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 Works on Teacher Salaries With Project ADVANCE

Chapel Hill- Carrboro City Schools is continuing to investigate new ways to pay teachers and support staff through Project ADVANCE.

Project ADVANCE is a new system that CHCCS is working on that will award raises to teachers who continue their professional development through classes or other learning opportunities.

Executive Director Rydell Harrison presented some of his plans for Project ADVANCE  to the CHCCS Board of Education last week

“Is there really a connection between years of service and student learning,” he said. “The answer to that question is no there is not and this unfortunately sends a confusing message about what’s most important.”

Under the current system, CHCCS teachers receive raises based on how many years they have been teaching. Harrison said he believes Project ADVANCE could be the solution to this problem.

“The way it works is that teachers and support staff will earn credits by participating in professional learning,” he said. “Then those new practices are implemented in the classroom by working with students and that’s another level of points and then finally once we see the impact and look at student outcomes we’re able to award additional credits.”

Once a staff member earns a certain number of credits, they will move to a higher level on the pay scale.

“This allows teachers to move to the higher end of the salary schedule that we currently have in a more accelerated time frame,” he said. “And we hope that this would help us recruit and retain strong teachers.”

He is working towards implementing the system for all teachers starting in August of next year, but is still creating many of the specifics, including how to bring teachers into the system that are already in the district and what exactly the levels of pay will be.

He will continue to present his plan to the board as the year goes on.

Board member Andrew Davidson said the board will support the project in any way it can in order implement the program next school year.

“Walk For Education” Hits Franklin Street Saturday

Saturday at 2 pm – rain or shine! – thousands of Chapel Hill-Carrboro students, parents, faculty and staff will take to the streets in support of education.

It’s the 19th annual “Walk for Education,” a major fundraiser for programs in the CHCCS district. Organized by the Public School Foundation, it’s involved students, parents and staff at all the district’s schools raising pledges to support a variety of important programs, including new technology and equipment.

The Walk begins at McCorkle Place, on campus on the east end of downtown Chapel Hill. Walkers will begin gathering at 12:30 – then at 2:00, they’ll begin walking down Franklin Street towards Lincoln Center, where there will be a carnival with food, fun, games and more until 6:00.

Public School Foundation Executive Director Lynn Lehmann and carnival co-chair Lyn Billings joined Aaron Keck Thursday on WCHL.


Chapel Hill Police will be closing Franklin Street downtown at 2:00 Saturday afternoon to allow the walkers to pass; they’ll open the street again as soon as the walk is done.

For more information on the Walk for Education or the Public School Foundation, visit this page.

Rain Or Shine, “Tiger Chill” Is On At CHHS Saturday

Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, tiger beats hurricane.

The threat of heavy weather this weekend is causing postponements and cancellations of events across the Triangle, but Chapel Hill High School is going forward with their annual “Tiger Chill” carnival on Saturday, with proceeds to benefit teachers’ professional development and other programs at the school.

(One accommodation to the weather: organizers are moving Tiger Chill inside.)

The carnival features inflatables, games, food trucks, live music and more. It runs from 4-8 pm at Chapel Hill High School; there’s a cost to play the games but admission is free.

Sondra Komada is the co-founder and organizer of Tiger Chill. She stopped by WCHL on Friday and spoke with Aaron Keck.

Forum Saturday Will Tackle Equity, Excellence At CHCCS

The “achievement gap” has been a major issue in our local schools for years, even decades. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district is generally recognized as one of the very best in North Carolina (if not the best), but there’s a persistent disparity between rich and poor, and between whites and minorities, when it comes to test scores, graduation rates, and the other measures of academic performance. That disparity is wider in CHCCS schools than in many other districts. And there’s also a “gap” in discipline as well: students of color are more likely to be punished or suspended for infractions than their white peers, even when both commit the same offense.

Educators, administrators, staff, parents, and everyone else involved in the schools have long been concerned about those persistent “gaps.” But while the district has committed a great deal of resources and effort to tackling the problem, actual progress has been frustratingly minimal.

What are the next steps? How can our schools move toward equity and make real progress in closing the achievement and discipline gaps, while maintaining the excellent quality that the district is known for?

Members of the community are invited to a community forum on this topic Saturday, September 26, from 1-4 pm at Northside Elementary School. Co-sponsored by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, Organizing Against Racism, the CHCCS Multicultural Student Achievement Network, and the CHCCS PTA Council, the forum is called “Achieving Equity and Excellence in Our Schools: Challenges and Opportunities.” Everyone’s invited to offer feedback, hear from others, and be a part of the ongoing effort.

Greg McElveen of the CH-C NAACP (a former school board member) and Wanda Hunter of Organizing Against Racism joined Aaron Keck on WCHL this week to discuss the forum and the larger issue.

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

Orange County Is Wealthy, But Poverty Still Widespread

Orange County is one of the wealthiest counties in North Carolina, but poverty is still a major issue.

How widespread is it?

“3,820 children in Orange County live in poverty,” says Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce president Aaron Nelson, quoting numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau. “That’s a lot of children waking up in one of the richest counties in the state of North Carolina, in poverty.”

As of 2013, the latest available data, about 3800 Orange County children were living in poverty – about 13.4 percent of all Orange County kids. On the plus side, that’s down from a peak of 4800, or 17.4 percent, at the height of the recession in 2010.

“We’ve been bending down, and that’s really good news,” says Nelson.

But not every measure of childhood poverty is trending down. Nelson says the percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunch is still on the rise, in both of Orange County’s school districts.

“Orange County Schools (is) at 43 percent, up from 32 percent in 2006-07, (and) Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools is also on the increase, from 21 to 28.2 percent,” he says. “This number is not showing that trend down in poverty.”

And while the number of families receiving food and nutrition services (food stamps) is down slightly, it’s still significantly higher than it was even in the midst of the recession. 6,087 Orange County families receive food stamps today – down from a peak of 6,533 in 2013, but virtually unchanged from four years ago and well up from 4600 in the middle of 2010.

“The recession is long over, and yet this number (has) continued to grow,” Nelson says.

Nelson says the recent decline is good news, but the long-term trend is still sobering. In 2007, prior to the recession, only 2,900 Orange County families received food stamps. That number has more than doubled.

Orange County’s overall poverty rate is 15.5 percent, slightly below the 17.9 percent rate for the state as a whole – and surprisingly, more than 23 percent of Chapel Hillians live in poverty. Nelson says the student population skews that data a bit, but “I don’t want to discount that we do have poor students too, who really are struggling to make their way through college or community college.”

And he says the percentage of children living in poverty is a reminder that this is a very real issue in our community, students or no students.

Nor is a decline in poverty necessarily an entirely good thing. Nelson says there’s a correlation between the improving economy and the drop in poverty – but correlation does not equal causation. Is Orange County’s childhood poverty rate declining because poor families are moving out of poverty? Or is it because poor families are simply moving out of Orange County?

Nelson says it’s not clear. But there is one more troubling statistic. In the year 2000, according to the Urban Institute, there were 1,839 housing units in Orange County that were available for “extremely low income” households – or households making less than 30 percent of the county’s median income. At the time, Orange County had about 6,000 households fitting that description.

As of 2013, Orange County still had about 6,000 “extremely low income” households – but the number of available housing units had dropped almost in half, from more than 1800 down to 1,022.

Nelson says we’re seeing that trend in every county in the region.

“And I did some math – do you know what your wage is if you make minimum wage, working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, you never take a vacation or a sick day?” he says. “It’s $16,500.”

Thirty percent of Orange County’s median income is $20,300 – so there are about six thousand households in Orange County making less than or barely over minimum wage (some of them students but not all), and the number of available housing units for those families has been shrinking rapidly for more than a decade.

Nelson made those comments last month, delivering his annual State of the Community report.

You can check out the full report here.

“TigerLinks” Helps Freshmen Transition To High School

Back-to-school time is always exciting, but it can also be a tough transition for students – especially students moving from middle to high school.

But at Chapel Hill High School, teachers and students have joined forces to help incoming freshmen make that transition a successful one.

They’re doing it through a program called TigerLinks – which pairs incoming first-year students up with juniors and seniors who serve as informal mentors throughout the year. Improving on an earlier mentoring program, TigerLinks launched last year and continues into year two this week.

The idea, say organizers, is to improve grades, reduce behavioral issues, and help shrink the everpresent achievement gap as well.

Teachers Tom Stanfa and Myles Aitken are in charge of the program, along with Randy Trumbower, William Melega, Veena Rajan, and assistant principal Anna Hipps. Nearly a hundred juniors and seniors serve in mentoring roles: the program pairs them up and assigns them to groups of 10-13 incoming freshmen.

Tom Stanfa and Myles Aitken joined Aaron Keck on WCHL last week, along with student mentors Jade Martens and Hanna Siekiersky.

CHCCS Hires New Principal For Phillips Middle School

Tomeka Ward-Satterfield

Tomeka Ward-Satterfield

Phillips Middle School has a new principal: Tomeka Ward-Satterfield.

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board approved the hire at a meeting Thursday night. Ward-Satterfield has been assistant principal at East Chapel Hill High since 2009, after working more than ten years as a teacher, counselor, and administrator in Durham and Alamance Counties.

The board also approved two other hires at the same meeting: Ileana Herrera is the new assistant principal at Chapel Hill High School, and Scott Fearrington is the district’s new director of transportation.

Herrera is coming to the district from Chatham County Schools. Fearrington has been with the district for 17 years; he’s served as Community Schools Program Supervisor since 2011.

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.