Two special committees of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school board met for the first time Monday, with one focusing on school choice and the other on climate, culture and equity.

The two committees, named for their purposes, used their first meetings to dig into background data — seeing where the district stands currently and laying the groundwork for future meetings.

Board Chairwoman Malishai Woodbury formed the special committees shortly after the 2018 election. Both include members from the community.

The School Choice Committee is chaired by Andrea Bramer. Other school board members on the committee are Woodbury, Dana Jones, Lori Clark and Deanna Kaplan.

The purpose of this committee is to look into how the current system of school choice and neighborhood schools is affecting achievement gaps district-wide and how it affects the performance of individual schools, as well as areas where resegregation appears to be happening.

“I’m a full fan of choice, I love choice and so is, I think, every member of our choice committee, but we want it to succeed and not fail certain students,” Bramer said.

Overall, 64 percent of WS/FCS students attend a school in their residential zone, while 36 percent transfer, according to data provided to the committee by Homan Atashbar, director of student assignment for the district.

What was concerning for Bramer and others on the board was that some schools had higher percentages of students staying in their residential areas where others showed higher rates of people leaving.

For example, as of February, there were 128 white students located within the residential zone for Carver High School, but only 21 attend the school.. And at schools such as West Forsyth High School, a larger percentage of students overall who live in that residential area attend that school.

The committee hopes to get more data back at its next meeting, and to get more parental feedback on the current school-choice model.

The Climate, Culture & Equity Committee is chaired by Barbara Hanes Burke, who is also the vice-chairwoman of the school board. Other board members on the committee are Bramer, Crowley, Lida Calvert Hayes and Elisabeth Motsinger.

The committee includes community members from various groups such as the Winston-Salem Foundation and Action4Equity.

The purpose of this committee is to look at where the district stands on climate, culture and equity and how it can move forward.

Andy Kraft, director of accountability for the school district, started off with data on three gap areas: achievement, discipline and absenteeism.

On virtually all levels, white students outperform black and Hispanic students in terms of the achievement data, according to information presented by Kraft that is pulled from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s website. Other large, urban counties in the state are dealing with similar issues.

Karen Roseboro, an instructional superintendent for the district, laid out how other districts have equity offices in place, their philosophies and how they interact with the community.

She also presented a preliminary model of how this district’s Office of Equity, Access and Acceleration would work. It would be headed by an executive director of equity.

At its next meeting, the committee will invite teachers and students to speak on the climate aspect of the schools, Burke said.

“I think that it’s important to hear from our students and hear from those teachers who work inside those buildings,” she said. “Because if we’re going to improve the climate in each school, we’ve got to first hear and understand what the climate is.”

The Climate, Culture & Equity Committee is scheduled to meet every first Monday of the month at 6 p.m. at the Education Building on 4801 Bethania Station Road.

The School Choice Committee will meet at the same location again on March 25, April 8 and April 22, each time at 5 p.m.

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