Thirteen years ago I wrote an article in The Charlotte Observer about the choice to send my triplets to public school. Four years ago I updated our story as our children headed into high school. A final report seems fitting now that a new student assignment plan will be implemented.
Our children could have walked to one of the college-preparatory private schools nearby, or attended a well-established Christian school in the area. By the time they were moving onto middle school, several charter schools offered new options. We chose and remained in CMS for two reasons. We felt it was important as religious and business leaders for us to be personally invested in our local schools. We also wanted our children to take a step into the global economy by attending schools with a highly diverse student population.
My first article produced letters and emails expressing concern that my wife and I were sacrificing our children’s education for naive, if noble, ideals. As graduation nears I can emphatically say our white, privileged children did not lose anything by being in the minority for 13 years. Rather, CMS gave our children the world.
Our triplets’ multi-cultural education began at Cotswold, where 13 years ago it was an underutilized majority minority school with a poverty rate near 60 percent. During our Cotswold years other white wealthier families realized the great education it provided and the demographics shifted to the point where now it is a majority white school. Interestingly, under the student assignment plan the demographics of the combined Cotswold-Billingsville Schools will be nearly identical to the way Cotswold was when our three entered kindergarten. I encourage Cotswold and Billingsville parents to embrace this change and recapture the magic that was Cotswold when our CMS journey began. I hope the new assignment plan is a first step to reintegrating our schools. Here’s why...
This fall our three will be attending Emory University, UNC-Chapel Hill, and American University. They turned down offers from Wake Forest, Furman, Richmond, and NYU. Their friends at East Meck were admitted to schools such as Northwestern, Davidson, Georgia Tech and Cornell. One classmate will be a Morehead-Cain Scholar at UNC-Chapel Hill, a National Merit winner will be taking her scholarship across the country to the other USC, and one friend’s full scholarship at Instituto de Empresa (IE University) in Spain will provide internships at the EU and the UN. This year the senior class at East Meck received $10 million in academic scholarship offers, which per student is one of the best in CMS. Yet, over 60 percent of East’s student population comes from low socio-economic status families. Less than 25 percent of its students are white.
I maintain that this success is due to the diversity of their classmates. My children’s education was provided not only by caring teachers and a rigorous curriculum. They also received an education from their classmates, which began the first day of kindergarten when one daughter announced she had to quickly learn Spanish because her new friend cried when she couldn’t understand the teacher. Along the way they befriended Muslims from Chechnya and Palestine, immigrants from Burma, Vietnam, Liberia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Americans from Brazil, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Mexico and even a German-Canadian. They have listened to undocumented friends worry about the future, talked with African-American friends about what it means to be black in this country, and learned where in Charlotte has “real” international food.
It wasn’t just the SAT scores and GPA’s my children and their classmates recorded that caught the attention of colleges like Emory, Northwestern and Cornell. It was the young people that they became by being formed through a diverse cohort of race, class and nationality. This is the best hope for America.