A newspaper story about a four-hour discussion on student reassignment is bound to leave out a few notable nuggets.
Rock Hill school board members and district leaders made lots of interesting points and observations on Monday when they discussed how and when to shuffle students to other schools. They spent much of the day tackling the touchy topic of using race as a reason to reassign.
Many comments didn't make it in today's story that ran in The Herald. So I've posted some highlights below.
Overall, the district's goal is to maintain diversity in schools, balancing the percentage of students who are poor, middle class, wealthy, white and nonwhite. Questions that board members face include: What does "balance" look like? And how far out of balance can a school be before students are moved?
Also, how will the community react? If the district at some point decides that too many schools are "out of balance" and moves students from their current schools, will the public go along?
Previous reassignments suggest that's not likely. Nothing gets parents involved in school affairs like talk of student reassignment. Whenever a new school opens and new attendance lines must be drawn, school board members are bombarded with e-mails and phone calls from parents who don't want their kid(s) moved.
'A wonderful example'
Stephen Smith, a Winthrop University political science professor whose research focuses on desegregation and education policy, praised the district for striving to maintain schools that are socioeconomically, ethnically and racially diverse.
The district "sets a wonderful example for the rest of the country," Smith said.
Superintendent Lynn Moody echoed that sentiment, calling the discussion "courageous." She continued: "This is not something that is going to be popular or comfortable. If this was a board that was worried about getting reelected, you would avoid this at all costs."
Moody made an interesting point:
Many districts across the nation face competition from private and charter schools, which often wind up with many of the districts' students whose parents are heavily involved and vocal.
There are at the moment no charter schools in Rock Hill and private schools don't have a strong presence. For one thing, she said, that makes the gap between rich and poor narrower than in many school districts. Also, it means vocal parents are still in Rock Hill schools and making their concerns known.
The district is lucky in that respect, Moody said.
Part of the discussion concerned creating new "pockets" throughout the district.
A pocket refers to a group of students who live in one school's attendance area, but are assigned to another.
For example, let's say neighborhood A is assigned to India Hook Elementary. Then school officals review school demographics district-wide and find that the students in that neighborhood need to attend Finley Road Elementary halfway across the city, neighborhood A would then be a pocket.
Those often force parents to have to drive past two or three schools to get to their child's school.
"If we're going to have diversity, we're going to have to have pockets," school board member Walter Brown said.
School board member Jason Silverman, who earlier in the meeting warned about discussing race ("You use the word race ... that's just going to make people nuts.") jumped in at that point: "I don't give a damn about statistics ... Let's stop tap-dancing ... and say we don't want a school that is all white or all black.
"I don't see why we have to hide behind numbers, behind formulas."