Diversity in the Classroom

Camilla Cohee, Santa Barbara News-Press, Feb. 24

Harding Elementary School PTA President Meredith Brace has led a battle for several years to stop her white neighbors from transferring out of the heavily Latino Westside campus.

Now she’s joining them, saying she’s not willing to make her son the guinea pig any longer.

The Braces are like hundreds of other local families who, over the years, have sought transfers out of neighborhood schools that are filled with mostly poor Latino children.

“I’m gone,” said Mrs. Brace, who on Tuesday requested and was granted a transfer for her first-grade son out of Harding and into the more affluent Hope School, within the nearby Hope Elementary District. “I’ve just got to the point where, ‘Sorry guys, I need what’s best for my kids and there’s a school that’s two miles away that offers all those things I want.’ ”

About 40 percent of the 462 students at Hope School are there on transfers from the Goleta or Santa Barbara elementary districts.

Some school officials and neighborhood families view Mrs. Brace’s departure as a red flag. If someone who has advocated so fiercely against white flight won’t stick it out, who will?

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Harding is 90 percent Latino, 6 percent white. Hope is 73 percent white, 20 percent Latino. Hope families have raised enough money every year to keep on staff an array of specialists in art, music, computers and science—all the “extras” Mrs. Brace wants for her son, who is 7, and her 4-year-old daughter.

{snip}

Harding parent Cristina Hernandez said she’s seen the school’s racial mix change, but that Mrs. Brace shouldn’t give up.

“I’ve been here 14 years now, and all of a sudden we turned around and all the white parents had gone,” she said, speaking in Spanish. “They don’t want their children side by side with our children. (Mrs. Brace) shouldn’t leave. She should stay and keep fighting.”

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