Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Police sergeants sue Charlotte for more pay

More than 30 current and former police sergeants have sued the city of Charlotte, claiming their employer violated federal labor law by not paying them overtime.

The lawsuit alleges that the city "justified its refusal to pay plaintiffs overtime by unlawfully classifying plaintiffs as salaried exempt employees."

Read the lawsuit

Read Gary Wright's story in today's Observer

Monday, March 29, 2010

Is Atlanta falling behind Charlotte?

Atlanta's mayor, Kasim Reed, seems to think so. Reed says "Hotlanta" is in danger of losing ground to Charlotte on transportation, education, water and the arts, according to Atlanta Journal-Constitution blogger Jim Galloway.

Atlanta is still the capital of the South, says Reed, who concedes Charlotte has made gains — especially when it comes to high-speed rail.

Galloway writes:

Reed compared the situation to the early 1960s when Birmingham was the southern leader in commerce, but lost that title to Atlanta because of its attitude on civil rights. See: Alabama Gov. George Wallace and Birmingham police Chief Eugene “Bull” Connor.

Atlanta, the mayor noted, was more progressive. “Birmingham has never caught up since,” Reed said.

h/t CLT blog

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Reporting on slurs hurled at lawmakers

McClatchy Newspapers reporter William Douglas reported recently on the racial epithets and homophobic remarks that protesters had hurled at some Congressional Black Caucus members and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., last weekend ahead of the vote on the landmark health care overhaul legislation.
A number of readers have asked for an explanation on how the story was reported. Here's Douglas' memo to editors on how it came together:

You asked for a memo on the John Lewis and Emanuel Cleaver claims of racial abuse and spit and how I came upon the story. Here it is:
On Saturday March 20, I was on my way from the Senate Press Gallery to the Capitol Visitors Center to camp outside the auditorium where President Obama was addressing House Democrats prior to the lawmakers voting on the health care legislation.
A television producer friend of mine ran up to me and said that she had heard that some black House members were hassled outside by protesters, and that some had used the N-word on John Lewis. After Obama left, I covered a Steny Hoyer-Jim Clyburn news conference about the upcoming health care vote. I then went looking for Lewis and found him heading up the steps from the CVC to the House side of the Capitol.
I chased him down with TV producers from Fox News and, I think, ABC. Lewis didn’t want to go to the cameras, but he answered questions as he walked. He was calm and matter-of-fact as he described what happened to him.
“They were just shouting, sort of harassing,” he began.
I asked him, “Was the N-word used?”

“Oh yeah, yeah, but that’s OK. I’ve faced this before,” he said. “It reminded me of the '60s. A lot of downright hate and anger, and people just being downright mean.”
Lewis and Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., said that people outside the Cannon House Office Building were shouting “Kill the bill, kill the bill,” and then the N-word. Carson said the N-word was used “several times.” Carson later told the AP that he heard the N-word used at least 15 times.
Lewis said that one Republican colleague apologetically said, "John, you’ve seen this before. This is not new to you.’
After Lewis got into an elevator, I encountered Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. Knowing that he represented Kansas City, I asked if he had seen or heard what happened to Lewis. He said he was walking a distance behind Lewis, but he said he heard what he described as a “chorus” of taunts by the crowd aimed at Lewis and he heard the N-word uttered.
What Emanuel didn’t tell me at the time was that he was spat upon and called the N-word. I learned that after his office put out a statement describing what he experienced. The statement also thanked a Capitol Police officer for helping to defuse the situation.
After speaking to Cleaver, I spoke with Congressional Black Caucus Chair Barbara Lee, D-Calif., who told me that she heard other CBC members had been verbally abused by the crowd, but she didn’t have details. I called the Capitol Police and left a message on the voicemail of their press relations person, who didn’t call back. I didn’t include Lee’s comments in our story because she didn’t personally witness any abuse and she couldn’t give me the names of CBC members who allegedly were abused.
When I got back to the McClatchy desk on the Senate side of the Capitol, I called Mark Seibel, the weekend duty editor; told him what I learned; and asked him if he thought the information should go into the main health care story or whether should we do a separate. Mark instantly said a separate story. I told him that I’d try to get something to him quickly. I put about 4-5 graphs together in about 15 minutes that offered more detail, context and quoted the Associated Press story.
Mark backfilled my initial graphs with some B-matter and got the story up on the McClatchy Washington Web site quickly. He also checked with John Walcott about the language, and he and John agreed that the story should include the N-word and any other racist or hate speech that our reporting had confirmed.
I then returned by attention to the main health care story, having to hit the button on it before 5 p.m. But Mark and I went back into the Lewis-Cleaver story when we got the statement from Cleaver’s office and after I heard a tape of a Boston Globe reporter’s interview of Rep. Barney Frank, who gave the hometown reporter an account of the homophobic slurs he said were hurled at him by demonstrators. We quoted Frank, crediting the Globe. I think Seibel and I made the final add to the Lewis-Cleaver story around 9 p.m.

Friday, March 26, 2010

City hires attorney in harassment probe

The city of Charlotte has hired attorney Valecia McDowell to investigate an allegation of sexual harassment by a council member.

A memo sent today to the mayor and council members said McDowell expects to deliver a report within two weeks. McDowell of Charlotte discounted her normal hourly rate of $400 to $250 because the work "is in the public interest."

Click here to read the memo.

The scope of the investigation:

- Determine whether the complained of conduct of an elected official towards a female member of the city's staff occurred.

- And if the activity occurred, whether it constituted sexually harassing conduct as defined in and interpreted under Title VII.

McDowell, the memo says, will give her findings in a written report in which the alleged victim will be identified as "Employee A."

On March 14, Mayor Anthony Foxx sent an email to all 11 council members reminding them that sexual harassment wouldn't be tolerated. The email did not say which council member was being accused.

Three city officials have told the Observer the e-mail was in response to a complaint by a female staff member against council member Warren Turner. Turner has said he has done nothing wrong.

- Doug Miller

Report: Mecklenburg has most gangs

The state's annual gang report released this week shows Mecklenburg County has 160 gangs, the most of any North Carolina county.

Click here to read the report.

The second-highest county was Wake, with 97 gangs.

According to the Associated Press, the report "reflects a fuller picture of gang activity by relying more on hard data from police and prison officials."

AP reports the Governor's Crime Commission gave its annual gang report to a legislative panel on Thursday.

The report shows there are nearly 13,700 confirmed gang members and their associates, compared to 10,050 in last year's report.

- Doug Miller

The predator priest who got away

The Rev. Lawrence Murphy admitted he sexually abused deaf boys at a Wisconsin boarding school for 22 years. Victims tried for more than three decades to bring him to justice, but documents obtained by The New York Times show that the church neither defrocked him nor referred him for prosecution.

Monday, March 22, 2010

What would you cut in county budget?

As Mecklenburg County officials try to find ways to cut $95 million out of next year's budget, they've said pretty much all ideas are on the table.

So what would you cut?

Now, before jumping in with your ideas, it's important to know what all the county pays for.

Schools, the jail, parks, libraries, and social services and the health department are just some areas that receive county money. The county also pays for school construction, supports air and water quality initiatives, and gives money to some local non-profits organizations, among other initiatives.

To see exactly how the county spends money, click here to view the 2009-10 budget approved by county commissioners last June. (Warning: the file is 24 mb in size and will take a few minutes to download.)

The budget book is more than 600 pages long, but you can start by checking these pages:

  • Pages 106-123: List of county program and service areas, including whether the county has any flexibility in providing the service and/or its funding level
  • Pages 124-25: Spending for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Central Piedmont Community College
  • Pages 126-128: Money for non-profit and other outside agencies
  • Page 167-206: A department-by-department breakdown of services and spending

As part of our budget coverage this spring, the Observer wants to know your ideas on which county departments and services should get top-billing for funding, and what areas you think should be cut.

Send us your ideas by leaving a comment below, or click here to e-mail county government reporter April Bethea.

Update, 11:30 a.m. March 24: Thank you everyone for your ideas. We're hoping to spend the coming weeks analyzing the feasibility and/or likelihood of what has been suggested. -- April B

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Proposal: County seeks $95 million in cuts

Mecklenburg County officials said they are planning for up to $95 million in budget cuts, and potentially more than 500 layoffs of workers, for the budget year that begins in July. The cuts are driven overwhelmingly by declines in nearly every revenue source.

County Manager Harry Jones (pictured at right) won't present his recommended budget until May, but has given departments and other agencies targets on how much they could possibly lose. Click here to read the full list.

The potential cuts include:
  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools $20.7 million or 6.5 percent less than the current year

  • Department of Social Services: $4.2 million, or 6.6 percent less

  • Sheriff's Office: almost $9 million, or 11 percent less

  • Charlotte Mecklenburg Library: $17 million, or 50 percent less

  • Park and Recreation: $18.8 million, or 50 percent less

Jones and Budget Director Hyong Yi stressed Tuesday that the targeted cuts are not final, and will change as Jones and county commissioners craft the budget.

The $95 million figure is about $10 million more than the current estimated budget shortfall. Jones said the extra amount will give him more flexibility in deciding what cuts to enact and also acts as a buffer against any future losses in state money.

But he said next year's cuts will mean layoffs, service eliminations and the closure of some facilities. "There is no purpose in sugar-coating the situation," Jones said.

Commissioners will approve the 2010-11 budget this June.

In the meantime, the county will cut $20 million from the current year budget, including $6.3 million from CMS and $13.2 million from county departments. Central Piedmont Community College will lose about $500,000.

Want to keep up with the budget? Visit http://countybudget.charmeck.org/. APRIL BETHEA

Monday, March 15, 2010

Forest Hill to build at Ballantyne YMCA?

Forest Hill Church wants to build a 15,000-square-foot expansion at Morrison YMCA, the YMCA announced to members in a newsletter today.

Under an agreement being considered by the YMCA and Forest Hill, the church would fully fund the building, which would be owned and operated by the YMCA. In return, the church will use the facility for Sunday morning worship services, the newsletter said.

Other times, the expansion will be used by YMCA members. Plans call for full basketball courts and multi-purpose areas along with an indoor track.

The Morrison YMCA's board of managers backed the plan in January. Final approval hinges on approval from the YMCA metropolitan board and Forest Hill leadership this month, the statement says.

Construction could begin by June 1 with a targeted completion date of December.

According to the newsletter:

"The proposed addition will be designed in the same space that was part of the original Morrison YMCA master plan proposed in 2008. The YMCA had intended to build this addition over the course of 10 years. The proposed space will provide 3 full basketball courts/multi-purpose areas that will be used as a large worship area by Forest Hill Church on Sundays. This proposed project creates an opportunity for the YMCA to build-out the space earlier than planned and give the YMCA the capacity to capitalize on a growing, vibrant program and membership offering."

The plan would not affect the YMCA's relationship with other church and secular civic groups, the newsletter said.

- Doug Miller

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

CMS construction plan is up -- really!

Turns out posting almost 500 pages of detailed reports on construction planning for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is easier said than done. But this evening CMS got the report broken down into manageable pieces and posted.
The background: On Tuesday the school board got a staff report on priorities for school construction and renovation, designed to launch a months-long discussion on how to spend money once it's available. District officials had hoped to post the full report before the meeting.
A link was available late Tuesday and early Wednesday, but by midday the folks at CMS had decided it was too cumbersome and pulled it down. The latest version breaks the report into chunks that are easier to look up and download.

Local teens talk about sex, drugs, violence

Officials from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and area health agencies have released highlights of the 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, in which CMS students report on violence, drinking, drugs, sex and other activities that can put them at risk.

This is the third time local high school students have completed the survey, starting in 2005.

Read the high school highlights here.

Middle school students started doing a more limited version of the survey (for instance, without questions about sex) in 2005.

Read middle school highlights here.

Get the skinny on CMS crowding, construction

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has posted its report on the data the district will use for construction and renovation priorities. The report includes aerial photos, floor plans and data on capacity and enrollment for each school, as well as detailed descriptions of how CMS currently calculates capacity and sets priorities.
Warning: It's almost 500 pages long, and even in two parts it's a slow download. "Slow" as in click the link and go get lunch.
But there's no hurry: Money for new construction or renovation has dried up, and the school board has just begun a months-long process of figuring out how to set priorities when the money comes in.
Ann Doss Helms
Update as of 1 p.m.: The documents that were there this morning have now been removed. CMS folks checking on where they've gone and how the public can get them. Stay tuned.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Flashback: Steve and Jake on sideline

Remember this blast from the past?

A miked-up Steve Smith consoled Jake Delhomme on the sidelines after an errant throw, including this memorable (tongue-in cheek?) line:

Smith: "I never really really liked you as a quarterback. But as a person? That's who I love. I love you as a person."

- Doug Miller

Thursday, March 4, 2010

NC, SC in race for $4 billion schools prize

Both North and South Carolina made the list of 16 finalists contending for $4.35 billion in federal Race to the Top education grants. Today's announcement surprised national experts, who hadn't expected either state to be a strong contender.
EdWeek notes that Southern right-to-work states (read: no unions)fared well in the competition.
N.C. Gov Bev Perdue e-mailed this statement: “This is encouraging news for education in North Carolina – but our work isn’t over. Every child in this state must graduate prepared to go on to college, a career or technical training, and we can accomplish that through innovation and rethinking the way we track our students’ progress. Race to the Top can help North Carolina move forward faster and more aggressively towards this goal."
“I’ll be travelling to D.C. later this month to speak to Secretary Duncan and the selection committee and tell them why North Carolina needs – and deserves – the Race to the Top funds. Thank you to all of the educators, state and community leaders and others who have supported these efforts.”

Here's the U.S. Department of Education announcement:


Today, the Department of Education announced that 15 states and the District of Columbia will advance as finalists for Phase 1 of the Race to the Top competition. Race to the Top is the Department's $4.35 billion effort to dramatically re-shape America's educational system to better engage and prepare our students for success in a competitive 21st century economy and workplace.

States competing for Race to the Top funds were asked to document past education reform successes, as well as outline plans to: extend reforms using college and career-ready standards and assessments; build a workforce of highly effective educators; create educational data systems to support student achievement; and turn around their lowest-performing schools.

The Phase 1 finalists are (in alphabetical order):

* Colorado
* Delaware
* District of Columbia
* Florida
* Georgia
* Illinois
* Kentucky
* Louisiana
* Massachusetts
* New York
* North Carolina
* Ohio
* Pennsylvania
* Rhode Island
* South Carolina
* Tennessee

"These states are an example for the country of what is possible when adults come together to do the right thing for children," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said.

"Everyone that applied for Race to the Top is charting a path for education reform in America," Duncan continued. "I salute all of the applicants for their hard work. And I encourage non-finalists to reapply for Phase 2."

The 16 finalists were chosen from among the 40 states and the District of Columbia that submitted applications for Phase 1. Winners for Phase 1 will be chosen from among the 16 finalists and announced in April. Applications for Phase 2 will be due on June 1 of this year, with finalists announced in August and winners in September. The only states prohibited from applying in Phase 2 are those that receive awards in Phase 1.

Panels of five peer reviewers independently read and scored each state's application. The panels then met in February to finalize their comments and submit scores. Each state's score is the average of the five independent reviewers' scores.

The Department arranged the applications in order from high to low scores and determined which applicants were the strongest competitors to invite back based on "natural breaks" - i.e. scoring gaps in the line-up. The top 16 applications were then selected as finalists. All 41 applicants from Phase 1 will receive their peer reviewers' comments and scores after the winners are announced in April. The Department will post the scores and applications on its Web site (www.ed.gov).

The finalists will be invited to Washington, D.C., in mid-March to present their proposals to the panel that reviewed their applications in depth during the initial stage, and to engage in Q&A discussions with the reviewers.

The purpose of the finalist stage is to allow reviewers to ensure that the state has the understanding, knowledge, capacity, and the will to truly deliver on what is proposed. The presentations will be videotaped and posted for viewing on the Department's Web site at the end of Phase 1.

At the conclusion of the presentations, the reviewers will meet again to discuss each application, finalize scores and comments, and submit them to the Department. Again, the final score for each application will be an average of the five peer reviewers' scores. The scores will be arranged in order from high to low and presented to Secretary Duncan for final selection.

The number of Phase 1 winners will be determined by the strength of the applications. While the department does not have a predetermined amount of money to award in each phase of the competition, we expect no more than half of the money will be awarded in Phase 1 to ensure a robust competition in Phase 2.

"We are setting a high bar, and we anticipate very few winners in Phase 1. But this isn't just about the money. It's about collaboration among all stakeholders, building a shared agenda, and challenging ourselves to improve the way our students learn. I feel that every state that has applied is a winner - and the biggest winners of all are the students," Duncan said.

Of the $4.35 billion in Race to the Top funds provided under the Recovery Act, the Department will distribute approximately $4 billion directly to states to drive education reform and $350 million to consortia of states that compete in a separate competition to create new college and career-ready assessments. The assessment competition is still in the design phase.

Based on Race to the Top's early positive effect on national education reform, President Obama proposed to continue the program next year by requesting $1.35 billion in the administration's fiscal year 2011 budget.

N.C data on school crime, violence & dropouts

N.C. education officials tally dropout rates, suspensions and incidents of school crime and violence every year. The report being presented to the school board today shows Charlotte-Mecklenburg's numbers looking worse than state averages in all of those categories.

These three .pdfs make up the Consolidated Report on:

 -- School Crime and Violence
 -- Suspensions and Expulsions
 -- Dropout tates

Consolidated data, part 1

Consolidated data, part 2

Consolidated data, part 3

This document details the total number of criminal or violent acts for each public school in the state:

2008-09 Crime & Violence Report

-- Ann Doss Helms

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Affidavit: Client writes $3,500 check

A "Hush Hush" customer told an agent he paid for services with a check from his business account. In the memo line he wrote that it was for "Internet Development."

More highlights from an affidavit, said to describe one of the country's largest Internet-based prositution ring at the time:

- Prostitutes traveled to Charlotte from Canada, Asia, Brazil, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, among other cities.

- A woman who worked for the ring turned informant after she incurred a $2,150 debt to the operators. The government gave her money to repay, and she cooperated with authorities.

- The informant said she earned $160,000 working for Hush Hush in 2006. Typically, she kept 70 percent of the fee; the operators made 30 percent.

Click here to read the full document.

- Doug Miller, Maria David

Cocaine Chronicles: The Texas connection

The latest big bust: A Camp Lejeune-based Marine ferried shipments of cocaine to Charlotte and money back to Texas, court papers say.

Last April, Burlington police seized $699,771 in cash from Paul Espinoza, an active-duty soldier completing training in Jacksonville, an affadavit shows. After his arrest, Espinoza told authorities he had helped broker a shipment of 40 kilograms of cocaine from an El Paso-based drug operation to Charlotte.

Other men are accused of hiding and selling the drugs from an east Charlotte house (pictured).

They hid cocaine under a shed and wrapped money from drug sales in $10,000 bundles that were vacuum-sealed in Saran Wrap, the affadavit says.

This comes three weeks after other court papers described a separate February 2009 sting. That incident started on South Boulevard and led to 41 kilos of cocaine, reportedly flown in from Dallas.

Click here to read that account.

- Doug Miller, Maria David

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Update: Wake kills busing, backs neighborhood schools

9:08 p.m. - Amid a conflict-filled meeting that sometimes recalled the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, Wake County's new school board majority took the first step today toward implementing neighborhood schools, the News & Observer reports.

By a 5-4 vote, the board gave the first of two approvals needed to pass a resolution calling for abandoning busing for diversity in favor of assigning students to schools in their community. Supporters hailed it as a step toward providing families more stability while critics complained it would lead to resegregation.


'Nobody's going back to Jim Crow days'

So says the new Wake County school board chairman, discussing a proposal under debate today to do away with diversity-based busing.

Chairman Ron Margiotta vowed that the proposed change is in the interest of students because it would allow parents more options and refocus families on the schools in their neighborhood, according to an Associated Press story.

He bristled at any suggestion that the move had something to do with race."It's something that offends me," Margiotta told AP. "Nobody's going to go back to Jim Crow days."

According to the story: "...when Wake County decided to do away with race-based busing to desegregate schools, local officials came up with a novel solution to maintain balance.
The new method of assigning students by their socio-economic background rather than race helped to keep campuses integrated. Adopted in 2000, it quickly became a blueprint for other school systems.

That policy, however, has never sat well with many suburban parents — often white and middle class — who argue that the student assignment plan sends their kids too far from home. And a new school board, swept into office by those vocal parents, appears poised to scrap it in a vote scheduled for today.

The issue has brought the term "segregation" and the weight of history into recent school board meetings. Some parents and students around the state capital are now imploring their newly elected leaders to back away from their plan to drastically alter the diversity policy.

"Please preserve the New South. Don't take us back to the Old South," parent Robert Siegel told the school board."

Once again, as noted in an earlier post about a Sunday New York Times story, critics of neighborhood schools point to Charlotte as a bad anecdote:

"Now the state is increasingly starting to mirror an era many thought had past: On one side of the state, in the coastal town of Wilmington, an elementary school of several hundred students has just one who is black. On the other, in the banking hub of Charlotte, a primary school of similar size has just one student who is white."


"At Beverly Woods Elementary, just north of the Quail Hollow Country Club that hosts a namesake PGA Tour event, 79 percent of the students are white. A few miles up the road, at Montclaire Elementary, only 4 percent of the students — just 19 out of 450 — are white."

The kicker:

"Pamela Grundy, a parent in Charlotte who has decried the divisions within the school district, said leaders in Raleigh should take notice. "The lesson of Charlotte is that desegregation will go away so quickly. Once you lose it, you can't get it back," she said.

- Doug Miller

Lawyer: Exonerate Dr. Friedland

A letter from Friedland's lawyer noted that a newspaper in Pensacola, Fla., where Friedland now lives, planned to publish a story about the high-profile 1990 murder of his wife Kim Thomas.

Without a statement exonorating Friedland, Rudolf wrote to the chief of police and the district attorney, the newspaper story would "do enormous damage to the medical practice he has worked so hard to build in that community."

The letter came two weeks after police revealed that new evidence had surfaced.

Click here to read the letter from Friedland's lawyer.

A response from CMPD police attorney Mark Newbold stopped short of clearing Friedland. "I have been advised," Newbold wrote, "that a person of interest other than Dr. Friedland is currently being investigated by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in connection with the murder of Kim Thomas."

Newbold declined to elaborate, either about Friedland’s status in the case or about the other person.

Click here to read the CMPD letter of response.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Condo woes mean unpaid taxes: $396,195

The developer of the French Renaissance-style condos at Providence and Sharon Amity roads has filed for bankruptcy protection. Among the top 20 unsecured creditors: Mecklenburg County.

According to the bankruptcy petition, filed in the middle district of Georgia, developer Jerry Stephens, managing director of WCDM Development Co. of Macon, Ga., owes $396,195.71 in 2009 property taxes.

Click here to read the petition.

As reported by the Observer's Kerry Hall Singe last week, the Rosewood Condominiums, started in 2005, pushed the limits of the Charlotte luxury market, touting amenities such as concierge service, massage rooms and a putting green.

The 134 condos range from the $400,000s to more than $1.5 million. The developer still owns 52 units, according to court filings.

The bankruptcy petition came three weeks after its lender started foreclosure, the latest example of how lenders are trying to take back properties as developers struggle to sell homes in a soft market.

Eight would-be buyers who paid more than $1 million in deposits are also among Rosewood's top unsecured creditors.

- Doug Miller

Wake schools to end busing policy?

The Wake County Board of Education is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to end Wake’s nationally recognized income-based busing policy, the New York Times reports.

"At stake is the direction of the 140,000-student school system — the largest in America to consider family income in school placements. Wake has long been the most prominent example of a district that dropped race-based busing, which courts have ruled unconstitutional, in favor of trying to achieve economic diversity in the schools."

Click here to read the full story.

Charlotte gets a mention in the story for its decision in 2002 that "eliminated busing for diversification, leading to rapid repolarization of schools by race and income.

“My feeling is that it’s very important for people in Wake to drive over to Charlotte and see what’s happened,” said Gary Orfield, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies school busing."

In the comments section, a few thoughts from Charlotte readers, who support or take issue with Orfield's view:

- I am a graduate of and currently a teacher in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. When I was growing up Charlotte had a wonderful, diverse, equitable school system that produced highly-educated students. We had busing for desegregation coupled with very strong magnet programs. Just living in a "good" part of town did not entitle you to any better a school than any other family in the county. In the late 1990s some residents (I will suggest that many of them were recent arrivals in Charlotte) started clamoring for our system to be dismantled. Now we have become a very divided district. There are many "poor" schools and many "rich" schools and not a lot in between. ...Raleigh would be wise to not start down the road that Charlotte is on.

- Things were not so rosy here under busing, with a wide achievement gap (of course all schools looked "good" because the high achieving students balanced out the low achieving students). But that did not mean that minority students were receiving a good education. In addition the population of the district more than doubled over the past twenty years--more traffic, more schools, more diversity, and more poverty. Busing was no longer serving the community well. Currently we do not have "pooor" schools and "rich" schools, as Margaret says. We do have schools that are serving predominately high poverty children; however, these schools receive far greater funds than the schools serving low poverty students. The many needs that our high poverty students bring with them to school are being addressed in their neighborhood schools, which does not happen under busing.

- Doug Miller