On Tuesday, when five new CMS school board members are sworn in, Jimmy Poole plans to appeal for the new group to reconsider boundaries in the north suburbs.
Poole, the former principal many see as the face of North Mecklenburg High, sent the following e-mail to explain his position. (He starts by weighing in on the naming of Hough High):
Subject: Hough High and North Mecklenburg High Boundaries
There has been a lot of unnecessary fuss over the naming of the new high school on Bailey Road after Mr. Hough. I had the privilege of knowing this fine man and esteemed educator as a student at North and a staff member under his direction. He was a man of integrity who served the school system and community with utmost distinction. He served as a role model for those pursuing leadership positions. To name a school for him is an honor to his life, well-lived and to the ideals he espoused: honesty, hard work, faith and love. Any school should be proud to be named for such a remarkable person.
The uproar over the school name reminds me of my experience as a middle school principal. Sometimes a crisis would develop over a minor issue or incident. Hysteria would develop with a few students and parents. Fortunately, the upset lasted only a day or so because the incident was trivial with no substance. I believe that Mr. Hough would be sad if the name was changed but I think he would be more upset over the changes his beloved North Mecklenburg High will suffer from the inequity in the new student assignment that evolved from the building of the new school. A careful examination of the student data from Hough High and North will reveal these inequities, The question is: what are the school system guidelines in determining school attendance zones? Is consideration given to community, poverty levels or diversity or mainly numbers?
Because of this decision, North will instantly lose its sense of community and connection to its history and most surely will become a low performing school. Furthermore, I predict that the highly successful I.B. program will dissolve within five years for lack of participation and that students will leave North for the nearby charter and private schools. I also predict that the light rail development across the street from North will suffer because parents will not want to send their children to a low performing school,
I foresee these changes because I have had years of experience within the school system. I was a student at North in the early 60's when it was a school surrounded by farmland and populated with an all-white student body of seven hundred. I was a counselor and coach there in the early 70's when Mr. Hough led the school to be a successful federally-mandated, racially- integrated school. I was also honored to become North's principal in the early 90's when the school became the largest school in the state.
Built in 1951, the school successfully served the northern end of the county for fifty eight years. The school however, has lost many students from the five communities that first walked its halls. North lost students from Derita when Vance opened, then lost student from Long Creek and the lake when Hopewell was built and lost others when Mallard Creek opened its doors. With each opening, the school continued to grow. I knew that we would eventually lose the Davidson and Cornelius areas but I never dreamed we would also lose many hometown Huntersville students. Some of them have been placed in the new school since that school was actually built too soon without sufficient student population from Cornelius and Davidson. The school system had three options before them when the school assignment boundaries were being established for the new school and North Mecklenburg. Of the three , the school board chose the one that most negatively impacts North. The school will lose students as before but this time is assigned students from another school. Those coming from another school will have to travel much farther to go to North than to remain where they are. I am sure that these students would prefer to remain at their present school.
The right thing to do would be to return some of the Huntersville area to North but I know that won't happen now. However, Larry Gauvreau made a wise suggestion during the school board's deliberations over the new attendance lines. He suggested that the students who live from Sunset Road to I-85 remain at their present school. This makes good sense but the school board rejected his proposal. North could have remained a relatively small school as East Mecklenburg was allowed to be. North has provided positive educational experiences for students in the northern end of the county in spite of overcrowded conditions. It was the largest school in the state several times with a student population of nearly 3000 students in a facility built for 1500. History has shown that the northern area is popular with newcomers to the area and North Mecklenburg High will inevitably grow. There should be no concern about the school becoming too small.
I tried to get the school board to consider changes to the pupil assignment plan for North. Three board members said that they shared my concerns and would consider other assignment options. I firmly believe that the new board members will see the merits of my concerns, as well. The board changed its mind about East Mecklenburg so why can't it change its mind for the sake of North Mecklenburg.? Historically, we know the negative impacts that the openings of new schools had on both South Mecklenburg and Independence High. Now the impact is on East and North The pupil assignment plan for North Mecklenburg will have a far worse impact on North than the assignment plans for those other schools.
It is far easier to prevent problems than to create and then deal with them later. The school board needs to amend the assignment plan for North and not create another low-performing school. North should be allowed to remain small for a time and keep what remains of its sense of community and excellence.
Jimmy K. Poole, North Graduate of 1963
North's Principal 1994-2005, and
President of the North Mecklenburg Alumni Association
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- Doug Miller