Letters to the Editor

Mandarin magnet school would hurt Chapel Hill-Carrboro’s black students

Anna Richards, NAACP president, (pictured in a file photo) says making Glenwood Elementary School a Mandarin magnet will remove African-American children from the school and do nothing to address the Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools’ longstanding achievement gap.
Anna Richards, NAACP president, (pictured in a file photo) says making Glenwood Elementary School a Mandarin magnet will remove African-American children from the school and do nothing to address the Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools’ longstanding achievement gap. mschultz@newsobserver.com

Recent news and editorial coverage has built a growing community consensus that the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education’s decision to transition Glenwood Elementary School into a Mandarin language magnet school was an unethical, deceptive and broad violation of the public trust. (“Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board chair apologizes for Mandarin vote, questions ethics,” Nov. 28)

But consistent with our mission, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (CH C NAACP) looks beyond process, and concludes that the board’s shockingly cavalier willingness to abandon their frequently stated commitment to ending our district’s shameful racial achievement gap in public education should cause the community to take much deeper pause.

The Mandarin magnet school will benefit only a tiny swath of the most privileged district students. It will do nothing to alter the shameful legacy of how our affluent, education-focused area ranks 51st among North Carolina counties in educating African-American students and very high nationally in disparity in black and brown student achievement.

Glenwood Elementary, currently a very popular and diverse neighborhood school, would become highly segregated within one year, as the lottery to get in would immediately lower Glenwood’s African-American student population from 47 African-American students to just six.

This means 83 percent of the black students would be banished from Glenwood Elementary and scattered throughout the district, losing established relationships with familiar teachers and faculty for nothing more, apparently, than some vague hope of reducing marginal overcrowding.

When campaigning, our district leaders and school board members claimed racial equity would be their highest priority. How do they now square that with a plan that will immediately remove almost all black students from the school?

Our racial achievement and educational opportunity gap is one of the widest in North Carolina because we pay more attention to satisfying the “wants” of the most privileged people than we do the “needs” of the most marginalized.

The Mandarin magnet school program is a glaring example of how these gaps persist and endure. For some reason, this current school board proposes to widen these gaps further, at considerable cost to the district.

Considerable time, cost and energy (and underhanded board behavior) have gone toward this ill-advised venture, while the needs of our African-American students have been ignored with racial equity getting nothing more than campaign season lip service.

The NAACP will not stop organizing resistance to this bad decision. We strongly urges the board to nullify it as quickly as possible.

Anna Richards is the president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP.

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