Carol Gates

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Carol Gates is a speech therapist with Wake County Schools in North Carolina. She has worked in this profession since 1990, and has worked with Wake County for fifteen years. After spending four years at the middle and high school level, she now works with elementary school children. Gates was born in Durham, N.C., and has resided in the state her entire life. Her personal and professional tenure in the state allows her to provide insight into the educational, social, and home experiences of immigrant students in North Carolina. Gates describes her experiences working as a speech therapist, specifically at the elementary school level. She speaks about the various reasons that a student would require speech therapy, and she talks thoroughly about the various services that are available to these students. Her commentary centers around the conflict of labeling students and providing students with the aid needed for them to be successful. Gates believes that families of Latino immigrant students (whom she refers to as ESL students) are very respectful of the educational system in the United States and North Carolina specifically, and they are extremely invested in cooperating to ensure their student's success. She feels that Latinos value the family, the school, and the community as a whole; however, their values are outweighed by the white families who value their child's achievement at the expense of all others.



Raymond Sawyer: This is Raymond Sawyer. The date is April the 14th, 2013. The time is 10:52 am. We’re on the ground floor of the student union on the campus the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and I’m here with Mrs. Carol Gates. Mrs. Gates, thank you very much for being here with me this morning.
Carol Gates: You’re welcome. You’re very welcome.
RS: So the first question to get us started: what is your occupation?
CG: I am a speech therapist with Wake County Schools. I work at Lake Myra Elementary School, which is in eastern Wake County.
RS: Awesome. So, what is a typical day of work like for you?
CG: I work with children in groups, small groups and individually. I work with a great variety of kids; some with articulation or fluency disorders that are--they stutter or have difficulty saying words--. But the majority of my caseload is children with language delays. And those language delays can be the result of just genetics, the way that child is wired and the way they were come--the way they were when they were born into this world; or because of environment. Just a very weak support in language development and stimulation and vocabulary and that sort of thing. Because of how that pertains to what we are talking about today is that also part of my caseload are children who have English as a second language and have not been able to acquire English at the same rate as their peers. And that is-- not only serving those children takes up a large part of my day, but also the process of deciding what services those children should receive if they do show delays in their academic performance and also in language acquisition.
RS: So what type of services do you choose from?
CG: In the public school system in Wake County--and I think this is very similar to all of North Carolina--services are divided into regular education, meaning if a child meets certain criteria of their--at certain levels below benchmark that they can receive what’s called Title I services. And that’s federally funded and that’s considered regular education. The child has not been identified as learning disabled or emotionally--excuse me--intellectually deficient or anything like that. They’re just behind and they need help. So they leave the regular classroom but they stay with a regular education teacher. And that’s where a lot of ESL children--and I’ll refer to the Latino population as ESL children from here on out, because that’s--. We don’t really care which language it is that’s not English so I’ll just stick with ESL. But most of our ESL kids are Latino in the school where I am. But anyway, back to what I was talking about. There are regular education services and those are usually under the umbrella of Title I, but then for a child who is severely behind in academics they can be referred for testing. And then they may become eligible for special education. And I am part of special education. And those are for kids who are at least two grades behind. So there’s always a dilemma when we’re dealing with ESL kids: is this disability--is there a disability or is it just a delay in language acquisition? Is it ethically right to label a child with a learning disability when it really just is a matter of not having been in the United States long enough to learn the language. This is an ongoing discussion and there’ve been guidelines written, there’ve been protocols written. But still, it always comes down to a team discussion, looking at the family, looking at the child, and making your best guess while still complying with the guidelines from DPI--the Department of Public Instruction--and trying to stay compliant with eligibility determination and all of that. It’s all very complex. So if I’m jumping all over the place it’s because that’s really the way it is. You really do jump all over the place trying to--. You compare that child to peers with similar experiences. You try to decide what came first. Is this child delayed because his language is not good enough to benefit from instruction or is he delayed because he has a learning disability that has caused him not to be able to learn English; therefore not to be able to access instruction? Is that making sense?
RS: Yes.
CG: Is that kind of what you’re looking for?
RS: Yes.
CG: We just spend a huge amount of time and energy trying to do the right thing for these children while staying compliant with the policies from DPI and not maxing out our resources. And using our resources appropriately.
RS: Well thank you for that last comment because it actually segues into another question that I had, which is about the educational standards that the state of North Carolina has in place to measure student success. If you wouldn’t mind speaking on that and if you think those standards serve all students equally.
CG: The standards to measure success? That’s an evolving process. As you know, maybe eight, ten years ago North Carolina went to EOGs--End-of-Grade Testing--and that became the gold standard for whether children were proficient enough to move on to the next grade or not. And as we’ve gone through the years that has waxed and waned. We reached a peak of craziness where every child was tested multiple times and it was insane. And now they’re trying to back off that a little bit, but now they’re introducing the Common Core Standards which will require a new method of accessing progress. The way that pertains to ESL children is that there’s a disconnect between the policies for ESL children. I can’t remember, it’s something ridiculous like after having been in the United States either one year or two years, they’re expected to take the End-of-Grade Test with their peers; with no modifications, no accommodations. Just get in there and do it, even though you’ve only been in an English-speaking environment--which might be just school, not your home--for two years. So that’s a little crazy. So that’s another push to get some of these children into special education so that they can take tests that are more appropriate to them and can actually show progress versus just showing that, yeah, you’re not on grade level. We knew that, [didn’t] have to do that over and over again.
RS: So I’d like to hear a little bit more about you. Where are you from and how long--.
CG: I am from North Carolina.
RS: So you’ve been in North Carolina your entire life?
CG: Yeah. I was born in Durham.
RS: Okay.
CG: At Watts Hospital, which is not the School of Science and Math where Lindsey went. So that’s just a little segue. She’s the third generation in our family to be there. My mom was a nurse there, I was born there, and Lindsey went to school there. But yeah, I’m a North Carolina native.
RS: Ok. And how long have you been working in this profession?
CG: I have been a speech therapist since 1990, and I’ve been in Wake County Schools for fifteen years now.
RS: Have you always worked at the elementary school level?
CG: No. I did spend some time with middle schools and high school student. I spent four years in that setting.
RS: if you don’t mind, could you talk about the differences you’ve seen on the different levels of schooling? Middle school versus high school versus elementary school.
CG: As it pertains to ESL children?
RS: That’s correct.
CG: Yeah. It’s really different. I--well I guess an easy way to put it is there are minimal, inadequate services for kids at the elementary school and it just gets worse in middle school and high school.
RS: Wow.
CG: I really, really feel for kids who come to the United States when they’re middle school or high school age because they are--. It’s really sink or swim. The services become even thinner and more scattered and it’s, it’s sink or swim. It’s difficult.
RS: One explanation I’ve heard from articles or from individuals I’ve spoken to is that some ESL students simply don’t care enough about their education and that’s why they’re not successful. How do you approach a student who seems to portray an I-don’t-care attitude?
CG: Well that’s a really great question [Laughter]. Let me back up before I answer that question and talk about what I’ve observed from Latino families; that they are very, very appreciative of the education that being provided to their children. Totally supportive of the school. Of course there are exceptions to this. I’m talking in general terms. But when a child is being registered for kindergarten often times the whole family will come: the child that’s being registered, all the siblings, mom and dad, grandma grandpa, both sides. It is a family event. And most of those folks show great respect for the school. If the principal or the teacher says it, it will be done. I remember when I was at Carrboro Elementary, we had a mom come to us and she was very upset because her children had--the grades were falling for her kids. They weren’t doing well in class and they weren’t doing their homework. And the reason was because dad had worked really, really hard to buy them a beautiful TV and he said that, “I worked hard for this TV and you kids are going to watch it.” [Laughter] So she said can you help me sort this out? So we composed a letter to the dad that said please make sure your children do their homework and study before they watch TV. Problem solved. Mom came back so happy. She said life has changed, we’re back on track. Thank you so much. And you can’t--. That approach would not have worked with a lot of families who had decided that the TV was more important than homework. But that was very typical and continues to be really typical of the families that I deal with at the elementary school level. Now as far as kids that don’t care, they appear to not care. I--there’s a--. Let’s see, there’s a way to describe behavior that if something becomes too painful for you, you eventually just take it out of your picture. And that’s kind of how I see these kids. If you come to school and you struggle with academically, if you feel isolated culturally and emotionally, if you don’t have your support group, instead of--. You deal with that as long as you can, but eventually it becomes too burdensome or too fatiguing or too painful, so you take it out of your picture and you adopt the I-don’t-care attitude. But I don’t think that it’s a family value to dismiss and to stop trying in school. I think it’s just a coping mechanism sometimes. So the response would be to get that child back down to their level--their instructional level where they are being successful--and give them the support they need to get them back engaged into the whole system. Does that make sense?
RS: Yes, it does.
CG: Yeah.
RS: I’d like to dig a little deeper if I may go back to the fundamental aspect. You mentioned that often times students are not in their correct level when they first come and are integrated to the United States School system. What is the procedure for placing a child into a grade? Is it based on their age? Do they take a test and then they are placed into a particular grade level? How does that work?
CG: I would just have to guess at that because I’m not a part of that process. But I’m guessing it’s based on what grades they have completed elsewhere and their age, a combination of those two. And our principal, and I think most good principals will try to take a look at their academics and make that a part of the decision. I’m not asked to be a part of that decision.
RS: So you mentioned that you’ve been in this profession since 1990?
CG: [agrees]
RS: And so how has immigration impacted your profession since--from 1990 until now?
CG: Just the growing numbers of children. And Wake County I think has been really, really slow to address the needs of ESL students, but now they can’t ignore that anymore. But I still think they lag way, way behind the needs. It’s not a vocal group and--. See I work in the special ed world but I also see the needs of these children. Special ed parents are very powerful often times and very vocal. So that’s where the money goes, that’s where the resources go, and that’s where everyone is very careful to stay out of the courtroom; keep these parents happy. Latino families that’s not their culture, to be assertive and aggressive and put-my-child-first. That is not--in my opinion--in my opinion that is not their culture. So they don’t get served the way that they should. What was your original question? Give me that again.
RS: Yes. How has immigration impacted your profession throughout the time; how have you seen it change from 1990 until the present?
CG: It makes me continue to be part of that process of determining: is this a language impairment, is this a learning disability, or is this just delayed language--English language--acquisition. That, it continues to--. That’s an evolving process that we haven’t figured out yet. There--how it impacts me professionally is that I have to be wary, and my supervisors very wary, of the speech therapists becoming overwhelmed with the children for whom ESL is the primary issue. That she is very wary, very careful to not have us step into the role of ESL teacher versus speech therapist.
RS: That’s a perfect segue, once again, for another question--
CG: [Laughter] We are on the same page.
RS: We are. We really are. And so, what ESL services are available at your school?
CG: At my school we have one ESL teacher and a teacher assistant. And if Governor McCrory gets his way that teacher assistant may go away. So, it’s possible that we would have one ESL teacher and she has over a hundred children on her caseload. Our school has about 600 students, so a sixth of our students are on her caseload. A large part of her time she has to spend with documentation, testing. Each child gets an assessment twice a year, and that can be given in groups of three to four. It all has to be by grade level, so automatically she has--that’s six different testing sessions that have to be done. Some of it has to be one-on-one because it’s an oral expression component in that test. So long story short: we have one person, about a hundred students, and maybe half of her time can be spent in instruction. The other, at least half, is got to be done--is used for paperwork and assessments. So, it’s pretty pitiful [Laughter].
RS: So I’d just like to summarize really quick: you’re saying that the school suggests that within two years of coming to the United States ESL students should be on their grade level, on par with other students in the classroom?
CG: Well their saying--and their not suggesting it, they’re saying this is the way it will be--they’re saying that they should be able to demonstrate their knowledge by taking the regular End-of-Grade test with all of their English-speaking peers.
RS: And then you also said that your school currently has one ESL instructor and one assistant. And the assistant could potentially be removed?
CG: [Agrees] She has a hundred students, over a hundred students on her caseload that she’s responsible for.
RS: Wow. Wow. So, for the non-ESL instructors, how competent are they in dealing with ESL students?
CG: There’s support and training available to help them and a lot of the strategies that they should use to support their ESL students also are not very different from what they need to do for lower-performing students. So, it’s not a separate practice. But some of those strategies are using pictures to illustrate new vocabulary. For using hands-on activities for both the students to acquire knowledge and to be able to demonstrate knowledge. I have a child who really is language impaired and learning disabled, but also ESL. And he has so much knowledge that he is unable to express verbally. In the context of a science lesson we were talking about how the things you get from different farm animals. And we were talking about sheep and the fact that you get wool from sheep. Well he pantomimed the entire process, from sheering the sheep to putting a garment on a rack for someone to buy, through one-word utterances and his hands. He demonstrated the whole thing. “Jose,” I said, “you’ve got all of the information, and if you can get someone to sit there and listen to you and kind of interpret what in the world you’re trying to tell us, we can see that the information is there.” So they need nonverbal and nontraditional ways to express what they’ve learned. Back to--. Tell me the question again. I get off track and forget what it was that you had asked. How they improve instruction?
RS: Yes. How competent non-ESL teachers are.
CG: I guess what I’m saying is that a lot of the strategies that they use for all low-performing students will also benefit the ESL children. A lot of very bright ESL children are in the low group because of their language difficulties.
RS: Could you talk about the demographic makeup of that low group? You mentioned the ESL students, but what other groups are represented in those groups?
CG: In those groups you would typically see lower socioeconomic status children. That low group has typically--the children with true learning disability have been identified and would be receiving their instruction in the special education classroom. So in the quote/unquote “low group” you would see children from low SES groups. Children who are just--. They’re labeled slow learners. They don’t have a true learning disability, which is when you IQ is at a much higher level than your performance. But it’s a flat performance line. They have a lower IQ and they’re performing at a lower level because of that. So it’s not--it’s good in that the pace is slower and there are more strategies used to make the instruction more beneficial, but it’s still not as appropriate as you’d like for it to be. I teach a program called Language for Learning, and it’s a direct instruction program. Are you familiar with the term direct instruction?
RS: I am not, could you explain it?
CG: Yes. It’s when--it’s a packaged program. It’s scripted and Wake County Schools uses direct instruction to teach reading to learning disabled children. And it doesn’t look pretty but it’s very, very effect. Because it’s scripted, it’s a lot of repetition. It’s teacher says--. I say a word, you say a word, we practice back and forth. It sounds very military-like. It’s not pretty, but it really, really works because there’s so much practice and repetition and so much structure incorporated in that. So, my point is that if you will--I’ve given this program to our ESL teacher and--. Well actually throughout the county it’s been used. That ESL children--. I’m sorry, should we stop? Yes, let’s pause for a moment.
CG: Yeah.

[Recorder is turned off and then back on]

RS: So we’re back now. We relocated from the bottom of the union to the second floor. We had a little bit of a sound interruption with someone getting some ice from an ice machine. So we decided to relocate so that all the great answers could be heard again. I believe you were talking about those other groups that make up the lower group in the classrooms that you mentioned.
CG: Yeah. I was kind of talking about--. Your little dial is not moving, is that ok? Is it supposed to be moving as we talk?

CG: Alright, we were talking about the effects of ESL children--now let’s assume ESL children with average abilities and average IQ’s and a normal ability to learn--but the downside of having them in the lower groups is that they’re not going to--. They learn quickly once they’re given the opportunity and the instruction is appropriate, they learn quickly. I was talking about how when you use direct instruction, and I teach something called language for learning. And when you use that for ESL students they just fly. They respond so well to that. But typically direction instruction programs are only available in the special education setting. So even though this is a great resource for them--they respond well, it’s a very efficient way of teaching--sometimes, not always, but sometimes a child would have to go through the entire referral, evaluation, eligibility process to have access to those programs. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that the slow-moving group is not appropriate because they can learn faster than that even though they need those modifications. And there are also programs out there that would be very beneficial if they were given in the appropriate setting, not special education setting per say. Does that answer your question?
RS: Yes, thank you. I’ll pry a little bit more if you don’t mind. I do see through your conversation that there are attempts to meet students on their level of learning. But I wonder, have you ever experienced situations where teachers limit the amount that they present to a student because they presume that the student is not capable of working at a higher level?
CG: Yes. Yeah, I think there is a perception that ESL students bear that they will not be able to learn as quickly. And so they may automatically be put into that lower reading group or that lower math group. And it takes times. I gave the example of the student who he really is language impaired in both English and Spanish but has so much knowledge. He--can’t remember if we were being recorded when I talked about how he could describe the process of how wool is sheered from a sheep all the way to when it’s part of a garment that’s hanging on a rack ready to be bought. He understood each step and could tell me through pantomime and one or two-word utterances that entire process. But that was in a one-on-on setting. It took him probably three or four minutes to do that. And that’s not going to happen in the classroom. So, through no fault of her own a teacher may not understand the abilities of a student because he can’t demonstrate those abilities in traditional ways. So yeah, there’s that problem of perception that they’re just not as smart.
RS: So do you typically work with students on a one-on-one basis, or do you have a lot of exposure working with larger groups?
CG: My groups, the ESL children that I work with have made their way through the special education proc--referral, testing, eligibility process. So that’s a slightly different group than the general ESL population. But in that context, they come to me for speech therapy and it’s either one-on-one or a small group of two, three, or maybe even four at a time. But that’s just two or three times a week.
RS: And so if you wouldn’t mind, could you speak on how the group experiences--. Do students encourage each other to be more active? Are students more embarrassed to speak when they’re in a group? What is the environment like?
CG: Let’s see. I’m thinking in particular of a pair of boys that are in second grade. They’re both repeating second grade and I see them together. They sort of keep each other in line. Jose, the child I referred to earlier, he can be really lazy. And I know him well so I can say that. He just backs off and says, “This is just too hard. Don’t make me work so hard.” And his buddy Edwin will push him, and keep his feet to the fire and say, “Come on Jose. You know that you can do that.” And he can, he really can. I’m also thinking of a pair of fourth grade boys that I see who are both ESL students. And they--it’s very much the same thing. They support each other, but in a very male way. I see that male Latino students are really different from female. Those roles seem to be so clearly defined in the Latino culture. The girls are brought up to be very nurturing and caretaking and responsible for other people’s feelings. And just taking care of everyone around them. And the boys, it’s more of that male pushing each other and picking on each other and that constant dynamic going on.
RS: Wow. So do you have more females or more males that you deal with?
CG: More males. And that’s true for all of my kids, not just ESL. I have more boys with language delays than girls.
RS: Do you have any presumption of why that is?
CG: [Laughter] I think there’s so many girls that are just born into this world ready to talk. It’s just the way they’re wired. And, I don’t know why but boys seem to be more at risk for language delays. I don’t know if its nature or nurture. That would be a great research project. I’m sure it’s been done.
RS: Interesting. So if I may ask, do you know if any of your students are first generation immigrants, or second generation?
CG: You mean their parents?
RS: Yes.
CG: Let’s see. You know, I don’t know that specifically. I do know that a lot of our students are in Spanish-speaking homes exclusively. There’s no English spoken in the home. But I don’t know how long they’ve been in the United States or their parents’ immigration status.
RS: So we’ve talked some about the limitations of being an ESL student or being an immigrant in the United States, but what do you think are some of the opportunities that are presented by the changing demographics in North Carolina?
CG: Oh, these children that have--children with average learning abilities who come to us early, like enroll in school in kindergarten--by the time they are in fifth grade they are fully bilingual. And to me that is such a marketable skill. That makes you so valuable in so many work places. I think that we’re bringing a whole new generation of people with that very, very marketable skill. I wish that my oldest daughter had continued with Spanish so that wherever she would be she would be bilingual. As I said earlier, these families, a lot of these families really value education. I think we’re looking at the first generation of a lot of Latino families going--students going on to college and other levels of education. They really value what is happening and the opportunities that they have. And that’s a general term, I know that not everyone fits into that description but I see it a lot.
RS: So you mentioned that it’s very valuable to be bilingual.
CG: Yes, I think so.
RS: And how much Spanish do you hear spoken in the school?
CG: A lot between peers. Between ESL peers they will speak Spanish. And a lot of times children are brought--I will ask them to interpret for me when I have to make a phone call home. I can think of one particular situation where I needed to schedule a meeting for a kindergartner and I know that his sister is in fourth grade and I know that she is completely bilingual. So I pull her out of class and get her to interpret to mom on the phone. And when we have meetings we have to have an interpreter because often times, as I said, the parents do not speak English well at all.
RS: So I would presume that all classes are taught in English at the school.
CG: Yes. Completely.
RS: And so is speaking in anything outside of English in the classroom setting, is that discouraged?
CG: It’s not discouraged, but it’s just not very functional. I don’t know if the teachers pair ESL students together when they’re doing group work. I guess that would be a nice strategy, and that would ease the communication at least in that small group. But I don’t know if that’s happening or not. Guess it would be an individual teacher decision.
RS: Very interesting. So to make a turn a bit: some scholars state that the educational challenges of Hispanic students are similar to that of African Americans. How would you respond to that statement based on your professional experiences?
CG: The challenges, similar challenges--. I think the burden of low expectations is there for both groups. And you talked about subtractive education--is that what you called it when the expectations are automatically lower before any instruction has occurred. The teacher looks out on the group and goes okay; well this group is going to need a little extra time. Oh these pretty white girls over here, they’ll do great. I’ll just put them over here. They’ll do independent work while we do something a little less exciting with my Latino and my Black students. So I think that is definitely a challenge for both groups. Poverty, that’s a challenge with parents who are working really hard just to support the family financially and don’t have the extra time and resources to do homework and be involved in the school and that type of thing. I’m thinking also about support at home. A lot of times that doesn’t happen but it can be either a language issue. Because the parents don’t speak English they can’t help with school assignments. Or it can be a cultural issue. If there is a minority family where education has not been a part of their family values, they don’t see the need for doing schoolwork at home. That’s a similar challenge but coming from two different reasons.
RS: So, I’ll give you the opportunity to express your values. If you were given an unlimited fund devoted to improving the educational experience for Latino immigrant students in North Carolina, what measures would you take?
CG: Oh wow. I would have a bilingual classroom with an English-speaking teacher and a Spanish-speaking teacher in the classroom at all times, doing a team teaching thing. I would--I love the program that I referred to earlier, Language for Learning. I would put all your young ones--your kindergartener, first-grade students--I would put them right through that program because it’s very structured. And it does a great job of teaching language. Let’s see if I had unlimited funds--. Let’s see how long could I sit here and talk. [Laughter]
RS: Take your time, please.
CG: Support for the families. The ESL teacher/social worker role that she has to play. We would have enough ESL teachers so that say, every ten or twelve families would have their go-to person. And she is that go-to person now, but it’s for a hundred families versus the ten or twelve that I would like to see. So, that would be a good start.
RS: A good start. And so, with that ESL teacher--and she’s the go-to person for those families--what would those responsibilities be as a go-to person?
CG: To help them understand how things are done, to navigate the system of not only public schools, but to help their children be involved in outside activities like getting on the soccer teams that are in that community, accessing funding for food or Medicaid or that type of thing if it’s needed. To connect with other families. They’re very--there’s not a whole lot of interaction between English families and Latino families that I see. We’ve had events at school before where our Latino families sponsored it hoping to invite English-speaking families in to get to know them a little bit better, and it’s mostly attended by other Latino families. So there’s not a lot of crossover that I see at the school level. But that would be a great person. Navigating public transportation, public funds, Medicaid, food stamps, the school system. Like with Wake County, all of the school assignment stuff is crazy. You know it’s changed. They implemented one plan and then they changed their mind. So now we have a hybrid of the last two plans, and I don’t really even understand it myself. So how is a Hispanic or an ESL family supposed to understand where their child goes to school? How are they to understand that they might have a choice of where their child goes to school, that they may have a choice regarding transportation, that there might be a preschool their child would be eligible for? So that that ESL/social worker is the person that would help them navigate all of that. Being a parent, especially in Wake County, it’s not easy these days. You really have to know a lot and be pretty savvy with a computer. You need a computer because that’s how you register your child online. That’s how you find out where our child will go. And of course all of the instructions are in English so, yeah. There’s plenty--there’s a huge need for that kind of support.
RS: So I know you stated that you weren’t completely competent about everything that’s going on in Wake County, but can you explain to us for the record what this current situation is with schooling and the first plan versus the second plan?
CG: The school assignment plan?
RS: Yes.
CG: When our current school board--let’s see, it was the Republican takeover. All the Republicans came on board maybe, I think that was three years ago. The four prior to that we had made school--when I say we I mean Wake County. Wake County School had tried to have a diverse--had used diversity as a school assignment guiding light. And it was based on socioeconomic diversity. So the goal was to have every school have a similar percentage of students on free or reduced lunch so that you didn’t have high-poverty schools versus very, very low-poverty schools. ( ) When the school board came in, they made a jump to get back to neighborhood schools because they didn’t like having kids spread out all over the county trying to make our schools equal. So they made a student assignment plan, and it was--. Let me think, did they do the choice plan first? No, they just did a reassignment working back towards neighborhood schools. I’m trying to remember exactly how this happened. And a lot of kids were reassigned. And then somewhere in this they came up with the choice plan--. Well anyway, I won’t be graded on this. [Laughter] I’ll just push on. But the choice plan I’m very clear on. Every family was given a choice of schools that were in their geographic area. So the parents who were on top of things and paying attention could choose the school that they want. So that automatically preselects a school as being low free or reduced lunch, because those are not the parents who kids are receiving free and reduced lunch. That’s, those are the pool parents that sit around going, “Oh let’s all get together and get our kids at Hunter Elementary.” Well you just changed the demographics at Hunter Elementary just through that thing. So, what was the question? Oh, you asked me to elaborate on how school change--yeah. And now we have a modified choice plan, but I don’t think parents have as many choices. So to summarize, it’s kind of confusing about where your kids will go to school.
RS: Wow. You’ve definitely given me some insight not only into North Carolina but into Wake County specifically, and how the school system is a manifestation of some of those larger social issues, some of those cultural differences between groups. And so, if there was from your experience one piece of advice you would like to share with the public, that you wanted people to understand so that we can work towards improving these situations, what piece of advice would you share?
CG: I would say let’s embrace our ESL population or Latinos, our Latino families because they bring to us so many good things. So instead of resisting them and trying to ignore those needs and trying to minimize our resources that are lent to those needs, bring them in and see them as how they can really improve our schools and improve our societies from--. And speaking in general terms, they have such strong family values. They value and respect the schools, which there are a lot of--I hate to sound racist--but there are a lot of white parents that could learn a lot about respecting our schools. They’re terrible. It’s--. Speaking in general terms, Latinos they seem to value the family as a whole and the school and the community as a whole versus many, and I’ll say white families--I can’t think of a better way to put it--value their child’s achievement at the expense of all others. So those are two polar opposites, but guess who has more power? It’s the ones who are campaigning for their child at the expense of others versus this other cultural value of let’s all work together. So that would be my advice. Let’s embrace that and support that versus ignoring that while we’re catering to what I see as a much, much less productive way of addressing needs.
RS: That was an amazing answer. That was an amazing answer. So as we are about to wrap up are there any final comments you would like to make? I think you’ve said a vast amount of meaningful information for us, but if there’s anything you would like to say to sum up you definitely have the opportunity if you choose too.
CG: Well I just think it’s important that we--that this is a work in progress and keep, keep trying to work this out instead of saying okay we’ve written this group of polic--this policy book--a book of policies and guidelines, and we’re done. This should hold us for a year. This should keep us out of the courtroom for a year. But continuing to look, because we’re so far from a perfect system of addressing the needs of these children. Just keep working on it.
RS: Thank you. So again this is Raymond Sawyer and I’m here with Mrs. Carol Gates. Mrs. Gates, thank you very much for participating today.
CG: You are very welcome. It was kind of fun to put all of these thoughts and feelings into words.
RS: Thank you.