First of two parts.
A few weeks ago I wrote about a trip to Union Independent School in Northeast Central Durham.
A mother there for the taping of UNC-TV's "Black Issues Forum" told a story about how she had once observed a teacher fail to correct a black first-grader who had written, "The children is playing."
When the mother asked about it, the teacher said it was Ebonics. She didn't want to correct the boy because that was how his family talked and it would hurt his self-esteem.
The mother, who is black, didn't think that was any excuse.
The incident happened at Oak Grove Elementary School, which I put in my story. It happened several years ago, which I also put in my story but on the jump, or the page where the story continued insider the paper.
So Oak Grove Principal Andrea Carroll called me.
What happened next was pretty cool. I wish all complaints could go as well.
Carroll, who was not working at the school back then, said she understood I reported the incident happened several years ago. But she said many readers don't read a story all the way through.
More to the point, she said that incident does not reflect the school now.
Oak Grove today is one of the Durham Public Schools' success stories.
The school out Highway 98 is one of the district's top three elementary schools in student growth for reading and math.
Students posted a 17 percent increase the last two years on end-of-grade reading tests and a 16 percent increase on end-of-grade math tests.
Teachers gave the school the highest satisfaction ratings in the district; 95.5 percent agreed with the statement "my school is a good place to work and learn." (The district average is 82.4 percent; the state's, 85.5 percent.)
The school still faces big challenges.
Even though it achieved School of Progress recognition under the state's ABC accountability system, about half its students are not reading on grade level and about a quarter are not doing grade-level math.
Nearly 70 percent of its 548 students are on the free- and reduced-price lunch program, compared to the district's 60 percent average.
But Carroll, now in her sixth year, says the school - about two thirds black and 20 percent Hispanic - is getting strong parent and community support.
And it's winning back families who had thought their only options were charter or private schools, she said. Student enrollment is 15 percent higher than the district's projection.
When she called that day, Carroll could have yelled (it happens) or cussed me out (it happens). She could have not bothered to pick up the phone at all.
Instead we kept talking and before we said goodbye, I told her I would come out to the school.
I'll write about that tomorrow.