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CHCCS Achievement Programs Contribute To Low Number Of High School Dropouts

Only 23 high school students dropped out from Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools during the 2012-2013 school year—a record low for the district, according to school officials.

For the same school year, data released last week by the state Department of Public Instruction stated that CHCCS also had the lowest rate of high school drop-outs among North Carolina public school systems.

There was an almost 40 percent reduction from 2011-2012 when 38 students dropped out.

District leaders attribute this success in part to several programs that help to keep students engaged in their studies, while also providing the special attention they need.

State House Representative Graig Meyer, who serves as the district’s Director of Student Equity and Volunteer Services, said that drop-out prevention begins when students first enroll in elementary school and continues through the transition to middle school and then to high school.

“If kids stay on that track of being able to progress through school, even if they hit some struggles in high school, it is still easier to keep them in. They don’t feel like they are too far behind to ever catch up,” Meyer said.

Since it’s inception in 1995, the Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate (BRMA) Program, a district-wide student achievement program, has helped to provide African-American and Latino students with the support they need to succeed in the classroom and elsewhere in life.

This program provides students with tutoring, social and cultural enrichment, in addition to college and career preparation.

Meyer has served as the coordinator for BRMA since 1998, though he will be stepping down this year. He said only two students who were active in the program have dropped out of high school. Of those who have completed the program, 100 percent have gone on to post-secondary education.

“The district has had a now 20-year commitment to racial equity. Those student populations who are the most likely to drop out—students of color, English language learners, even students in special education and other identified populations— those kids get extra attention in Chapel Hill Schools because we know that our schools can’t take a ‘one size fits all ‘ approach to students,” he said.

Phoenix Academy, which began as an alternative school program in 1998, has since transitioned to a free-standing high school, serving students who are most at-risk for dropping out. Meyer that explained it has grown from operating out of just one meeting room to a now four-classroom facility behind the Lincoln Center on S. Merritt Mill Rd.

“There are very few districts that have a program like Phoenix Academy High School where students can go and get a different type of small group environment and get all of their academic needs met,” Meyer said. “As soon as they walk in the door, [they] feel like, ‘Okay, I didn’t like being in the big school [environment], but this is a place where I can finish and don’t have to quit. I can graduate by being here.’”

Meyer said there are still areas where improvement can be made, such as re-engaging teenagers if they do drop-out, or helping them to find another pathway in continuing their education.

CHCCS To Place Interim PE Teacher At Seawell To Finish School Year

With the departure of veteran PE teacher, Sherry Norris, a hole will undoubtedly be left, but the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system says it’s already got a plan in motion for finding her replacement.

CHCCS Human Resources Director Arasi Adkins says a fully-licensed interim PE teacher has been hired to fill the role for the remainder of the school year, once Norris retires on April 30. When the school year comes to an end, Adkins says that position–as well as other vacancies–will be posted for the upcoming school year.

Norris is finishing her 37th as a PE teacher in the CHCCS system. She has also held the position of head coach for the volleyball and girls’ basketball teams during that time.

When a teacher retires, if he or she wants to return to a coaching duty, a period of six months away from that role must be taken, according to state rules. By retiring at the end of April, Norris has made it possible to return in time for the start of basketball season next year, but she won’t be available for the volleyball season.

CHCCS Recorded Lowest Drop-Out Rate In 2012-13, According To State Report

Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools had the lowest rate of high school dropouts among North Carolina public school systems for the 2012-2013 school year, according to data released Wednesday by the state Department of Public Instruction.

The data report, which is released annually, compiles figures on drop-out rates, school suspensions and incidents of crime and violence in the North Carolina’s public school districts and charter schools for public and governmental use.

CHCCS earned “top 10 honors” for “superior performances” in achieving a drop-out rate of 0.6, a drop from 2011-2012’s rate of 1.02, and the fifth lowest rate of high school short-term suspensions.

In the category of “reportable acts” of crime and violence in grades K-12, CHCCS had 55.

Orange County Schools’ drop out rate decreased as well, falling from 2.46 to 2.28 for the 2012-2013 school year. The district registered 27 reportable acts of crime and violence and 238 short-term suspensions in grade 9 through 12, or a rate of 10.45 suspensions per 100 students.

In Orange County Schools, African-American students made up 45.5 percent of the total number of short-term suspensions, long-term suspensions, and expulsions for all grade levels in 2012-13, followed by white students at 42.6 percent, and Hispanic students at 6.89 percent, according to the state report.

In Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, African-American students made up 47.89 percent of the total number of short-term suspensions, long-term suspensions, and expulsions for all grade levels in 2012-13, followed by Hispanic students at 21.3 percent, and white students at 20.7 percent.


At a state-wide level, the data showed that high school drop-out rates and the number of reported acts of school crime and violence are on the decline. The dropout rate decreased from 3.01 percent to 2.45 percent, and the reportable acts of crime fell by 4.8 percent. Approximately one student out of eleven received at least one out-of-school short suspension in 2012-13. When looking at high school students only, the ratio increased to one of eight students.

The most frequently reported reportable crimes in North Carolina high schools were possession of a controlled substance in violation of the law, possession of a weapon excluding firearms and powerful explosives, and possession of an alcoholic beverage.

To see the Department of Public Instruction’s full data report, click here.

OC Leaders, Public Debates Use Of Common Core Standards

As a state-wide debate on the controversial Common Core Standards continues, Orange County state and local leaders believe that the recently adopted system has merit and that both students and teachers need time to adjust to the more rigorous academic goals.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education member, James Barrett, was one of about 50 speakers who shared their opinions about the Common Core Standards during a state legislative committee hearing.

The committee, which began meeting in December, has been charged with tracking and evaluating the progress of the standards in North Carolina classrooms.

“Common Core is a tougher set of standards. It is a set of standards that are needed for our children to succeed in life,” Barrett said.

Already used in 45 states, North Carolina adopted the standards in 2010, though they were fully implemented during the 2012-2013 school year.

Under the Common Cores Standards, school districts and teachers still decide how their curriculum is taught, but with the understanding the material is expected challenge students to develop an in-depth knowledge of key concepts.

State House Representative Graig Meyer, who also serves as the Director of Student Equity and Volunteer Services for the CHCCS, listened on as the public and various groups shared a wide range of viewpoints during the committee meeting.

One private educator called the Common Cores Standards “insidious.”

“We heard a lot of opinions about the Common Core today. Unfortunately, a number of them were strongly ideological in nature. We really need to approach the Common Core as a practical issue about what are the best standards and how do we provide the best education for students. I really get disappointed when educational debates get caught up in political ideology,” Meyer said.

When CHCCS released the Common Core Standard test results last fall, district leaders warned that the numbers would not be good. Officials said students and teachers needed time to transition to the new system.

“We have to find a way to provide teachers with the time to be able to learn the new standards and to plan the curriculum that they want to choose to use in their classrooms to help students meet those standards,” Meyer said.

Barrett suggested that school districts take a year off from the most rigorous testing.

“That pressure to just do well on a multiple choice test is detrimental to our students’ learning,” he said. “I think one of the things we could do is to say, ‘You know what—we are in the middle of this. It is a transition, and we need to take a pause on some of the testing.”

Barrett said he believes that Common Core helps ready students for college and beyond, which he said aligns with the practices that CHCCS Superintendent Tom Forcella and the district try to achieve in their classrooms.

“Regardless of whether Common Core is here or not, these are changes that we do, as a District, believe in and that we need to be moving forward with,” Barrett said.

Opponents of the standards have argued that the transition timeline has moved too quickly and that teachers need more training to instruct under the new system. Others have said that it is a form Federalism that gives the U.S. government too much say-so.

HS Girls’ Basketball NCHSAA State Championship: Chapel Hill 69 – Hickory 56

The Tigers jumped out to a 23-6 lead after the first quarter of the 3A NCHSAA state championship game, but the Red Tornados never gave up and made it a game in the second half.

***Listen to the Broadcast***

Photo Gallery

Game Recap

More Postgame Thoughts From Sherry Norris

CHHS Girls’ Basketball Seeks Perfection, State Title Saturday

2014 NCHSAA East Regional Title

2014 NCHSAA East Regional Title

The quest for perfection comes to an end Saturday as two undefeated teams fight for the 3A NCHSAA girls’ basketball state title, Chapel Hill High School and Hickory High School.

Chapel Hill lost in the title game last year in Reynolds Coliseum on N.C. State’s campus. This year, the Tigers get to play in their home town in one of the biggest and best-known arenas in the state, UNC’s Dean Smith Center.

Long-time head Tiger, Sherry Norris says this game has become so much more than just representing Chapel Hill High School.

“Every coach dreams of having an undefeated season and coaching a state championship team, and there are so few of us that get to do that,” Coach Norris says. “That’s one of the things that we talk about at practice is that, right now, not only are we representing our school and our community but also the eastern part of North Carolina. We are their team that is vying for this state championship. It’s an honor and a privilege to do that.”

***Listen to the Full Interview***

Tipoff between East Regional Champion Chapel Hill and West Regional Champion Hickory is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. Saturday in the Dean Smith Center. You can hear all the action exclusively on beginning with WCHL Gameday at 4:30 p.m.

The Chapel Hill High School Student Government is hosting a tailgate party beginning at 3:00 p.m. in the parking lot of the Dean Smith Center. Parking is $10 per car (the cost to park for the game), but burgers, hot dogs, and condiments will be provided. You will need to bring your own drinks.

CHCCS Panel Discusses Teacher Salaries, Announcement of Raises

Coordinator of Teacher Recruitment and Support Mary Gunderson and Carrboro History teacher Christoph Stutts joined Aaron Keck on the WCHL Afternoon News Friday to discuss the ongoing conversation of teacher pay in North Carolina.

***Listen to the Panel’s Discussion***

HS Boys’ Basketball: Orange 72 – Chapel Hill 63

HILLSBOROUGH – The 3A NCHSAA East Regional No. 1-seeded Orange Panthers held off the No. 16-seeded Chapel Hill Tigers to advance to the 3rd round of the playoffs, 72-63.

The Panthers meet their bitter rivals, the No. 9-seeded Eastern Alamance Eagles, Friday at 7:00 p.m. in Hillsborough.

***Listen to the CHHS at OHS Game***

Click here to read the game recap of this and other second-round games of Chapelboro teams.

Nude Instagram Student Photo Investigation Grows Across NC, No Reports in CHCCS

The investigation into the posting of nude student photos on Instagram has spread to nine counties, including Durham, Chatham, and Wake, nine in total are being examined. Jeff Nash, of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, said Wednesday that school officials have not received reports of similar activity with in the district.

“This Instagram story has spread quite a bit, and we [CHCCS] are very fortunate not to be a part of it. That is not to say that other counties can’t be added to the story later,” Nash said.

The investigation began in Wake County after nude photos of students believed to attend area high schools appeared on the social media site earlier this month, WRAL reported.

The state Bureau of Investigation is currently handling the matter, working with school leaders in Pitt, Johnston, Edgecombe, Craven, Randolph and Surry counties, where reports of nude photos have surfaced as well.

Nash said if CHCCS school resource officers become aware of illegal or dangerous student behavior displayed via social media, they will notify authorities, but that is about all that can be done.

“Social media is a huge animal, and it is beyond our capacity as a school district to monitor every student account and each type of media that they use.”When inclement weather moved into our area recently, Nash said a student created a fake Twitter account masquerading as the district’s handle and used it to tweet out false information.

“We don’t look at social media as a bad thing. It is just sometimes how it is used,” he said. “Unfortunately there are stories about it being misused, but there are a lot of good stories about it, too. We do rely on it to get information out to parents very quickly, in addition to students and community leaders as well.”

Nash said the district decided to use only the networking websites Facebook and Twitter to disseminate its information by way of social media.

Task Force Considers NC Teacher Pay Incentives, Rep Meyer In Attendence

State House 50 Representative Graig Meyer said that teacher morale in our local school districts and across North Carolina is currently the lowest he has experienced during his career in public education. Teachers in the state have gone six years without a real pay raise, in addition to other setbacks.

“While the General Assembly talks about recruiting and retaining teachers, they have to remember there is a third ‘R.’ That is respecting teachers,” said Meyer, who is also the Director of Student Equity and Volunteer Services for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

He was appointed to the House 50 seat in October of last year. However, the General Assembly doesn’t reconvene for the short session until May 14, and the 2014 Primary is May 6, so he is currently on the campaign trail.

Meyer said that education is his most important platform issue.

Tuesday morning, he attended a teacher pay task force meeting at the General Assembly in Raleigh.

The major take-away from the discussion, Meyer explained, was that lawmakers are considering alternative teacher pay models that could be coupled with strong student performance in the classroom. He said that in theory it is a good idea, but state leaders have not devised a clear system to offer incentives state-wide.

Governor Pat McCrory announced a plan earlier this month to increase starting teachers’ salaries nearly 14 percent in the next two years, but no immediate increase was mentioned for teaching professionals already into their careers.

“We have heard the proposal that they would like to raise the pay for starting teachers so that every teacher in the state would make a minimum of $35,000, which is a step in the right direction,” Meyer said. “Unfortunately, we heard again this morning that they are not planning to give teachers an across-the-board raise.”

Meyer explained that the proposal states that new teachers’ pay would be fixed at the starting salary for approximately the first ten years of their career and that instructors with more than nine years of experience would not get a pay raise unless policies are changed.

North Carolina’s teachers are among the lowest-paid in the country, ranking 46th , and make less than  instructors in each of the surrounding states. The beginning salary for a teacher in North Carolina with less than six years of experience is $30,800 for the 2013-2014 school year, according to the NC Department of Public Instruction.

Going into their sixth year, teachers currently get $420 added to the base salary. Meyer added that CHCCS and Durham Public Schools add salary supplements separate from the state.

Stagnant salaries are just one of the many issues that educators have said threaten the education system in North Carolina. In 2013, state lawmakers eliminated salary bonuses for teachers with advanced degrees and also nixed teacher tenure.

“I want to start to change the narrative about public education and remind people that North Carolina has always relied on its public education system to create opportunities for the next generation of North Carolinians. We need strong public schools  in the state. This means we have to value the people who work in those schools with compensations, and valuing their time and expertise.”

Tuesday morning was only the first meeting of Educator Effectiveness and Compensation Task Force. Legislators authorized the panel to make recommendations by mid-April, according to the Associated Press.