City News

Opposition to magnet merger voiced to CMS

Parents of students attending Lincoln Heights and Villa Heights elementary schools turned out at a Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board meeting Tuesday for one more shot at stopping a merger of the two magnet programs for gifted children.

With the clock ticking toward Nov. 12 – the date the board is scheduled to vote on Superintendent Peter Gorman's plan to streamline the district's magnet schools – the two groups laid out reasons why they oppose a merger.

Gorman wants to consolidate the two identical magnet programs for gifted children in west Charlotte at Lincoln Heights, a larger school with more room for an expanded magnet program. Under the proposal, Lincoln Heights would be a magnet-only school for gifted children – with 106 more seats than the two programs offer separately.

Villa Heights, a magnet-only school just outside uptown in northeast Charlotte, has a waiting list of students who want to get in. Parents at Villa Heights told the board Tuesday they simply want to save their children's school.

As they have in the past, they said the board should keep the program at Villa Heights and learn from success there, rather than move it to Lincoln Heights.

Lincoln Heights parents said they would welcome Villa Heights students. But first, they said, the board should address concerns about for Lincoln Heights: the lack of permanent leadership and the effect on nonmagnet students.

Lincoln Heights, off LaSalle Street near Interstate 77, offers a Learning Immersion (K-2) and Talent Development (3-5) magnet program as well as a basic education program. Lincoln Heights has failed to meet academic goals set by the state for four consecutive years. About 15 percent of its students are in the magnet program.

If the board votes to make Lincoln Heights a magnet-only school, students who live in the area would be moved to Druid Hills Elementary. Druid Hills also failed to meet state academic goals.

Until those problems are addressed, “it serves no one to ignore the needs of all of our children,” said Thelma Byers-Bailey, president of the Lincoln Heights neighborhood association.

Other parents reminded the board that Lincoln Heights is without permanent leadership. An interim principal has worked there since summer, said Carmen Bray, a CMS spokesperson.

So the board is recommending a significant shift with when the school that might be unprepared to manage such large-scale change.

Lincoln Heights deserves a qualified and capable leader as soon as possible, said Theresa Watley, a Lincoln Heights parent.

“Does Lincoln Heights continue to fail due to the lack of adequate resources?” another parent asked.