Monday, November 09, 2015

Supporting Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board's decision to retain use of the Villa Heights Elementary building

Dear Tom Tate and other school board members:

I'm concerned about efforts by Veritas Community Charter School to paint the school board as breaking a commitment with its decision to terminate the lease for the Villa Heights school building. I'm also concerned about an apparent lack of awareness by Veritas supporters about the needs of all students in my area of Charlotte.

I've seen the agenda item in which CMS proposes to terminate the lease with Veritas for Villa Heights, and I've read that CMS plans to use Villa Heights as a Project LIFT Center for Garinger High School. Its proximity to Garinger seems an appropriate use for Villa Heights. While I'm sad for Veritas that its plans to use the building will not pan out, the CMS contract appears to have given CMS an option to use the Villa Heights building for other purposes. I support that decision. The move follows the letter of the contract and reimburses Veritas for the work it has done at the school.

As a resident of nearby Merry Oaks who is familiar with the historical dynamics of neighborhoods that Veritas is targeting, I appreciate the Veritas' leaders efforts to serve students in the area. I also know that existing public schools, including charters and magnets, are working hard to serve the communities and are improving.

Comments on Facebook from some Veritas supporters about the LIFT plan for Garinger are troubling. One example:
"However, the program doesn't need to operate in a facility that is nestled within a neighborhood that is gentrifying. This will negatively impact property values.”
As a longtime neighbor of Garinger High, I know its students have been stereotyped and falsely blamed for trouble in nearby neighborhoods. I also know the school is working hard to improve its reputation and results, and I'm proud to have donated books to one classroom through Donors Choose. Characterizing students who need the LIFT program as being a danger to a "gentrifying" neighborhood and young children perhaps indicates that Veritas supporters have a lack of understanding about a unique part of Charlotte, grappling with historical segregation, economic inequities, rising rents and property values, and also pockets of lack of opportunity.

The CMS Board is right to terminate the lease with Veritas in order to use Villa Heights to provide more creative resources for Garinger students. I support the decision to use Villa Heights as a center for at-risk students from Garinger, and I support the board's proposed compensation plan for Veritas Community School.

Andria Krewson,
homeowner in Merry Oaks since 1986

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