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.

Interim Superintendent Takes Over Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools

For the first time in five years, the Chapel Hill – Carrboro City School System has someone other than Tom Forcella leading the district as superintendent. Forcella’s retirement was effective at the end of July.

Now, Dr. Jim Causby is taking over the superintendent position on an interim basis.

Causby says he has worked at all levels of public education in North Carolina during his more than 40 year career.

“I had the pleasure of working as a teacher at the elementary and middle school levels for several years,” Causby said, “and then was an elementary principal, a middle school principal and a high school principal.

“And then my superintendent career, I covered three districts over a period of 27 years.”

After he retired from his post as superintendent in Johnston County, Causby said he took on statewide roles in public education.

“Fist one as executive director of the North Carolina Association of School Administrators….did that role for two years,” Causby said. “And then I became executive director of the School Superintendents Association.”

Causby said those roles allowed him to visit and speak in every school system across North Carolina and has extended his career beyond what he initially planned.

“I’ve been trying to retire for a long time, in fact I’ve done it five times, and people keep coming along and saying, ‘How about doing this for us,’” Causby said. “I love public education, and I love the role and being involved and doing the good things we do for young people.”

While his retirement may not have gone according to plan, Causby said he is now able to be very selective over what he would like to be doing, which led him to be interested when Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools was in need of an interim superintendent.

“This school system is among the best,” Causby said. “There’s no question about that. It’s among the best in North Carolina, among the best in the southeast, among the best across the nation.”

Causby continued, “This system does a lot of things the right way. That doesn’t mean there are not issues and things that need to be worked on and improved, there certainly are.

“That’s the case everywhere.”

Causby said he will get direction from the school board of priorities it would like to see prioritized during his tenure. He said those priorities include Project ADVANCE, which Causby called an “outstanding initiative, and I think again the school system is leading the way in that.”

Another priority Causby said he has heard from the board is work aimed at closing the achievement gap.

“The equity issue – how do we make sure that every single child in the school system is achieving at their potential,” Causby asked.

Causby said he views his role when leading the system as being one to keep the train on the tracks until a new conductor is chosen.

“It’s more a role of maintaining, of looking at where things are and continuing those things and making sure they’re being done,” Causby said, “looking at the priorities of the Board of Education and making sure that those are continuing to be talked about and emphasized until a new superintendent is on board.”

Causby said when he was chosen as interim superintendent that a goal of his was to meet every district employee within the first 30 days on the job.

The school board has said it hopes to have a permanent superintendent in place at the beginning of the 2017 calendar year.

There are several ways for the public to get involved in the search for the new superintendent.

New Athletic Director Named at East Chapel Hill High School

Randy Trumbower is the new athletic director at East Chapel Hill High School.

The position was approved by the Chapel Hill – Carrboro City School Board of Education on Thursday night.

Trumbower has been a special education teacher and case manager at Chapel Hill High School since 2007, according to the district, and he has served as the chair of the Exceptional Children Department.

Trumbower was named the 2016-2017 Teach of the Year at Chapel Hill High, where he served as the head baseball coach from 2009 – 2013 and assistant athletic director since 2014.

Trumbower earned his bachelor degree from Appalachian State University while playing football and baseball for the Mountaineers.

Trumbower is replacing the retired Ray Hartsfield.

Public Input Open for CHCCS Superintendent Search

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education began its search for a new superintendent and is seeking input from the community.

Current superintendent Tom Forcella is retiring on August 1 after five years with the district. Jim Causby has been selected as the interim superintendent.

The North Carolina School Boards Association is working alongside the Board of Education to assist with the search for a candidate by conducting a short community survey and holding public hearings.

The survey will assist board members shape and get a sense of what qualities and characteristics in a superintendent are most important to the school system.

The board is encouraging parents and interested community members to complete the survey available online in English or Spanish.

Along with completing the survey, the board is asking residents to sign up to comment publicly at the public forums which will be held August 30 at seven o’clock in the evening at Chapel Hill High School and September 10 at 1:30 in the afternoon at Northside Elementary School.

Interested community members can also submit written statements to Allison Schafer via mail, at NCSBA, P.O. Box 97877, Raleigh, NC 27624, email, at, or fax, at 919-841-4020.

All surveys and comments must be completed by Thursday, September 1. The NCSBA will then compile, summarize and present their findings at a board meeting on September 15.

Anyone interested in applying for the superintendent must complete an application and meet requirements detailed on the NCSBA website by September 1.

Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools Meeting to Name Interim Superintendent

The Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools Board of Education has called a special meeting for Wednesday night to name an interim superintendent for the district.

Dr. Tom Forcella announced in late May that he would be retiring after five years leading the district as its superintendent.

The school board then met with officials from the North Carolina School Board Association to craft an application for the next superintendent at its subsequent meetings.

Meanwhile, the school board and state agency have been jointly reviewing applications for the interim superintendent position. School district spokesperson Jeff Nash said that five applications were being considered.

The school board put forward a hopeful timeline of having Forcella’s replacement in place to begin working in January 2017.

Forcella’s retirement is effective August 1.

The meeting announcing the interim superintendent is scheduled for six o’clock Wednesday night at Lincoln Center. The meeting is open to the public.

Magda Parvey: Hometown Hero

Magda Parvey is Tuesday’s Hometown Hero.

Dr. Parvey is the outgoing assistant superintendent for instructional services at Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.  Dr. Parvey has gotten a lot done since 2012.

She came to our community from New York and will be returning to that state.

With Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools superintendent Dr. Tom Forcella also leaving the district, it’s quite a time of transition.

You can nominate your own Hometown Hero.  WCHL has honored local members of our community everyday since 2002.

Citizens Voice Racial Equity Concerns at Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board Meeting

To combat racial inequities in education, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools are seeking a superintendent willing to align their priorities with that of the local citizens and school board.

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools’ Board of Education met last Thursday at Lincoln Center to listen to concerns from local citizens and make any changes necessary to current documents, including those regarding the application for a new superintendent. Tom Forcella, the current superintendent, is set to retire August 1 after working in the district for five years.

Also included in the conversation were concerns about the Equity Plan Draft, which was presented Thursday as well. The draft sought to end racial inequity in schools by creating an inclusive culture that would work to eliminate the achievement gap.

But as community members reflected upon their experiences in the school system, many expressed desires for a revised plan.

Of those who spoke during the comments section, several voiced their hope for a superintendent that would make significant progress to close the achievement gap and dissipate present stigmas surrounding race in education.

“I want [the superintendent] to be able to look into any of the racial disparities that we have so far within our system,” said Joyce Powell, mother of both a graduate and current student in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. “I know the board has worked hard on putting forward some other implementations to help, but I think we can do a little bit better…every child matters, and to me, this is what this is all about.”

The school system has had its successes in the past, with three high schools ranking highly in the state. But according to Samantha Cabe, local attorney and mother to children in the school system, those labels don’t reflect every child’s experience, especially minority children.

Cabe said that her children, who are not in the minority, may go on to succeed academically without any changes, but she also said they may be harmed by their childhood friends being denied opportunities for advancement.

“They will be harmed by an environment where both achievement and discipline are dependent on skin color…I hope that this board will really focus on finding a superintendent that makes [changing] this a priority because we have the opportunity in this district, with our strong focus on academics to be high schools one, two and three but we have to address our system as a whole…from the top down, from the superintendent down, have an attitude that is about a love of learning and a love of their community and a love of their neighbors. And I mean all neighbors.”

The board then had a closed discussion to revise the superintendent application, addressing citizens’ concerns about the Equity Plan. In it, they attempted to make explicit expectations for the incoming superintendent.

“In the discussion about equity tonight, for example, do we need to beef that up in this particular application?” asked Allison Schafer, director of policy for the North Carolina School Board Association. “I know that was a focus of the board’s, and that was useful for us to hear that.”

The rest of the board agreed, noting the importance of taking citizen concerns into account.

“I’d actually like to see that in the number one provisionary of educational leadership along with the understanding of equity factors and influence of equity on educational outcomes,” said board member Rani Dasi.

CHCCS Working Through Budget Questions

Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools assistant superintendent Todd LoFrese said at the Board of Education meeting last Thursday that the system is receiving new information regarding the budgetary process, but that does not necessarily make the picture any clearer.

“We do have a lot more information,” LoFrese said, “however, we have the same amount of uncertainty I think because we really don’t know what’s going to happen, as of now, and what it all means for our operating budget next year.”

The muddiness of the situation comes because no state or local operating budget is set in stone.

The state House and Senate have both released appropriations proposals, but LoFrese said the two proposals have very different strategies and outcomes regarding teacher pay.

“The House provides a more modest increase of around 3.5 percent, an average of 3.5 percent that is,” he said. “The Senate’s version is closer to six percent.”

In the school board’s budget request to the county, the system had estimated a five percent increase across the board.

The school’s budget also asked for approximately $4.5 million in additional funds from the county in order to boost teacher pay. The district has already committed to the additional funding to boost the local teacher pay supplement, in response to Wake County increasing its local supplement.

The county manager’s budget proposal did not fully fund the increased requests from each of the local districts, which has been the subject of two public comment sessions to the County Commissioners.

Board member Pat Heinrich said the district has already seen a positive impact in recruiting potential teachers with the increased supplement.

LoFrese said, while the recommended budget does not fully fund the requests, there is an increase in per-pupil spending.

“Twenty-four dollars [increase] per pupil,” LoFrese said. “And [the manager] also recommended funding all of the nurses and school resource officers in the district, as well as Orange County Schools.

“This is a benefit to the district.”

LoFrese added that the net increase from increased per-pupil spending may not be what some were expecting because the district’s enrollment is projected to decrease next academic year.

“The net increase in funding to the district is about $350,000,” he said. “Our request was a request of about $4.5 million.”

LoFrese said the district has received concerned comments from parents over the decreasing in staffing at some schools, but LoFrese said that correlated to the drop in enrollment and was not a reflection of any budget concerns.

The County Commissioners will meet several times in the month of June – including a regular meeting on Tuesday and a budget work session on Thursday of this week – before possibly approving a final budget on June 21.

CHCCS Teachers Upset With Project Advance

Project Advance is a new payment method Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools will implement during the 2016-2017 school year.

The program would base teacher raises not on number of years in the district, but instead on professional development.

Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich said the commissioners have been receiving emails from teachers who don’t think the program is a good idea.

“These emails are disturbing to me,” she said. “You have veteran teachers that don’t feel comfortable with this program. They feel they were forced to go into the program because it was the only way they can get a raise.”

Rich said she received emails from 7 different teachers before beginning to communicate with teachers and representatives from the NC Association of Educators over the phone.

“One of the people who sent an email felt like there was retribution taken out on them,” she said. “They felt they could no longer send emails because someone was clocking the emails and they felt they were not in a safe place by sending emails anymore.”

Rich said she spoke with around 20 people over the phone after that.

Current CHCCS staff had the option of opting out of the project, but according to the Project Advance website, depending on years of service, a teacher’s supplements would stagnate and not reach the levels they could have under the previous system.

East Chapel Hill High School teacher Keith Gerdes said in an email to the commissioners that many of his colleagues chose to opt in “under duress.”

Superintendent Tom Forcella said nearly 1,000 people chose to opt in and that the district attracted new teachers because of Project Advance.

“We have done nothing to close the achievement gap, so if you keep doing what you always have done, you’ll keep getting the same thing,” he said. “And through intentional planning to reach all of the students, we will close the achievement gap.”

No teachers will receive a pay cut with the implementation of Project Advance, but those who opt in will go through a level of benchmarking that could cause them to show things such as lesson plans.

“Change is difficult,” Forcella said. “There are teachers that will tell me ‘I have 25 years of experience you mean you’re telling me I have to write a lesson plan?’ Well I’d say ‘yes, you do.'”

It is unclear what, if anything, the county commissioners can do if they have a problem with the direction of Project Advance.

Commissioners give funding to the schools and part of that funding goes towards paying the supplement provided to teachers.

Forcella said Project Advance would be cost-neutral to the district and the commissioners do not control how money is distributed.

That decision falls to the Board of Education, which has planned the project for nearly five years and multiple boards have unanimously approved it.

Project Advance is scheduled to be implemented during the next school year.

Valecia Jones: Hometown Hero

Valecia Jones is Friday’s Hometown Hero.

She’s been with the PTA Thrift Shops her entire life.  For the past 16 years, she’s been the organization’s operations director.  Executive Director Barbara Jessie-Black says she’s the glue that holds it all together.

All net profits from PTA Thrift Shop stores are divided among Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools’ PTAs according to student population and volunteer hours. The PTA Thrift Shop is a major source of funding for all elementary school PTAs and for virtually every club, team, music group and other student organization in the middle and high schools.

You can nominate your own Hometown Hero.  WCHL has honored local members of our community everyday since 2002.