Documenting the American South Logo
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Venton Bell, January 30, 1991. Interview M-0018. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Harding High's student population reflects the socioeconomic status of its community

Harding High, once a predominantly white school, is now majority-black. As Bell describes, the school's racial makeup affects its image in the community, and Harding has a reputation as an athletics-oriented school without proper emphasis on academics. Bell is trying to improve that image, but the school's socioeconomic profile is making that task difficult.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Venton Bell, January 30, 1991. Interview M-0018. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Community relations. How do you think people feel about Harding?
We have a partnership with a company that gave us $51,000 as one of our partners. Now Harding has changed a great deal. Harding traditionally was a predominantly White school and now it is predominantly White and it is perceived as being the school where Black kids want to come. We have a perception that we are trying to fight. We are athletically oriented, that we are not as academic as we should be--that when they compare test results and you do a socio-economic return when you start comparing apples to oranges and you get that. We get that. We feel and our results show that we are doing good with the products that we are dealing with. We are making the products the best they can be based upon the product we have initially coming in to us. We think people feel pretty good about the school. The students feel good about the school. You have to realize that we don't have a neighborhood community anymore. So our kids who go to Harding may be living over near West Mecklenburg or live in West Charlotte especially if they are the Black satellite because the Black west side of town is full of Black people and that means you can't have all the Black kids going to those schools in those neighborhoods like West Charlotte, Harding, and you have to pull out of those and put them in different places and so therefore it is very diverse. We think we have a good positive image and we can do some improving on it but we are working on that trying to improve it and make it better. We would like for people to think of us as being an academic giant but that is not the way things are.
Then it takes years because you are building a new image.
But you just can't build an image unless you have the products to build that image. In your researching I'm sure you have discovered that some of the things that affect student achievement more than anything else their success in school deals basically with the family, the families that they come from; what is the mother's educational level, and what expectation do they have. That goes back to parent expectation. Money is important but it not one of the key things it has more to do with expectations that the parent has for them and the value that the parents place upon education. That has a lot to do with this. That is something that we need to work on--we need to educate parents more to expect more of their kids and want more for their kids and that will have a bigger effect than anything else. You can take the same school and set it in a neighborhood where you have kids with parents who have Doctor's degrees, or parents who are engineers or lawyers.