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Making the Grade: Faith community frustrated with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools

Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 9:33 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - African American Faith Alliance for Educational Advancement is getting frustrated.

Local Charlotte pastors are speaking out against Charlotte Mecklenburg School District (CMS) and the way it is dealing with the achievement gap between Black and White students.

The faith leaders are concerned 42 schools located in predominately Black neighborhoods are ranked D or F schools and it’s been like that for a while.

“The greatest gap I see with regard to moving forward is the gap between what CMS is saying coming from board members,” African American Faith Alliance Chair Dr. Dennis Williams said. “That’s coming from the superintendent’s office and what’s happening in the classrooms between teachers and students. I don’t see an execution plan to take the framework of what they have and what they want to get accomplished.”

Williams is a former CMS administrator and at one time served as the district’s Interim Superintendent. He is concerned but believes CMS can turn it around if the right people were in place.

“When the results are so low like they are in CMS,” Williams said. “With skilled leadership and a will to do something about the situation - you can have drastic progress in one year. So this idea that it is going to take 10 years - it’s nonsense. It’s going to take six years - the kids don’t have that much time.”

Rev. Dr. Ricky Woods is also with the Faith Alliance. He says he understands the challenges the pandemic brought when it comes to the achievement gap but claims CMS has had enough time to fix it.

“As a preacher - I believe in a balanced theology of both grace and accountability,” First Baptist Church West Pastor Dr. Ricky Woods said. “I think it is possible to have grace and accountability at the same time and CMS continues to ask for more time - more grace but yet provide us an absence of accountability.”

The ministers say they want to help but claim CMS has shut them out.

“We want to make ourselves available to the school system to partner,” Williams said. “We have a whole bunch of churches - just in one association, we have 70 churches. We have different denominations working with us. The alliance who will open up their facilities and partner with CMS to do something about the situation - we haven’t been approached yet.”

CMS responded to the ministers’ claim about getting shut out. Here is the statement sent.

“CMS can assure you that no groups with evidence-based plans to improve outcomes for our students have been locked out of the process to do so...If local ministers and organizations approach us with evidence-based plans to address disrupted instruction, we will work with them to help improve outcomes for students.”

Ministers are not looking ahead to make a difference.

“One of the initiatives we have coming up is an Educational Summit,” Williams said. “Where we are going to bring in folks who have gotten the job done. Folks who haven’t made excuses - so that we can show that people with similar situations having some success. And we are hoping that will help teachers, help principals and school board members understand that somebody is getting it done.”

Pastors say something needs to be done. They claim CMS parents are getting left out.

“The blame is oftentimes placed upon the parent,” Rockwell AME Zion Church Pastor Jordan Boyd said. “Because of what they have not done for the child at home while trying to make a living. But more of the child’s time is spent in school during the day with the teacher and administrators with those who have within their reach and are paid to educate students.”

Disappointment is mounting so much within churches - ministers are looking for other options.

“The frustration in the faith community is growing to the point that many of them,” Woods said. “Not been advocates for charter schools are beginning to think about it and think about it in ways in which they have not thought about it before.”

Making the Grade airs every Thursday at 5:30 and 7:30 on WBTV.

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