Half of the minority students in our school system don't graduate. The system is slashing programs for gifted children, and middle-class parents are fleeing. Half the kids left in our school system are now poor. All of the above is endangering what little stability is left in the county's property values and making Charlotte a tough sell to new business.
But as far as I know, none of this has ever publicly reduced a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools parent to tears or served as a call to battle. So what would?
The chosen name for the new high school on Bailey Road in Cornelius is causing outrage in North Mecklenburg, and some parents plan to fight back.
They say they can't believe that the school board voted 7-1 to name the school W.A. Hough High, after W.A. Hough, a much-loved former principal of North Mecklenburg High School who led a fearful student body through racial integration.
Hough's history isn't the problem. It's his last name. How would you pronounce H-o-u-g-h High?
You could assume it rhymes with "rough," "tough" or "enough." Or you could just as logically assume it rhymes with "though" or "dough" -- as in "ho," a common slang term that is short for the word "whore."
And that, say area parents, is the problem.
One parent named Janet who was interviewed on NewsTalk 1110 WBT's Charlotte Morning News last week broke down in tears as she relived the horror of learning the newly chosen name of the new high school.
"My first reaction was I just started bawling," she said, choking up again at the memory. "Tears came to my eyes. My sweet little girl, without a doubt, will be subject to the word 'ho' during her high school career."
The problem, area parents say, is in how the name might be misperceived or mispronounced, either deliberately or innocently.
"She'd been doing gymnastics, she'd like to be a cheerleader, all the girls that play soccer, they are going to have to have H-o-u-g-h [on their uniforms], which I know, I'm a college graduate, it is pronounced 'huff,' but there are so many people that do not know this," said Janet. "Our community definitely knows that it is pronounced 'huff' but when we go to state [games or competitions] or anything like that we're going to have serious issues, and I was just like, 'Oh my God, they can't do this to our children.'"
Laugh if you will, but some area parents are dead serious about this. They even fear the name of the school could lead to violence and bloodshed. In a letter to the school board asking newly elected members to reconsider the name, the undersigned made this argument:
"With the potential usage of this name to mock and ridicule students at this new school, we believe there [are] some legal risks, which could negatively affect CMS in the future, if student(s) should get physically or emotionally affected as a result," the letter reads. "Although it is commonplace for rival schools to banter, having 'Hough High' on band uniforms, cheerleading outfits, letterman jackets and sports gear is asking for bantering on a personal and distasteful level. In the 'old days' a fist fight would settle a score, but unfortunately today guns, knives and other instruments are all too common and without spelling it out we know how certain pronunciations of 'Hough High' directed at our students could be a catalyst to create some unwanted situations and legal risks for CMS."
"We're just hoping that we can teach our children that we can come together for our children's sake to do what is best for them," Janet continued. "That is what Mr. Hough would want. He was a man devoted to his students and known for his fairness, respect, dignity and courage."
Actually, no one knows what Hough would want. He's been dead since 1998, which doesn't help matters. Adding fuel to the fire are claims by parents that a naming committee and the school system didn't really consult them and settled on the name before the public comment period, a modus operandi that sounds like it's straight out of the school system's standard playbook.
Outgoing school board member Larry Gauvreau, the only member to vote against the name, tried to institute a 30-day waiting period but was rebuffed by the rest of the board.
So for now, Hough High it is. Fighting Trojans, anyone?