Charlotte schools' lesson: Don't hold class on King holiday

Charlotte ObserverJanuary 20, 2011 

Before using the Martin Luther King holiday as a snow makeup day, Superintendent Peter Gorman asked school board members if they wanted to reverse the plan made by a previous board, members said today.

No one asked to put the change on last week's agenda, letting stand the decision made by a unanimous vote in 2009.

At the Jan. 11 meeting, held on the second of three snow days last week, board member Joyce Waddell called the previous board's decision "regrettable."

"I did not put forth a motion" to reverse it, she said this afternoon, though in hindsight, she wishes she had.

Anger over holding classes on the King holiday led to protests and parents keeping their kids home from school. Almost 24,000 students, or 18 percent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools student body, missed school Monday, compared with 11 percent on the last snow makeup day in February 2010.

The local branch of the NAACP has asked the CIAA basketball tournament and other groups to boycott Charlotte, with branch president Kojo Nantambu calling Charlotte a "racist bastion."

Students will be home Friday for a teacher work day at the end of first semester, further angering some who believe CMS missed a better opportunity to make up class time. But the state calendar law does not allow school districts to use the "protected" work days at the end of each quarter.

Gorman had already incurred the wrath of some parents and civil rights leaders with his plan to close several schools serving mostly minority and low-income students next year.

Board Chair Eric Davis said today that's not fair.

"Dr. Gorman went to every one of us and asked us, 'Do we continue or make a change?' " he said. "To my knowledge, every board member said 'proceed.' "

Gorman says he talked to all nine members the night of Jan. 9, with forecasts calling for snow and ice, and told them that the calendar approved by a previous board made the King holiday the next makeup day. He said he does not recall details of how he presented the issue.

Gorman said "one or two" asked what it would take to change the calendar, and he said they'd need to make a motion to revise it.

"I'm not going to overturn a board-approved calendar," Gorman said.

Read more of this story at CharlotteObserver.com

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