Mailbag: Spicy electronic letters on cross stitching, our schools and fatherhood

Mailbag: Spicy electronic letters on cross stitching, our schools and fatherhood
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This is part of an ongoing series titled Mailbag, items readers submit via email or our feedback form (not social media, everybody already sees that). We get a ton of feedback. This is not close to everything (it’s about 4%), but it’s a good sample.


“Is it weird I am enjoying and even looking forward to your product placement paragraphs as much as your stories? Well done, CA. Well done!” – A

“Ok so real life, I am making that unfortunate drive down I85-S to Atlanta and won’t be making the return drive anytime soon (aka I’m moving). Trust me, I love Charlotte too (y’all bleed Charlotte love… it’s awesome). If it wasn’t for this whole promotion, career growth within a great company thing, I’d stay here forever. That being said, do y’all know anything like the Charlotte Agenda in Atlanta? One last thing, yall have done a really good job incorporating sponsored content without seeming to pushy. I work in advertising and have followed you from day 1. I was curious about how yall were going to generate revenue. I am sure there are big plans in the future, but the subtle changes at the start of this year were a good call. Keep rocking it.” – A

In response to Katie’s newsletter intro on February 17

“On February 17, Ms. Levans delivers what I consider to be a ‘spot on’ assessment of mediocrity in our beautiful city of Charlotte. I would ask, however, that she consider applying her thoughts to a broader audience – this beautiful country that we call our own. As a Corporate “Manager of Others”, I find that the fear of offending colleagues often puts us at odds with striving for excellence. The pervasive attitude that I observe in my daily worklife reflects that which I see in everyday life – an unwillingness (or refusal) to request, and then hold one another accountable for, being the best that we can be. No longer is the strive for excellence seen as commendable. I fear many of us have been conditioned to settle for status quo, all the while anticipating and demanding a pass with regard to reward for a job which exceeds expectations. To my fellow corporate wonks and to those with whom I interact at places like the Teeter, or SouthPark Mall, or Charlotte Douglas International Airport – be proud to stand out among your peers. Strive to raise the proverbial bar on performance. I am no wise sage, but would ask that you consider my analogy to a colleague struggling with the fact that she had been called out on ‘making others look bad by working so hard’ – Always play YOUR game. Even if you hold back for the sake of not exposing the weakness of others, that will not allow them to ‘up’ their game. And in the end, you will BOTH suffer. A willingness to settle for mediocrity will be the death of us here in Charlotte and anywhere else that our global footprint might touch. Thank you, Ms. Levans, for calling it out. You have exceeded my expectations.” – A

In response to: 10 places to spot a Panther in its natural habitat

“Just read your piece on where to spot a Panther, and I had to respond! I had lunch at JJ’s Red Hots in Dilworth today and we saw Greg Olsen dining with his daughter.” – A

In response to: 16 spring children’s consignment sales around Charlotte

“I enjoyed reading your article about Childrens consignment sales. I am all about consignment shopping but think the best sale is the Charlotte Mothers of Multiples Sale (CMOMS). They have spring and fall sales every year. Check it out and you might want to include them in your next listing. Their spring sale was 2/6.” – L

In response to: 5 reasons Charlotte desperately needs a cross-stitching shop (and no I’m not joking)

“Hey Mary! Another twenty-something cross-stitcher here 🙂 I just want to let you know there’s a cross-stitch shop on Celanese in Rock Hill. I know it isn’t Charlotte and honestly the demographic is mostly older women, but they have an amazing floss and linen/aida selection and their patterns aren’t half-bad (though they aren’t subversive – but sometimes you just want something more traditional if you’re making something for your grandma). I’ve been a few times and they’re always nice and never bitchy like those needlepoint ladies. I will admit that I tend to buy 90% of my supplies online or at Joann Fabrics, but I would definitely shop at a younger-focused craft store if there was one here!” – E

“Is something wrong with Mary Gross? I am not snarking. EVERY article that she writes has a tone… Don’t slam down businesses on a public forum because YOU had a bad experience. That is what YELP was designed for. I am also young, most likely her age, and offended by her inappropriateness.” – A

“I am sure a few people will be frustrated by Mary calling out the needlepoint store, but I had a similar experience several years ago there. I even called it the “right” name – needlepoint! I said I wanted to learn how to do it and get started, asked if she had good beginner projects. She showed me nothing and discouraged me from starting because it is an “expensive” hobby. I’m happy Mary called them out.” – A

In response to: The introvert’s guide to social Charlotte

“Being an extrovert, it helps to understand the differences! I read CA for local news and The Skimm for national news every morning with my coffee – I am probably one of your older readers… 58, but someone who loves this city and loves learning all about the exciting changes! We have 3 young men (and a niece who went to Furman with you – she is younger but remembers you). One son has just moved himself and his company back to Charlotte at age 30, and the other two, 28 and 24, I hope make it back from NYC and Atlanta someday soon. I like learning all the new Charlotte happenings from CA to entice them! I wanted to give you my background so you will better understand my perspective (someone who has been there as an extrovert and hopefully has learned a little along the way…). I love that you try to balance local news, restaurants and breweries, new developments, interesting local heroes, the dating world, and activities for meeting people. I appreciate the depth and breadth of your articles in your limited space. I just wanted to encourage you to continue the breadth and not to get too sucked into the alcohol promotion that America is overly focused on. As you well know as an introvert and someone who met your fiancé on line, bars and breweries are not always places where real relationships are formed. A fun diversion, yes, but also something that gets far too much press in our society. I wonder if its prominence and priority is really promoting what is beneficial to our own personal growth and to our development as a city as well. Bars sure brings in revenue but I think it is great when you support other activities as well, that encourage growth, knowledge, and friendships based on common interests. Keep up the balance. Charlotte needs you! This is a great resource :)” – M

“Never before have I written in response to an article but I had to say fine work and thank you on the Introvert’s Guide to Social Charlotte. Me and my hubby are introverts (ok, bordering on hermit). I find Charlotte super overwhelming sometimes. Your article filled me with glee and gave me a few new ideas.” – S

“I’m certified to facilitate Myers-Briggs tests and workshops and am excited to see you write about it! Not a surprise that your initial results weren’t the “true you.” Happens all the time. A big reason why some people think the MBTI is a joke is because it’s rarely administered properly. Companies and other organizations, in an effort to save time and money, will often just give people their test results and move on without an “interpretation” — a one-on-one (or group, in some cases) deeper discussion about the types. It’s in this interpretation that people often find their true type. Most company-sponsored MBTIs are also administered by non-certified people. Thus, you get results on paper that sort of fit you, but don’t at all explore the depth and detail (and power) of the various types. People who take the MBTI also tend to answer the questions based on how they think OTHER people would describe them (or to please their boss or spouse or whatever). It was cool that you acknowledged this in your piece (describing who you thought you had to be in college to fit in).” – R

“Loved the piece on introverts! It’s so important to understand personalities within a working team. My team for example is made up of 5 individuals, heavy on the extroverted side. It can be a challenge in meetings to remember that just because an introvert isn’t speaking up, doesn’t mean they don’t have an opinion on the topic at hand. NPR posted a great piece this morning on how parents and teachers can encourage introverted children: here.” – F

In response to: Why isn’t Charlotte as obsessed with the Checkers as I am?

“I used to be obsessed with Checkers hockey as well. So obsessed, in fact, that I have a Checkers VIP card which gets me free cover to Prohibition for… ever (not seeing an expiration and can’t remember the last time I went to Prohibition). Any ways, my obsession unfortunately ended when the Checkers left uptown. I used to love getting off work, grabbing dinner or drinks at either Queen City Q or somewhere else nearby and heading to the game then walking home. I get that not everyone lives uptown but it made for a full night’s experience. I even took executives to games!” – A

In response to Katie’s newsletter intro on February 10

“Pretty sure multiple-account Instagram is peak #firstworldproblems, and I couldn’t be happier that it’s been solved. Can’t decide if I’m more impressed that we’ve fixed that issue, or that someone imagined what would happen if Michael Bay created his own Pilates machine and gave it an appropriately-Transformers-themed name? Bravos all around!” – L

In response to: Dadpreneurship: Starting a business and starting a family, at the same time

“Excellent excellent excellent article. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Keep up the good work and make sure you consciously plan in time for reflection (eliminate technology and distractions and just think for 30-45 minutes). It will do wonders.” – A

“Appreciated your ‘Dadpreneurship’ article this morning. I can relate to the family / work tension – some days it is managed well and may even feel effortless, though most days it takes a ton of intentionality to ensure that work does not become king. I have been enjoying Charlotte Agenda. You and your team should remain encouraged that you are putting forward a genuinely innovative product for the people of Charlotte – helping make Charlotte truly home. God, Family, Work: these are my ordered priorities and am daily grateful for my wife who helps me create harmony within the chaos. Let’s make our lives count now and not have ‘those same regrets’ in our old age.” – B

“Love what you wrote about today in the CA. You are so right about there being very little discussion on balancing fatherhood and a career. I see, hear, and read a lot about how to balance motherhood and a career (though none of it makes it any easier, I think). Honestly, in my humble and feminist opinion, I think it would be a lot easier on both partners in a relationship if we talked about fatherhood more. Of course dads want a fulfilling and rewarding career. Or course they want to spend time with their partners and children and friends, too. There needs to be more space for men to talk about these things, what works for them, and how we can all lean in and help each other. I think it would be a lot easier for us all – men, women, parents and otherwise – to balance our passions and obligations if we helped each other out and talked about this stuff openly. I was blessed to have a father who worked hard to provide for us and would still walk us home from the bus stop when he could. He and my mom both played caretaker and career climber, and saw the value in both roles. Sounds to me like you are the type of guy who shows up 100% for every person in your life. While it’s hard to balance it all, I know the people you care about appreciate you and what you do. Thanks for your honesty and vulnerability. I love Charlotte Agenda, and I’m a huge fan of what you guys do.” – A

“I loved your piece about Fatherhood and Entrepreneurship. It nice to hear a man talk about how all consuming both of them are (as well as rewarding). I wish you guys did have a Sheryl Sandburg, but I feel like instead of “leaning in” you need to learn to “lean back” (you can even have that cheesy rap song as your rally cry). You are right–the idea of balance is as over-rated as it is trite. Regardless of gender, your feelings are largely universal. I am a business owner and a mom of small kids. It’s hard as s—. I love my work, and I also love watching a little one get her mind blown by the simplest thing. I don’t think it’s about balance, it’s about a range of experiences that makes a good life.” – A

“Hi Ted, Moxie.” – J


In response to: Moses’s story

“I am not a member and now never plan to be after reading Moses’s story. I live near where that man stands on the corner and screams the most discussing and offensive words. Calling women sitting at the stop light F-ing white bitches. And many other terrible things. I have personally called the police on him and have had him removed from the street corner. He is a sick man and hurts people everyday with his words.” – B

In response to: Is there a Charlotte private school advantage in the college admissions process?

“It is absurd to write an entire article about college admissions comparing and contrasting attendance at private and public high school and not address the elephant in the room: money. Family income, or affluence, or wealth – whatever you want to call it – is what we are really talking about when we compare the ‘experience’ at a private school to a public one. While it is true that ‘private school students are… more likely to be completely surrounded by highly motivated, college-bound peers,’ the real underlying factor here is the community’s relative privilege and the students’ access to resources (college prep courses, private tutors, museum visits, getting to volunteer rather than work, having books at home, well-educated parents, and basically a lifetime of cultural experiences since toddler-hood, etc.). So, yes, there is an advantage to growing up wealthy when it comes to college admissions. Does it matter which high school you attend? To a certain extent, but not as much as your family having money! To even write about public vs. private high school as a ‘getting-my-kid-into-college’ decision seems like an odd choice for a Charlotte Agenda article, since the proportion of Charlotte households (and, following from that, I’d guess Agenda readers) for whom it is a financially viable option is so small. (So, maybe we can go ahead and admit that this article was just an ad for Trivette’s company?) If y’all are up for covering higher ed, perhaps take a look at the student loan crisis, undermatching, or the graduation gap for rich and poor kids. Here’s a great place to start: ‘If you compare college students with the same standardized-test scores who come from different family backgrounds, you find that their educational outcomes reflect their parents’ income, not their test scores.’ That’s from a fascinating article in the NY Times magazine about people working to change it. Maybe that kind of stuff is too macro for your concept; y’all are looking for the ‘Charlotte’ angle. Perhaps just try some profiles of local students in cool programs at the various Charlotte Colleges & Universities? I love you guys, but I work in higher ed and the one or two stabs you’ve made at covering our sector have been pretty lackluster. (Cardinal error: comparing non-profit and for-profit schools without noting the difference.) Just a little feedback. Do it well, or maybe hold off. Thanks for all you do!” – L

In response to: Big changes are coming to Packard Place (including a new name)

“As for me, I wish they were still selling Packards there. It was a really fine automobile, but life moves on. As for piece about Charlotte growth, I think we should remember not all there new folks and jobs are going to be high income, or well paying. I think that is where the real challenge will be focused (in my opinion). I am in your boat, but not always in complete agreement.” – T

In response to: Charlotte’s school board is setting itself up to fail. Here’s what they should do instead

“I write to respectfully disagree with some of the assertions in your editorial piece on the CMS school board and the issue of school assignment that ran in today’s Charlotte Agenda. Your depiction of the viewpoint of suburban parents is, frankly, offensive. As one such parent, I can assure you that the current concerns over forced busing are neither a ‘rallying cry’ nor a ‘scare tactic.’ Parents are legitimately concerned that forced busing is an option being considered by the school board. Representatives of organizations such as OneMeck have publicly voiced support for a return to forced busing. Requests have been made, including by some school board members, for busing to be taken off the table. To date, that request has not been met; in fact, policy committee chairman Tom Tate stated last week that he specifically wanted to keep all options open, including busing. Do I think that forced busing is the direction in which the school board will go? I do not. However, it is not hard to understand why many parents are concerned about it. (By the way, affluent parents are not the only ones who are concerned. Some school board members are getting emails from parents of students at high poverty schools who are equally concerned about and opposed to busing.) There is no conspiracy among suburban parents to use the issue of busing as a ‘scare tactic’ or distraction; rather, most parents I’ve talked to wish the school board would come out with a clear statement about it so that everyone can move on and we can turn the focus to finding other solutions to this problem. Furthermore, many of us suburban parents support efforts to help improve the education experience for economically disadvantaged students. Support for neighborhood schools and for improving the academic performance of economically disadvantaged students do not have to be mutually exclusive. We are not ignoring ‘our city’s responsibility to every child,’ a responsibility that the school system cannot possibly bear alone. Reasonable and compassionate minds can and do disagree about how to improve the academic performance of children living in poverty and how best to give them the tools and opportunity to escape poverty as adults. I envy you in your belief that the answer is ‘clear’ and that student assignment is that shining answer. My research suggests that the best course of action is anything but clear. If you have access to hard data that shows that economically disadvantaged children are better off in diverse schools, please share it. I, and many other parents and citizens, would be very interested in seeing it. What we are not interested in is decisions with real consequences for all of the children of our community being made on the basis of blanket assertions that have insufficient empirical evidence to back them up. Some sort of school reassignment may very well have a place in helping improve the education of poor and minority children in our community. But please don’t vilify those of us who believe that preserving the choice to attend a neighborhood school has a place too.” – C

“I also appreciate you putting yourself out there with that piece today for CMS. However, it’s quite off base in one major, major area when you make your statement, “a political body is never going to have the spine to do what needs to be done. That’s what a superintendent is for.” Let me remind you of what’s on the CMS website as the role of this elected body:
Responsibilities of the Board of Education. The nine-member Board of Education is the governing body of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, with five primary responsibilities:
– Employ the superintendent
– Establish policy
– Determine annual operating and capital budgets
– Approve student-assignment boundaries
– Oversee the management of the school district’s major systems, including budget and finance, curriculum and instruction, personnel and auxiliary services
We elect leaders to lead and make the tough decisions. We don’t elect a bureaucrat to tell us what’s in our best interest and then ask our elected officials to hide behind that decision. The elected officials, NOT the superintendant, have the final say and they always will.” – A

“My major concern is your insistence in making it an ‘us vs. them’ issue. The people who are joining the argument against ‘forced busing’ are not just ‘affluent, suburban parents.’ At the Ballantyne Breakfast meeting last Saturday, McCray stated that parents from low-performing schools were ALSO reaching out and stating they do NOT want busing. There are parents from all socioeconomic classes and all races joining the argument. You state ‘forced busing’ is a ‘scare tactic’ but certain members of the board (1 in particular actually, who happens to be white I may add – so your ‘racial divide’ story line, again, is inaccurate) refuse to take it off the table of options, allowing the hysteria to continue instead of allowing the community to come together and unite in the single goal of helping these low performing schools. I am also offended by your statement that the position against forced busing ‘ignores our city’s responsibility to every child, not just children of privilege.’ If you would spend some time looking at the Facebook pages that have popped up, we are working together to try to find BETTER solutions. We are not ignoring nor denying the fact that low performing schools exist. We simply want to find the best solution for ALL children. Busing, for many, many reasons, will be to the detriment of ALL children. Here are a small sample of reasons why: hour long (or longer) bus rides to and from school extend an already long day for young children. Less time to get home and concentrate on homework. Inability to participate in extracurricular activities (no rides home). With more buses on the road, significantly more traffic in Charlotte (which is already a major problem here). Spending more hours on a bus increases the risk of bus accidents and injuring our children. Expecting a large group of young kids to sit, quietly, and behave for an hour bus ride home after they’ve been asked to sit quietly and behave the previous 8 hours is in my opinion unrealistic – you are asking for major behavioral issues for a bus driver who is supposed to be concentrating on driving a very long distance through a lot of traffic. Personally, I have a Kindergartener within CMS. Our school is currently approximately 1 mile from our home. The bus he is assigned to already arrives at 7 a.m. (for a 7:45 a.m. start). We have had serious issues with the bus being consistently late in the mornings and afternoons. There is even one example where the bus had not even shown up at the elementary school to pick the kids up and they were all having to sit in the gym until they found an alternate solution to get them home. No one called parents in this situation (transportation department or school). Finally, when the bus was 20 minutes late, I called the school to find out where my son was. Can you imagine my panic not knowing where my 5 year old was and if he was safe?? After that instance, there were major behavioral issues on the bus where the bus driver was literally turning red in the face screaming at the children each time she opened the door to let my child off the bus. They ended up banning any talking on his bus and had another person sit on the bus to hand out pink slips to anyone who talked. The pink slips were a detention from the bus. This is a ONE MILE ride from my house. And I’m supposed to believe that they will safely and effectively get my child to a school 10-15 miles away? In future articles, I ask that you not try to make it an ‘us vs. them’ story and pit the community against each other. This will not be helpful and is not what is happening. We are all here, ready to unite and band together, to make this a great city and a wonderful place to raise our children.” – L

“Kudos on your proposal for CMS! Well done and well written. As a firm public school supporter, (we have two children in elementary school and another to join them), I appreciate your logic and candor. We are firmly committed to improving the quality and diversity of our school system. I might add the following suggestions to the list for the board and future superintendent to consider:
(1) Stop trying to make one solution work for every school. CMS is simply too big to make a single solution work across the board. Instead, focus on a phase approach, beginning with the center city schools. The proximity of so many neighborhood school facilities to one another makes the forced busing complaint moot. Still a big hill to climb, but a little more scalable than the CMS mountain.
(2) Leverage the PTAs at high performing schools. Behind every successful school is a network of committed parents ensuring that any shortfalls from the system are met, whether by providing necessary funding, buying equipment, volunteering in the classrooms, etc. Talk to these parents. Find out from them what they think a high performing school needs and what it would take to make them comfortable enough to move their own children to a new school. Which leads me to the third point:
(3) Change what we mean by diversity. Again, I am fully committed to a racially and socioeconomic balanced school system. But we are kidding ourselves if we think just making the numbers balanced means success. The reality is that each school needs to have a core demographic of middle to upper class families willing to commit their resources (and I mean all resources- financial, time, opportunity, experience and education) to the school. Without a strong parent population base, the schools will fail, bc CMS simply can’t meet all the needs of our children alone, financially or otherwise. We should make sure each school has a solid percentage of committed parents who have these resources to help the new schools get on their feet. But this should not be done by forcing busing. If we focus on smaller segments of the city, one at a time, and if we get some strong community leaders to really rally the parent population, my belief is that we can make the dial move. Parents that choose public school generally believe in what we are trying to do. They just want to make sure their own children won’t be adversely impacted in a low performing school. So let’s make these schools more attractive to these committed parents so they will be more willing to move their children, and their support, to a new school. People want to stay with what’s familiar. You get a critical mass of families committed to be the PTA and board at each school, I suspect other committed parents will be more willing to follow.” – N

“So, just my two cents for what they are worth. Thanks for giving me a forum to express them. This issue weighs heavily on my mind. I hate to hear all the negative press about CMS and the school board. Yes, there are serious issues and we have a horribly tough road in front of us, but to those who say CMS is a widespread failure, that is both inaccurate and ill-formed, and does a grave disservice to the multitude of administrators, staff, families and students that work tirelessly and at great personal cost to ensure ALL children have access to a quality education.” – B

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