Monday, February 28, 2005

Liberal parent joins white flight

It seems that even liberals are giving up on racially-mixed schools:

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?

Mrs. Brace has a very interesting background:

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."

How Brace became disillusioned:

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."

Around the Blogosphere:

Advocate for staying joins fleeing parents


At 3:10 PM, Blogger Blackhawk said...

This is the only way to make hardcore liberals wake up to racial reality. Good for her.

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At 3:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"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."

Who the fuck does she think she is? What fucking RIGHT does have to make OTHERS the subjects of HER goddam liberal scruples?
Sounds like Nazi or Gulag HUMAN EXPERIMENTS... which is what always happens when someone assumes power over others.


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