CHCCS Considers Teacher Pay Increase

CHCCS superintendent Tom Forcella said next year’s budget has one thing in mind — teacher salaries.

“This budget this year has a focus addressing the salary issue problem,” Forcella said. “And very little else in terms of dollars for this year are included in any kind of enhancement of any other kind of programs.”

Teacher salaries are decided by the state, but school systems can offer supplements to that income from their own budgets.

Last year Wake County Schools significantly increased their budget after receiving 15 million dollars for teacher salaries from their county commissioners.

Forcella estimated that Wake County Schools pays teachers an average of two to three thousand dollars more per year and recommended the board increase supplements in next year’s budget.

“I hear principals tell us they have a hard time retaining teachers with Wake County paying a significantly higher supplement than we do,” said board member Andrew Davidson. “So I think it’s absolutely imperative that we get behind this salary increase in every way that we can.”

Forcella recommended the board increase supplements for new teachers from 12 percent to 16 percent as a way to stay competitive in recruiting and retaining teachers.

This expense would add an additional $1.85 million to next year’s budget.

The move would come at some risk because the board is scheduled to ask the county for the necessary funds in April, but there is no guarantee the county will approve.

“We understand that we would be doing this at some risk of cuts,” said board member James Barrett.

The school system will soon begin trying to recruit new teachers and retain others. Because the board is moving forward with this proposal, they will be offering jobs at this increased supplement before receiving county approval for increased funding.

Should the county deny the board’s request; Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools will be responsible for cutting $1.85 million next year from its budget to finance the increase in teacher pay.

“It’s something that we have to do,” he said. “And the timing is absolutely critical because of the recruitment cycle and the retention cycle that we’re right in the middle of. It’s the right thing to do to focus on salary.”

The board will submit their proposal for next year’s budget to the county on April 13 and present their proposal April 26.

Joal Hall Broun Appointed To CHCCS Board Of Education

Joal Hall Broun was chosen from seven applicants to fill the vacancy on the Board of Education left by Michelle Brownstein, who resigned in December.

While electing the new member in their meeting Thursday night, no board member spoke about any specific candidate.

“We’re normally very verbose,” said board member Andrew Davidson. “We tend to clam up during this process because when we have this, what we called an ’embarrassment of riches’ last time, we have seven highly qualified candidates so it’s hard for us to speak up.”

Davidson said the board did not want to discourage anyone who applied for the position.

The board voted initially to narrow down the field. In the first vote, the top three names, in no specified order, were Broun, Allen Baunsi and Mary Anne Wolf.

In the second vote, composed of the three remaining candidates, Broun received the majority of the votes and was unanimously approved.

Board member Rani Dasi explained how she evaluated candidates.

“What the board in my mind needs is some structural support,” she said. “We lost 31 years of experience in our last three board members who have left the board. So I really thought about making sure that my candidate had elected experience.”

Broun has worked on the Carrboro Board of Alderman and has served on the board for the Orange Water and Sewer Authority.

She did not address the board on Thursday, but spoke at the meeting last week. She said scrutinizing our expectations of students is important for closing the achievement gap.

“Do you expect that child because he does not look or she does not look like someone else, do you expect them to do well? So the expectation is that all students should do well,” Broun said.

She will be sworn in and officially begin her duties at the next meeting on March, 3.

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.

Meet Pittsboro, CHCCS Candidates In Forums Thursday

Election Day is approaching! Come learn about the candidates at a pair of forums on Thursday, September 24, both hosted by the League of Women Voters of Orange, Durham, and Chatham Counties.

The first is for Pittsboro voters: the LWV is hosting a forum for Pittsboro mayoral and town council candidates from 6-8 pm in the auditorium of the Agriculture Building at 65 East Chatham Street. (You’l be able to register to vote at the forum too.)

The second is for Chapel Hill/Carrboro voters: a forum for CHCCS school board candidates from 6:30-8:00 pm at the Chapel Hill Public Library.

LWV Voter Services chair Krishna Mondal joined Aaron Keck on WCHL Monday to discuss the two forums.


For more information on the two forums or on the League of Women Voters, visit

Races Heat Up For CHCCS, H’boro Town Board

We’re almost through the filing period for local elections – and on Wednesday, four new candidates added their hats to the ring.

Incumbent David Saussy and challenger Pat Heinrich are now officially in the race for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School board. Saussy is running for his first full term; he was appointed to the Board last December to fill the seat left vacant by Mia Burroughs when she got elected to the Board of County Commissioners.

Saussy and Heinrich join incumbent Annetta Streater and challengers Rani Dasi, Theresa Watson, and Margaret Samuels in what is now a six-person race for four open seats on the board. Two other incumbents, Jamezetta Bedford and Mike Kelley, haven’t announced their intentions yet. (Bedford, though, has previously indicated that she was not planning to run again.)

And the race for Hillsborough Board of Commissioners also heated up Wednesday with two more candidates: incumbent commissioner Brian Lowen and challenger Ashley DeSena.

DeSena currently works as operations coordinator for the Pope Center for Higher Education, but she spent nearly five years as program coordinator at the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough from 2010 until this February. She also serves as vice chair of Hillsborough’s Parks and Recreation Board.

Also in the race for Hillsborough town commissioner: incumbent Evelyn Lloyd and challenger Mark Bell.

See the full list of candidates who have filed to date.

The filing period ends on Friday at noon.

Schwartz, Samuels Throw Their Hats In The Ring

There’s another candidate in the race for Chapel Hill Town Council: David Alan Schwartz filed to run for office on Monday.

Schwartz has been recently active with the group Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town, or CHALT. He’s the sixth candidate to file to run for Town Council – joining Michael Parker, Paul Neebe, Nancy Oates, Jessica Anderson, and incumbent Lee Storrow.

There are four seats up for election on the Council this year – one of which is vacant, following Matt Czajkowski’s departure earlier this year. In addition to Storrow, the other two incumbents are Donna Bell and Jim Ward; they haven’t announced their intentions publicly yet.

Elsewhere, there are now four candidates in the race for a seat on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board.

The terms of Mike Kelley, Jamezetta Bedford, Annetta Streater and David Saussy expire this fall. To date, Streater is the only incumbent who’s filed to run for re-election.

The challengers are Rani Dasi, Theresa Watson, and now Margaret Samuels. Samuels is president of OE Enterprises, which provides job training services for people with disabilities.

Dasi is a business analysis manager at Lord Corporation, as well as a board member for The Walking Classroom.

Theresa Watson has worked for years as a youth mentor. She ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Carrboro Board of Aldermen in May 2014.

See the full list of candidates in Orange County.

The filing period continues through Friday for those seeking office on the Chapel Hill Town Council, Carrboro Board of Aldermen, Hillsborough Town Board and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board.

CHCCS Takes a Pass on Proposed Obey Creek School Site

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system is saying “thanks, but no thanks” to a proposed school site offered by Obey Creek developers.

The proposed Obey Creek site was marked as a potential school location several years ago on Chapel Hill’s land use plan.

Todd LoFrese, assistant superintendent for support services at Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, noted that in April 2014, the Board of Education approved a resolution for the Town Council to recognize that potential site, and to include that as party of negotiations with developers.

Later, the Council asked CHCCS if the school site offered by developers should be reserved.

The Board of Education has now come to a decision regarding Obey Creek.

“At a recent board meeting, the board passed a resolution thanking the Town Council for honoring that process,” said LoFrese. “The next was to communicate that we weren’t in reserving a school site. There are some challenges with the proposed area that was offered to the district as a school site.”

One of those development challenges, said LoFrese, is that the school would be difficult to access.

“There’d be an extensive bridge that would need to be constructed to cross over the creek,” said LoFrese.

In the final part of the resolution, the Board of Educations expressed that the Chapel Hill- Carrboro school system has other facility needs to address.

“We would be open to looking at other potential locations for where a school could be built,” said LoFrese. “We didn’t specify that it would be in the area that is currently proposed for development by Obey Creek. And the board also communicated that we have 10 older school facilities that have a lot of financial need.”

LoFrese said that it’s too early to estimate the impact the development will have on the school system, without a hard number of residential units to consider.

Right now, however, there are some spot-crowding problems that could be fixed, he said.

“Smith Middle School rises to the top of the list in my mind,” said LoFrese. “We had to close the school this year to new enrollment, even if you lived in the Smith zone. So we have some families who are being transported to either McDougle or Phillips, or Culbreth.”

LoFrese said there is still some breathing room at the elementary and high school levels. The next projected need for a middle school is in 2023.

In the meantime, said LoFrese, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro system would like to expand older schools, while performing long-needed renovations.

That, he said, would further put off the need for new schools. He added that it could also create the equivalent of an entire new elementary school.

CHCCS Looks To Revamp Teacher Pay Plan

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools officials want to move away from longevity bonuses for teachers to a pay scale that rewards professional development. While that might mean more money for some educators, it could come at a cost to others.

“Some will be very upset, yet I think it’s the best thing to do, in the long-term, for teachers, so that you don’t have to go be an assistant principal in order to make more money,” said Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board member Jamezetta Bedford, speaking at a board meeting last week.

Last year the North Carolina General Assembly passed a budget that requires school systems to submit a plan for differentiated teacher pay. But CHCCS officials say they want to make sure the pay plan the district adopts will support the progress of all teachers, not just the top performers.

Board Chair Mike Kelley said the plan under consideration now meets that goal.

“A possible alternative that the state legislature could impose on us might look very ugly, but this to me seems like its homegrown- it comes from our professionals and it’s been developed and thought out in a way which is very careful, deliberative and not reactionary,” said Kelley.

A committee of teachers, staffers and advisors from UNC’s School of Education recently sat down to evaluate options for reconfiguring teacher pay.

They came up with a plan in which teachers would earn points for participating in professional development and get credit for rising student test scores. These points would then translate to salary increases.

But this could mean those teachers who don’t invest in professional development might lose out on potential pay raises, as longevity bonuses would no longer be guaranteed.

Still, given that many teachers have seen their compensation levels frozen for years, Assistant Superintendent Todd LoFrese said the new plan might be better than the status quo.

“Their current reality is they’ve been standstill for six, seven years, and now the new model that the state has in terms of the salary schedule shows that raises come every five years,” LoFrese told the board. “So we’re trying to change that and we think this is a positive step in that direction.”

Superintendent Tom Forcella told the board last week the full financial details are not yet available, but administrators want to make sure it doesn’t cost the district more, or cause those currently employed as teachers to lose ground. Board Chair Kelley warned it might be tough to do both.

“Unless there’s new money for salaries- and that would probably have to come from the state in some fashion, because it is probably not likely going to come from the district- then there may have to be some redistribution of the funds that are available,” said Kelley.

The school board will discuss the plan further at the district’s planning retreat in February. Administrators will present a final proposal to the board in March.

Search is On for Burroughs’ Replacement on Board of Education

The Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools System is taking applications to replace outgoing member Mia Burroughs, who was elected Tuesday to the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

Board of Education Chair Jamezetta Bedford began Thursday’s meeting at Town Hall by congratulating Burroughs on her election to the Board of Commissioners.

She added that the Board of Education has accepted Burroughs’ resignation, effective Nov. 30. Burroughs’ opponent in the race, Gary Kahn, also congratulated her during public comments.

Now begins the process of finding her replacement.

According to a North Carolina statute and CHCCS policy, the remaining members of a board must appoint a new member when there is a vacancy caused by resignation, death or other reasons.

The appointed person serves until the next board election.

A timeline for the selection process has been proposed, and it begins with advertising the position – on the CHCCS website, in a press release, in PTA newsletters, and among school improvement teams and community groups such as El Centro.

An information session for applicants will be held at 4:30 p.m. at Lincoln Center on Nov. 17. The board seems to be anticipating a big response, enough to raise concerns that the brevity of the meetings may not allow members to learn as much as they’d like to know about applicants.

“It’s really hard to get to know someone, even on a superficial level, when you’re across the room from them, asking these stilted questions,” said Board Member Mike Kelley.

Bedford assured everyone that additional insight would be provided by “a set of eight, in-depth questions for them to respond to, that we will have in advance to read, too.”

The deadline for submitting applications, to be delivered to the superintendent’s office at Lincoln Center, is Nov. 19.

Interviews will be held at Lincoln Center at 6 p.m. on Nov. 24.

Board of Education Member Michelle Brownstein said she hopes there can be some flexibility in the timeline, in case a small handful of finalists happens to present a tough choice.

“You have to do it publicly,” said Brownstein, “where you’re saying we’re actually going to delay doing anything, because we need to have more information, just like you might have to do for a superintendent search, or whatever.”

According to the timeline, Burrough’s replacement will be selected at the 7 p.m. Board of Education Meeting on Dec. 4 at Lincoln Center, and sworn in on Dec. 18.

The state constitution requires the appointee to be an eligible voter and resident in the district. He or she may not be otherwise employed by the board.

According to an agenda abstract for Thursday’s meeting, the school system is looking for someone with either professional or volunteer experience in education, preferably in the district.

Community volunteer work, knowledge of local school issues and flexibility to attend meetings are also considered important.

Convicted felons are ineligible, unless their rights of citizenship are fully restored. Applicants must also be upfront about potential financial conflicts of interest.

Environmental Measures Help Schools Save Money

The new sustainability coordinator for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools told the Board of Education on Thursday night how his environmental efforts are saving the school system more than $100,000 this year.

Sustainability Coordinator Dan Schnitzer said he analyzes three elements every time he starts a program or collaborates on a program – academic impact, environmental impact, and financial impact.

Schnitzer said he’s implemented measures to make schools more cost-efficient, including “literally rolling up sleeves and getting into some dumpsters.”

At the Board of Education meeting, Schnitzer said cost-cutting measures include reducing the number of dumpsters and frequency of dumpster pickups. “It’s one of those areas where no one complains and so we assume it’s not a problem,” said Schnitzer. “But we can probably do better, and we’ve been able to do that.”

Schnitzer also cut costs by upgrading from incandescent bulbs to more energy and cost-efficient LED bulbs. He said that all together these efforts resulted in $128,000 in savings.

He’s the first person to hold the job of sustainability coordinator, which is funded through a permanent utility budget reallocation. Assistant Superintendent for Support Services Todd LoFrese said the savings from Schnitzer’s work exceeded his salary.

Shnitzer supported a composting program at Phillips Middle School. It was started by a group of students who call themselves the “Trash Terminators.” Now, students all across the school system compost their food scraps after lunch.

Superintendent Tom Forcella talked about eating lunch at Phillips last year.

“It was interesting seeing how the kids were very seamless in knowing where to put stuff,” said Forcella. “But I was really nervous because I was afraid of putting my container in the wrong place.”