An open letter to parents

Dear Parents of School-aged Children:

CMS needs your help and support. As you probably know, the Board of Education is in the beginning stages of revising our school district’s pupil assignment plan. This process will be challenging; not just for the school board, but for our entire Charlotte-Mecklenburg community. It will stir up painful memories for some and strong emotion for many.

CMS now operates under a plan that basically assigns students to schools according to where they live. As a result, reflecting neighborhood demographics, our children largely attend schools in which they’re separated according to family income and skin color. We have lots of schools attended by predominantly white, middle class and wealthier kids and many other schools filled largely with children of color living in poverty. You might disagree, but I believe all children are harmed – for different reasons and with different consequences – when educated in such isolated learning environments.

I’ve chosen to write this letter to you because your voice carries great power when it comes to the issue of pupil assignment. What you say matters. You, as the parent of a school-aged child, can be tremendously influential. So my message and plea are directed to you.

People often believe pupil assignment pits self-interest against the common good. This is a
false and distracting contrast. Parental and civic responsibilities go hand-in-hand. As a parent, your child needs you to advocate passionately for their self-interest. As a member of our shared Charlotte-Mecklenburg community, you’re needed to advocate just as passionately for the common good of all children.

For me, it all boils down to this question:

Does our current pupil assignment plan support what is educationally best for your child and what’s educationally best for all children and our community?

In posing this question to you, I don’t care about your skin color, ethnicity, political views, zip code, or income. What matters to me is that you hold yourself – and we hold each other – fully accountable to both parts of this question. In doing so we will establish solid common ground from which a mutual vision of pupil assignment can emerge.

Will the process seem impossible at times? Will there be disagreement and heated debate? Will compromise be required? Yes, of course. But if we stand united in our basic commitment to protect both the self-interest of each child and the common good of all children, our differing ideas and opinions will not divide us; instead, they will become the fuel that propels us forward to unforeseen possibilities and creative solutions.

No parent should ever feel guilty for promoting their child’s self-interest, just as no parent should ever rest easy or turn a blind eye when many children are subjected to high-poverty learning environments that prevent them from reaching their academic potential and limit their possibilities for success. Self-interest and the common good are two sides of the same golden coin. Let’s join together. For the sake of your child and all our CMS children.


Barry Sherman