Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Harding High: Paranoia justified?

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

That wisecrack has been running through my head since last week, when I logged on to CharlotteObserver.com before hitting the road and learned Harding High had been added to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' closing list at the last minute.

Months ago, when Superintendent Peter Gorman started talking about closing schools, I heard from Harding parents and faculty who were convinced he had their school in his sights.

The Harding crew had good reason to be edgy. It was just a few years ago, when the economy was good and teachers were scarce, that CMS was letting underqualified faculty teach advanced math classes in Harding's math-science magnet program.

Last year, what started out as a battle over boundaries in southeast Mecklenburg somehow sprawled into a plan to pull magnet students out of the westside Harding -- a plan that emerged months after the school board was supposed to have made its decisions for 2010-11. Harding boosters fought off the most-feared changes, only to be bushwhacked again in the spring with a change in busing. The late-breaking "shuttle stop" plan, created to save money in 2010-11, meant students at Harding and 10 other magnet schools wouldn't get neighborhood pickups and dropoffs this year.

With the busing changes making it tougher to get to Harding and admission requirements making it tougher to get in, Harding's enrollment slumped from 1,043 last year to 894 this year. Still, I wasn't convinced Harding was on the death watch. A $19 million renovation had been completed in 2009, bringing state-of-the-art science labs to a school that specializes in science. Harding's performance on 2010 state exams was strong, and its graduation rate was among CMS's best. At the back-to-school news conference in August, Gorman specifically noted that Harding's enrollment was down, but said it often takes a couple of years to rebuild after a magnet starts weeding out students who aren't ready to tackle the advanced courses.

Harding had been in play for changes in 2011-12, but the plan to close the school came as a shock. On Sunday, Oct. 24, CMS posted details of a plan to close Waddell High and move Smith Language Academy. At 2:30 p.m. the next day, less than four hours before a public forum to discuss that plan, Harding parents got an e-mail saying CMS now wanted to save Waddell and close Harding to make room for Smith.

Reaction has been predictably explosive, not only from Harding boosters but from Smith families who say the new plan isn't as good for their kids.

The explanation from CMS leaders left plenty of room for questions. Apparently, after prodding from members Joyce Waddell and Richard McElrath, they belatedly decided that the guiding principles the board approved in August made it more logical to close a magnet than a neighborhood school.

Now there's a scramble to craft compromises before the music stops Nov. 9. On Monday, Harding leaders sent the school board a list of 26 good, pointed questions they want answered by Thursday. Among them: What really went on behind the scenes leading up to the Waddell/Harding switch? Why dismantle a successful school?

And the last one seems especially poignant: "How does the Board justify continuously targeting Harding University with major mandates over the last three years? What other CMS High Schools have been treated similarly?"

I hope they get good answers.


therestofthestory said...

There are 2 forces here at work. One day soon, "Pete" will haev to answer why some urban schools are doing so much better than other urban schools. Second, there is a huge force within the board and pushing on the board to get the "good" students and families out of the magnet schools back to the neighborhood schools. These people have "envy" problems you would not believe.

Anonymous said...

i'm confused....why all the "quotation" marks??

Anonymous said...

It has to be a racial or black & "every other group" issue here..... wait, both schools are predominately, non-white. Soooooooo, they did opt to adopt their own intent of maintaining neighbhorhood schools, except when it had to to with the break up of successful programs with the Mint Hill & Matthews area childrens?

wiley coyote said...

For What It's Worth...

There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side

It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

We better stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

Anonymous said...

What really went on? There is no one on the Board named Harding.

Anonymous said...

Where is the outrage from the NAACP regarding Harding? Do they only defend the failing neighborhood school?

A successful school. A school counted among the best in the nation is not worth fighting for. That's what these kids are hearing from them.

If you want them to back you, slack off. Don't think about the future. Start taking regular ed courses. Start dropping out. Only then will you be worthy of. The NAACP's attention.

Anonymous said...

I am not even a parent of a high-schooler, however Peter Gorman, along with the board members have lost their minds to consider closing schools that have students exceeding in a rate of excellence and on college level status!!!
IS IT BECAUSE IT"S in a BLACK NEIGHBORHOOD that he seems to want to get rid of all the balck schools but faithfully pumps money and materials into the WHITE NEIGHBORHOODS???

I'll answer that and it is....YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!

Shame on you racist folks........you better watch the ditches you dig...cause GOD is watching and HE'S not pleased!!!!!

And as far as McElrath and Waddell goes.........they are only agreeing to keep their positions but forgetting that GOD can remove them too!!!

Anonymous said...

This is an example of how the media sets the agenda. Who says Waddell is a "failing "school-if you actually go and see the numbers, you find that the 2 schools are a lot more alike than different-The improvements in the numbers show a vibrant group of students and parents that stand behind a Principal determined to have a top notch school. Don't let the earlier stories of gangs and apathy kill what will eventually be a school that will turn out students and leaders for our community.

Anonymous said...

And as far as Eric Davis goes.........why could YOU not answer the questions that the young male student presented to you but consistently stated "I was not aware of that"? Do you know how ignorant you sound?

Oh my GOd...those children (intelligent children) I might add......made you look like "Boo Boo the Fool". lol

Our children (black children) DESERVE the same opportunites that your children do....a decent education, that challenges them to be productive citizens who will one day become doctors, lawyer, engineers, scientist, and yes JUDGES, that may have to hand you all your last glass of water!!!

Be careful...because GOD said "suffer the little children to come unto me".

"Vengeance is mine, this too I shall repay".

That's biblical in case you heathens did not know!!!

Anonymous said...

We finally agree totally on relevant commentary in the lyrics you posted. It takes some Kent State/Chicago Democratic Convention days to appreciate what the Harding Students are doing. I'd love to see what the CMS administration's response would be if there was a candlelight vigil on Tyvola Rd. with elementary students lined down two blocks in front of Smith. Those Kurt Vonnegut fans might remember "Harrison Bergeron." We've finally all become equal.

Anonymous said...

The changes to magnet busing was the first step in a slippery slope to eliminate all magnets. Magnets are often unfairly viewed as elitist which has been a false view since anyone can apply to magnets. However with the shuttle stop system, many people can't get their kids to and from those stops - so in fact the magnet do become more elitist resulting in lost support.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Hee, hee -- I am loving the musical addition (OK, the music is in my head while reading the lyrics) and the Vonnegut reference. I like Vonnegut but have a terrible memory for details. Which book is Harrison Bergeron from and what's the connection?

Anonymous said...

CMS - The Musical. I love it!

Anonymous said...

Instead of Gorman relieving the current principal of Harding of her duties when she ran valuable teachers off, he instead took the cowardly route and allowed her to stay. As a result, lots of students abandoned HUHS and went to their home school. That, coupled with the shuttle stop fiasco has crippled Harding. Many teachers there are not incompetent, but are inexperienced.
I believe HUHS is more than worth being saved.
Closing Harding has always been in Gorman's wizardly plan. I am not sure whether it is because of race that he is targeting this school OR whether he is afraid to remove the principal. (Surely, he is not biased against black children.)
However, there is a fly in the ointment concerning this school.

Keep it open. These students will become movers and shakers in the near future.

Anonymous said...

In Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron, social equality has been achieved by handicapping the more intelligent, athletic or beautiful members of society. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrison_Bergeron

wiley coyote said...

Hmmm...CMS, The Musical.

Now that's an idea for one of the high school theater groups to write and produce.

Anonymous said...

To the previous writer about "High School music teachers producing the musical". It won't be at Harding , Gorman got rid of theater, and chorus classes in the westside high schools. He has been chipping away at these schools ever since he arrived. "Everybody look whats going down"

Anonymous said...

"Shame on you racist folks........you better watch the ditches you dig...cause GOD is watching and HE'S not pleased!!!!!

And as far as McElrath and Waddell goes.........they are only agreeing to keep their positions but forgetting that GOD can remove them too!!!

November 2, 2010 3:46 PM "

Total ignorance. Creator will strike you dead for invoking his name in blasphemy. Do you think Harding is too good for Waddell? You are the absolute worst kind of racist bigot on the planet. Get on your knees and beg forgiveness you ungrateful thankless spoiled rotten brat.

Anonymous said...

I like all the references to musicals, bible, books and really great tunes but let’s use the ever popular way-back machine to revisit 2006 and see the truth.

That nasty old judge Manning practically stood on the CMS door steps waiting for Pete Gorman to arrive. He held a big sign above his head. It read, “Ye shall spend money on all my forgotten children: Leandro 1, Chapter 1, Verse 1”. And Pete set forth.

As the story goes, within months the locust of Wall Street sweep down on the district and ate all the gold the superintendent had been commanded to spend. Unknown people in distant deserts raised the price of oil. Pete could no longer maintain his herd of big yellow camels. The people became restless and resentful. A committee went atop a huge building and came down with the Ten Guiding Principles. They were confusing. The masses divided into families and fought each other for the little that was left over. A new false leader appeared. He said to Pete, “Reveal yourself”. To which Pete said, “Not on my dime!”.

. . . and the Eleventh Hour approached.

Story to be continued.

Bolyn McClung

therestofthestory said...

Bolyn, I have got to meet you and Wiley. You guys are certainly unique.

wiley coyote said...


Wiley (Coyote) is the same person as Kwazie Wabbit.

I have a Looney Tunes theme going with the Observer due to their multiple login stuff over the past couple of years.

I am also apollo21 if you see that name.

Sally Sioux said...

Joyce Waddell should not even be able to participate in any vote related to WADDELL. Who doesn't see that this is a major conflict of interest?

Sally Sioux said...

@ Anonymous: children is already plural! "Childrens" isn't a word, moron.

Sally Sioux said...

If the parents of the poor, ethnic, under-achieving Waddell students care as much as they SAY they do, then they would actually join PTSA and attend meetings. Being partnered with your child's school SHOWS you care. Giving of yourself (like it says to do so over and over in the Bible - like so many of you insist on referencing) and volunteering in a child's life is a solution to part of the problem. Saying you care is merely lip service. Perhaps some of these Waddell parents could dig deep into all that racial pride and actually try to help. They could volunteer to tutor students - of course, they would have to be educated and able enough to do so. How many of these kids' parents actually graduated from high school themselves? Or value education? Why does being educated make you too "white"? Are there any role models in their lives who value school as more than just a place to have a free meal and waste time? What or who is going to be the catalyst of change to get these morons interested in education? The teachers are there to teach - not raise your children for you. Everyone knows that North Carolina EOGs are ridiculously easy (Of course, you'd have to GO outside of North Carolina or READ once in awhile to know that). Why do the children who are doing well in school, which is in large part due to parents (of all races, creeds and tax brackets)that CARE and PARTICIPATE in their education, have to suffer? You ignorant crybabies won't be happy until everyone is as stupid and poor and downtrodden as you are. AMEN!

Anonymous said...

There is a great clip of George W. Bush saying the word "childrens" in the documentary movie "Waiting for Superman" which explores the current state of U.S. education.

I'll leave it to our blogger-ship to decide if the former president of the United States (who attended Yale) is a "moron".

Love her or leave her, I'm going to give Vilma Leake a break on this one. She always promoted "All the Children" - without an "s". CMS, The Musical... Act 11, Scene 1.

Anonymous said...

Excerpt from Peace...in the Midst of Mess, published June 2010.

Perhaps an urban educator’s crime is being an urban educator in the
first place. We teach in schools quite a few teachers avoid because of malevolent reputations and daunting demographics and poor test scores—and the fact that many of these schools are where good teachers go to die. A co-worker opined in private that Harding’s reputation is essentially at that
point thanks to the collective “mood” among its teachers. Now, the funny thing is, 3 years ago (2007), Harding was still highly regarded among quite a few educators in the district. I noted this sentiment when I interviewed teachers at a job fair in 2007 AC. “You’re at Harding?” one teacher said. “Why would you leave Harding? I would love to
work there!” Less than three years later, the running joke is “Harding: Where
great teachers go to be placed on actions plans.” Three years later, with its enrollment numbers about 400 students less than the 2005-06 school year,
Harding’s name is bandied about as possibly being closed in the 2011-12 school year.

I wonder if some of this unspoken subtext is why/how Harding was placed on the closing list.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr Gorman for doing the right thing transferring Smith too the much older Harding and retaining the much newer better Waddell. We have seen nothing but snobbery and elitism from Harding parents as is clearly displayed.

No high school should be called a university but this is an example of their elitism of that high school who always turned up their noses at Waddell or West and bragged so highly of themselves trying to make others feel inferior.

Jamel T.

therestofthestory said...

Well said Sally Sioux. I was always thought the telling tale of a school was how the parents participated. When I was a middle school PTSA president, we had regular "shadow your student" days. It was great to see the parents, meet them and associate them with their kids.

Wiley, good to know your alter egos. I believe it is part of language mastery when you can associate cartoons, humor, songs (I love Buffalo Springfield), etc. into the conversation to get your point across while entertaining.

Anonymous said...

In years past supporting neighborhood schools was considered racist. Many, including the Observer called for continued busing and resisted full implementation of neighborhood schools. Inner city parents, the NAACP all called suburban white parents racist if they wanted neighborhood schools. Fast forward to today when the SAME people who said neighborhood schools are racist are now concerned that their neighborhood schools are being closed. And now the NAACP is clamoring to save neighborhood schools in Charlotte. I find that ironic.