Oct. 26, 2021
Perhaps 100 Charlotte faith houses make up the African-American Faith Alliance. About 20 churches are actively engaged. Their goal: Improve student achievement in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
Two of the group’s leaders, Dr. Dennis Williams of Faith Memorial Missionary Baptist Church, and Dr. Ricky Woods of First Baptist Church-West, gave a grim report on their efforts to pry information out of CMS, or to engage school officials on what they were doing to help struggling schoolchildren. When the group started asking tough questions, Dr. Woods said, school officials broke off contact with the group.
No matter that Dr. Williams is a former principal of West Mecklenburg High and a former regional assistant superintendent.
Dr. Williams said the Alliance hopes to have a convening of some kind, possibly in January, to raise public awareness of the need to improve student achievement. There was discussion about the role that political pressure may have to play in prompting change that goes beyond making “plans” and gets right to improving students’ academic outcomes.
Not a few people in the room knew that issues on the table today were on the table 10 and 20 years ago. The issues may have taken on some focus because of COVID-depressed test scores, but they are much older than COVID. Indeed, the presenters listed the many CMS superintendents that they have tried to engage in the discussion.
The video below includes comments by Dr. Williams and Dr. Woods, then a lengthy Q&A. Some supplemental materials sent in after the session have been posted below the video, and others will be as they are received.
Faith Alliance documents
Dr. Williams sent in the following files:
- Talking points dated September 2021, downloadable as a PDF here.
- Narrative on the role that poverty plays in community challenges, downloadable as a PDF here.
- “What we are asking” CMS to do, downloadable as a PDF here.
All of these files are displayed below.
Presenters made reference to the number of schools where the majority of children were not testing on grade level. The data below was provided by Dr. Woods’ office, based on material released by CMS.
Material from the chat box
Generally, the Webex chat box is used by people raising questions. Today’s content included questions that were answered during the Q&A, some questions that were not answered, some contact information, and a few comments from participants in the room. Excerpts:
Tim Emry: I am also a candidate for District Attorney this coming March seeking the Democratic nomination. TimForDA.com is the campaign website.
Darryl Bego: African-American Faith Alliance website is at https://aafaea.org/
Juanita Miller: Thank you for what you are preparing to execute. Could you please expand that to elementary schools, specifically third grade since it’s been reported that’s the grade where the number of jails are determined to be built. There is a class where mostly black males are in, that’s where a positive, black male role model is much needed.
Jackie Edwards Walton: Do you know if CMS does any follow-up for students graduating with GPAs between 1.0 and 1.9? Would these students be considered college, job or military ready?
Natheley McElrath: It seems that CMS or the Board doesn’t have to respond to anyone. Is there a legal recourse to get them to respond.
Jennifer De La Jara: Natheley: I regularly meet with community members to engage. I’m also happy to meet with Dr. Woods and Dr. Williams should they desire. In fact, I absolutely think we should!
Jackie Edwards Walton: What information does the Faith Alliance (pastors & churches) need from CMS to assist CMS with afterschool? Afterschool programs are moving students to passing EOG & EOC testing.
Natheley McElrath: Would you give us some info on the Faith Alliance: who/how many members, when started etc.
Mary Johnson: The low performing schools are heavy with substitutes and lateral entry and Teach for America teachers. How can these children learn without professional teachers? Is this malpractice?
Juanita Miller: Dr. Mildred Campbell brought in the Community reps from different backgrounds to assist her at Thomasboro, to turn that school around years ago.
Dr. Yolanda Holmes: Yes, Juanita… she’s a blessing!
Tim Emry: Does the Alliance have a position on removing school resource officers from schools? We have a new study that again reveals that school resource officers do not increase safety but DO cause big increases in suspension rates (which we know have large racial disparities).
Jackie Edwards Walton: Can there be a convening of churches and other nonprofits quickly to being to strategize what can be done to move the needle?
Natheley McElrath: Churches have done well with Souls To The Polls. Can we do the same organizing for souls to the school board meetings?
Yvette Townsend-Ingram: No one in CMS is addressing the trauma that students are experiencing, exacerbated by pandemic. An 11-year-old child shot herself, died by suicide! How do we address that as well?
Jackie Edwards Walton: Lenora Shipp, School Board Member, is the widow of Gerald Baucom of Campus Connections. Campus Connections is affiliated with Mt. Carmel Baptist Church.
Jennifer De La Jara: My e-mail is [email protected]
Winston Robinson: As a society, are we asking our school systems to fix 400 years of systemic racism? Are there other areas of accountability?
Tim Emry: We must incentivize the conduct we want. If teacher compensation were tied to GROWTH rather than the raw test scores, we’d see good teachers seek out the schools where help is most needed.
Dr. Yolanda Holmes: Community, Church, Parent, and School – we must ALL work together to make a tremendous impact and difference for the current state of our youth. It’s multidimensional engagement and level of support.
Yvette Townsend-Ingram: Dr. Williams I’m 3rd Vice Chair of BPC, over education. Please contact me 704.576.2645 [email protected]
Commissioner Leigh Altman: Dr. Williams, Dr. Woods and the AAFAEA: Thank you for this crucial advocacy.
Mary Johnson: When will the CMS school board address teacher assignment at low-performing schools?
Dennis Williams: My address is [email protected]
CMS slow to share budget data with Mecklenburg County
At minute 33:50, Dr. Woods referenced budget information that CMS agreed to provide Mecklenburg County, but had not provided as of a recent letter.
In an Oct. 21 letter to county commissioners and county staff, County Manager Dena Dioro reported that CMS had not provided budget information that the county requested earlier. Following is the text of Diorio’s letter. Below that is Supt Earnest Winston’s undated letter about website and governance work.
“You may recall that on September 13, 2021 I sent Superintendent Winston an email requesting clarifying information about CMS’s FY22 operating budget as well as routine financial information. The information will enable us to have a deeper understanding of how County funds are used by CMS and prepare us for the upcoming budget cycle. As of today, we have not received any of the information requested despite the Superintendent’s commitments that the information is forthcoming. As you all know, state statute allows the County to request such information and CMS is legally obligated to provide it.
“However, we have received the attached letter providing updates on the redevelopment of the CMS website and the Student Outcomes Focused Governance work, both of which the County agreed to pay for up to $1 million.
“I will continue to press for the financial information we requested as well as the other items outlined in the mediation agreement and will likely delay payment for the items in the letter until [the information] we have requested is received.”