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Former CMS School Board Chair says focus should be on lessening opportunity gaps, not achievement gaps

Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 8:16 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Former Charlotte Mecklenburg School (CMS) Board Chair Mary McCray wrote a letter to the Black Political Caucus of Charlotte.

It was in response to the Caucus supporting Mecklenburg County’s decision to withhold $56 million from CMS’ budget. McCray thought the Caucus’ decision lacked understanding.

“I want them to not just lean in on the rhetoric that’s coming from certain people,” former CMS School Board Chair Mary McCray said. “You need to be able to see the whole picture and right now they are only seeing a part of the picture.”

McCray says she didn’t write the letter for the Caucus to change its mind but wanted them to look at the bigger picture.

“I don’t want anybody to think I am trying to chastise them,” McCray said. “I am trying to defend the board or the system - but I need people to have their eyes wide open not have a glint. But have them wide open.”

In the letter, McCray writes, “Our focus should be on lessening Opportunity Gaps, not achievement gaps...” She believes students in spaces where opportunity gaps are closing are better students and engaged community members.

“Our students are not getting the opportunities that they need in their neighborhoods,” she said. “I talked about the health care -the pandemic showed us disparities in our healthcare - with our senior care, our marginalized neighborhoods not getting timely care of information.”

She also thinks closing opportunity gaps can make an impact on students especially those who live in challenged neighborhoods.

McCray thinks leaders’ time would be better spent if they concentrated on the opportunity gaps.

McCray also writes that it’s not fair to put all the blame on CMS - she says there is enough responsibility to go around.

“I think whenever children are not performing at peak performance as I would put it,” McCray said. “It’s all CMS’ fault, but when you have children who have been traumatized, children that have disabilities or learning disabilities or things of that nature these children come in handicapped...You’re having to play catch up with them and then when you think you have them caught up - you got winter break and you have to start all over again.”

McCray says it takes time and money to help students achieve. She is not making excuses for CMS.

“CMS can do a better job of teaching reading,” she said. “Teaching our children how to read - you have some cases of children in our community who have never held a book. They very seldom go to the library...We’ve got to do a better job - technique and realize that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to teaching and reading.”

McCray sent the letter to the Black Political Caucus on June 12th. She still hasn’t heard from the Caucus.

“I expected an acknowledgment that they received it,” she said. “They have given it to their members because I am a member of the caucus.”

The Chair of the Black Political Caucus says there was no need for a response because the letter came after the Caucus made its decision to support the County’s vote regarding the money.

McCray says she will now send her letter to State leaders and local clergy.

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