Salsa Night With DJ Juan Pachanga

Cafe Symmetry Presents Salsa Night With DJ Juan Pachanga on Friday, September 25.

Come to Cafe Symmetry in Carrboro for their first Salsa Lesson Latin Dance Party.  Salsa lessons from 9:30 to 10:30 PM.  Latin dancing from 10:30 PM till 1:00 AM or last call.

CHCCS Responds to Parent Concerns Over Bus Issues

The first few days of the new academic year have not been without stumbles for Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools.

Power went out at Estes Hills Elementary on Monday, forcing the school to send students home at 11 o’clock the morning of the first day of school. The power outage was not the fault of the school district but was an issue with Duke Energy.

Parents were also sharing concerns on social media over buses not picking up their children on time, or at all in some cases.

The continued concern over buses on Tuesday drew a response from the CHCCS interim superintendent Dr. Jim Causby. Causby sent an e-mail and voicemail to parents with students in the district apologizing for the busing problem that “greatly exceeds years past.”

The CHCCS transportation website says there were “significant changes this year in an effort to make student transportation safer, more reliable, and provide a higher level of service.” But these changes resulted in many of the bus runs, stop locations and stop times to be altered from previous years.

As the bus issues began to pile up on Monday, parents also grew angry over the lack of communication from the district.

Causby said in his Tuesday correspondence that “the heavy volume of parent questions and concerns being called into our Transportation Office quickly filled up all voicemail boxes and resulted in frustration on the part of both parents and Transportation staff.”

Causby said that the district has now asked the technology team to increase the number of incoming phone lines. The district is also working to bring additional staff from Lincoln Center administrative offices to assist in manning the phones, according to Causby.

Causby said he would be sending another update within the next 24 hours.

Read the full e-mail from Causby below:

Dear CHCCS Families,
Another exciting school year opened yesterday. I have been out visiting schools and principals, and from all indications our students and teachers are off to a great start. However, I feel a need to update you on a few areas that did not go as planned.
First, we woke up on Monday to learn that Estes Hills Elementary had no power. I understand this school had electrical issues last year. Fortunately, yesterday’s power outage was not the fault of our school infrastructure. It was entirely on the shoulders of Duke Energy. We worked with them throughout the day and they got it fixed later in the afternoon. However, we did make the decision to send home the students at 11 a.m., primarily due to the lack of air conditioning. I am pleased to report that today has been a great day at Estes Hills. Classrooms are cool and students are learning.
The second big issue, and it is one that impacted almost as many people, is our transportation errors. While there are always problems on the first few days of school, the number of problems we have experienced this year greatly exceeds years past. There are a variety of reasons for this, but they all came together to create a perfect storm this year. Additionally, the heavy volume of parent questions and concerns being called into our Transportation Office quickly filled up all voicemail boxes and resulted in frustration on the part of both parents and Transportation staff.
To that end, we have asked our technology team to restructure the phone system to increase the number of incoming lines, and we are bringing in staff from Lincoln Center and schools to assist with manning these phones in an effort to increase our capacity to provide live assistance as needed. Now, of course, our Transportation leaders are working to resolve the bus route issues, and that is the bottom line goal. But in the meantime, we want you to know that we are working to get every route straightened out and to provide a greater level of customer service in the meantime.
Thank you for your continued understanding and support. I will call you again within the next 24 hours with another update. I hope you enjoy the remainder of your day.
Jim Causby
Interim Superintendent

Lots of Transition on First Day of School in Chapel Hill – Carrboro

Eighth graders at Smith Middle School joined students across Chapel Hill – Carrboro and the rest of North Carolina shuffling to class on the first day of school on Monday.

Almost everything is new for these Smith Middle students. Beyond normal things like new classes and a new homeroom, they also have a new superintendent and principal – and it was their first day of school too.

“Today is actually good. It actually is what feels like normal for the first time,” said Stephon Goode. This summer, he accepted a position as interim principal at Smith Middle.

Goode had been the assistant principal at Smith Middle for two years, and taught at Estes Hills Elementary before that. He says, so far, there’s a lot that’s familiar in his new position, but there’s also a lot that’s different.

“It is a different role. You know, again, I’ve been tied to a grade level, now I’m tied to every grade level.”

Dr. Jim Causby has also had to get used to a new role as interim superintendent for Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools. He says though, that he chalks up his first school day as a success.

“Things so far have been going very well this morning, we were a little concerned about bus routes because we’ve totally redone them, but so far everything looks very good and very smooth.”

Not everything in the district went smoothly Monday morning, however. Estes Hills Elementary School lost power and had to close and send students home at 11:00.

But besides a few hiccups, Causby says he can tell it’s going to be a great year.

“The first thing that really stands out to me is the quality of the folks who are here. I mean that’s as good as I’ve seen anywhere. And I’ve worked in a number of superintendencies and consulted all across the country. This staff is as good as I’ve seen anywhere.”

An evaluation period is going on right now for replacement to fill the superintendent role. The Board of Education hopes to have a new superintendent in place by January.

Power Outage Cuts First Day Short at Estes Hills Elementary School

The first day of classes at Estes Hills Elementary School was cut short on Monday due to a power outage.

Students were sent back home at 11 o’clock Monday morning – the first day of the new school year – due to the outage and how hot the temperature was expected to be, according to school officials. All after-school activities have also been canceled.

Interim Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools superintendent Dr. Jim Caubsy confirmed the outage on Monday morning while he was making stops touring several local schools.

Duke Energy’s website initially said the power would be restored at 12:30, but that has since been pushed back until an estimated 4:30 Monday afternoon.

IFC Executive Director Resigns to be Closer to Family

Michael Reinke has resigned his position as executive director of the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service – IFC.

Reinke issued his resignation in order to be closer to family after recent health concerns, according to a release from the IFC announcing his resignation.

Reinke is quoted in the release saying, “After my father’s heart surgery and spending time with my daughters, I realized that the needs of my family were such that I should find a way to be closer to them.”

Reinke’s resignation was effective August 22.

The IFC Board of Directors accepted his resignation and wished him well. IFC will now conduct a search for a replacement executive director.

In the interim, director of operations Kristen Lavergne, retired executive director John Dorward and the IFC board president, vice president and executive committee will lead the organization.

Reinke had been with the Inter-Faith Council since August 2015.

African-American Students Still Disciplined at Higher Rate than CHCCS Classmates

Discipline in Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools has been a focus of the Board of Education in recent years, as more data has shown that African-American students are disciplined at a higher rate than their schoolmates.

Interim assistant superintendent Dr. Rydell Harrison gave the board an update on the latest discipline data last Thursday night.

“One of the things as a principal I would always say to my staff, ‘In God I trust, all others need data,’” Harrison said. “I think that we have been a data-rich district, but we have not been a data-driven district in every decision that we’ve made.”

Harrison said it was important to tailor efforts going forward around data that the district has at its disposal.

A concern in recent years has been African-American students being disciplined for subjective reasons, including “disrespect.”

Harrison said “disrespect” has gone down as a source for Office Discipline Referrals, or ODR’s, but that other areas have taken its place.

“I think where in the past, there has been a lot of focus on ‘disrespect’ and us unpacking, ‘Well, that’s really subjective,’” Harrison said, “we’ve seen that almost be a nonexistent referral.

“While that process has happened and we’ve seen ‘disrespect’ go away, then you see things like ‘disruption’ and ‘defiance’ creeping up because, again, there’s some level of subjectivity in that.”

Harrison said that one way to measure the success of the district’s efforts with Positive Behavior Intervention and Support was to see if the method was helping reach 80 to 90 percent of students.

“When we look at what the data says, out of the 11,982 students, the number of students that we have with ODR’s was 1,016,” Harrison said. “So it’s working [for] 91.5 percent of our students, overall.”

But in those overall numbers, a common problem showed itself – 97 percent of Asian students, almost 95 percent of multi-racial students, 94 percent of white students and 90 percent of Latino students went without a discipline referral throughout the entire school year.

“And then we get to African-American, and almost 73 percent of our students had zero referrals,” Harrison said. “That’s really an eye-opener I think for us.

“We know there’s disproportionality, but I think that that is glaring for us to say, ‘This is not working.’”

Harrison said it was time to realize punitive discipline does not help the students and that new methods must be used, including restorative practices and interventions.

Harrison said some improvements were now being made as teachers were being required to take a two-day course on restorative practices as part of Project ADVANCE.

That training will be extended to administrators as well, the board said on Thursday.

Harrison said the next steps included reviewing the data with principles at each school and keeping track of the restorative practice training.

The board also emphasized equity as a cornerstone in its search for a new superintendent after citizen input.

The board is hoping a new superintendent will be in place in January.

PTA Thrift Shop Breaks Ground on New Non-Profit Collaborative Venture

The PTA Thrift Shop is digging into a new collaboration project in hopes of uniting youth-serving organizations in the Triangle. PTA Thrift Shop held a groundbreaking Monday to announce the beginning of the Non-Profit Collaborative Venture, and how it will work.

“We’ll be partnering with PTA Thrift Shop specifically on some of the work that we already do,” said Tabitha Blackwell. She’s the director of Youth Forward, an organization that will be partnering with PTATS.

Aaron Nelson speaking at groundbreaking. Photo via Blake Hodge.

Chapel Hill – Carrboro Chamber of Commerce President Aaron Nelson speaking at groundbreaking. Photo via Blake Hodge.

The Non-Profit Collaborative Venture, or NCV, aims to create an office space by its executive office on West Main Street in Carrboro for five to seven local, youth-serving organizations to build capacity and facilitate programming.

PTATS Board Chair Wil Steen also says she’s excited for the project to begin, and says the NCV is also collaborative in the sense that it’s because of encouragement from the community that the project is even possible.

“Everybody that’s here has done something for us, to get us to this point and so really the thanks goes to you and the applause goes to you because without your help and your support, we wouldn’t be here.”

State Senator Valerie Foushee speaking at groundbreaking. Photo via Blake Hodge.

State Senator Valerie Foushee speaking at groundbreaking. Photo via Blake Hodge.

State Senator Valerie Foushee also attended the groundbreaking. She says the NCV will provide better opportunities for non-profits to provide resources and support for student youth in the Triangle.

“I believe it will be a stellar example of collaboration among local youth-serving non-profits and I, as well as all of you I’m sure, wish it all the best as this new project moves forward.”

Funds for the NCV have already been secured, but organization members are still seeking funding for operations and programming.

PTA Groundbreaking. Photo via Blake Hodge.

PTA Groundbreaking. Photo via Blake Hodge.

Carrboro Selects New Poet Laureate

Bringing the presence of poetry to Carrboro is a responsibility that few people officially hold.

The Arts Committee just selected local award-winning poet Gary Phillips as the new Poet Laureate of Carrboro, where his role is to do just that.

“Carrboro is very fortunate to have had Gary selected to serve as our Poet Laureate for the next two years. His perspective on Carrboro will inform his poetry in a unique way that will be available for generations to enjoy,” said Mayor Lydia Lavelle.

The role of the Poet Laureate includes engaging in poetry-related activities around town like participating in Carrboro Day and helping organize the annual West End Poetry Festival that is sponsored by Carrboro.

“I have been in downtown Carrboro since 1982 and lived here as a student in the early ’70s. My poetry is like homemade bread, simple, warm and sometimes strongly flavored,” said Phillips.

“A singer and storyteller, I believe words are important and poetry is an essential part of our public life. Teaching, performing, gathering poets together – that’s all sweet gravy for me. I look forward to it.”

Previous Poet Laureate, Celisa Steele says Phillips is ideal for the role and that Carrboro is “lucky to have him.”

Phillips will hold the position until June 30, 2018.

You can meet and hear Gary Phillips read poetry, along with other local poets, at the West End Poetry Festival on Friday, October 14 and Saturday, October 15 in Carrboro.

More information about the festival is available at the West End Poetry Festival website.

Phillips is also listed as the co-founder of Weaver Street Realty on the company’s website.

Numerous Coyote Sightings in Carrboro Cause Concern

Coyotes are becoming more well-known in the Carrboro area, as many residents of the town have reported sightings of the animal in their own backyards.

Orange County Animal Services director Bob Marotto said coyotes are in the area and are more common than they have ever been.

“The question is, how do we coexist with them and what do we do to assure our own safety as well as the safety of our pets,” Marotto said.

Marotto said he wants to inform the public of these sightings to make sure everyone is aware of the danger we can all avoid.

Photo via Orange County

Photo via Orange County

“The main message we want to convey to people is that we don’t ever want coyotes to become comfortable or accustom to us. Like any animal species, they learn through their experience and so one of our goals is to teach them that they want to steer clear of human beings and human habitats,” Marotto said.

Some ways to deter coyotes include “hazing” the animal, which consists of making loud noises to scare the animal away. Marotto said he also recommends to residents that you can reduce the attraction you have to the coyote by removing bird-feeders, keeping pets and their food inside of your house, making sure your garbage is disposed of properly and securing all areas underneath your house.

If you happen to see a coyote, Marotto said he encourages you to make a report using the animal services website.

“We try and pay attention to the patterns that exist in those reports in order to, as a community, will be better able to coexist,” Marotto said.

Orange County Animal Services also provides more information about coyotes, including resources about deterrence and protection on its website.


GoTriangle Launches New Carrboro to Durham Route

Community members gathered bright and early on Monday morning to catch the GoTriangle Express bus from Carrboro to Durham for the first time.

Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle was the first one to board the 405 and said it was an exciting morning for Carrboro.

“Our residents have been wanting this extended service for many years as part of the bus plan,” Lavelle said. “People will start seeing the buses come through Carrboro and they’ll start asking, ‘Where are the two stops where we can get on?’

“Because up until now it’s been, pretty much, having to go to Franklin Street and get on there.”

Lavelle said the new route will fill a large void for those looking to use public transit to commute between the two downtowns.

“Also, it’ll open up an avenue that people haven’t really thought about,” Lavelle said. “I think people will be really surprised who haven’t done it before to realize how easy it is to hop on here in Carrboro and be deposited right downtown [Durham].”

Lavelle added this is the next step in connecting the region in her eyes.

“Our town is so walkable, and we have so many folks in such a small concentrated area,” Lavelle said. “People will see this is just a great way to get around.”

Former Chapel Hill Town Council member Lee Storrow was also among the group eagerly awaiting the first trip. He said he believes this will be a successful route due to the willingness of community members to use public transit.

“Chapel Hill Transit system has been successful because students, employees of UNC and just residents of Orange County have made a commitment that using transit to not relying on consistently building more and more parking spots is a value that the community shares.”

The first full year of the extended service is expected to cost $650,000 and will be paid with funds gathered from voter-approved local sales tax and vehicle registration revenues.

For more information and to see the full extended bus service, visit GoTriangle’s website.