Skip to comments.DIVERSITY IN THE CLASSROOM (A Liberal sees the light!)
Posted on 02/25/2005 8:16:55 PM PST by WindOracle
Advocate for staying joins fleeing parents
Harding Elementary School PTA President Meredith Brace has led a battle for several years to stop her white neighbors from transferring out of the heavily Latino Westside campus.
Now she's joining them, saying she's not willing to make her son the guinea pig any longer.
The Braces are like hundreds of other local families who, over the years, have sought transfers out of neighborhood schools that are filled with mostly poor Latino children.
"I'm gone," said Mrs. Brace, who on Tuesday requested and was granted a transfer for her first-grade son out of Harding and into the more affluent Hope School, within the nearby Hope Elementary District. "I've just got to the point where, 'Sorry guys, I need what's best for my kids and there's a school that's two miles away that offers all those things I want.' "
About 40 percent of the 462 students at Hope School are there on transfers from the Goleta or Santa Barbara elementary districts.
Some school officials and neighborhood families view Mrs. Brace's departure as a red flag. If someone who has advocated so fiercely against white flight won't stick it out, who will?
A liberal whose father is Superior Court Judge George Eskin and stepmother is former Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson, Mrs. Brace had been considered over the years as the Great White Hope for Harding.
"This is a major blow," said Santa Barbara school trustee Bob Noel. "Meredith was kind of like Supermom in terms of doing things for her school. . . . You can read racism into this, but I read more of an issue of social class. People don't want to look and see their kid is in a classroom where most of the students are underachievers and where friendship circle possibilities are very, very small because they don't speak the same language."
Harding is 90 percent Latino, 6 percent white. Hope is 73 percent white, 20 percent Latino. Hope families have raised enough money every year to keep on staff an array of specialists in art, music, computers and science -- all the "extras" Mrs. Brace wants for her son, who is 7, and her 4-year-old daughter.
As PTA president, Mrs. Brace said she has tried to start after-school enrichment programs in art and theater at Harding.
"We made it so affordable, $20 for a six- to eight-week session. We told everybody, 'Come on, do something extra for your kids.' We had so few people sign up, we had to eliminate a lot of the classes," she said. "I've met some very lovely people, but we have nothing in common. Every time my husband and I would go over for an event, my husband would feel like it was his first time. We haven't made any friends."
Harding parent Cristina Hernandez said she's seen the school's racial mix change, but that Mrs. Brace shouldn't give up.
"I've been here 14 years now, and all of a sudden we turned around and all the white parents had gone," she said, speaking in Spanish. "They don't want their children side by side with our children. (Mrs. Brace) shouldn't leave. She should stay and keep fighting."
It was about three years ago, before her son entered kindergarten, that Mrs. Brace started going door to door touting Harding's achievements, trying to convince her neighbors to join her in giving the school a try. She even took on the PTA president post before her son had entered kindergarten.
Once her son started, she remained PTA president, volunteered in the classroom, boosted fund-raising efforts, and continued to hold regular neighborhood meetings to make other white families feel comfortable with the campus. While she said she's not bilingual, she used the Spanish she picked up while living in Costa Rica and Mexico to try to connect with Latino parents.
Some of the white families she had convinced to enroll their kids at Harding later bailed out. She said her son has struggled to make friends.
"He hasn't been invited to a birthday party. There is absolutely no after-school interaction," she said. "For his birthday, he invited four of his classmates. Only one came."
Then she was miffed that her skills -- she's a credentialed librarian -- weren't capitalized on in her son's classroom.
Another Harding mother and friend of the Braces, Brenda McDonald, said she had independently decided to transfer her kindergartner out of the campus. Mrs. McDonald is also considering Hope School, or Washington Elementary, which is still within the Santa Barbara district.
"At Harding, the teachers are wonderful. The principal is great. It's the socioeconomic chasm. It's not a gap, it's a huge difference in the population," said Mrs. McDonald, who described herself as a middle-class professional. "We don't have a lot in common with the other families. At the same time, do I want to drive five days a week now every day for the next six years? Then again, if half of the Westside is going in that direction, maybe we can carpool."
Superintendent of Santa Barbara schools Brian Sarvis granted Mrs. Brace's transfer request it "with regrets."
"It's a big loss to the school," Mr. Sarvis said. "But I see Meredith as a parent making the best choice for their child, and other parents making other choices for their children. I don't think any one parent is that critical, but that's not to take anything away from Meredith. She has been wonderful."
Mrs. Brace says she'll stick with her PTA president post until a replacement is found, even though her son starts at Hope School today. Over the years, she has criticized district officials for maintaining open enrollment as an easy way out. Now it's a policy she is taking advantage of.
"They keep telling me, 'No, Meredith, we've got to keep options open to parents or they'll leave.' It's so plain and simple. It's created such segregation. It's left us with a situation that is almost gotten beyond repair."
She said the policy allowing transfers within the district -- and outside of the district when a parent comes up with a valid reason -- has destroyed many neighborhood schools by exacerbating white flight.
With her 4-year-old daughter getting ready to enter kindergarten, Mrs. Brace had recently been courting a dozen other white families in her neighborhood who have children of the same age.
"Every single one of them is going somewhere else, and they had all looked at Harding," she said. "I said to myself, this is not getting any better, so if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. This is not the teacher's fault, or the principal's fault. They're wonderful."
At Harding on Wednesday, mom Amy Voss and her son, second-grader Eric Voss, said they're pleased with the school and planning on staying.
"I like Harding a lot," Eric said. "They got good friends, good teachers. Mrs. Schwyzer is the best."
Teacher Carol Schwyzer has been at Harding since 1991. She described Mrs. Brace as heroic for even taking on the challenge.
"It's sad to see Meredith go. She had such wonderful energy. But is it OK? Yes, we are OK," she said. "We are doing the best we can with who comes through the door. We love our students."
At the same time, Mrs. Schwyzer isn't pleased that Harding has gone from the diverse school it was when she first arrived to the racially isolated campus it is today.
"It's not OK, but it would take a major shake-up on a more systemic level to fix things now," she said. "That balance has tipped too far.
"You see what Meredith was fighting against. She had a vision of how things should be, and she didn't see why she couldn't bring other people along. We have to be sad that it didn't work out."
""Hope is 73 percent white, 20 percent Latino""
White is an ethnicity? No, no it's not.
Using "See's" on an education thread is probably not the best idea.
Fighting for what? A third rate education?
Well you won't really miss them. After all they never bothered to learn spanish.
Its funny how she stands up for what she believes until all of a sudden it's affecting her.
This is typical liberalism. She is all for convincing (if not outright forcing) others to do something, but forbid she suffer through it herself.
Is there something wrong with being in a school that happens to be all Latino students? Do they consider those kids to be a bad influence or what? Sounds like some of them are racist against their own people.
Why should the woman stay and fight a system where people can be in this country for 14 years and continue to speak Spanish as if they are still in their homeland? No wonder the Braces didn't feel they could make friends or have your typical AMERICAN school experience for their children.
I'm black and I would have moved my child from this school. It isn't a race issue. You have to grab onto your own American culture where you can. You have to make opportunities for your kids to experience their culture and to have normal school experiences and not subjugate every damn thing that made this country great to the lowest common denominator of people who have no intention of assimilating into the culture.
It looks like this woman put up the good fight for a number of years and just decided her children's education wasn't worth sacrificing on the altar of multiculturalism. Good for her.
Well, pretty much the average public school education is third rate, so that would probably be a big affirmative. Sounds like this school they're fleeing doesn't even rate.
After seeing who this woman's relatives are, it's amazing that her kid is in public school at all.
I totally agree with you.
This article is about Santa Barbara - the only reason that there is an essentially all white school to flee to is that Santa Barbara is one of the most expensive towns on the planet - thus only a few of the schools are as impacted as the one described here (and someone else can explain how anyone without a six figure income can live here, but I think I can guess).
That is what has happened in California. The FROBLs here will say, "what of it?" - but what the poor, deluded liberal star of the article has to say speaks volumes: her children are essentially aliens in their own country. Outnumbered by people ethnically, linguistically, and culturally different. Not to mention usually hostile as well. Would anyone with a shred of interest in their children leave them in such a situation?
When did the people of California vote to have this happen to them?
You too can experience liberal diversity.
Simply go to a store and get printer paper of several different colors.
Now mix the colorrs in your printer -- some of this, some of that, some of the other.
Now print a document , making numerous copies.
Thre you have liberal diversity. They all say the same thing, but after all, they're different colors, aren'tthey?
And that's what liberals mean by diversity.
Exactly. There is no "American culture" that covers the land. You don't instantly have a cultural connection to someone whose skin color happens to match your own. It is shared experiences that create a connection, and from there the culture is whatever accumulates.
Going to a school because everyone is white or Latino or black is POINTLESS, even to make a statement of some kind (much like the poor and blue collar South Bostonians and Roxbury residents--as opposed to the libs who could afford to send their kids to private schools so they didn't have to take part in the bussing experiment they advocated--were FORCED to "make a statement" about integration. It's not that integration doesn't work, it's that people, KIDS, don't like being forced out of their community to make a political statement. How can we crow about "building communities" and then deny kids the right to go to LOCAL schools, where they make connections with the kids in their communities, and thus their parents connect, etc.
You pick a place to live, and you create your corner of American culture. Basing that culture on skin color is moronic, unless one thinks skin can talk.
My child attended public grammar school in California. A few of the years she was placed in classes where the majority did not speak English. I had to go to the administrators and demand she not be placed in a bilingual class because we dont speak Spanish.
There was a map painted on the playground of the 50 US states, with Alaska by itself as well as Hawaii, which would have been OK, but they also included Mexico and Cuba, but not Canada. When I complained to the school, that the map was geographically incorrect since it left off Canada, it did not represent north America and it left the kids to think that Alaska was an island, the principal told me it was because so many kids from the school come from Latin America, and that they needed to present a map for them.
Then there were the winter and Christmas festivals that replaced the Christian Easter and Christmas holidays. We celebrated the traditional holidays in public school as kids growing up in California. But times have changed, this public school was banned from mentioning anything Christian, even though had no problem teaching the kids abut the spiritually of the native American Indians and the paganism of Indian land worship in the kids assignments.
One year the teacher covered posters on the wall during standardized test week, but it was see through paper, and had some of the answers for the students to see . Even still the schools students scored poor on these tests 70 percent of the nation did better, with all the illegals that was no surprise.
When I had enough, I tried to transfer to a better district, the principal said they didn't care if we left; they got more money per student from illegal than US citizens anyhow, and they welcome her to leave to make room for these more important students (paraphrased) .
Since then we have been in private school, well worth the money, and the proper teaching of geography, religion, English that goes with it. Glad were are out, at least now my daughter doesn't have to write to the governor to lobby for illegal immigrant drivers licence , like I heard one mom still left in the public school complain that her 3rd grader was given that assignment recently!