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Analyzing the Renaissance West Community Initiative, the bumps along the road and its successes

Excited families head back to Renaissance West for the first day of school.
Ann Doss Helms
Excited families head back to Renaissance West for the first day of school.

Almost 15 years ago, Charlotte’s civic leaders and neighborhood activists created the Renaissance West Community Initiative with the vision of revitalizing a west Charlotte neighborhood through an education village approach. This initiative is part of a national movement — and represents one of Charlotte's most ambitious efforts to break the cycle of poverty.

A 2013 school bond package included $30 million to build the Renaissance West school. It wouldn’t open until August of 2017, and by that time two more superintendents had left CMS. Leadership churn — in the district and at the new school — would become a distinguishing characteristic of the partnership between CMS and the Renaissance West coalition of poverty.

The school is designated a STEAM academy. That stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math. In some schools that label signals a robust menu of extras, such as robotics and science labs. But Renaissance West, which serves students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, has struggled with the basics. When it opened, the state reported that only one-third of kindergarteners arrived with the skills they needed. And at the end of that year, only 28% of the older students passed state reading exams.

On the next Charlotte Talks, we speak with WFAE’s Ann Doss Helms on her three-part series “Renaissance West: A slow rebirth,” as well as community members, the current principal of the school and the leaders of the Renaissance West initiative.


Laura Yates Clark, president & CEO United Way of Greater Charlotte
Ann Doss Helms, WFAE education reporter
Mack McDonald, head of Renaissance West Community Initiative
Dwight Thompson, principal of Renaissance West

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Sarah Delia is a Senior Producer for Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Sarah joined the WFAE news team in 2014. An Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist, Sarah has lived and told stories from Maine, New York, Indiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. Sarah received her B.A. in English and Art history from James Madison University, where she began her broadcast career at college radio station WXJM. Sarah has interned and worked at NPR in Washington DC, interned and freelanced for WNYC, and attended the Salt Institute for Radio Documentary Studies.