Cedar Ridge High School Teacher Resigns After Controversial Lesson

A Cedar Ridge High School teacher has resigned after making national headlines for lessons that potentially violated school policy regarding political commentary in the classroom.

The teacher in question is Amanda Harder, who teaches Honors and AP English and History courses at Cedar Ridge High School, according to her LinkedIn page. Harder was put into the spotlight after on online blog – LadyLiberty1885.com – posted an article saying that Harder was comparing speeches from Adolf Hitler and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump while teaching. The blog posted audio that was reportedly recorded by a student during Harder’s class. The story was picked up by FOX News nationally.

In the audio, the voice of the teacher alleged to be Harder calls Trump the “master of pathos.” The teacher in the audio continues, “I mean, Hillary Clinton is guilty of the same thing. The only difference is she is a little bit more subtle about it. He just doesn’t seem to care who he offends.”

Orange County School Board chair Dr. Stephen Halkiotis spoke about the incident at the board’s meeting on Monday night.

Halkiotis said in a prepared statement provided to WCHL, “We all know this is a tense topic give the election season.”

Halkiotis continued, “While our teachers are free to educate students about political issues, when relevant to the curriculum, there is a fundamental difference between educating and advocating; between informing and voicing personal views.”

Halkiotis then confirmed that the “teacher in question” had resigned her position with the district effective Monday.

“While this matter has been concluded with the teacher’s voluntary decision, and without any personnel decision on the part of the school district,” Halkiotis said, “please know that our district has once again reminded all staff about the importance of following our policy on this topic.”

Harder’s LinkedIn page says she also previously taught in the Chapel Hill – Carrboro City School District, including more than 12 years at East Chapel Hill High School.

You can read the full statement from Halkiotis below:

“At the outset, I would like to make a few comments about what has now become a public issue on political speech in our school system. We all know this is a tense topic given the election season. Please know that our Board of Education has clear policies that prohibit staff from promoting or denouncing a particular candidate or party. While our teachers are free to educate students about political issues, when relevant to the curriculum, there is a fundamental difference between educating and advocating; between informing and voicing personal views. Our policies are clear on these points. As an example, Board policy 7720 prohibits staff from making ‘use of an official school position to encourage or to coerce students or other employees of the district to support in any way a political party, candidate or issue.’

The Orange County Schools takes seriously any allegations raised about violations of this policy. The school system conducts a full and fair review of any such allegations and takes appropriate action based on the results of the review. While the details of any such review are confidential based on personnel laws, I am permitted to state that the teacher in question made the voluntary decision to resign from her employment with the school district effective today.

Orange County Schools hires and retains teachers that are second to none, who are dedicated to accomplishing the goals of our strategic plan for the benefit our students. Our teachers day in and day out provide educational opportunities at the highest level and do so without promoting or denouncing a candidate or party, in compliance with our policies. If an exception to this high level of excellence and compliance may occur, the school system takes it seriously, conducts a full and fair review, and addresses the matter appropriately. While this matter has been concluded with the teacher’s voluntary decision, and without any personnel decision on the part of the school district, please know that our district has once again reminded all staff about the importance of following our policy on this topic.”


Tale As Old As Time: “Beauty And The Beast” At Cedar Ridge HS

This weekend, the curtain goes up on “Beauty and the Beast,” Cedar Ridge High School‘s spring musical.

Featuring a gifted cast and inventive costumes, “Beauty and the Beast” is a stage adaptation of the classic Disney film about a selfish prince trapped in a cursed castle, an adventurous woman trapped in a small provincial town, and the love they come to share. (There is also a talking clock.)

Four of the student actors – Keegan Welford-Small (Beast), Sean Purner (Cogsworth), Kristi Lescinski (Belle), and Evynne Franklin (Mrs. Potts) – stopped by WCHL this week and discussed the show with Aaron Keck.


The show opened on Friday, April 15, and runs through Saturday, April 16, with showtimes at 7 pm both nights. Tickets are $15 at the door.


High School Football Preview: Week 3

This week WCHL will be at Chapel Hill High School cover the game between CHHS and Carrboro. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 o’clock.

Last year Chapel Hill beat Carrboro 41-19.

The Tigers got their first win of the season last week against South Granville 46-29. They were led by QB Conner Stough, who showed off his legs as well as his arm. He threw three touchdown passes and ran for another.

Carrboro is coming off of a close loss to East Chapel Hill last week 30-27. The Jaguars are looking to build off the momentum RB Greyson Magee built; the senior ran for 165 yards and four touchdowns. Despite his strong performance, the Jaguars still fell to 0-2 on the season.

Make sure to tune into WCHL for coverage of the game this weekend.

In other action, Orange travels to Riverside and Northwood travels to Jordan Matthews. Cedar Ridge knocked off East Chapel Hill on Thursday night 29-6.


WCHL And Chapelboro.com Present The Chapelboro Cup

The Chapelboro Cup will be presented to the Chapelboro high school football team with the best overall record at the end of the regular season. Bitter rivalries have formed through the years between the teams of Orange and northern Chatham counties. Four of the six teams battle for a conference title each season now with Northwood and Cedar Ridge making the move to the 3A Big 8 conference.

Chapelboro Cup Standings

Orange made it deep in the 3A state title playoffs last season, but Chapel Hill may very well be the team to beat this season. And, you can’t count out Carrboro or East Chapel Hill to play spoiler in any matchup.


In the event of a tie, the following tiebreakers will determine a winner:

1. If two teams are tied, the winner of the head-to-head matchup will be awarded the Chapelboro Cup.
2. If more than two teams are tied, or the teams that are tied did not play each other, the best team’s record against other Chapelboro teams will determine the Chapelboro Cup Champion.


Triangle Heart Walk Takes Raleigh In September

You can help the American Heart Association fight heart disease and stroke – two of the four leading killers in the U.S. – by taking part in the 2014 Triangle Heart Walk in Raleigh on September 28.

More than 20,000 walkers are expected to participate, each raising money to donate to the AHA. (The walk itself is one or three miles long, pet-friendly and stroller-friendly.)

Libbie Hough of Comma Marketing in Orange County will be among them; she’s organized a team of walkers called Orange Opens Its Heart. “I’m a heart mom,” she says: she got involved with the AHA in 2009, when her daughter Natalie – then a student at Cedar Ridge High School – went into cardiac arrest at school. Fortunately Natalie survived – another student alerted teachers, who performed CPR and used the school’s automatic external defibrillator (AED) to restart her heart – but Hough says the incident demonstrates how important it is for everyone to be trained and ready for emergency situations, as well as the importance of having AEDs on hand everywhere.

Hough set a goal of raising $1000 for the Triangle Heart Walk – and she’s already doubled that goal, with nearly two months still to go.

Libbie Hough joined WCHL’s Aaron Keck on the air this week to discuss the Heart Walk and the fight against heart disease.

For more information on the Triangle Heart Walk, visit TriangleHeartWalk.org. To donate to Orange Opens Its Heart, click here.


The Grid: Cedar Ridge

We continue our weekly preseason high school football series with a return hop over to Hillsborough to check in on Cedar Ridge. The Red Wolves struggled through a 2-9 season in their first foray into 3A competition, but with freshly minted interim head coach Clay Jones now at the helm, will fortunes improve in 2014?

***Listen to the story***

Coach Jones received an unexpected call a few weeks ago from the Cedar Ridge principal and athletic director.

Now, he is knee deep in preparations for the 2014 season after stepping into his new role as the skipper of the Red Wolves. Last season, he served as the quarterbacks coach under head football coach Chris Casey and also fills a dual role as Cedar Ridge’s head basketball coach.

But his resume doesn’t stop there. In addition, down in Yanceyville, N.C., Coach Jones led the offense for two years at Bartlett Yancey High School and performed the duties of athletic director for another year all while serving as the head coach for the area middle school. He’s no stranger to the game.

Coach Jones (Newsoforange.com)

Coach Jones (Newsoforange.com)

Coach Jones says he’s looking forward to the opportunity that’s been afforded him with the Cedar Ridge football program.

“I’m very grateful to be here and am enjoying every minute of it so far,” Coach Jones says.

As far as the differences in coaching philosophy between himself and his predecessor, Coach Casey, Coach Jones says they are quite similar, but he tends to run practice on the gridiron much like he runs practice on the hardwood.

“I treat a lot of it like a timed practice in basketball. It’s very similar to how I’m doing it in football. It’s been pretty successful these last few weeks, and I think the kids are responding well. But there aren’t a lot of differences, just a few little changes,” Coach Jones says.

Coach Jones says summer workouts have been productive thus far with good turnouts for both morning and afternoon sessions.

But as most high school coaches can attest, Coach Jones says he faces an uphill battle with garnering optimal attendance. He says he wishes he could make the offseason practices mandatory.

“It’s not mandatory. That’s a battle that any high school program faces this time of year. You’d love to have fifty or sixty varsity guys all there, but kids have commitments on their time. That’s something I chose not to fight,” Coach Jones says.

The strength of the Red Wolves squad may rest in their dynamic duo of wide receivers. Coach Jones says he plans to distribute the ball early and often to returning playmakers Chris McCoy and Julius Walton.

“We have our two returning skill kids on offense. They are going to be big parts of our offense. They are going to touch the ball multiple times in multiple positions. They are going to be big in our return game – punt or kickoff. They are going to be two weapons we are going to try to utilize in several areas,” Coach Jones says.

Cedar Ridge football team (flickr.com)

Cedar Ridge football team (flickr.com)

The guy who will be throwing the football to McCoy and Walton is talented signal caller Peyton Pappas. Coach Jones says he’s expecting big things from his quarterback in 2014.

“It’s very good to have Pappas back under center. I think he’s matured a lot and understands a lot better what he needs to do as a quarterback. He’s grown a lot and got a little stronger. We’re looking for big things out of him,” Coach Jones says.

But although the offense appears to harness adequate firepower, Coach Jones says the biggest question mark may be the performance of the offensive line. He says the inability to get all five guys together over the summer worries him heading into the fall.

“Our biggest question mark right now is our offensive line. We haven’t had a consistent turnout of linemen on a daily basis, where they can all eat, sleep and breathe blocking,” Coach Jones says.

cedar ridge red wolf smaller

Now that the Red Wolves have a taste of what life in the 3A Big 8 conference is all about, Coach Jones says his kids are extra motivated to be up to the challenge this time around.

“We know the skill level of the teams in this area. We got a pretty good dose of it last year moving up to 3A football. It’s definitely a different animal,” Coach Jones says.

But for now, Coach Jones says Cedar Ridge’s state championship game is scheduled for Aug. 22 – the season opener at Carrboro.


New Principal Hired at Cedar Ridge High School

Heather Blackmon has been hired as the new principal at Cedar Ridge High School.

She has nearly 22 years of experience in the field of education, including 15 years as a high school social studies teacher. She’s also worked as an administrator for Alamance-Burlington and Guilford Public Schools.

For the past two-and-a-half years, she’s been principal at the Career and Technical Education Center for the Alamance-Burlington School System.

Located in Burlington, it was the first high school built in Alamance County in 40 years.

“We offer nothing but CTE courses,” Blackmon told WCHL. “And we’ve built a great rapport and a great group of students that come over here two periods out of the day from their home schools, and take specialized career and technical education courses that are not offered at their home schools.”

The school takes two sets of students – one in the morning, and another in the afternoon. Blackmon says that, this past year, the school served around 800 students.

Blackmon handed in her resignation letter at The CTE Center on Tuesday.

She says that while her experience there has been fulfilling, her dream has always been to retire as a principal at a school like Cedar Ridge High.

“I miss so much of the traditional school,” she says. “The athletics, the extracurricular activities, the core courses, working with a large number of teachers. And I’ve really wanted that for a long time.”

Blackmon has done her research, of course, and she says the reputation of Cedar Ridge High was a big draw for her.

“It’s got an excellent faculty,” she says. “They have a fantastic reputation. I’m excited about working with the International Baccalaureate Program.”

Cedar Ridge High School Principal John Wheeler announced his resignation in early June, after four years in the position. He’s taking a job as principal of Atlee High School in Hanover County.


Orange County High Schools Graduation Preview

Orange High School and Cedar Ridge High School with both be participating in this year’s Orange County Project Graduation following the schools’ graduations.

Orange High School seniors turn their tassels Thursday at 4:30 p.m.; Cedar Ridge seniors do so at 7:30 p.m. Both ceremonies take place at the Dean Smith Center.

The event will be held on Thursday, June 12, at the Triangle Sportsplex in Hillsborough, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

This will be Project Graduation’s 19th consecutive year celebrating the graduates of these Orange County high schools. The event serves as a chance to celebrate the graduation of these students in a family-oriented environment, among friends, and safe from risks of alcohol, drugs, and violence.


Orange, Chapel Hill Boys To Meet In NCHSAA Second Round

Originally posted February 24, 2014, 10:10 p.m.

Five area teams made it past the first round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association basketball playoffs, and one giant round-two meeting waits in the wings.

In 3A boys’ play, No. 1 seed Orange cruised to a 75-51 victory against No. 32 seed South Brunswick. The Panthers host the No. 16-seeded Chapel Hill Tigers Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. The Tigers defeated the Western Guilford Hornets, 55-53 with a buzzer-beater by Josh Hennen.

**The Chapel Hill-Orange game will be broadcast exclusively on Chapelboro.com. Pregame coverage beings at 6:30 p.m.; tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.

The Cardinal Gibbons boys’ season came to a close with a 68-55 decision against Havelock.

The Chapel Hill girls put on yet another dominant performance with their 77-17 defeat of Topsail. The No. 1-seeded Tigers host the No. 16-seeded Swansboro Pirates Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. The Pirates took down Orange County’s Cedar Ridge Red Wolves 47-28.

Also in 3A girls basketball, the Northwood Chargers season came to an end after an overtime defeat by the hands of Fayetteville’s Terry Sanford. The Bulldogs took down the Chargers 44-40.

No. 10 seed Cardinal Gibbons snuck past No. 23 seed Eastern Guilford, 60-56. On Wednesday, the Crusaders hit the road to take on the No. 7 seeded Eastern Wayne Warriors in Goldsboro.

In 2A girls’ play, the No. 24-seeded Carrboro Jaguars pulled off a big upset against the No. 9-seeded Red Springs Red Devils, 48-38. The Jaguars face another tough opponent in the second round, the No. 8-seeded Beddingfield Bruins in Wilson Wednesday night.

The Carrboro boys didn’t fare as well, falling 62-50 as the No. 22 seed to No. 11 seed Warren County.

To see all the brackets of the NCHSAA tournaments, you can read this story on our website, Chapelboro.com.

2014 NCHSAA State Championships
3A Girls’ Bracket
3A Boys’ Bracket
2A Girls’ Bracket
2A Boys’ Bracket


NCHSAA Basketball Tournaments Tip Monday Night

The 2014 North Carolina High School Athletic Association basketball championships tip off Monday night with seven Chapelboro teams set to do battle.

The Chapel Hill girls extended their winning streak to 26 and added the Big Eight tournament championship to their resume with a 48-38 win against Cardinal Gibbons. With that, the Tigers took the No. 1 seed in the east regional of the 3A playoffs and host the Topsail Pirates Monday at 6:00 p.m.

The Chapel Hill boys were knocked out of the Big Eight tournament in the semifinals, 52-48 to Southern. The 16th-seeded Tigers host their first-round game against the 17th-seeded Western Guilford Hornets Monday at 7:30 p.m.

With a win, the Tigers could meet the conference- and county-foe Orange Panthers in round two. The Panthers received the No. 1 seed in the east regional and host the 32nd-seeded South Brunswick Cougars. The Panthers were unset in the Big Eight tournament championship by the Southern Spartans, 67-53.

The Carrboro boys took the No. 22 seed in the 2A east regional and travel to Havelock to take on the Rams Monday night at 7:00 p.m.

***Correction: Carrboro faces No. 11 Warren County in round one.

The 24th-seeded Jaguar girls are also on the road Monday night in Red Springs to take on the ninth-seeded Red Devils.

Cedar Ridge and Northwood both made the journey up to 3A this season, and in their first year, both schools’ girls’ teams made it to the postseason. The 17th-seeded Red Wolves travel to Swansboro to battle the 16th-seeded Pirates; the 22nd-seeded Chargers are on the road against the 11th-seeded Bulldogs of Terry Sanford in Fayetteville.

Other teams with local ties making into the state playoffs are the Cardinal Gibbons boys with a No. 27 seed, the Cardinal Gibbons girls with a No. 10 seed, and the Sothern girls with a No. 29 seed.

2014 NCHSAA State Championships
3A Girls’ Bracket
3A Boys’ Bracket
2A Girls’ Bracket
2A Boys’ Bracket