Almost six weeks before the kids report back to school, dozens of business people, faith leaders and educators gathered at a southwest Charlotte church Thursday to plot strategy for Olympic High and its eight feeder schools.
I've been hearing about Olympic's partnerships for several years, since the school split into five smaller schools with career-focused themes in 2006. Almost everyone talks about collaboration, but this effort has grown into something that's making a tangible difference for a growing number of students.
|Rucker-Shivers in 2013|
Those efforts continue to pay off and expand. In August, Olympic's new advanced manufacturing school opens, supported by an $80,000 grant from the German machine-parts company. So does Pallisades Park Elementary, a new neighborhood school that will get the youngest children focused on the math, science and technology themes that can carry through to graduation.
Realon likes to talk about "finding the happy space," where school needs and the interests of businesses and faith partners intersect. Dozens gathered around tables to talk about needs ranging from literacy tutors at Berewick Elementary to Hispanic family engagement at Southwest to male mentors at Olympic.
That kind of partnership network, which links elementary, middle and high schools and gets a community deeply invested in its schools, is something Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools hopes to cultivate across the district. LaTarzja Henry, the assistant superintendent in charge of partnerships, said the Southwest Charlotte group is a success story but not necessarily a model that can be replicated for every area. The needs and resources are different in, say, the Governors Village schools in the UNCC area or the McClintock Middle/East Meck zone, which she cited as other areas leading the way.
The key is finding the right people, inside and outside of schools, to locate those happy spaces.