Dr. Timisha Barnes-Jones and the Small Victories of West Charlotte High

“Everybody wants happiness, nobody wants pain, but you can’t have a rainbow without a little rain.


We’ve all heard this aphorism at one point or another. Perhaps it’s so popular because it speaks to the universal truth of balancing the good and the bad. This is the case for West Charlotte High School. In the past, West Charlotte has seen a few rainbows and a lot of rain, but recently, the ratio has evened. Dr. Timisha Barnes-Jones is one of the forces behind this school’s blooming rainbow.

The Impact of Segregation
The impact of segregation is the rain part. In previous blogs, we’ve talked about how segregation by race and income affects social mobility. Segregation by race and income within schools affects academic performance. West Charlotte has a complicated history with segregation. Founded in 1938 as the second high school for African Americans in Charlotte, progressive politicians pushed to desegregate the school in the 1970s (De la Canal and Gibbs). The effort was highly successful, and West Charlotte was considered a national model for integration. However, in 1999, schools were released from their integration mandate, and court order busing ceased. This led to the current state of re-segregation in CMS. According to the Leading on Opportunity report, “A third of the 168 schools in the system are segregated by poverty, half are segregated by race and a fifth are hyper-segregated, meaning that 90 percent of their students are from a particular race.” The impact of segregation shows at West Charlotte; in 2002, less than two-thirds of the staff were properly certified, and the school was consistently ranked as one of the lowest-performing schools in the state (Danis).

Dr. Timisha Barnes-Jones
Ten years later, the rainbow started to appear. Dr. Timisha Barnes-Jones became co-principal of West Charlotte in 2013, then sole principal in 2015. Since her time at West Charlotte, the graduation rate has risen from 54 percent to 88 percent, and the school improved from a grade of D to C in one year according to a Davidson College article. Dr. Barnes-Jones has executed these objectives through heartfelt action. With her love of music, she’s pushed to expand West Charlotte’s arts program. She also stresses the importance of considering students’ mental health and home lives when assessing their academic performance. With this approach, she’s certainly made things click. Due to the school’s success, she was named 2018 CMS principal of the year. In response to the recognition, she said, “Some students are one caring adult away from being a success. I had those people who believed in me and I’m happy to give back in that way” (“Dr. Timisha Barnes-Jones”).

In the metaphor of the rainbow and the rain, Dr. Barnes-Jones is the sun. At the same time, West Charlotte still has a way to go. Only 50 percent of students are proficient in reading and math, compared to the goal of 90 percent (De la Canal and Gibbs). However, it is crucial to look at where we started and measure progress from there, rather than looking ahead and fixating on how distant our goals seem. You can’t have a rainbow without rain; you can’t have progress without something to overcome.


  • Danis, Ross. “The Story of This Charlotte High School Tells a Larger Tale.” UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 12 Jan. 2018, ui.uncc.edu/story/color-and-character-pamela-grundy-west-charlotte-high.
  • De la Canal, Nick, and Tim Gibbs. “West Charlotte High School Celebrates 80 Years.” WFAE 90.7, Charlotte, North Carolina, 9 Nov. 2018.
  • “Dr. Timisha Barnes-Jones: ‘I Want to Be a Champion for Those That Don’t Have Advocates.’.” CMS Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, 3 Oct. 2018, www.cms.k12.nc.us/News/Pages/Dr-Timisha-Barnes-Jones-I-want-to-be-a-champion-for-those-that-dont-have-advocates.aspx.
  • “From Showtime at the Apollo to West Charlotte High School, Timisha Barnes-Jones ’92 Inspires Change through Education and the Arts.” Game Changers, Davidson College, gamechangers.davidson.edu/people/timisha-barnes-jones-92/.
  • Garmon-Brown, Ophelia, et al. Opportunity Task Force Report. Leading on Opportunity, 2017, Opportunity Task Force Report, www.leadingonopportunity.org/report/introduction.
  • Picture: Spectrum News Charlotte