work with other students who don’t look like he does and whose parents make more money and less money than my husband and I do. He has to learn how to be familiar with and get along with kids who aren’t from his same social class because he is not in a society where everyone is the same. If not in school, when will he learn it?

Some parents in my situation would be afraid that having his classmates be from poorer upbringings might lower their child’s academic experience and career ambitions. I know that not to be the case because of my own experience. I grew up in Charlotte and attended very racially and socioeconomically diverse schools. I attended Irwin, Piedmont and West Charlotte, graduating in 1999. After a chemistry scholarship took me to NCSU, I went to Princeton to earn my masters and PhD in Chemistry. Princeton, like many of its peer institutions, recognizes the value of a diverse student body and actively works to create that environment.

I know that attending a diverse school was far from a limiting factor in my own education and I am happy I did not go to a racially or socio economically isolated school. When my son gets older, I want a neighborhood school for him. No one wants their child to be on the bus for hours. However, if it meant some more time on the school bus to attend a school that wasn’t lopsided in its socioeconomic make- up and gave my son a chance to have friends who aren’t exactly like him, I would welcome that because I am certain his social education would benefit dramatically while his academic achievement and career ambitions wouldn’t suffer.

While I’d be willing to let my kid go on a bus further, I am not saying this is the only or even a primary way to achieve diversity. There are a lot of other alternatives that I would like the school board to explore that do not include longer bus rides, as many of our neighborhoods and communities have potential for natural diversity if we make the schools more widely attractive to parents and high quality teachers. We shouldn’t have to win the lottery at a magnet school to get our kids exposed to great teachers, great programs and a diverse student body.

While I attended a diverse school, I also had great teachers. I’m concerned about the outstanding teachers, who have a huge part to play in a child’s education, and their presence in ALL schools in Charlotte Mecklenburg. The turnover rate at high free and reduced lunch schools is, I’m sure, higher than the average in CMS schools which is probably costing a lot of money, let alone descent test scores. Having more balanced schools, socioeconomically, would make keeping around good teachers, like the ones who made my education so good, easier too.

In short, I agree with the OneMeck platform that we should do everything we can to promote socio economically mixed communities and schools for the benefit of every member of our society and its children. The health of our community depends on you, the school board, making choices that make our community stronger for years to come.