While driving through uptown Charlotte, NC, one is amazed by the hustle and bustle of the city streets. Teeming with life and laughter, the Queen City’s royalty envelopes your very being. The shops, the restaurants, the sounds and the people are a sight to behold.
While traveling away from the heart of the nation’s second largest banking capitol, there was a sight that nearly took my breath. Along a wall, where some homeless people sit for portions of the day, I saw a child. Now, homelessness is horrible on all accounts, however, this homeless person was a child around the age of five or six.
I could not breathe.
While studying to be a principal, I took a course, Schools and Community, under the instruction of Dr. Adam Renner at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky. Part of my time was spent in a classroom. The majority of the time was spent in a local homeless shelter run by Volunteers of America (VOA). At first it was hard to understand why future principals had to spend so much time in a homeless shelter.
Dr. Renner explained to us that at that time, other than New Orleans, Louisville, Kentucky had the largest concentration of poverty in the United States. If we were going to be principals, we had to be cognizant of the situation that many of the students that we would encounter face every day.
The most recent count (May 2009), by an organization in Charlotte, NC that seeks to erase the impact of homelessness on children and their education, A Child’s Place, found a record of 2,989 identified homeless children enrolled in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
During my training to be a principal, I did something that I had never done before in a class.
Dr. Renner did not talk about my professionalism, the suits I would wear, or the confrontations I might encounter in the teacher‘s lounge from teachers that might defy my leadership. Instead, Dr. Renner, or Adam as he likes to be called, held classes in the very cafeteria where residents of the shelter ate. Adam had us listen to residents tell future principals of the situations and circumstances that led to their current predicament. During our building tour, we had a chance to see the tiny rooms where whole families resided. We attended counseling sessions that were mandatory for the residents. Some were hopeful. Some wept.
We asked the residents what we could do to make their lives better.
We, the future principals, were charged to remodel the resident‘s break room and the children’s playground. We cleaned. We lifted. We painted. We planted. We worked. In Adam’s class, I learned the true meaning of being a public servant. A principal is not a person who sits in the front office with the big leather chair. In addition to the principal’s other duties, a principal is a public servant.
While driving through the Queen City, there were many homeless people sitting on that wall that day. The person that stood out the most was the child. This child will be entering kindergarten or the first grade in August. Will the public servant in charge of her school, her principal, understand? Will the principal understand that she needs paper, pencils, glue sticks, a book bag, and a home?
Cheryl is an Educational Consultant who has worked in the area of school reform with various school districts across North Carolina, as well as, schools in other states and abroad. As educational reform moves into the forefront of this nation's agenda, she will passionately use her talent and...
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