Building on the Presbyterian church’s long commitment public education, Covenant Presbyterian will host a five-part series this month looking at how the community can contribute to improving Charlotte’s schools.
The church historically has held conversations about public schools, and the “time is right to have those discussions again,” said Mary Lynne Calhoun, dean emerita of the UNC Charlotte College of Education.
“The issues … are very timely and call on us to look again at what we might do as individuals and a progressive community of faith,” she said.
We want to dig in as a community to core issues and see where that leads us. A desired result for this series is we will find or enhance our advocacy voices, either as individuals or as a community.
Mary Lynne Calhoun, dean emerita of the UNC Charlotte College of Education
The pressing issues she cited are: resegregation of schools in Charlotte; social mobility and moving out of poverty; and policy decisions that impact teachers.
The series, titled “Educate a Child, Transform the World,” comes as the Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education is discussing ideas, including a student assignment plan, to break up concentrations of poverty that limit schools’ chances of success.
Meck Min, a citywide interfaith ministry, recently hosted a community dialog about public schools that drew several hundred people, and some faith leaders have been outspoken about issues of poverty and public education.
Calhoun said in the Presbyterian church there is a sense that “public schools are of great value to all of us, and everyone one of us has a stake in the success of public schools whether or not we have students there.”
“Educate a Child, Transform the World,” will begin 6:30 p.m. Sept. 9 with a discussion called “Loving our neighbors: The context of our community” led by Owen Furuseth, associate provost of metropolitan studies at UNC Charlotte.
Furuseth will focus on issues of social mobility, the condition of neighborhoods and the relationship between poverty and education outcomes.
Other presentations include:
▪ “Voices of our teachers.” On Sept. 16, the community is invited to observe a discussion among Covenant Presbyterian members who are teachers, counselors and school leaders about pressing needs affecting schools and how the church can support children, teachers and schools.
Calhoun will facilitate the discussion.
▪ ”Notes from a classroom.” Charlotte Observer columnist and author Kay McSpadden will talk about the transformative power of education on Sept. 23. McSpadden, who is a York County high school English teacher, also will address questions of whether public schools are failing and whether poverty matters.
▪ “The state of our schools.” Ann Clark, superintendent of Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, will provide a snapshot of the school system, including its needs, goals, teaching force and policy issues Sept. 30.
▪ “Recalling the past, planning the future.” On Oct. 7, attorney Luke Largess, who represented black families in the 1999 trial Belk vs. Board of Education, will give a historical perspective on student assignment in Charlotte. Amy Hawn Nelson, director of the Institute for Social Capital Inc., will talk about the importance of research on public education policy.
Calhoun said Covenant Presbyterian began talking about having the series in the spring, when church leaders had read a recent Presbyterian paper called “Educate a Child, Transform the World” and were becoming aware of emerging challenges and opportunities in schools in our community.
They looked for speakers with expert knowledge and wisdom who could address issues related to supporting public education, she said.
Each discussion will be held in a classroom setting, with a presentation followed by opportunities for dialog, questions and thoughts about where this might lead us next.
Calhoun said the church hopes the series leads to action, and she expects it will be followed up with action-oriented meetings.
“We want to dig in as a community to core issues and see where that leads us,” she said. “A desired result for this series is we will find or enhance our advocacy voices, either as individuals or as a community.”
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer: email@example.com.
Want to go?
The community is invited to “Educate a Child, Transform the World.” The sessions will be 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays at Covenant Presbyterian Church’s fellowship hall, 1000 E. Morehead St.