Friday, December 14, 2012

The value of volunteers

The volunteers from New Charlotte Church crowded the library at Greenway Park Elementary  --  and they're only one of 17 groups supporting the southeast Charlotte school.  On Tuesday,  when Superintendent Heath Morrison invited reporters to the school to showcase partnerships,  the church volunteers were distributing new coats and shoes to every student.

Kindergartners get shoes and coats
As Greenway Park shows,  Morrison isn't starting from zero in his quest to build partnerships with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.  But a strong support network often depends on a principal with the time and skill to cultivate it,  and/or outsiders with ties to a school and resources they want to share.  Morrison says he wants LaTarzja Henry,  the new assistant superintendent in charge of partnerships,  to get a clearer idea of which schools have needs and what the community has to offer.

Paula Rao said she inherited half a dozen partnerships when she became principal at Greenway Park last year. She sought out others  --  for instance,  asking residents of Carriage Club,  a nearby retirement community,  to volunteer as reading buddies  -- and other groups came to her.  When a school welcomes volunteers and puts them to good use, "it's kind of a snowball effect,"  Rao said.

New Charlotte Church alone has provided books,  food,  school supplies and clothing for students  (more than three-quarters of the roughly 600 kids come from low-income homes).  Volunteers read with children and provide support to the faculty.

When former Superintendent Peter Gorman launched his own partnership push about six years ago,  he talked about finding ways to measure the academic benefit of volunteer efforts.  That never materialized,  and Morrison said he's not sure it's possible.  It's one thing to establish that students are making gains  (even that may prove challenging this year,  with all the new testing)  but another to prove that any one effort caused them.  "The direct contribution to increased student performance,  that's difficult,"  Morrison said.

Still,  Rao is certain volunteers are making a difference at Greenway Park.  One example:  After she matched some of her struggling students with mentors,  the number of students being sent to the office for discipline problems dropped from 100 a month to 23,  she said.

Chris Payne,  pastor of New Charlotte Church,  didn't seem to feel a need to have numbers attached to the church's work.  The church's mission is to change the city,  he said,  and working with children is a particularly joyful way to do it.

"Each one of us is never more alive than when we serve,"  Payne said.


BolynMcClung said...


He didn't direct Ms. Henry to find out WHICH schools have needs.

The CMS Communication department wrote when announcing the re-organization, "An assistant superintendent for community partnerships and family engagement will lead an effort to strengthen existing partnerships with parents and the community and creating new ones to benefit EVERY school."


This article today leaves the impression that he is looking first to serve just one economic segment of the district. The damaging part of the story was, “Morrison says he wants LaTarzja Henry, the new assistant superintendent in charge of partnerships, to get a clearer idea of which schools have needs and what the community has to offer.”

I don't know where that came from. All schools have urgent needs if I understand the problems of books, technology, landscaping, tutoring, toilet paper, supplies bought by teachers and the budget.

Ms. Henry’s role is to provide the framework for all partnerships to be successful. It is just as easy to fail in the affluent schools as anywhere else. Dr. Morrison got to all 160 schools. There’s a hint.

If the school district is to break the belief that it exist to consistently serve one group of students over another it will find itself challenged by more and more charter schools and folks that wish to split into three pieces.

That communication thing needs to get better.

Bolyn McClung

Ann Doss Helms said...

Bolyn, that may be poor phrasing on my part. I think he wants to tally the needs of all schools and help match partnerships. He has explicitly noted that even schools with low poverty levels have needs. I was just trying to work around some of the management jargon, like "asset mapping" and "needs inventory," and probably didn't come up with the greatest alternative.

Anonymous said...

Very good point Bolyn. A large group of students are being placed on forget because they are not needy enough. If this continues, a huge group of parents who support these more affluent schools (as well as their Title 1 partner schools) with funds and time to volunteer will leave CMS. The gap is closing because the top is leaving.

BolynMcClung said...


Your article was the vehicle I needed to remind CMS that this new partnerships deal is as much a healing tool as anything.

I was at a CMS committee meeting this week when the chair mentioned that all schools have some sort of health assurance team(my words.) He said it was unfortunate that in all but a few schools it was unattended.

That could easily happen with Partnerships. There needs to be a promise to be at all 160 schools...more than once ...more than twice.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

I doubt that teacher or CMS employee assurance was even slightly on anyone's mind uptown when that statement was made. It will be interesting to see when the "partnership" with employees takes effect. The new norm of piling on exponentially should continue to send folks in the trenches elsewhere. Trying to accomplish new software in testing, grading, data, major textbook software support failure, BYOT, and Project Lift while rolling out the Trojan Horse to charters and private schools seems to foreshadow a large mop in the future.

BolynMcClung said...


But in that same committee meeting Dr. Morrison listed the four top priorities for 2013:

Human Capital was one of the four. But it wasn't number one. That belonged to Technology.

Technology is number one because of the demands to be put on the system by Common Core. All testing online after first year...he's worried....which brings me to another thing I had completely missed.

CMS has patted itself on the back for the great preparation for Common Core...professional training and all.....who missed that little thing about the computers?

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

Thats a great use of a outside group for a PR stunt by Heath. Issue I had with this is if the Church folks are soliciting for new members. I am not saying they did , because I was not present. I have seen this in other cases and CMS should not mix educational needs and outside Religious vendors.

Wiley Coyote said...


Yeah we should definitely look at getting the YMCA out of CMS business.

Anonymous said...

Ms Henry

Please. Call it what it is. This was a made up position and she will provide the same sub par results as were provided before. Is she really worth the efforts of at least 4 classroom teachers?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for clearing up the "church folk" conspiracy.

The YMCA of Greater Charlotte funds a successful summer reading program in addition to providing quality after-school care and nationally renowned youth activities ranging from Y-Guides, camps, swimming, gymnastics, music, dance, soccer, basketball, flag football, cooking classes, and on and on... Charlotte YMCA's are located in some of Charlotte's wealthiest areas and some of Charlotte's poorest areas.

For Youth Development
For Healthy Living
For Social Responsibility

"To put Christian principals into practice that build a healthy spirt, mind and body FOR ALL".

Alicia Durand
James J. Harris YMCA employee, 1992-present

Anonymous said...

Wiley, It has nothing to do with the YMCA or YWCA. Those are business entities with a "Christian front" to fall under tax exempt status. They have nothing to do with this. My comment surrounded church leaders and parrishoners selling to prospective family members. THis goes on and is one reason one might give time as volunteers to CMS.

Anonymous said...

It is mind boggling that you take the time to write a blog that uses the superintendent and assistant superintendent as people who develop partnerships. TEACHERS AND MOTIVATED STUDENTS start the partnerships these educrats are showcasing. It doesn't matter if you put Patrick from Spongebob in the seat as Superintendent , reading buddies, PTSA outreach, school club outreach, parental initiatives, and school based iniatives form partnerships NOT HIGH PAID SUITS who call the media and tell them they will be at school A to share information about a new initiative CMS has created. WHAT A JOKE!

Anonymous said...

Yes, there is and will continue to be controversy over the tax-exempt status of the YMCA of Greater Charlotte due to it's strong presence and influence in our community. However, after 19 years of working for the YMCA of Greater Charlotte (in addition to working as a summer camp counselor in Connecticut as a high school and college student), I generally find this "controversy" limited to a few malcontent individuals. I'm not a tax attorney so I'm in no position to argue U.S. tax laws, however, if you take the time to Google the history of the YMCA you might be surprised at what you learn about this organization. (cont...)

Anonymous said...

A few YMCA highlights:

1. The YMCA is a worldwide Christian organization with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

2. The YMCA was founded in 1844 by George Williams in London. It combined preaching in the streets and the distribution of religious material. Philanthropists saw YMCA's as places for wholesome recreation that would preserve youth from the temptations of of alcohol, gambling and prostitution. Original YMCA's also provided low-cost housing for rural young men journeying to the cities during the Industrial Revolution. George Williams and his colleagues were concerned about the lack of healthy activities for young men in major cities. The goal was to provide young men with alternatives to hanging out at taverns and brothels. *(Isn't this fun? What mother would prefer their young son hanging out at a tavern or a brothel when they could be playing basketball?)

3. The first YMCA World Conference was held in Paris in 1855 before the Paris World Exposition *(The Eiffel Tower was built for the Exposition!). The World Alliance adopted the motto: "That they all may be one" - John 17:21.

4. The YMCA's most influential period was between the 1870's and 1930's when it became less evangelical in it's mission and more interdenominational with greater concern promoting morality and good citizenship. *(You got a problem with good citizenship?)

5. In the 1990's, YMCA's began working at European ports while millions of migrants left Europe for the U.S. *(Think Ellis Island).

6. In 1880, the YMCA became the first national organization to adopt a strict policy of equal gender representation in committees and national boards. *(Woman weren't allowed to vote in the U.S. until 1924).

Anonymous said...

7. World War II - The YMCA worked with displaced persons and refugees and set up war prisoners aid to support prisoners of war by providing sports equipment, musical instruments, art materials, radios, gramophones, eating utensils and other items. The YMCA also supported Japanese-American interment camps and helped found the USO.

8. In 1973, the sixth World Council met in Uganda, Africa and adopted a declaration of principles which included justice, creativity and honesty. In 1985, the council passed a resolution against apartheid and anti-apartheid campaigns were formed under Lee Soo-Min. *(If I had to take a guess, Lee Soo-Min probably wasn't an Irish Catholic or Protestant).

9. In most recent years, the international YMCA has focused it's mission on other global challenges including gender equality, sustainable development, war and peace, racism, and HIV/AIDS.

10. Today, each international YMCA is called to focus on the following: Sharing the good news of Christ, empowering all - especially young people and women, advocating for children's rights and the rights of women, fostering dialogue and partnerships between people of different faiths and ideologies, committing to work with the poor and oppressed, seeking to be reconcilers of conflict, promote meaningful participation of people for their own self-determination, defending God's creation against all that would destroy it and preserving and protecting the earth's resources for future generations. *(Lofty goals, but wow.)

11. Education - There is an International Coalition of YMCA universities. In the US, various colleges and universities have historically had connections with the YMCA. The YMCA pioneered the concept of night school, providing educational opportunities for people with full-time jobs.

12. Athletic - Basketball was invented at a YMCA international training school in Springfield, MA. *(Now Springfield College. How cool is this?)

13. Nobel Peace Prize - In 1901, Henry Dunant, who co-founded the YMCA in Geneva, won the first ever Nobel Peace Prize for founding the International Red Cross and inspiring the Geneva Convention.

Other than REALLY disliking "The Y's" new U.S. logo (which I think looks like a TAB can on too much psychedelic fizz), I don't have a problem with the "business" aspects of the YMCA.

Alicia Durand

Anonymous said...

While we've been on the subject of healthy competition and volunteerism....

My sons always thought Jammin' at The J (at the Jewish Community Center) was far superior to The Y's Middle School Madness. 7th grade was the "Year of the Bar-mitzvah" in CMS which my oldest son was lucky enough to be invited to and be a part of - conservative and reform. Rabbi Schindler and the Jewish Community Center are as much a part of CMS' goal at achieving community partnerships as the YMCA. How awesome is this?

Alicia Durand

Anonymous said...

My belly dancing instructor teaches at the Y AND the J!

No kidding!


Anonymous said...

Alicia, You fail to speak about the wealthy people in the Y network continually funding the welfare memberships of the Y game players. The Y goes up on our fees to let those out of jail play ball for free. They pay their staff very poorly and hide behind the tax status. Since you work for them then I undertand your brainwashed data. Open your eyes smell the roses kid.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 8:54...

CMS has thousands of parent sponsors each year who have to pay for their children to play sports, so other kids can play for free.

No different than what you say about the Y.

Anonymous said...

I stopped going to the Y and did not renew my membership after my locker was broken into for the 3rd time by 'free loaders' that come into the facility.

Anonymous said...

One school over on Idelwild is even being used as a church on weekends. This is way over bounds. I think its Mclintock and this should never happen with a tax payer funded building. Church/State separation is critical in todays day/age.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 9:16...

You may have missed this from January:

Churches renting schools: CMS says amen

The U.S. Supreme Court recently sided with New York City officials who say letting churches worship in school buildings violates the separation of church and state. But Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools doesn't plan to change its practice of letting churches rent space after hours, officials said this week.

Read more here:

Pamela Grundy said...

Congratulations to Paula Rao and her staff. During her time as an assistant principal at Shamrock Gardens, Paula made it clear that she was a marvelously skilled and dedicated educator, who understood what children need to succeed and was able to work effectively with teachers, parents and community members to provide as much of that support as possible. We miss her very much, but are glad to see her making a difference for another group of children.

Creating effective community and volunteer partnerships is a complicated and time-consuming job. As CMS moves forward with such endeavors, it will be essential for folks downtown to follow the lead of experienced educators such as Paula.

Shamash said...

Doesn't the Elevator church meet in one of the local schools?

Seems I saw them flying their freak flags near Providence last weekend.

Anonymous said...

You're certainly entitled to your opinion. I assure you the YMCA isn't perfect.

However, no one works for the Y for a hefty paycheck. People chose to work for the YMCA because they find meaning and purpose in their work, value the mission of the organization and enjoy the mostly pleasant and supportive environment. Yes, YMCA employees have to occasionally deal with the Stage Mother from Hell, the overly sensitive kid with 18 allergies and the crotchety old guy who has an issue with everything because he wants to play ping-pong at precisely the same hour everyday. A parking space can become a source of conflict and then there's the issue of displaying that Caucasian looking Jesus by the front entrance. And like every large organization, there's a certain degree of politics and human unpleasantries.

No one choses to become a school teacher for the fabulous pay and prestige. People chose to become school teachers because they find deep
meaning and a higher purpose in their work. This is why a Pay-for-Performance model based on standardized test scores can never be successful in education. Teachers simply don't operate the same way people do who strive to become the next CEO of a Fortune 500 company. The extent to which many big-wig educational reform "experts" don't get it continually amazes me. I think we can all agree that teachers deserve higher salaries but money has never been the primary motivating factor in choosing this career.


Anonymous said...

Church and State:

I'm not an attorney, but I know public schools are allowed to have faith-based student run organizations. It's not against the law for students to form a circle and pray around the American flagpole every year. It's also not against the law for a teacher to reference the Bible as long as it's in put in historical context although I don't know many teachers who would risk putting themselves on the line regarding this touchy subject.

A huge chunk of classical music is Christian in origin which even the most die-heart atheist rarely has a problem with as long as it's put in historical context. A wise music teacher will include compositions from different time periods and various parts of the world when presenting a concert. Ditto for the art teacher. You can't study the Renaissance without including major Christian works of art.


Anonymous said...

Alicia , This is why you work at the Y and have 0 clue about public education. The kool aid they make you drink has the exact affect they want. Your selling religion in a public school with that mentality. If my kid came home with one religious pitch from CMS I would have judge Manning shut the whole system down. Keep them separate and choose your faith. That YMCA cares nothing about religion just were the next $100- is coming from.

Anonymous said...

I'm a former certified specialty area public high school teacher with a master's degree from the George Washington University School of Education and Human Development. I'm also a former PTO president, former CMS school leadership team member and a former CMS club director. While at GWU, I was a graduate teaching assistant (TA) and taught undergraduate classes. I've also taught in adjunct positions for Penn State University and the Univ. of D.C. I'm currently enrolled in a post-baccalaureate program to teach 4th grade. Oh, and my dad is a retired public school superintendent and my grandmother was a 2nd grade school teacher. My brother taught physics for a while at a public school in CT.

Fruit punch, anyone?

Alicia Durand

Anonymous said...

Also, I wrote my master's thesis on the subject of arts in public education.


Anonymous said...

On the subject of Judge Manning..

It's highly unlikely the judge would ever accuse the YMCA of committing "academic genocide" (as he did CMS) or of pitching religion in CMS.