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Irwin Avenue Open School Records

Filing title: 
Irwin Avenue Open School Records

Irwin Avenue Open School records

Summary Information

J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections, UNC Charlotte
Irwin Avenue Open School (Charlotte, N.C.).
Irwin Avenue Open School records
Date [inclusive]
4.0 Linear feet
Collection contains a diverse assortment of papers concerning the Irwin Avenue Open Elementary School mostly from 1973 to 2004. These records include such things as administrative, statistical and demographic information about the IAOS, promotional materials, papers concerning theories in alternative forms of education (with particular emphasis on the "open school" approach to teaching) and other papers generated by students. Though Irwin Avenue Open School is a public school, it is run in large part as though it were private, and depends largely on parental volunteerism and participation.

Preferred Citation note

Irwin Avenue Open School Records. J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

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Biographical/Historical note

Following a national trend, interest in "open" education began in the Charlotte Mecklenburg school system in the early 1970s, coinciding with the upheavals of court-ordered bussing. At the college level, ideas about open education had been percolating since the 1960's, and there was a heightened interest in innovative educational methods based on a renewed examination of American progressive education of the early 20th century and contemporary British informal schools. In Charlotte, a group of interested parents and educators came together as "People for Open Education" in 1972, with the intent of convincing the school board to create an optional open elementary school. They were united behind the philosophy of open education, believing that education should be more child-oriented and less teacher-directed, it should emphasize discovery in learning and should offer a curriculum that emerges in response to student interests and needs. By April of 1973, the board had approved a plan to establish Charlotte's first optional open elementary school in the building formerly used as Harding High School. Deane Crowell, principal of Beverly Woods Elementary School, was appointed as the principal, and the school was renamed according to its location, "Irwin Avenue Open School." During the next few months Deane and the staff she selected built the foundation of a program which would sustain the school through the next three decades. The initial faculty of twenty five was drawn from a pool of 230 student applicants, and from this pool Crowell was able to choose strong, veteran teachers as well as enthusiastic new teachers. With 2400 applicants and only 600 places, students were assigned to the school by lottery, making Irwin Avenue the first "magnet" school in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, though the term was not applied until much later. Following district policy, the school was required to maintain an integrated student body. The school attracted leaders from a diverse range of Charlottes' political, educational and business communities, including: architect and future mayor Harvey Gantt; president of the UNC system, Dick Spangler; associate editor of the Charlotte Observer, Jack Claiborne; civil rights lawyer, Julius Chambers; and 5 members of the Charlotte Mecklenburg school board. In its early years the school was forced to be very self-sufficient. Teachers and parents salvaged extra furniture and supplies where ever they could find them, painted the walls themselves, and funded their own buses (the latter at a time when many were aggressively opposed to the whole idea of bussing). As Charlotte's first optional school, Irwin Avenue Open School quite clearly piqued parents' interest in educational choice, and within a year three additional optional schools were opened: Elizabeth Open Elementary School, Piedmont Middle School and Myers Park Traditional School (the latter as a response to parental demands for an optional school that did not stress progressive approaches to education). An open component was also established at West High School in the same year. Bill Mauldin was appointed principal at Piedmont Middle School, which became the continuing school for Irwin's rising 6th graders. Sam Haywood was appointed as principal of West Charlotte, succeeding Gerson Stroud. As the principal of West, Mr. Haywood assumed the role of shaping the new open program and was closely identified with it. In addition to the optional schools, open education had something of a general impact on the Charlotte Mecklenburg School system as pockets of principals and teachers adopted the new strategies and central administration created open neighborhood schools; though sometimes they did so more for perceived budgetary advantages than for sound pedagogical reasons. The open school movement in the Charlotte Mecklenburg system has also been home to some important subsidiary developments, most importantly in efforts to serve students with special needs. In 1975 Irwin became the home of the BEH behaviorally and emotionally handicapped) program, enabling BEH students to experience a mainstream classroom and in some cases to permanently rejoin regular school life. Similarly, in 1980 the ESL (English as a Second Language) program was moved into the open schools, bringing with it increased ethnic and cultural diversity. This relationship continued and flourished until about 2000, by which time the ESL population had become too large to contain in one program. In 1992 Irwin became the home of "A Children's Place," a program for homeless children. Such initiative reflected a central theme of open education, namely a respect for diversity and a desire to serve all children. Since the 1990s, changes in the city and in educational theory have undermined the strength of the open program to varying degrees. The rapid expansion of magnet programs under the leadership of Superintendent Murphy created more competition among programs for mobile students and open programs have been forced to adapt, for example by adopting elements of the IB curriculum. In the early 2000s the growing emphasis on neighborhood schools has raised questions about the system's commitment to magnet programs. A particular problem for the open educational philosophy is the growing emphasis on standardized testing. The needs to ascertain academic performance, as well as the use of standardized college admission tests are fundamentally at odds with the ideals of open, flexible and unstructured education; making it difficult for the open schools to maintain their original purpose. However, there remains a strong reservoir of support for the principals of open education in the community-a fact which became clear in 2004 when the Superintendent's office proposed the elimination of the Open Program at all grade levels. The reaction from parents was swift and vociferous and the program was reprieved.

By Emily Stephenson-Green

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Scope and Contents note

Collection contains a wide assortment of papers generated as a result of the transformation of Harding High School into Irwin Avenue Open Elementary School in the 1970s. Open education is an innovative and experimental approach to teaching, developed as an outlet for new theories in education and racial integration. The IAOS Records contain documentation concerning such things as school admission, classroom demographics, educational funding and fundraising, open education theory, student curricula, student writing assignments, school newsletters and newspapers, newspaper clippings, the PTSA, team-teaching, yearbooks, photographs and more. These records span from the founding of IAOS in the 1970s until 2004.

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Arrangement note

Collection is divided into four series. Series I contains written documentation developed by the Irwin Avenue Opens School administration, teachers, students and parents, and is made up of sixty five subseries—arranged alphabetically. Series II contains scrapbooks, and Series III contains photographs. Series III is subdivided into two subseries—the first being photo albums (mounted onto acid-free paper for long term storage), and the second is a selected compilation of loose photographs. Researchers seeking photographs of the history of IAOS should know that one of the best sources of photographic documentation of the IAOS is its annual year-books. Series IV contains photographic negatives. There is also an unprocessed box of audiocassettes and VHS tapes.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections, UNC Charlotte 2008

9201 University City Blvd.
Charlotte, NC, 28223

Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use note

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Emily Stephenson-Green in January 2007.

Processing Information note

Processed by Robert A. McInnes, 2008. Encoded by Robert A. McInnes, 2008.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education.
  • Irwin Avenue Open School (Charlotte, N.C.).


  • Education--Social aspects--North Carolina--Charlotte
  • Educational change--North Carolina--Charlotte
  • Open plan schools--North Carolina--Charlotte

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Collection Inventory

 Series I Documentation 

Box Folder

Admissions (see also "pupil assignment plan") 

1 1

Admissions - Lottery 

1 2

Admissions - Withdrawn/Declined 

1 3


1 4

Building & Grounds 

1 5

Building Community Harmony 1997 

1 6

Calendars 1978-1992 

Box Folder

Calendars 1978-1988 

1 7

Calendar 1990 

1 8

Calendar 1991 

1 9

Calendar 1992 

1 10
Box Folder

Comparable Programs 

1 11


1 12

Cook books 

1 13-14

Cooperative Learning 

1 15

Counts-Scoggins, Dorothy-newspaper clippings 

1 16

Curriculum circa 1979-2000 

1 17

Databased Progress Report 1977 

1 18


1 19

Gingrich, Newt 1996 

1 20

History Committee 

1 21

Interviews with Teachers 1994 

1 22

Irwin Avenue Education is a Family Affair 

1 23

Irwin Update 1990-1994 

1 24

Leadership Team 

1 25

Lego Logo Club 1994 

1 26

Magnet Schools 

1 27

Magnet Schools Task Force 

1 28

Newspaper Clippings 

Box Folder

Newspaper Clippings, 1970s 1970-1979 

1 31

Newspaper Clippings, 1980s 1980-1989 

1 32

Newspaper Clippings, 1990s 1990-1999 

1 33

Newspaper Clippings, 2000s 2000-2009 

1 34

Newspaper Clippings 

1 35
Box Folder

Media Quick List 

1 29


1 30

Odyssey of the Mind 

1 36

Open Education-Articles 

1 37

Open School Advisory Task Force 

1 38

Open School Philosophy 

1 39-40

Open School Philosophy - "Characteristics of Open Education" 

2 1

Panda Parent 1975-1976 

2 2

Panda Preview 1985-1995 

2 3-4

Parent Roster 1996-1998 

2 5-6

Parents & Teachers 

2 7

Partnership Institute 

2 8

Piedmont Open Middle School-Introductory Material 

2 9

Poetry & Prose 

2 10-13


OF12 1


2 14


2 15

Pupil Assignment Plan 1991-1992 

2 16

School-wide Activities 

2 17

Scrapbook Stuff-Historical 

2 18

Self-Study 10 Year Re-evaluation 

2 19

Student Demographics 

2 20

Student Directories 1975-1982, 1987-2004 

2 21-22

Student Handbooks 1992-93, undated 

2 23

Student Introductory Package 1992, 1995 

2 24-25

Student Listings 1989-2004 

2 26-34

Student Listings-ESL 

2 35

Student Opinions of Irwin Avenue Open School 

3 1-5

Student-Parent Handbook 1996-1997 

3 6

Swann v. CMBE 1974 

3 7

"Teacher Aide, Personal Traits Essential for a" 

Scope and Contents note

"Personal Traits Essential for a Teacher Aide"

3 8

Teacher Assistant & Support Personnel 

3 9

Teaching Staff 1973-1984 

3 10

Teaching Teams 

3 11

Team 4 

3 12

Team 4, Bulletins 

3 13

Team 4, Dear Parents 

Scope and Contents note


3 14

Team 4, Media Center 

3 15

Team 4, Minutes 

3 16

Team 4, Musical Notes 

3 17

Team 4, Newsletters 

3 18

Technology in Schools 1993 

3 19

Telephone Information Sheets undated 

3 20

Thirtieth Anniversary 2005 

3 21

T-Shirt Drawing Contest 2000 

3 22

Turner-Dunn, Mary Anne--Dissertation, Re: Open Education? 

3 23-24

Vision/Mission Statement 

3 25

Volunteers at Irwin 

3 26

Yearbooks 1991-2004 

Box Folder

Yearbook 1991-1992 

3 27

Yearbook 1992-1993 

3 28

Yearbook 1994-1995 

3 29

Yearbook 1995-1996 

3 30

Yearbook 1996-1997 

3 31

Yearbook 1997-1998 

3 32

Yearbook 1999-2000 

3 33

Yearbook 2000-2001 

3 34

Yearbook 2002-2003 

3 35

Yearbook 2003-2004 

3 36

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 Series II Scrapbooks 


Scrapbook 1982-1983 


Scrapbook 1983-1984 


Scrapbook 1985-1986 


Scrapbook -- "Deane" (bound in plywood) 1973-1976 


Scrapbook -- "We proclaim June 3, 1976, Deane's Day" 1976 March 03 


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 Series III Photographs 

Photo albums 

Box Folder item

Photo album 1981-1982 

Scope and Contents note

Contents of Photo album 1981-82: Spring Fling, 1982 "Tom Sawyer" Caldwell/Davis Spring Musical, June 1982 Ruth Cohen's Class Awards Day, June 1982 Retirement parties for Ruth Cohen and Oly McLean.

P37 3 P356/1-22

Photo album, 1982-83 1982-1983 

Scope and Contents note

Contents of Photo album 1982-83: K-3 Puppet show (Children's Theatre) Sept. 1982 Old Salem field trip, fall 1982 Camp Thunderbird, 1982 Irwin scenes, 1982 World's Fair, 1982 February 1982 Tet Oriental New Year, Feb. 1983 Characters, 1983 Volunteer Appreciation, April 1983 Story Book characters--Media assignments, April 1983 Science Fair, April 1983

P37 4 P356/23-97

Photo album 1984-1985 

Scope and Contents note

Contents of Photo album 1984-85: Where can a family of four eat for $2.00 Dime-a Dip! Good friends, good food Fall bulb planting Irwin Family gets ready to bloom Neal Tarleton prepares feast for planters Irwin students sing at United Way Breakfast Students are in tune with Thomas Moore

P37 5 P356/98-112

"Children of the World" festival 

P37 6 P356/113-142

"Faces of Irwin" 

Scope and Contents note

Contents of "Faces of Irwin": Irwin teachers Music Camp Thunderbird Art Odyssey of the Mind International Night Science Special Studies Family Skate Night Award-winning PTA Oak Leaf Award Irwin Olympics Family Math Spring Fling Cafeteria

P37 7 P356/143-237

"Irwin Avenue is a Family Affair" 

Scope and Contents note

Contents of "Irwin Avenue is a Family Affair": Parent sessions Family Skate Night international night Spring Read-in Tutorial programs Special friends Green Circle

P37 8 P356/238-263

"Lego-Logo Club" 1994 

P37 9 P356/264-277

"Merger" 1977 

P37 10 P356/278-293


Box Folder item

Building Construction 1994-1995 

P37 11 P356/294-307

Class photos (group photos) 

Box Folder item

Ms. Frederick's Kindergarten 1986-1987 

P37 11 P356/308

Ms. Green, K 1990 

P37 11 P356/309
Box Folder

Nash/Holmes/Moore/Mara, K-1 1997-1998 

P37 11
Box Folder item

Ms. Dappert & Ms. Lewis, Grades 2 & 3 1997-1998 

P37 11 P356/311

Mrs. Bockweg & Ms. Graves, Grades 3 & 4 1997-1998 

P37 11 P356/312

Mr. Michaels & Mrs. Billingsley, Grades 4 & 5 1997-1998 

P37 11 P356/313

Mrs. Therrell & Mr. Franklin 1997-1998 

P37 11 P356/314

Mrs. Taylor & Mrs. Velasques, Grades 4 & 5 1997-1998 

P37 11 P356/315

Unidentified and undated group photos 

P37 11 P356/316-333

Keebler Tree planting 2000 

P37 11 P356/334-349

Media Center 

P37 11 P356/350-351

Staff photographs 

Box Folder item

Black, Cassandra 

P37 12 P356/352

Blakney, Cindy 

P37 12 P356/353

Bockweg, Lucy 

P37 12 P356/354

Cain, Susan 

P37 12 P356/355

Crawford, Bertha 

P37 12 P356/356

Davidson, Donna 

P37 12 P356/357

Fink, Sharon 

P37 12 P356/358

Frey, Courtney 

P37 12 P356/359

Gile, Neil 

P37 12 P356/360

Godbalt, Larail 

P37 12 P356/361

Graham, Judy 

P37 12 P356/362

Hallas, Coach 

P37 12 P356/363

Jardin, Sam 

P37 12 P356/364

Johnson, Alesa 

P37 12 P356/365

Johnson, Marselene 

P37 12 P356/366

Julian, Edna 

P37 12 P356/367

Jung, Deborah 

P37 12 P356/368

Lewis, Louise 

P37 12 P356/369

McDonald, Mary Ann 

P37 12 P356/370

Newland, Matt 

P37 12 P356/371

Pierce, Amy 

P37 12 P356/372

Posey, Otisquest 

P37 12 P356/373

Rhyne, Theresa 

P37 12 P356/374

Reyna, Andreina 

P37 12 P356/375

Sawyer, Carol 

P37 12 P356/376

Schatz, Amy 

P37 12 P356/377

Shaver, Kim 

P37 12 P356/378

Staton, Beverly 

P37 12 P356/379
Box Folder item

Stephenson-Green, Emily--Retirement 2001 

P37 12 P356/380-387

Student photos 

P37 12 P356/388-391

University Park Elementary School--First Day 1994 

P37 12 P356/392-399

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 Series IV Photographic negatives of the Keebler Tree Planting and of School Staff members 


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