Principal wants more diversity, has dream of a magnet school waiting list

Diversity in Charlotte schools

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - One goal for Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) District is to create more diverse schools. CMS school board members have told WBTV they don't want to force diversity, they want parents to choose to send their kids to certain schools to achieve that goal.

Tuckaseegee Elementary, located on the West Side of Charlotte, has an award winning magnet program called the Learning Immersion Talent Development (LITD). It was recently recognized and a magnet school of distinction. The school is a partial magnet school with only about 170 students in the program.

Administrators tell WBTV the magnet program sets students up for success.

"We really develop critical thinking," Tuckaseegee ES Magnet Coordinator Jason Otto said. "Problem solving, real world application."

Otto tells WBTV despite the fact the school is a partial magnet, all students at the school benefit.

"While our magnet program here is very special," Otto said. "We're trying to get that feel across the building in all classrooms, so that everybody feels a part of what we are doing here."

Administrators say the school can use a little more diversity. Sixty-percent of the students are Black, 7% of the students are White, and 18% of the students are Hispanic. Staff at the school believe diversity in the classrooms is important.

"When I think of diversity," Otto said. "I think of the different communities within the city. it's not always to me race or a gender."

The principal Rhonda Gomez agrees.

"It is important that our students know how to talk," Gomez said. "How to listen, know how to collaborate and cooperate and know how to work with all types of people."

The principal is now on assignment.  She wants diversity at her school and she has the room to do it.

"Currently we still have a number of openings in our program," the principal said. "And our goal and dream is to get the word out about Tuckaseegee LITD program, so that we have so much interest that at some point we will have a waiting list."

Administrators say creating that waiting list can be a challenge.

"That's one of the tricky parts of being out on the West Side of the District," Otto said. "Is reaching the parents who are all the way on the opposite end of the town, so that is the difficult part."

The closest magnet school to Tuckaseegee Elementary that offers the exact same magnet program is Irwin Academic Center. That school is located about 8 miles away from Tuckaseegee. Irwin has a waiting list while Tuckaseegee does not. Some wonder why don't the parents on that waiting list simply enroll their kids to Tuckaseegee Elementary.

"We're on the West Side," the principal said. "And I think that many people will opt in for Irwin because they are in the center of CMS."

The principal also believes there is a misconception parents may have about learning on the west side.

"I'm not sure if it is negative press in the past," Gomez said. "This is a beautiful school. Our staff is very proud of this school. We are proud of our students."

The plan now is for administrators to talk up Tuckaseegee and to dispel myths parents may have of their kids learning on the west side at Tuckaseegee.

"I think when parents come in the building," Otto said. "And they see what the classrooms are like and they see what we do here, they will feel comfortable."

"If we get them into our school," the principal said. "We win them."

CMS officials tell WBTV they are also helping to boost numbers at Tuckaseegee Elementary. They tell WBTV they will continue to talk to parents about the partial magnet school and tell them what a good education students can get there.

"We have the best of both worlds," Gomez said. "We are a neighborhood school but through our LITD program, we also have students who are bused from different areas."

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