Charlotte Observer
August 8, 2015

We must act now on high-poverty schools

From Barry Sherman, a social worker at Bruns Academy:

Barry Sherman
Barry Sherman
The time is now for our community to rally behind Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in the creation of a pupil assignment plan that promotes fair, equal and excellent educational opportunity for all children.
I am a member of the Opportunity Task Force that was recently launched to address Charlotte’s challenges with upward mobility. I am also part of the rapidly expanding “OneMECK Coalition,” a group addressing racial and class segregation.

Of particular concern to me are the national trends resulting in an increasingly two-tiered system of education. The re-segregation of our schools – especially the socioeconomic segregation that places extreme concentrations of poverty under one roof – is devastating students and teachers.

In my work with the Opportunity Task Force, I recently heard Mayor Dan Clodfelter speak about Charlotte’s “unsustainable contradiction” – the “tale of two cities” that increasingly defines the reality of our community. CMS finds itself at the center of this contradiction.

As a citizen who has dedicated his life to serving high-needs schools, I’d like to share my hard-earned perspective.

First, teachers and staff are NOT the problem at high-poverty schools. My goddaughter attends a school in the SouthPark area. The center of gravity at a school like hers constellates around academic achievement, good behavior and positive social relations.

At high-poverty schools, because of the highly-skewed challenges that accompany an extreme concentration of poverty, we have to work each and every day to manufacture a center of gravity that allows learning to occur.

Second, there is no amount of money, professional development for teachers, or infusions of classroom technology that will fix high-poverty schools.

While there might not be anything magical about sitting children of color next to white children, something quite incredible definitely occurs when poor children are given access to a middle-class learning environment.

The time is now for our community to support the board of education in taking on the difficult challenge of a reimagined pupil assignment plan. The time is now to find the common ground that will allow us to do what’s best for all children and, in turn, move our community closer to world-class greatness.