The fight to save Morgan School in Charlotte’s Historic Cherry community
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (WBTV) – Neighbors in one of Charlotte’s oldest communities are ready to take on members of the Charlotte Mecklenburg School District School Board during its Tuesday night reunion.
Residents of the Cherry neighborhood fear board members are selling a school they’ve been asking to own for more than 30 years. The Cherry Community Organization wants to buy the Morgan School. The school was built in 1925 for black students.
“We say it’s our turn now,” said Dr. Sylvia Bittle Patton, resident of Native Cherry. “And we are able to design school programs that work for our community without someone telling us what should be there. “
Members of the CMS Board of Directors will vote on whether or not to sell its surplus properties.
Morgan School is on this list. Community organization Cherry doesn’t want a new owner to take over. The concern is that they will destroy the character of the building. It has been designated a local historic monument.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime,” said Bittle-Patton. “We can’t ring that bell – once we get in there and changes are made that are inconsistent with historic character – we lose that opportunity.”
CMS board member Thelma Byers-Bailey has been contacted by several people asking her to preserve the Morgan School. She believes that her colleagues have a unique mission.
“For me, this is an opportunity for CMS to step on the right side of history,” said Thelma Byers-Bailey, CMS board member. “Rather than being part of something that harms the community. We have the opportunity to restore this community.
Berlina Tolbert is also fighting for the Morgan School. She grew up in the Cherry district. She moved to Hollywood to star in the sitcom The Jeffersons. She played Jenny. She returns to fight for the history of her neighborhood and her school.
“Your heritage is important to your children,” said Berlinda Tolbert, resident of Native Cherry. “If your kids don’t know – understand what you’ve been through and how you got to where you are now – they have no value in that.”
Neighbors believe that since Preservation North Carolina decided to work on the Morgan School restoration, there should be no need to bring the school to market.
“The school should remain in the neighborhood for residents of the Cherry community,” said Barbara Rainey, vice president of the Cherry community organization. “Those for whom it was built and for us to manage what has to happen at school.”
The organization has big plans for the school that will help the community.
“It will include health and wellness,” Bittle-Patton said. “This will include academic enrichment, enrichment after school. It will also include activities for the elderly.
CMS Board member Carol Sawyer represents the region. She says she supports the sale of surplus properties in the district. She says that won’t stop the Cherry community organization from buying the school. She also says that the district can insert language into the agreement that can tell the owner what they are and are not allowed to do with the building. Sawyer wants the school to be restored.
The Cherry Community Organization is doing all its homework to prepare. The building has been empty since 2017. The organization knows that work will have to be done.
“We have great funders lining up to say get school,” Bittle-Patton said. “And we’ll get through it for you.”
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