Board of Education Chair ‘Distressed’ by Expedition School

With the opening of the new charter school, The Expedition School, in Hillsborough, one particular member of the Board of Education is voicing his concern.

Stephen H. Halkiotis, currently serving as the Chair for the Board of Education, says that though he wishes The Expedition School well as it begins its first days, he is certainly unsettled by the growing number of charter schools in North Carolina and the issues that it creates.

“I am deeply distressed,” says Halkiotis, “that the State of North Carolina and the State Legislature have chosen to continually expand charter schools in this state, but not hold them accountable to the same standards and responsibilities that our public schools have been held accountable for a long, long time.”

Halkiotis says that there are a number of necessary items that are not being addressed properly in charter schools, including transportation, food, and handicap accessibility. By ignoring these regulations, he feels that charter schools are demonstrating dishonesty.

“I think they put a twist on that to pretend that they’re really public, but they’re really not,” says Halkiotis. “Unless I’ve seen the eligibility criteria and fully understand them, I’m not convinced that charter schools are allowing an open door to each and every segment of our society, and that’s the thing that troubles me the most about them.”

When speaking on his position as Chair and how it relates to the functioning of schools like The Expedition School, Halkiotis says that the situation is about much more than himself, but about how North Carolina education is meant to be.

“It’s not about any individual, it’s about the organization,” says Halkiotis. “It’s about the institution of being a school. It’s not about me as Chair, or anybody else on that Board. We’re just seven people elected by the citizenry at large to give the best possible direction to the school system and moving our public school systems forward. That’s what I’m committed to.”

The Expedition School opened its doors yesterday at 10 a.m.

For information on The Expedition School, click here.

CHCCS Board of Education Receives Finance Award

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education has received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada. This finance award certificate is considered to be the highest form of recognition for reporting accurate financial information and governmental accounting.

Assistant Superintendent for Support Services for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools System, Todd LoFrese, explains what the award is all about and what it means for the Board of Education.

“The award is recognition for a comprehensive annual financial report, which shows all of the financial information that occurred during the fiscal year,” says LoFrese. “Each year, we produce this report along with an audit, submit that to Government Finance Officers Association, the North Carolina School Board Association, and the State of North Carolina, and it’s reviewed for its accuracy, transparency, and the breadth of the report. They then determine we meet and exceed expectations, and again this year we have.”

LoFrese says that Pittman and her team are deserving of this award as they have proven once again their adept ability to clearly and accurately report their budget.

“For as long as I’ve been here, and before I arrived, Ruby Pittman and her team have annually been receiving recognition for excellence in financial reporting,” says LoFrese. “Once again this year, her department received that recognition, and it’s a testament to their hard work and their focus on making sure our finances and books are in order, and public transparency with our financial reporting.”

CHCCS Not Opposed To Current Form Of Testing

CHAPEL HILL – Gov. Pat McCrory is calling for the North Carolina State Board of Education to re-examine its approach to standardized testing—and local school officials are also weighing in on how much might be too much.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Executive Director of Testing and Program Evaluation Diane Villwock says each school is given a series of standardized tests as required by the federal government.  These include reading, math, and science for third through eighth grade, along with one test for each of those subjects in high school.

“This year for the first time, the state added the Measures of Student Learning,” she says. “That was a large increase in a number of tests. So, for the Chapel Hill district, we went from handling 10,000 exams a year ago to 26,000 this year.”

According to a report from WRAL, 30 new tests were given to public school students in grades four through 12 this past school year, bringing the total number of standardized tests to 194. McCrory says teachers should be given more time to teach, not preparing students for “test after test.”

But Villwock says The Measures of Student Learning, or MSL’s, are being used in place of, not in addition to, comprehensive final exams for high schools.

“For example, with chemistry, they used to have a final exam, and now we’re using a state version rather than a district version,” Villwock says.

Villwock says the increase in the number of tests for students is at the middle school level, where comprehensive final exams previously didn’t exist.

“For them, it felt like much more of an add-on than it felt like at the high school,” she says.

With the new system in place, Villwock says McCrory’s opinion should be taken into consideration, but it’s too early to make any definitive conclusions.

“I don’t disagree that we need to look at this,” he says. “Anytime you do something large and new, it needs deep review. If he’s looking at this in the context of kids being given too many tests, perhaps I believe that at middle school, but I don’t believe it at high school.”

Villwock says she’s concerned with the quality of the MSLs more than the quantity.

“We need to get to where teachers look at those as a good representation of their content,” she says. “I think that part’s really important.”

Although the requirement for testing comes from the federal level, Villwock says the tests are made and reviewed by teachers and curriculum experts.

UNC Answers Feds’ Questions About Sexual Assaults

CHAPEL HILL – Officials with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill say they’ve responded to questions from federal education officials about campus response to sexual assault cases.

The school had until Thursday to file its response to questions from the Office of Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Education. OCR sent a letter in March, saying it would investigate the school after five women filed a complaint in January about how UNC-CH handles sexual assault cases.

The five women alleged violations of Title IX, education’s gender-equity law, in the handling of sexual assault cases. They filed another federal complaint under a law that often deals with the underreporting of on- and off-campus crimes. UNC-CH has denied underreporting crimes.

The OCR has never issued its biggest punishment, withdrawal of federal funding.

Friday, UNC released its response to the OCR. To view that document, click here.