Monday, January 31, 2011

If you ever wanted to understand the complexities that make up the public school system today, just look at the two largest headlines coming out of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools right now. And perhaps the way in which we share these stories says more about us than the events.

On Friday night, a fight broke out at the Butler High School versus East Mecklenburg High School basketball game. Allegedly, two parents and their daughter attacked a school resource officer, who is paid to keep the peace at events such as this. A camera crew from WCNC NewsChannel 36 (Charlotte's NBC affiliate) was at the game recording footage for the night's sports coverage, and ended up getting the entire brawl on tape. The video, which is embedded below, has gone viral, popping up on websites and newscasts across the country for the last three days.

Fast forward to Monday morning, and a group of Charlotte business and philanthropic leaders, known as the CMS Investment Study Group, unveiled a five-year, $55 million plan to help improve performance at West Charlotte High School and the seven elementary and middle schools that feed into it. West Charlotte High has a 51 percent graduation rate. Repeat: Almost half of West Charlotte's students aren't graduating. Titled Project L.I.F.T. (Leadership and Investment For Transformation), this new effort will "focus on enhanced teacher and school leadership quality, more time spent on task (including extended day, out of school time, and pre-kindergarten programs), access to technology, and policy changes that will allow school leadership more freedom." A news video of the announcement is embedded below as well. Click here to read the press release announcing Project L.I.F.T.

It's a tale of two stories. One gave Charlotte a black eye. The other gave Charlotte one more reason to be admired by other cities. I wonder if Monday's story will spread like wild fire across the Internet like Friday's did. Probably not. Instead of people not wanting to look away from the train wreck, I hope the community will soon take seriously this collision course we're on with a future filled with large, uneducated segments of the population. Like the behavior in the fight video, it starts at home.

Hats off to the Charlotte corporations and foundations that have already made hefty pledges to Project L.I.F.T., totaling $40.5 million so far:

  • Belk Foundation: $1 million
  • Foundation For The Carolinas: $2 million
  • Wells Fargo Foundation: $2.5 million
  • Duke Energy Foundation: $5 million
  • Bank of America Charitable Foundation: $10 million
  • C.D. Spangler Foundation: $10 million
  • The Leon Levine Foundation: $10 million

Click here if you would like to contribute to the cause.


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