[xmca] Fwd: New segregation

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at gmail.com>
Date: Tue Oct 23 2007 - 14:16:08 PDT

Apropos. From Walt Olendorf in Boone, North Carolina


Most of my students are middle class white from small cities in the
Piedmont. Very rarely I get an inner city student, or a student of color.
I have had 2 students from Appalachian Poverty, but our 5th D sites are in
high poverty Appalachian areas. Every semester we now take a field trip to
Charlotte Schools. Here's an interesting look at the new segregation in
Charlotte from The Charlotte Observer:

 Tuesday, Oct 23, 2007
 Posted on Tue, Oct. 16, 2007
A new wall: Poverty ERIC FRAZIER Mable Latimer stops midsentence.

A thin, pretty girl, her eyes wide with distress, is heading straight for

Latimer asks, "How you doing, sugar?"

"I need to talk to a guidance counselor."

Up the steps, Latimer tells her. Fourth door on the right.

The girl nods, then hurries off.

Hang around West Charlotte High School and you'll see similar encounters day
after day between students and Latimer, 73.

She came out of retirement two years ago to become Principal John Modest's
general assistant. But she has turned out to be the No. 1 hug-giver and
cheerleader for one of Charlotte's most troubled high schools.

Teenagers come to her with problems as simple as stomachaches, or as complex
as the dilemma the girl confronts: finding a place to stay when neither
parent provides a stable home.

"The children now," she says, "they carry the weight of some adults."

What Latimer sees, and what she has lived, give her a unique perspective on
how Charlotte schools have changed in the 50 years since integration.

She graduated from segregated West Charlotte High in 1952. And today, she
watches over 2,000 West Charlotte students, including her own granddaughter
and three great-grandsons.

The school has resegregated. It is virtually all black, but also
overwhelmingly poor.

And economic segregation, Latimer says, is more stubborn in some ways than
the Jim Crow version she endured.

*A new divide*

In the 1970s and 1980s, West Charlotte was one of the city's most respected
high schools. Achievement levels soared as white students from affluent
neighborhoods like Myers Park were bused in for racial balance. They joined
large numbers of black students from middle-income families.As recently as
1988, West Charlotte's student body remained half black. The school boasted
the second-lowest dropout rate of all local high schools and was fifth in
percentage of academically gifted students. It had the lowest absenteeism
and suspension rates.

One other statistic stands out: Only 12 percent of the school's student body
came from low-income backgrounds.

Now, 50 years after the end of legalized segregation, the school is nearly
all black again. It draws students from a sprawling, oddly shaped attendance
area that includes some of the poorest neighborhoods on the city's northwest

The percentage of people receiving food stamps in the attendance zone is
nearly three times the city average. The teen birth rate is about twice the
average. And the percentage of West Charlotte High students on free or
reduced-price lunch has zoomed from 37 percent to 72 percent since 2001.

What's happening at West Charlotte High reflects the economic resegregation
occurring nationwide, critics say. The number of high-poverty schools in
Charlotte has doubled since 2001, when federal courts outlawed race-based
assignment plans. Thirty-six of Charlotte-Mecklenburg's 161 schools now fit
that description.

Earlier this year, the Observer reported that almost 900 students in West
Charlotte's district chose to attend a different school.

Modest, the West Charlotte principal, said those are middle-class kids. He
wants them back, regardless of skin color.

"It's not a racial problem anymore," said Richard McElrath, a former
Charlotte schoolteacher and a local NAACP leader. "It's socioeconomics."

McElrath taught in segregated and desegregated schools in Charlotte. He
argues that today's economic segregation leaves the underprivileged more
isolated and helpless than the 1950s version.

"We got out of racially segregated schools because we had black people in
the neighborhoods who could fight like hell," he said.

"I have yet to see an organization of people coming out of a high-poverty
school demanding anything and being taken seriously. And it's not going to

*`This is my school'*

Some retirees take up golf.

Latimer took up West Charlotte High.

Three days after retiring in 1997 as a supervisor for an airport security
firm, she showed up at her alma mater to volunteer.

She wanted to help restore the school to its former glory. She has been
there ever since, now as a paid staffer.

Latimer serves as the school's liaison to its large national alumni
association, arranging volunteers and money to help with school projects.
She also helps out in the front office, and assists Modest with outreach
efforts in the community.

She attends every football game, screaming for "Dub-C" as loudly as she did
back when she wore bobby socks and starched skirts. Some afternoons, she and
her surgically repaired back sit through more than four hours of basketball
games: girls' junior varsity at 4, boys' junior varsity at 5, girls' varsity
at 6 and, finally, boys' varsity at 8.

Ask her why, and she'll respond: "West Charlotte is my passion. This is *my

*Dealing with troubled kids *

The in-school suspension trailer is narrow, hot, stuffy.Latimer has come to
tell the seven students inside about the history of West Charlotte High, the
city's last historically black high school.

Her message: If I can make it out of segregation, there's no reason you
can't today.

A heavyset girl in the back puts her head down and drifts off to sleep. But
Latimer is having none of that.

"Wake my friend up back there," she says. "I like to talk, and I like to
hear you respond."

"Yes, ma'am," the students mumble.

When outsiders think of West Charlotte High, Latimer believes, these are the
students they picture. They don't think of Ayisha Conyers, the senior class
president and International Baccalaureate student planning to study at Duke
or Northwestern next fall. Both of her parents own small businesses.

When the spotlight falls on West Charlotte, Latimer says, it always seems to
fall on the struggling kids. They are disproportionately poor, she says.
They come from broken homes.

The parents are often too young. Some stay so busy working two jobs or
worrying about bills or abusing drugs or alcohol that they can't keep their
kids on track academically. Students who fall behind, she says, prefer
getting kicked out of class or school to the shame of looking dumb.

Those kids need a confidante, someone who understands that they are scared,
that they don't grasp their lessons, that they need help.

Often, those students pick Latimer.

*Making the connection*

As she starts her presentation, she charms one girl by complimenting her
silver shoes. She makes them all chuckle by digging out her battered green
1952 yearbook and showing them her senior picture.

"I was voted Most Dependable and Most Popular," she says, smiling. "Most
Dependable meant a lot to me."

She tells them her life story, how she grew up during segregation, riding in
the back of buses and reading her lessons out of books handed down from
white students at Central and Harding high schools.

Her father, the late Brevard Haynes, ran a landscaping business, and her
98-year-old mother, Mary Grace Haynes, was a homemaker who graduated from
segregated Second Ward High School in 1926.

It was a smaller community then, she says. Teachers even ate dinner with her
parents on Sundays. Many families were poor, but parents were strong. They
kept rules strict and expectations high. Neighborhoods that fed black
schools were economically mixed.

On the block where she grew up, her neighbors included a police officer, a
teacher and the owner of the local dry cleaning store. They were role models
who showed concern for all the neighborhood children. Today, her former
block still feeds West Charlotte High, but boarded-up buildings and drug
dealing intrude.

She tells the students how she went on to N.C. Central University. How she
rose to become an aviation security supervisor with enough power to shut
down two airports for safety violations. How the school has produced doctors
and lawyers, city council members and county commissioners.

She keeps circling back to her theme: If we did it, you can, too.

The sleepy girl apologizes for napping. A boy who initially complained that
the hot room felt like a prison says he was glad he enrolled in West

"If you've got a problem, come to me," Latimer says. "You can be anything
you want to be. But you can't get there by yourself.

"You've got to let somebody help you."

*The principal's crusade*

Last year, more than a third of West Charlotte's freshmen came in lacking
eighth-grade reading or math skills.A judge presiding over a statewide
lawsuit accused West Charlotte and several other low-performing schools of
"academic genocide."

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Peter Gorman has made it clear
he wants improvement, and he won't accept poverty as an excuse.

He's giving West Charlotte and other low-income schools extra resources and
attention. The school system offers teachers 15 percent pay hikes and
signing bonuses of up to $15,000.

"The teacher is the leverage point," Gorman said in an interview. "If you
have a quality teacher, learning occurs."

Modest agrees. Early this school term, he took his staff on a bus tour of
the surrounding neighborhoods, hoping teachers would better understand the
environment their students come from.

Last school year, he had them read and discuss "A Framework for
Understanding Poverty," a book on educating poor children. To reach those
students, the book said, teachers must bridge the economic and social gaps.

Modest also is asking teachers to serve as academic advisers to students.
He's creating career-focused "learning academies" to help students see that
their studies can lead to good-paying jobs.

In Modest's "welcome to school" message in the Parent Teacher Student
Association newsletter, one phrase appears twice in capital letters: "NO

This past school year, West Charlotte's pass rate on state end-of-course
tests was 46.4 percent -- still not good enough, but an improvement from the
40 percent rate the previous year. And it's far better than the 24 percent
rate in 2003.

The principal wants 60 percent of his students scoring at or above grade

"Hey, you'd love to have it at 80 percent, but that's not the reality," he
says. "You at least have to be moving in the right direction."

Can his students match suburban kids' performance?

"I don't know if you can get the same results," he says. "There's major
discrepancies between the two groups. What I know is that if we give the
kids here an opportunity at West Charlotte, we can do some great things.

"Now, will that lead to the same result as the kid who goes to Providence or
Ardrey Kell? I don't know.

"All I can do is help these young folks realize that there's a world full of
possibilities out there, and hopefully help them develop a vision of
themselves being successful."

*A long, hard journey*

It's a big day at the school.

A national black history group is holding its "Youth Day" celebration on
campus. Gorman is there. So are prominent historians from around the country
and the head of Oprah Winfrey's highly publicized school for girls in South

They're here to do what Latimer does: encourage students to understand they
are part of a long history of black struggle and achievement.

Latimer, however, heads off to the University Hilton, where she speaks about
West Charlotte High as part of a panel discussion on local history and race

Joining her on the panel is Pamela Grundy, a Charlotte historian who has
studied West Charlotte High's history. Grundy tells the small crowd that the
school's history mirrors the long history of the civil rights struggle in
Mecklenburg County.

She says that in the Jim Crow era, West Charlotte High symbolized the
challenge of segregation. During the 1970s, it illustrated the hope for

"And now," she adds, "there are the challenges of poverty, which are perhaps
the most difficult of all."

A man in the audience asks: What can be done to turn things around for black

The panelists fumble for an answer, but the question seems too big, the
problems too complicated.

"It's a hard journey, and it's a long one," Latimer says, finally. "I know
I'm not going to be around to see the end of it."

The moderator points to a gray-haired man in a gray suit. He had been trying
to get a comment in. He nods his thanks and introduces himself: "I'm Darius

People turn to stare, apparently not realizing until then that the plaintiff
of the city's famous desegregation lawsuit, Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg
Board of Education, was in the audience.

Swann and his wife moved to Virginia decades ago but returned for the black
history conference.

Speaking slowly and softly, Swann says he had hoped the lawsuit would help
create a better society, one where people could stop judging others by race
or class.

"Sometimes I look at the picture and it looks kind of hopeless," he says.

His expression brightens as he glances up at Latimer and the panelists. He
tells them they are building the society he dreamed of, one selfless act at
a time.

That place remains "a long way off," he adds. "But it's not hopeless."


*Want to Help?*

If you'd like to help the West Charlotte High alumni group, or if you're a
graduate wishing to join, contact Mable Latimer at 980-343-6060. The group
meets every fourth Monday at 4:30 p.m. at the Northwest Neighborhood Service
Center (the old library), 2423 Lasalle St.

*West Charlotte High*

*Students*: 2,073 -- 1,815 blacks, 146 Hispanics, 55 Asians, 28 whites, 20
multiracial kids and nine American Indians.

*Poverty*: 72 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch.

*Academics*: 46.4 percent composite pass rate on 2007 end-of-course exams,
up from 40 percent the previous year.

*Students classified as gifted*: 3 percent (12 percent for all CMS).

*History*: Opened in 1938 as a black high school. Desegregated under court
order in 1974. Hailed in 1970s and 1980s as a model for successful
integration. Now classified as a neighborhood school with International
Baccalaureate and "open" magnet programs. Receives local aid for
high-poverty schools and "challenge grant" money to turn around low

*Principal*: John Modest, hired in 2005 from Southeast Raleigh High, a
high-performing magnet school with large numbers of minority students. 50

Walter P. Oldendorf
xmca mailing list
Received on Tue Oct 23 14:18 PDT 2007

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