For CHCCS Board, It’s Dasi, Samuels, Streater, Heinrich

There are going to be three new faces on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board after Tuesday’s election.

Newcomers Rani Dasi, Margaret Samuels and Pat Heinrich were all elected to the CHCCS Board on Tuesday, along with incumbent Annetta Streater.

Full results here.

Rani Dasi was easily the top vote-getter with 6,989 votes – more than any other candidate in any race in Orange County this year. More than half of Orange County voters cast ballots for Dasi, even with seven other candidates in the race.

Margaret Samuels and Annetta Streater took second and third, respectively; Samuels won 5,618 votes and Streater won 5,369.

Samuels spoke with WCHL following her election:


The real race, though, was for the fourth and final spot, which came down to the wire between newcomers Pat Heinrich and Theresa Watson. In the end, Heinrich took the final spot with 4,445 votes – beating Watson by only 208, less than six tenths of a percentage point.

Streater spoke with WCHL following her re-election:


Former Carrboro Alderman Joal Hall Broun came in just behind in sixth, followed by incumbent David Saussy (who was running for the first time after being appointed to the board less than a year ago). Newcomer Gregg Gerdau finished a distant eighth.

With the district facing a number of major challenges, the new school board will have to hit the ground running with very little overall experience. That was going to be a challenge no matter what the outcome on Tuesday, though – as two of the longest-tenured board members, Mike Kelley and Jamezetta Bedford, elected not to run for reelection this year.

CHCCS Goes Big on Budget Request

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education has decided to think big in its budget request to the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

The decision by the Board on Thursday gave a reprieve — at least for now – to the gifted specialist program, which could have faced serious cuts.

“We have to own that we live in a different kind of place. We’re between universities. We’re near Research Triangle Park. We have to own that we do, in fact, have a larger number of gifted learners than many areas across the country. And we have to be OK saying that. And we have to meet the needs of these learners.”

That’s Tina CoyneSmith, speaking to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board on Thursday night, during a meeting at the Lincoln Center.

CoyneSmith is the mother of a fourth-grader at Seawell Elementary. She pleaded with the Board not to follow through with a proposal to cut more than $536,000 out of gifted specialists in schools K-8.

That amount is more than half of the nearly $910,000 the school system wanted to cut, in order to chip away at a $2.2 million shortfall caused by depletion of the school system’s fund balance.

With the cuts taken off the top, the Board was ready to ask for $2.8 million, or perhaps even $2.9 million, in a budget request to County Commissioners.
The public reaction to cutting gifted specialists was mostly negative. So at Thursday’s meeting, Superintendent Tom Forcella requested more time to consider where cuts could be made, without focusing them too much in one area.

School Board Chair Jamezetta Bedford reiterated the strategy for her fellow Board members.

“We can send a budget request to the County Commissioners without delineating where, exactly, the 909,000 is going to be cut from.”

Typically, the County receives budget requests from Chapel Hill-Carrboro around April 15.

Before long, the discussion turned to asking commissioners for the full amount — $3.8 million – without the planned cuts. Part of that idea is to impress upon the County Commissioners how serious the situation is.

That amount would necessitate a tax increase of nearly 3 cents, which is the highest tax increase any of the Board members could recall. It would be raised by raising the district tax, property tax, or a combination of both.

School Board member James Barrett responded to concerns from fellow board members about raising taxes that amount for schools.

“Income taxes for many of us have gone down at the state level,” said Barrett. “The state gave back money, and we’re bearing the brunt of it.”

He also took exception when fellow board member Mia Day Burroughs related that she’d had conversations with commissioners who had “gasped at the amount” that would have included the cuts.

Here’s Barrett’s response.

“For multiple years, we have told them there’s a cliff coming,” he said, “that we’re going to run out of our fund balance and we’re going to require a tax increase at that time. Here it is. This shouldn’t be a surprise to any commissioner. “

School Board member Annetta Streater, who voiced support for asking for the full amount well before the vote, said that the School Board needs to start looking at what other cuts will likely need to be made next year.

“You’re suggesting that we’re going to need to cut another million, beyond $900K, so we might as well put that stuff on the table too, and start grinding at it.”

Bedford reminded fellow Board members that teachers assistants would like be the next to face reductions.

In the end, the School Board voted unanimously to ask for $3.8 million, even though the likelihood of getting it seems very small.

Burroughs To Run For BOCC

CHAPEL HILL – In a press release Tuesday evening, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board member Mia Burroughs confirmed she’ll be running for a seat on the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

Burroughs will run for the Democratic nomination for the seat currently held by Alice Gordon, who’s stepping down at the end of her term. That seat represents District 1, which essentially covers Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Burroughs is the first Democrat to announce her candidacy for that seat.

Burroughs is in her second term on the school board, where she’s served as both chair and vice-chair.

Click here for her campaign website.

The filing period begins next week for those interested in running for local and state office. Burroughs says she’ll officially file on Tuesday, February 11.

Fighting This Transfer

Dear Editor,

My name is Bert Wartski.  As I await the Superior Court Hearing (August 17th at 2 pm at the Old Hillsborough Court House), I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has written letters, given speeches, provided testimonials, talked about, Facebook-ed, and spent their time and energy to stop my transfer and that of Anne Thompson.  

The response of the parents, students, and the community has been overwhelming and very humbling.

I am saddened to think that my time at CHHS might be over. For the past 19 years, I have made CHHS my home.  I have done my best to provide the best educational experience in my classroom and at CHHS.  I’ve been told that my involuntary transfer is not about the teaching.  As an educator and parent, I can think of nothing else it should be about.

I’ve been asked why I’ve been fighting this transfer.

To those outside of the CHHS community, the opportunity to move to a “better school” should be taken immediately.  Why complain?

For the past 19 years, I have become part of a community.  My blood bleeds black and gold.  I love CHHS and through the course of my tenure, I have worked to make it a better school.  I am part of the Tiger Family.  I have a desire to finish out my career at CHHS, continue to teach the curriculum I have built during 18 of my 25 years in the classroom, and have my daughter attend the school that I have grown to care so much about.

This is what I don’t think the central office understands.  The CULTURE of CHHS goes beyond being a school.  We are Tigers.  For better or worse, for rich and for poor…we are a family.  To think that after 19 years I will no longer be part of the family, is what hurts.

In closing, I would like to thank you again.  In this summer with its many ups and downs, you have all provided a lot of support.  Come join us on August 17th at 2 pm at the Old Courthouse in Hillsborough.

Bert Wartski