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West Charlotte principal John Modest wit

1996 - 2020




Students at Shamrock Gardens Elementary School in 2012.


A time when school success is based on school location.

A time when student success can be predicted by school location. 

A time when test scores matter more than education.

A time when "schooling" matters more than education.

A time when White women make up 80% of teachers in American education.

A time when Black students make up 80% of disciplinary infractions in American education.

A time when only 1 out of 5 Black children can pass a third-grade reading test.

A time when the number of prisons in America is determined by third-grade reading tests.

A time like now...

No need to imagine.



The Charlotte Skyline, Photo Credit: Kevin Ruck | Queen City Metro


In this clip, discover the changes that have taken place in the city with urban renewal. Notice the tremendous growth and development the city of Charlotte has experienced over the last 100 years.

While the city has grown financially, economic mobility is still a challenge for many Black families and children who reside in low-income communities. Not much has changed since the 1950 Census Report acknowledged Charlotte as one of the most racially and economically segregated cities. 




In 1999...

On Sept. 11, 1999, Judge Robert Potter rules in the Cappachione case to end forced busing. This is a pivotal case due to the resegregation by race and income through neighborhood school assignments in Charlotte. Additionally, this case overturned the Swann case litigated by Julius Chambers in the late 60s. The Cappachione case is highly important because it is a catalyst for the current state of neighborhood school assignments in the city which is still residentially segregated by race and income.



In the Early 2000s

In 2001, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools created a new neighborhood assignment plan. Also in the same year, President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, giving additional funding and accountability to schools. This Act included the flagship Title 1 program. Due to implementing the No Child Left Behind Act, school districts requesting funding have had to implement more school testing and assessments for accountability measures by the federal government.




In 2014, a Harvard University and UC Berkeley study ranked Charlotte-Meck 50th out of 50 in large cities to experience upward mobility for children born into poverty and remaining in poverty through adulthood. Not much has changed though 65 years have passed since the 1950 Census declared Charlotte as one of the most residentially segregated cities in the US. Today, the city's makeup with segregation mimics that of the 1950s. Recently, in 2018, graduation rates dropped in low-income Black communities and a report recognized Char-Meck Schools as the most racially and economically segregated district in North Carolina. 



In this video (2018), WCNC News highlights a report that declared Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools the most segregated school system in North Carolina. 

The video compares the demographics of schools across the area and discusses reasons for resegregation.

Captured Memories

The Capacchione Case

In 1997 CMS was sued by a White parent who moved to Charlotte, NC (Capacchione v. Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools). Bill Capacchione and his family were not native residents of Charlotte and may have been unaware of Charlotte's historic past and challenges with residential segregation. Capacchione stated his daughter was denied twice from a magnet school because she was not Black. Judge Potter, a Reagan-appointed judge who was against busing, presided over the case and ruled that CMS must stop using race as a factor in assignment plans. Judge Potter reactivated the Swann Case and consolidated it with the Capacchione Case. In a Charlotte Observer article published at the time of the case, Bill Capacchione stated"My personal hope would be for all race-based admissions policies to be abolished." In 2001, Robert Potter declared that CMS had achieved “unitary” status, and could no longer use race as a factor in student assignment.  

Pictured Left: Bill Capacchione and his daughter Cristina. Photo Credit: Kent D. Johnson/The Charlotte Observer

James Ford Discusses Economic Mobility


In this video, James Ford, an education activist, executive director of CREED, and state school board member, discusses the issues of economic mobility in Charlotte. 


He details the reason he moved to the city and discusses how alarmed he was after discovering many inequities. Ford expresses how residential segregation has been maintained and swept under the rug for many years in Charlotte.

CMS' First Black


Dr. James L. Pughsley became the first Black superintendent for the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System in 2002.

Dr. Pughsley experienced several challenges while in his role and retired three years later.







In a 2019 research pilot study conducted by doctoral students in the Urban Education Collaborative at UNC Charlotte (Jimmeka Anderson, Vanita Beavers, Annette Teasdell, and RaQuaam Smith) showed that the city's top five high poverty schools were the least segregated and performed the lowest on ACT Benchmark assessments which provide implications for college readiness.

High Poverty v Low Poverty.png

**High Poverty schools have a student popolation with more than 75% qualifying for Free and Reduced Lunch.

**Data used from the Civil Rights Data Collection and CMS Website

Phillip O.Berry's

Legacy Lives On

Phillip O’ Berry High School was built in 2003 but also was named after the FIRST Black board member. Phillip O. Berry. Berry committed his life to serving the people of Charlotte-Mecklenburg and North Carolina. He was passionate about education being the great equalizer in opportunity for all people. As such, it is fitting that the school bears his name.




Board Prize for Urban Education,2011

Former Superintendant, Peter Gorman, led CMS at a challenging time, as the system dealt with increasing racial segregation and struggling schools. However, in 2011, CMS won the Board Prize for Urban Education, awarded to the large, urban school district that has shown the greatest student academic gains nationally.

Charter Schools' Influence On Resegregation in CMS

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), "Between fall 2000 and fall 2017, overall public charter school enrollment increased from 0.4 million to 3.1 million."

NCES states that "a public charter school is a publicly funded school that is governed by a group or organization under a legislative contract (a charter) with the state, the district, or another entity. The charter exempts the school from certain state or local rules and regulations. In return for flexibility and autonomy, the charter school must meet the accountability standards outlined in its charter." Many corporations nationally have invested in charter schools due to tax incentives.

In Charlotte, several charter schools have emerged since the year, 2000 as an alternative to public schools. Charter schools have been built throughout the city and specifically near gentrified communities, and have also attributed to the exit of students from Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. 

According to a Charlotte Agenda article published in 2017, Mecklenburg County had only eight charter schools prior to 2011, and 27 in 2017. Additionally, in 2017 the percentage of Mecklenburg County students in charter schools was over 10 percent.

(Photo Credit: Andrew Dunn | Charlotte Agenda)

Project LIFT's 

attempt to aid 

Bridging the achievement gap in urban education is a major issue that has been the focus of several reform efforts in Charlotte. An upsurge in the achievement gap between 2011 and 2014 left Charlotte with an Education Equality Index of 44.9, which while lower than more than 70% of major cities in the United States still has a significant impact on the area.


When CMS signed a five-year agreement with Project Leadership and Investment for Transformation (L.I.F.T.) in 2012, the goal was to reform schools in Charlotte’s west corridor to include West Charlotte High School and its nine feeder schools. West Charlotte High School became the focus for the Project L.I.F.T. initiative due to its historical value in the Charlotte community, political affiliations from successful and wealthy alumni, and its tremendous decline in academic performance/graduation rates in the late 2000s as the lowest in the district. Since its implementation in 2012, Project L.I.F.T. experienced minimal success in its 5-year plan towards closing the achievement gap. Project L.I.F.T ended in 2019.


(Pictured: Denise Watts, Project L.I.F.T. | Photo Credit: Logan Cyrus)


Earnest Winston Becomes CMS Superintendent

Earnest Winston was hired as the CMS Superintendent on August 2, 2019.  After one year of leading the 18th largest public school district in the nation, his opening remarks to CMS Staff at the beginning of the 2020 school year created acclaim and outrage.  During a worldwide pandemic as well as much social unrest, his opening remarks brought much attention to racism and the importance of addressing it as a school community.  People were either offended or elated for the superintendent to bring attention to such matters.  It can be argued and supported that he is bringing awareness and providing training for staff around structural racism in CMS.


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Judge Howard Manning

Many CMS staffers and administrators do not recognize the name of Judge Howard Manning.  Manning was a Wake County (Raleigh) Superior Court judge who, in 2005, ruled that CMS was committing “academic genocide” against at-risk, low-income students at several low-performing local high schools. Manning threatened to shut down these schools, including West Charlotte, West Mecklenburg, and Garinger. However, the Charlotte community and CMS rallied and provided plans to turn these schools around.


The C.D. Spangler Foundation

C.D. Spangler was a billionaire who lived in Charlotte, N.C.  He and his family poured a great deal of financial support into education and supported initiatives focused on equity across socioeconomic lines for the children of North Carolina.  The Spangler Foundation was a partner in ensuring that Project L.I.F.T. had the financial support that it needed to be as successful as it could be in its five-year run.  The purpose of Project L.I.F.T. was to place the best educators in struggling schools in CMS along with the West Corridor to help bridge the academic gap for low achieving students hardest hit by poverty.

James Ford.jpg

James Ford

James E. Ford was North Carolina's Teacher of the Year in 2014-2015.  At that time he was a teacher at Garinger High School in CMS.  In 2018, Governor Roy Cooper appointed Mr. Ford to serve on the North Carolina State Board of Education.  Mr. Ford has made it his mission to make an impact and have his voice heard on issues such as inequality, poverty, and race.  He often brings attention to how external racial and socio-economic factors impact a student's success in a classroom.  Today, Mr. Ford continues his work in public education as he advances his own education on a pursuit to earn a PhD.

In The News


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July 17, 2020 | Charlotte Post

CMS Fail Students with Segregation. District is seperate and unequal.

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May 15, 2017 | Patch

N.C. Lawmaker Rails Against CMS Redistricting Plan, Calls It 'Social Engineering'


October 24, 2020 | Charlotte Observer

NC prep football team used to wear name of slave owner across its chest. Not anymore. 

Video Gallery


James Ford Interview (Clip One)

From being a student in another school system to Teacher of the Year in CMS, James Ford recalls his experiences with racism.

James Ford Interview (Clip Two)

James Ford was an educator in CMS, and was once named the Teacher of the Year. He’s currently on the NC Board of Education and in this clip, he talks about utilizing one's passion to find their purpose and the importance of creating a plan to manifest that purpose.

Makayla Gathers Interview

Founder of the Black Student Union at Myers Park High School, Makayla Gathers talks about why she started the Black Student Union, her experience as a minority at a predominantly White school, and her view on the Black History curriculum in the schools.

Erik Turner Interview

CMS Principal, Erik Turner discusses one’s role in change for the community, and the steps to take to create change.

Jimmeka Anderson Interview (Clip One)

PhD student at UNC Charlotte, Jimmeka Anderson, talks about the impact of education and the work of educators as it pertains to access and opportunity to children of color. 

Jimmeka Anderson Interview (Clip Two) Jimmeka Anderson talks about her experience as a Black girl growing up in the International Baccalaureate program in Charlotte, how it impacted her academic and personal life when she was a child, and how it impacts her now.

Youth Contributions



Painting by Trinity Taylor, Myers Park High School (2020)

POEM: Dear Black Boys and Girls

Dedicated to the students of the era (1996 - 2020)


Dear little black boys and girls, 


Lots of things have changed In the recent year, 

Despite all the hurt the pain and tears. 

We went from being separated from our friends of tomorrow,

And made it possible today ...

From sitting in the back of the city bus, 

To anywhere on the yellow bus... 

From segregation to integration, 

A lot has changed in the many days. 

Even though a lot has changed, 

Many things are still the same. 


Dear little black boys and girls,


Although a lot has changed, 

We still have to fight for more change. 

Every single day. 

Police brutality...

Avoidable fatality... 

Black Lives Matter...Everyday! 

And we should all use our voices to say.

We can continue to make that change. 

Future generations will do their best,

To continue our change and pass the test. 


So dear little black boys and girls,


The tables have turned...

Come have a seat.


Poem by Sequoyah Watson, Julius Chambers High School (2020)

School Bus

Sequoyah Watson, 17

This project was a great experience.

I learned a lot of things and I’m glad that I was chosen to participate.

I learned about Black history with CMS and Black children in Charlotte. I've also realized that we have a lot of work to do. But I believe that we will make the right decisions with the upcoming generations and mine included.

Trinity Taylor-Nelson 11th Grade.jpg

Trinity Taylor-Nelson,16

From this project, I thought of the IB program at Myers Park and how little there is any diversity in the classrooms. Though it’s not made to be segregated, there is obvious segregation.
IB offers higher education with many opportunities for college; however, the classes are comprised of majority White students. This is still a form of segregation regarding education. Not only is this true, it is also not encouraged for more students of color to challenge themselves and take IB classes as it is a great opportunity for their futures. Overall, this project taught me to think about the realities of my world and how I can take this information and use it for change.

Gabrielle McDonald 10th.jpg

Gabrielle McDonald,15

One thing that surprised me during this project is how segregated Charlotte used to be. It's crazy to me that I have lived in this city and I am black and I've never heard a single thing about any of this that is being shared with us. As I have had much thought about what I've learned, I realized I don't believe we talk about the history of Charlotte enough. Another thing that was a surprise is how far we’ve come. On the other hand, I feel like Charlotte and our community could be better. What made me think we could do better was just reading the quotes from all of our sessions, knowing there is still much to do. There is again room for improvement but just how we've changed was moving. 

Kamiya Wright 9th.jpg

Kamiya Wright, 15

The way I would describe Charlotte to someone if they were to ask me to talk about my city two weeks ago before this presentation, is that it is literally just big buildings, scooters, renovations on every corner, and homicides every week if not every day.  That’s all it seems to be now, right?  I would not even think to bring up history.  I would not even think of saying that where the Nascar Hall of Fame currently stands, was once a small town filled with joy and opportunity for African Americans named Brooklyn.  If the person was to ask about Charlotte being the most segregated city and having the most segregated school system leading the charts, I would stand in awe because this was something I did not know before this project.



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