CHAPEL HILL- When the Chapel Hill Town Council and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board met together for the first time last night to discuss shared concerns, Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt called for the school board to take a more active role in how the town plans for growth.
“We really need your feedback… to be more engaged in commenting on the impact of growth in our community on how well you’re able to provide your services to it,” said Kleinschmidt.
But long-time school board member Mike Kelley countered that growth is not what the district really needs.
“The best situation for the schools is stability, not to have to build new schools, not to have to redistrict, to move kids from one school from another and change those communities,” said Kelley.
Nonetheless, both council and school board members recognized that the district’s high-performing schools are a significant draw for Chapel Hill, and that school enrollment numbers are likely to continue to grow.
School board member Mia Burroughs has represented the district in the Central West planning process. She told the council the specifics of development aren’t as important to school administrators as the bottom line.
“Within our district, we’re not super-concerned about where the kids are,” said Burroughs. “What we are concerned about is how to do we pay for the schools and the operating costs, and that’s what we want you to be cognizant of, that when there are more kids, there’s a cost.”
Assistant Superintendent Todd LoFrese told the council the district is already struggling to maintain aging facilities and that the cost of operating new schools continues to rise.
In light of that, Burroughs and others asked the council to examine the economic impact of residential development and consider what can be done to increase the commercial tax base.
At the same time, some are already looking ahead to where the next school will go. Mayor Pro Tem Ed Harrison suggested land-banking potential school sites across the district.
“With the astounding price of land in this district, we really have to pin down that land right now, so that in five or ten years it isn’t simply out of reach,” said Harrison.
This was the first time the two groups have come together to discuss joint planning efforts. The school board and council pledged to continue the collaboration through a series of future meetings and raised the possibility of forming a committee to facilitate communication.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chccs-asks-town-council-to-consider-cost-of-growth/
CHAPEL HILL – The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools System is one of the top-achieving districts in North Carolina, yet closing the achievement gap is a urgent issue that has proven hard to solve.
The four candidates competing for three open spots on the CHCCS Board of Education spoke to this problem during WCHL’s Candidate Forum Monday.
Michelle Brownstein and James Barrett are the two incumbent candidates in the race, and the challengers are Ignacio Tzoumas and Andrew Davidson.
**Hear WCHL’s full CHCCS Board Candidate Forum below**
Brownstein, who was elected in 2009 and currently serves as Chair of the Board, said she believes that illiteracy is the one of the main factors contributing to the achievement gap.
“Interventions that we are providing for students also have to be evidence-based and be consistent. We have to look at our instructional time and how we are using those minutes,” Brownstein said. “There are children that need catch-up growth, and those children are the ones who are a part of this achievement gap. We have to follow them vertically as they go through the curriculum K-12.”
Barrett, who was elected to the Board in 2011, said the District needs to focus on improving the quality of instruction.
“We have pockets of really good instruction going on, but I think Dr. Forcella is clearly focused that every teacher, every classroom, has great instruction every day,” Barrett said. “And then the other thing that she [Michelle Brownstein] touched on is growth. Every student should be growing a year, and those that are behind should be growing a year.”
Tzoumas said if he were elected to the Board, he would work toward implementing sound policies as soon as possible.
“I think we’ve gotten to the point where it is rhetoric versus reality,” Tzoumas said. “We want to close that gap and start executing on the ideas as opposed to constantly bringing up the problem that is at hand.”
Davidson said one of the biggest challenges that disadvantaged students face is the “summer gap” in their education.
“Wealthier students show better academic progress during the summer than poorer students do, and that is one of the ways that the district has fallen short,” Davidson said. “And through no fault of their own, I think it is an innovation that we have to take on to focus on summer learning. We need to make that change so that when they get to the third grade, they make the change from learning to read to reading to learn.”
Early voting for the Nov. 5 municipal and Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board elections is underway now.http://chapelboro.com/2013-election-central/2013-election-candidate-forums/boe-on-closing-the-achievement-in-chccs/
CARRBORO- Two incumbents and two challengers are running for three open seats on the Chapel HiIl-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education.
At Wednesday’s forum hosted by the League of Women Voters, all candidates agreed closing the achievement gaps among students in the district should be the top priority in coming years.
James Barrett, who was elected to the board in 2011, said the failure to close those gaps undermines the district’s reputation for excellent schools.
“Public education has got to be for everybody, and if we’re not seeing all students achieve, that’s what the gap means,” said Barrett. “We’re not really serving all students.”
He stressed the growth mindset advocated by Superintendent Tom Forcella, designed to challenge assumptions about a student’s learning potential.
Michelle Brownstein serves as the current chair of the school board. She said the answer for many struggling students lies in literacy.
“Every child has to read well in order for them to be successful in society,” said Brownstein. “We owe that to them.”
Brownstein said the district needs to focus on consistent implementation of programs to make sure the administration’s educational policies are reflected in the classroom.
However, Ignacio Tzoumas argued that the district has been working for two decades to close the achievement gap, with little progress.
“We’ve had plenty of studies, we’ve had plenty of experts in the field, and hardly anything has changed,” said Tzoumas. “I think that personal interaction is what makes the biggest difference. I will push for as much personal interaction as possible.”
He pointed to the Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate program as an example of how one-on-one interaction can help change a student’s life for the better.
Andrew Davidson said he’d advocate for new technology to encourage student achievement.
“Some of the biggest challenges we face as a district, technology gives us the tools to overcome some of those challenges,” said Davidson. “I think the one-child-one-device initiative could revolutionize the way we reach especially our most under-advantaged students.”
He said he’d also like to see new technologies applied to student testing for more regular assessments instead of end-of-year exams.
You can find the full two-hour forum here.
The Orange-Durham-Chatham chapter of the League of Women Voters will also host a forum for Chapel Hill Town Council candidates at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 15 at the Seymour Senior Center on Homestead Road.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chccs-candidates-debate-achievement-gap/
Here’s the full list of filings in the 2013 municipal and school board elections:
(* denotes incumbent)
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education, three seats open:
*James Barrett, 43, 100 Morgan Bluff Ln, Chapel Hill, NC 27517, 919-593-0592
*Michelle (Shell) Brownstein, age withheld, 105 Glenhaven Dr, Chapel Hill NC 27516 919-932-3695/ 919-966-4131
Andrew Davidson, 39, 110 Westbury Ct, Chapel Hill, NC 27516, 919-370-9303
Ignacio Tzoumas, 39, 116 Milbrae Ln, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, 828-675-8883
Lydia Lavelle, 52, 8107 Kit Ln, Chapel Hill, NC 27516, 919-942-5640
Board of Alderman, three seats open:
*Randee Haven-O’Donnell, 62, 106 Fairfield Ct, Chapel Hill, NC 27516, 919-306-2080
*Jacquelyn Gist, 58, 206 Maple Ave. #A, Carrboro, NC 27510, 919-880-9326
*Sammy Slade, 38, 100 Crest St, Apt. E, Carrboro, NC 27510, 919-951-5200
Kurt Stolka, 32, 207 Robert Hunt Dr, Carrboro, NC 27510, 703-581-3742
Al Vickers, 68, 151 S. Fields Cir, Chapel Hill, NC 27516, 919-929-0502
Chapel Hill Mayor:
*Mark Kleinschmidt, 43, 102 Boulder Ln, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, 919-260-2488/ 919-240-7089
Chapel Hill Town Council, four seats open:
Gary Kahn, 57, 703 Copperline Dr. #306, Chapel Hill, NC 27516, 919-240-7435
*Sally Greene, 57, 406 Morgan Creek Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27517, 919-260-4077
Maria T. Palmer, 52, 303 Forbush Mt. Dr, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, 919-933-0259/ 919-260-4361
Paul Neebe, 51, 1002 Highland Woods Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27517, 919-929-9394/ 919-967-1554
*Ed Harrison, 62, 58 Newton Dr, Durham, NC 27707, 919-490-1566
George Cianciolo, 64, 7704 Amesbury Dr, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, 919-489-8539
Loren Hintz, 57, 804 Kings Mill Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, 919-933-8987
Amy Ryan, 53, 209 Adams Way, Chapel Hill, NC 27516, candidate requested phone number not be published
Jonathan Riehl, 37, 2 Mt. Bolus Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, 919-923-2558
D. C. Swinton, 25, 116 Hamilton Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27517, 864-631-6817
*Tom Stevens, 59, 213 W. Tryon St, Hillsborough, NC 27278, 919-245-1026
Town Commissioner, two seats open:
Jenn Weaver, 39, 323 W. Queen St, Hillsborough, NC 27278, 919-619-6065
Kathleen Ferguson, 50, 517 Central Ave, Hillsborough, NC 27278, 919-998-2153
Meighan Lela Carmichael, 37, 229 W. King St, Hillsborough, NC 27278, 919-590-8059http://chapelboro.com/news/election/full-list-of-2013-election-candidates/
CHAPEL HILL-Members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board hope to adopt a new budget Thursday night, despite the fact that the General Assembly’s spending plan is still up in the air.
School officials are looking to trim the local budget in anticipation of state-level cuts that could cost the district up to $1.3 million dollars of funding for teaching assistants.
The school board spent much of its last meeting re-evaluating spending priorities to make sure enough local funding is set aside to cover the budget shortfall.
But administrators are backing away from a plan to cut the number of gifted education specialists at each elementary, recommending that the district forgo hiring new middle school literacy coaches instead.
The legislature is still working out the details of next year’s state budget. If the state cuts prove to be more than anticipated, school officials say they will have to make do with one less teaching assistant at each of the district’s eleven elementary schools.
The board meets Thursday July 18 at 7:00 p.m. at the Lincoln Center on South Merritt Mill Road. Click here for the full agenda.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chccs-board-to-vote-on-new-budget-plan/
CHAPEL HILL- As local leaders wait and wait for a final state budget, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board members are struggling with how to fill the funding gaps, even before they know exactly what those gaps will be.
The school board came together for an unusual Monday meeting to consider a $1.7 million dollar package of possible reductions at the local level that could help ease the blow of projected cuts to the state education budget.
And while board members agreed that tough choices must be made, the board was split on a plan to cut the number of gifted education specialists down to one at each elementary school.
Jamezetta Bedford said after four years of budget cuts, the reductions might be unavoidable.
“I’m very reluctant, but I don’t know what else to cut,” said Bedford. “Because we have cut athletics, we have cut foreign languages. I don’t know what else to give up.”
The plan would reduce the total number of specialists through attrition and reassignment, saving the district $385,000. But nearly a dozen gifted education teachers and parents of gifted children came out to protest the cuts, saying it would jeopardize an already overburdened program.
Wendy Morgan has a child in the gifted education program at Morris Grove.
“I’m concerned that the creative energies that allow our gifted children to accomplish difficult and impressive feats could easily be overlooked,” said Morgan. “Without the appropriate channels for their gifts, it’s not only possible, but it is likely that many gifted children will become classroom behavior problems.”
Board members argued the size and scope of the gifted program is part of the problem. Citing failures to implement new teaching models and inconsistent implementation from school to school, James Barrett said it’s clear the current model isn’t working.
“We have a demonstrated need for better gifted education,” said Barrett. “What they’re doing today is not better gifted education, and so taking the cut, in some ways, is the shock that’s needed to improve the process.”
Still, some on the board including Michelle Brownstein worried that cutting the staff by a third without revamping the program would leave students underserved.
“We’re not there yet,” said Brownstein. “The best we have right now is our gifted education specialists. I don’t see how the classroom teacher can meet the needs of all the kids in these classrooms without their help.”
Adding to the confusion is the ongoing delay in the state legislature, as next year’s spending plan is tied up in negotiations about a possible tax system overhaul.
Lawmakers passed a continuing resolution to keep the government funded through July 31, but local leaders hope to sign off on a budget next week.
Under the Senate’s proposal, the district could lose as much as $1.3 million in funding for teaching assistants, while the House plan would only cut about $300,000. If the final budget more closely resembles the House plan, administrators might not need to implement the proposed reductions at all.
No votes were taken, but the board gave general approval to a series of less controversial cuts, including delaying the addition of a special education classroom and forgoing a onetime bonus to personnel. Members were less certain about a plan to start charging a fee for driver’s education, pending more information about a waiver system.
The proposed spending cuts will return for a formal vote next Thursday, when school board members plan to approve the final budget, even if the state budget is still in limbo.http://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/chccs-board-eyes-cuts-to-gifted-ed-to-balance-budget/
CHAPEL HILL- Each year around this time, school officials sign off on the annual SAPFO report, which analyzes student enrollment and estimates the need for new facilities.
And although the school board on Thursday approved this year’s report without hesitation, board members agree that it may be time to review the way student generation rates are calculated.
Assistant Superintendent Todd LoFrese told the school board that recent projections have not been accurate, in part because new developments don’t fit the model currently in place.
“Some neighborhoods like Chapel Watch Village, Chapel Hill North, and the multi-family units at Winmore and Claremont- before they were completed they’d already exceeded the anticipated generation rates for new students,” said LoFrese.
SAPFO stands for Schools Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. It’s an agreement between the school systems, towns and counties to use planning data on new residential development to project school enrollment before a permit is issued. If the projections exceed school capacity, SAPFO calls for a delay on construction until new facilities are in place.
But the decade-old ordinance is under fire from several directions. School officials in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district are seeing higher than expected student generation rates from new apartment complexes, while Orange County officials say growth in Mebane is skewing their numbers, as the town is not a party to the SAPFO agreement.
And a recent N.C. Supreme Court ruling may take the teeth out of the ordinance, by prohibiting the towns from withholding permits to developers on the basis of SAPFO numbers.
With all this in mind, Chapel Hill-Carrboro School board members want the county to consider a study to review how the SAPFO ordinance is working.
A full review could cost as much as $100,000, while a report focused only on student generation rates would cost about $40,000.
Annetta Streater said it might be worth the cost to look at the bigger picture.
“Since both the districts are interested in trying to get more accurate information, I just wonder is it wise to go ahead and pursue a comprehensive study, versus just this one piece related to the student generation rates,” said Streater. “Given our past challenges in being able to use this data, to just extract one piece doesn’t really give us all that we need.”
Current SAPFO projections call for a new middle school for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district in 2017, but LoFrese said if county commissioners decide to find the Culbreth science wing expansion this year, it will increase capacity and delay the need for a new school by two years.
Jamezetta Bedford reiterated the need for the expansion, saying the current classrooms are unacceptable.
“It’s not just an addition,” said Bedford. “There is no water in those rooms. They are inadequate spaces. They shouldn’t be called science labs; they’re just long hallway room that science is taught in.”
The county commissioners will consider funding for the Culbreth science wing at a budget work session on May 9th.
The SAPFO report will be forwarded to county commissioners for review later this month.http://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/chccs-school-board-calls-for-sapfo-review/
CHAPEL HILL – The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education has to make some tough decisions coming up. The district faces a $5 million shortfall for this next fiscal year in addition to potential cuts in state funding. The Board met Thursday night to take public comment and also held its own discussion on the superintendent’s recommended budget.
“What we were talking about was if there were opportunities for us to do some cost-savings and looking at us being more cost-efficient with our resources,” said Chair of the Board Michelle Brownstein.
The Board discussed consolidating high school classes that were under-enrolled, even suggesting using telecommunication teaching methods between schools. The Board also addressed the cost and effectiveness of virtual or online classes.
Public comments included one speaker who said “we will have your back” in regards to the Board trying to keep class sizes down. Another speaker voiced her concern on the lack of teaching assistants in elementary classes. Released Wednesday, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s proposed budget caused a stir in the education community. It’s estimated about 1,800 full-time teachers will be hired over the next two years. However, the trade-off is cutting teaching assistants.
“It’s kind of a shape-shifting of sorts where the PR on it is that they are adding teachers but really all they are doing is adding the teachers they are required to add because of increased enrollment,” Brownstein said.
“We really need input in particular from the elementary community because it looks like state funding may be lost for teachers’ assistants at all level except for the kindergarten and first-grade level,” Brownstein said.
Brownstein said the Board is still finalizing the numbers but will likely request an additional; $422 per student in funding from the county to cover the loss of federal funds and the cost of opening the new Northside Elementary.http://chapelboro.com/news/chccs-facing-tough-decisions-with-projected-budget-shortfalls/
This column will add to a main problem with what is frequently written online: I’m about to write my opinion of something about which I have almost no firsthand knowledge. Kind of makes you want to click something else, doesn’t it?
I’m writing about the apparently pending transfer of Chapel Hill High School English teacher Anne Thompson. I don’t know the teacher, I don’t have a child at the school, nor at her intended destination of Carrboro High. I am not a member of any group that has fought the transfer nor have I been affiliated with the school board or administration in any way.
Now that we’re clear on the many reasons I have absolutely no standing to have an opinion, here’s why I do: I have a heart and compassion.
From what I read on Chapelboro.com, this teacher is one year away from retirement and is still recovering from the death of her husband this past year. Thompson has taught at CHHS for 26 years and to not be able to finish her career there seems as if it was decided by machines, not people. If there were any reason to think we were talking about a teacher who was phoning it in, a lame duck, I certainly wouldn’t want any child at any school to receive less than the best but that doesn’t appear to be anyone’s concern about Anne Thompson.
There are differing opinions/claims over whether this transfer has to do with some negative interactions Thompson may have had with the now-retired principal of CHHS. Maybe it does. Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe she did. Maybe she didn’t. He’s not there anymore. She has one more year to teach. Students seem to love her. She’s being asked to learn new systems and a new curriculum in a place where she has no support system. No one is at his/her most effective when new; it’s a trade-off that’s worth it when the change is one that’s going to build and vest over years. That’s clearly not the case here.
So what’s the business case for this transfer? If there is a business case for this, or an educational case, I’ve not heard it. If there is a human case for it, I can’t find it. Are our schools teaching children to be kind, to consider all circumstances, to look beyond the obvious? Or are we teaching them to be rigid and punitive? In my uneducated view of this case, there’s a beautiful opportunity for school system leadership to show the strength inherent in flexibility. That would be some savvy spending of power!
Agree, disagree? Leave a comment below or write to me at Donnabeth@Chapelboro.comhttp://chapelboro.com/columns/savvy-spender/teaching-beyond-the-classroom/