Last month the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board decided on the new school districts that will go into effect as we open our eleventh elementary school this fall. I was always aware that these school reassignment discussions were contentious, but now that my son will be starting kindergarten in 2014, I'm trying to learn a lot more about how our coveted educational sausage is made. Since my neighborhood was assigned to the walk zone of the brand-new Northside Elementary, I was able to wade deeper into the mucky reassignment debate without having much personal investment in the outcome.
I think the board did the right thing in choosing the plan that did the best job of distributing racial and economic diversity. But the process is inherently impossible. There is simply no way to put everyone in the school they want without inconveniencing someone else. In this post I attempt to briefly summarize how the whole 2012-2013 redistricting went down.
Mark Dorosin - who is the managing director of the UNC Center for Civil Rights, a father of three, and a recently sworn-in in Orange County Commissioner - has written a letter to the Chapel Hill Carrboro School Board about the current school reassignment discussion. I couldn't agree with him more about the thinly veiled racism in the sudden clamor for "community schools." A term which is still fully tainted by the Republican takeover of the Wake County School Board, and rings hollow in suburban Chapel Hill where almost no schools are realistically walkable.
“Unless our children begin to learn together, there is little hope that our people will learn to live together.” Thurgood Marshall
Dear Chairperson Brownstein and Members of the Board of Education:
As you begin to discuss the various redistricting options, I urge you to make racial and socio-economic diversity the highest priority in the redistricting criteria under consideration. As the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board, like its peers across the state, continues to work to improve student achievement and close the gap between white and minority students’ test scores, it is critical that every available resource be utilized. These resources include, in addition to technology, books and high quality teachers, students and families. Extensive social science research demonstrates that students learn from their peers, and that racial and socio-economic diversity among students enhances that learning. All students, regardless of their individual socio-economic status or race, achieve at higher levels in socio-economically diverse schools.
With the the new Northside Elementary School, a.k.a. elementary #11, set to open next summer (as well as Frank Porter Graham Elementary School's transition to a dual-language magnet school), we'll be forced to go through another dreaded reassignment process to balance enrollment and capacity at our oft-crowded elementary schools. Superintendent Tom Forcella issued a memo on August 2 (PDF) about how this could go.
Forcella says he expects to reassign over 1,000 elementary school students. A redistricting team of 8 staff members has already been created. They are charged with creating three plans to be reviewed by a Redistricting Advisory Council, made up of staff and parent representatives from all the elementary schools and from Carrboro High School, which will recommend one to the School Board.