Chris Folk oral history interview 2, 1996 September 16
Dr. Chris Folk, former associate superintendent and longtime employee of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system, discusses his life and work as an educator. After reflecting on his early experiences as the son of a textile mill superintendent in Statesville and Charlotte, N.C., Dr. Folk describes the social and economic shifts that he observed over his lifetime. In particular he notes the changing status of women and an ensuing transformation in family dynamics; major shifts in racial relations; rapid urban and suburban growth; and a flourishing of technological and economic expansion. Dr. Folk characterizes the civil rights movement in Charlotte as causing anger and bitterness on both sides, but also notes that there was a rallying of Charlotteans to a common cause, eventually resulting in improved racial relations. He also notes the impact of national events on local attitudes. From his position as associate superintendent from 1964 to 1992, Dr. Folk reflects on the challenges posed by integration of Charlotte's schools beginning in the 1970s. Dr. Folk describes how the school administration took a variety of approaches to make integration work. Three strategies dominated: the creation of school catchment areas where black and white neighborhoods conjoined that could be naturally integrated; the pairing of schools and busing of children between these schools in different grades; and the movement of black students from heavily concentrated areas of black population to white schools. Dr. Folk notes that there were times when it was difficult to keep the schools open during the 1970s, but that the 1980s saw significant success. He attributes much of this success to the involvement of groups such as the Charlotte Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee, which worked with schools to bring people together. At the same time suburban growth created new challenges to maintaining integration, and Superintendent John Murphy introduced magnet schools as a means of encouraging integration through parent choice.