Making The Grade: CMS Board Chair writes letter to Charlotte’s Black students about academic achievement

The board chair said she wanted her letter to be hopeful and at the same time realistic.
Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 7:22 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 14, 2021 at 8:36 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - WBTV asked Charlotte Mecklenburg School (CMS) Board Chair Elyse Dashew to write a letter to Black students about Academic Achievement. She was asked to do the assignment as part of WBTV’s Making the Grade series.

The series focuses on what’s being done to close the achievement gap between Black and White students. Test scores are in and they show much work is needed. Dashew said she wanted her letter to be hopeful and at the same time realistic. Here’s part of the letter.

“Dear student,” CMS School Board Chair Elyse Dashew writes. “When you come to school - I want you to find a place that is safe to learn. I want you to find grownups that care for you - believe in you and give you structure...When you come to school - I hope you learn the history of your ancestors even if this has been made invisible in schools before.”

Dashew also writes about how the community can help close the gap too.

“I hope you feel the arms of the community wrapped around you,” Dashew writes. “A community that believes in you, a community that will do anything to make sure you are safe, to make sure you have space and support to learn and grow and thrive.”

The board chair admits she can’t guarantee the community will support all students.

“Do I believe this community believes in our kids,” Dashew said. “A lot of our community members do - but does everyone believe in every one of our kids - No - I think we got work to do there.”

The school board is working on this achievement gap. Dashew says it will take years for students to recover because of COVID. The board chair says the board is tightening up how it does business.

“I think we need to be more crisp and clear about our priorities,” Dashew said. “And how we spend our time in our board meetings so we are laser focus on student outcomes.”

The board has decided to spend at least 50% of meeting time discussing student outcomes. Board members are getting outside help.

“We’re actually doing training with the Council of Great City Schools on how to ask the best questions,” Dashew said. “As it relates to student achievement. And so how to get under the numbers - what’s working - what isn’t working - what do we need to shift - where do we need to reallocate the budget.”

Dashew says there is a sense of urgency and the district is up for the challenge.

“It’s a very intense situation,” Dashew said. “And we have really smart people working in this school district who are dedicated to finding the way for our kids.”

The hope is things will fall into place to move the needle when it comes to closing the achievement gap. Dashew says people should see a difference in how they are tackling this issue and they should see she is not giving up.

“My commitment is to do everything in my power to make this wish come true,” Dashew said.

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