NCGA Budget Impasse Leaves Local TA’s In Limbo

As state lawmakers wrangle over a budget agreement, nearly 100 teaching assistants in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system are in limbo, waiting to find out if they’ll still have jobs when school starts.

Arasi Adkins is the Human Resources Director for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. She says 79 local teaching assistant positions will remain unfilled until state budget negotiations are complete.

“Their livelihood is hanging in the balance,” says Adkins. “They’re waiting to be re-hired. We’re kind of holding on, so this is extremely difficult for them [and] it’s extremely difficult for us in terms of staffing. It’s been a very challenging summer.”

Last year, in response to state budget cuts, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools hired new teaching assistants on one year contracts that the district paid for using reserve funds. Now, school officials say the district has run out of reserve funds to cover the shortfall, and they’re waiting to see what, if anything, the state will do to help pay for teaching assistants.

“Because there’s such a huge variance in the House version of the budget and the Senate version of the budget, it really is difficult to do anything other that wait,” says Adkins.

Negotiations between the state House and Senate are stalled as legislators debate competing spending plans. The House version calls for a five or six percent raise for teachers while the Senate wants to push that up to 11 percent, but pay for those raises by cutting teaching assistants.

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board is waiting until July 17 to adopt its local budget for next year. In anticipation of further cuts to state funding the board has identified two levels of potential budget cuts.

The first tier would bring the budget in line with the House plan. It would require $850,000 worth of cuts, including the loss of 4.5 gifted education specialist positions.

Depending on the final budget, a second round of cuts could be necessary. That would mean eliminating the district’s service learning coordinator, cutting media assistants to part-time, losing three and a half more gifted education positions, and shifting some custodial staff to lower-paid contract work.

But some worry that a third round of cuts might be needed if something similar to the Senate budget is passed. If that happens, school officials acknowledge teaching assistant positions will be on the chopping block.

“We have identified two different tiers worth of cuts that don’t involve teaching assistant reductions at all, so that’s what we’re really hoping for. Beyond that we really haven’t discussed the number of teaching assistant positions that would be cut if we have to go to that,” says Adkins

State lawmakers on Friday canceled a planned negotiation session, prompting speculation that the General Assembly could walk away without a new spending plan. The state is currently operating on a two-year budget passed in 2013, so the lack of a deal wouldn’t cause a government shutdown, but Adkins says the uncertainty affects what the district can offer to entice new hires.

Most disheartening, she says, is the recent discussion in the Senate questioning the benefits of teaching assistants in the classroom.

“I mean, it’s July. If they wanted to bring up research about the value of teaching assistants, I really believe they should have spent more time last year visiting classrooms, talking to teachers, talking to their constituents about the value of teaching assistants,” says Adkins.”I’d really argue that anybody who questions the value of a teacher assistant should be required to do substitute teaching in an elementary classroom.”

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board meets on Thursday to discuss the budget, but whether or not the board will have a budget to approve remains to be seen. In the meantime, many local teaching assistants have no choice but to wait and see.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/ncga-budget-impasse-leaves-local-tas-limbo/

CHCCS Board of Education Meets to Talk About Cuts

The Chapel-Hill Carrboro City Schools Board of Education meets Tuesday night for a work session to discuss possible budget cuts, at a time when local governments are uncertain about what the state legislature has in store.

Without a guiding budget consensus between the House and Senate in Raleigh, the Chapel Hill Carrboro Board of Education is moving forward with a plan to balance the budget with more than $850,000 in cuts, while bracing for an additional $1 million in reductions.

Those proposed cuts and their priority levels will be discussed at the meeting.

The initial list includes reducing gifted specialists by 4.5 full-time personnel. And the local driver education subsidy would be cut by $40,000.

First on the list of the next round of cuts, in order of priority, would be to eliminate the service learning coordinator and program. Next, custodial positions would be cut by 7.5 full-time positions.

Third on the list: The work year for teacher assistants could be reduced for $150,000 in savings.

Those are just a few of the recommended cuts on the two lists.

The Board plans to adopt a final budget on July 17. There may be additional meetings tacked onto the calendar if the state budget is leaner than anticipated when it comes to education, according to the Superintendent’s office.

The meeting takes place at 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Center at 750 South Merritt Mill Road in Chapel Hill.

http://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/chccs-board-education-meets-prioritize-cuts/

Four New CHCCS Coaches

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools announced the hiring of four new high school coaches on Thursday night.

Among those are former Reidsville High boys’ basketball coach Bill Walton, who will take over for Interim Chapel Hill High School Coach Lason Perkins; and Carrboro High Assistant Football Coach Melvin Griffin, who now takes over the head coach position.

Tim Bennett, Athletic Director at Chapel Hill High, issued a statement that reads, in part:

“We are excited to announce three new coaches, William Walton, Jason Curtis and Greg Cain, to our coaching staff at Chapel Hill High School. Each one brings valuable experience and strong leadership to our athletic program.”

And Carrboro High School Athletic Director April Ross issued this statement about new head football coach Melvin Griffin.

“Coach Griffin has extensive knowledge and experience in football, and we have the utmost respect and confidence in his abilities to lead our program. We are currently seeking qualified assistant coaches to complete our football coaching staff.”

Griffin replaces Jason Tudryn, who left in April to take a job as UNC’s first Director of High School Relations.

New Chapel Hill High Boy’s Basketball Coach Bill Walton resigned as Reidsville High’s head coach back in January, citing health reasons.

In eight-plus seasons, Walton led the Reidsville Rams to a record of 145-72.

His most recent predecessor at Chapel Hill High, Lason Perkins, was named interim coach in the wake of former Athletic Director and Head Coach Tod Morgan’s departure last September. Morgan took a job at C.B. Aycock High School in Pikeville.

Perkins led the Tigers through a 19-8 season, and was an assistant coach under Morgan for four years.

At Thursday night’s Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education meeting at Lincoln Center, several people from the basketball program at Chapel Hill High came out to voice their disappointment that Perkins would not carry on as head coach. This was just before the new hires were announced.

One of those speakers, team member Jeremy Werden, is the student body president-elect of Chapel Hill High.

“I’ve been in the Chapel Hill High Basketball program for three years,” said Werden. “Throughout these years, the varsity basketball team has encompassed a 69-14 record, as well as being back-to-back-to-back conference champions.

“While our current coach was not the head coach for two of those years, he was still a crucial part of the program. He’s a great tactician, coming up with countless offensive and defensive schemes, created to complement our personnel.”

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Executive Director for Community Relations Jeff Nash has pointed out that CHCCS hires all coaches for only one season at a time.

The other two new coach hires for Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools are:

Greg Cain, the head softball and baseball coach for Smith Middle School, who will now be the head coach for Chapel Hill High softball, and;

Jason Curtis, the new head coach for men’s and women’s soccer at Chapel Hill High. He’s stepping up from the assistant coaching position there.

http://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/basketball-soccer-softball-coaches-hired-chhs-football-coach-carrboro-high/

On School Funding, BOCC Faces Tough Choices

Tonight at 7:00, the Orange County Board of Commissioners holds a work session (at the Southern Human Services Center) to continue discussing next year’s fiscal budget – including, perhaps most notably, the question of funding for Orange County’s two school districts.

The current proposal (with no property tax increase) includes a $2.9 million combined increase in spending for Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools – but the two districts face a combined shortfall of around $7 million. Local officials are also watching the budget debate in Raleigh, where legislators are considering at least one proposal that would eliminate funding for teaching assistants in grades 2 and 3 (among other things).

Many local residents have called on county commissioners to raise the county’s property tax rate to fully fund the school districts’ budget requests, but county officials have been reluctant to raise a rate that’s already relatively high (fifth-highest of North Carolina’s 100 counties).

Click here for budget and tax-rate information, from an earlier board meeting agenda.

With all of that (and more) in mind, WCHL’s Aaron Keck sat down on Tuesday with County Commissioner Penny Rich, who’s also a parent in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district.

Listen to their conversation.

 

http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/school-funding-bocc-faces-tough-choices/

Local Electeds React To State Senate Budget

The North Carolina General Assembly is meeting in “short session” this year – but there’s been no shortness of controversy.

At the center of debate last week was the budget proposal released by State Senate Republicans, which includes more than $400 million for a significant hike in teacher salaries – but that raise comes (among other things) at the expense of massive cuts to teacher assistants in grades 2 and 3.

Already facing a multi-million-dollar shortfall, officials at Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools say the Senate’s proposal would likely force the district to make even more cuts than they were initially planning – unless they can persuade County Commissioners to dig even deeper into the pool of local money. (Fully funding the budget requests of both the county’s districts would almost certainly necessitate a tax increase, though, which County Commissioners and county staff have been reluctant to impose.)

Meanwhile – though it hasn’t received as much media attention – local municipalities across the state are also contending with the repeal of a business privilege tax, which the AP reports could cost municipalities a total of $62 million statewide. Governor Pat McCrory signed the repeal on Thursday.

With those and other issues in mind, WCHL’s Aaron Keck invited Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board member James Barrett to the studio on Thursday, for a pair of conversations about the local impact of recent actions at the NCGA.

Mark Kleinschmidt:

James Barrett:

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/local-electeds-react-state-senate-budget/

Schools Request Increased Budget From Orange County

The North Carolina Legislature has received a lot of criticism for its cuts to public education, adding pressure to the local government’s efforts to support its schools.

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro city school board has requested $3.8 million in local money, including $750,000 more in renovations.

If the county manager does not meet their budget request, CHCCS will have a $2.7 million shortfall, leading to “first round proposed reductions” in gifted specialists positions and central office staff members.

An additional two million in cuts affects the students more directly, through reductions in media assistance in schools, high school theatre classes, elementary teacher assistants and more gifted specialists.

Jeff Hall, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro PTA council, says it is important for the commissioners to pick up the slack in funding caused by changes in the state budget, a job that needs to be done quickly and creatively.

“I have a third grader who is identified as gifted,” Hall said. I don’t want to see her lose a gifted specialist in her school that will meet her needs and help her develop as a child. There is nothing on this list (of cuts) that is okay.”

Governor Pat McCrory’s new $21 billion proposed budget includes $263 million towards increasing teachers pay in upcoming years, an amount many educators, like Culbreth Middle School teacher, Chuck Hennessee, find unrealistic.

“In a Republican legislature who has thus far not worked with (McCrory), they are not going to approve more taxes in order to get the budget that they need,” Hennessee said. “Is (McCrory) truly ignorant of what the real state of education in our state is?”

With many North Carolina teachers working multiple jobs and applying for public assistance, it is a clear indication of a lack in public education, even here in Orange County.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Assistant Superintendent Todd LoFrese said he fears the repercussions of that lack.

“Not meeting this funding request is going to have a direct impact on classroom and services provided to kids.”

The board of County Commissioners proposed budget includes a total $92.3 million in school spending, a $3 million increase in last year’s amount. The board will have to balance this delicate weight in order to best fund both districts, even with the budget increases. The Orange County school board is requesting $1.96 million more from the commissioners, a 5.7 percent increase.

“I believe in the (Orange County Commissioners) ability to find a way to fully fund both Orange County schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro city schools for the upcoming year and we need them to do that now more than ever,” Hall said.

County commissioners will host two public hearings on the budget on May 22 and 29. The final budget will be adopted by June 17.

http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/schools-request-increased-budget-orange-county/

Principal: Bomb Threat Targets Culbreth MS

Culbreth Middle School officials will be stepping up security next week after being targeted by a bomb threat Friday afternoon.

In a email, Principal Beverly Rudolph said a Culbreth student found a written bomb threat for next Thursday at 1:50 p.m.

Chapel Hill Police and school district officials are investigating. Rudolph says the school will open as normal next week, but there will be an additional police presence – and book bags will not be permitted.

If you have any information about who may have written the note, email Beverly Rudolph at brudolph@chccs.k12.nc.us.

The full statement from Principal Rudolph is below:

Good evening. This is Culbreth Principal Beverly Rudolph with an important message. As you may have heard, earlier today a written bomb threat for next Thursday at 1:50 p.m. was found by a student and brought to administration. We immediately turned it over to the Chapel Hill Police.

The Police Department and school district are conducting a thorough investigation, and we are fully assured that the school is indeed ready for students to return on Monday.

As a follow up, I would like you to please speak with your child and simply ask if he or she has any idea who wrote this threat. If you have any information you believe would be helpful, please email me or School Resource Officer, Stan Newsome at:

brudolph@chccs.k12.nc.us
snewsome@chccs.k12.nc.us

Additionally, with the threat being for a future date, we are applying extra precautions. Beginning Monday we will have an additional police presence on campus and no book bags will be permitted. Girls may bring a small purse for hygiene purposes, but all books will be carried without a bag.

It is unfortunate that the entire student body and staff must be inconvenienced, but the security of our students and staff is always our top priority. Again, we would greatly appreciate any leads regarding the writer of this note. I will certainly update you with any new information as I have it.

Thank you for listening and for your continued support.

Sincerely,
Beverly Rudolph
Principal

http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/principal-bomb-threat-targets-culbreth-ms/

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.

http://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/chccs-place-interim-pe-teacher-seawell-finish-school-year/

Health, Safety, Schools, Libraries, And Hillsborough

If you still haven’t signed up for health insurance, the Chapel Hill Public Library is holding an all-day Affordable Care Act enrollment session on Monday, March 24, from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The library is holding the session in partnership with UNC Healthcare, the League of Women Voters, Planned Parenthood, and UNC’s Student Health Action Coalition.

The deadline to sign up for health insurance in 2014 is March 31.

For more information or to reserve a time, call the Chapel Hill Public Library at 919-968-2780.

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Are you a veteran or connected to the military? Orange County’s Department of Social Services is inviting you to a new event called “Military Monday,” geared especially toward veterans to make sure they have access to benefits and other federal, state, and local resources.

The first Military Monday event will take place on March 24, from 9:00 a.m. to noon at Hillsborough Commons on Mayo Street. It will be a Career/Resource Fair, with benefit assistance, career assessments, education resources, the Mobile Vet Center and more.

For more information, contact Betsy Corbett at 919-245-2890.

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Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens will deliver his annual State of the Town address on Monday, March 24, at 7:00 p.m. in the Orange County Public Library.

Among other things, the address will include an update on the town’s Riverwalk project as well as a discussion of Hillsborough’s future population boom. The town is expected to grow by 31 percent in the next four years.

Members of the public are invited to attend. Before the speech, from 5:30-6:30, planning staff will host a public information meeting on the status of downtown access improvements.

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If you’re a parent in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and you’d like more information on the district’s dual language program, the district is offering four information sessions this spring, beginning later this month and running through May.

The Dual Language program gives students the chance to become proficient in two languages, English and either Spanish or Mandarin Chinese. The district says Dual Language students, on average, outperform their peers on standardized tests and other student growth measures.

The first information session will be for the Spanish program on Thursday, March 20, at Frank Porter Graham Elementary School. The session will be offered in Spanish from 6-7 p.m. and in English from 7-8 p.m. Two more sessions on the Spanish program will take place—at the same times of day—on Thursday, April 24 at Carrboro Elementary and on Thursday, May 22, again at FPG.

There will also be an info session on the Mandarin Chinese program on Tuesday, March 25, from 6-7 p.m. at Glenwood Elementary.

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Are you excited about the proposed new Southern Branch Library in Carrboro? What do you want to see there? What do you NOT want to see there?

If you have thoughts and ideas about the library, come out to a Community Engagement Meeting hosted by Orange County. The county is actually holding two meetings: the first is Tuesday, March 25, at 6:00 at Hickory Tavern; the second is on Saturday, April 12, at noon in Carrboro Town Hall. The first 50 participants at the March 25 meeting will receive gift certificates to Hickory Tavern.

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The Hillsborough Arts Council has announced a partnership with a new charter school coming to Hillsborough this August.

The Expedition School will be taking part in the Art Council’s ArtCycle program, a program that collects new and used art supplies to be used in local schools.

The Expedition School is scheduled to open its doors in August. It’s a STEM-focused school for grades K-8.

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Driving around this month, you might see some new signs on the road – all part of a local campaign to remind people to pull over if they see emergency vehicles coming their way.

The campaign is called “See the Light, Pull to the Right.” The idea came from a town employee, Fire Equipment Operator Luis Rodrigues. Six new signs are being installed near major intersections in Chapel Hill.

If an emergency vehicle is approaching you from behind, take your foot off the accelerator, merge to the outside lane if possible, and pull off the side of the road to allow the vehicle to pass.

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http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/health-safety-schools-libraries-hillsborough/

Biking! Drinking! Recycling! Driving! Housing! Reporting! Dancing!

The newest restaurant in Chapel Hill’s 140 West is celebrating its grand opening on Thursday, March 20.

Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom will mark its grand opening on March 20 with a ribbon cutting at 11:00 a.m.

Old Chicago got its start back in 1976 – and to honor that, the company will offer free pizza for a year for the first 76 customers in line. There will also be a free throw shooting contest outside on the 140 West plaza – and Old Chicago will donate $76 to Farmer Foodshare for each free throw that gets made. (Show the Tar Heels how it’s done!)

Listen to Aaron Keck’s conversation on the Wednesday afternoon news with Old Chicago’s Chris Beckler.

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For the next two months, the Town of Chapel Hill is inviting you to give your feedback on the latest draft of its Bike Plan.

You can find the plan and a comment form online at TownOfChapelHill.org/bikeplan.

There will be a public forum to discuss the plan on Monday, April 28.

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Chatham County officials say drinking water in some parts of the county might have a musty taste and odor for the next month or so – but it’s still safe to drink.

Chatham Water Utilities found higher-than-usual levels of compounds in water recently sampled from Jordan Lake Reservoir, causing the slight difference in taste. Director Leonard McBryde says this is a seasonal issue that’s “not uncommon for water systems that draw raw water from lakes.”

Since it’s seasonal, county officials say it should only last about a month – but in the meantime, residents can minimize the taste difference by refrigerating water in a pitcher, or using a carbon filter.

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Orange County will be holding a second public hearing in April to discuss the proposed new solid waste service tax district for unincorporated areas of the county.

The district is being proposed as a way to continue funding the county’s recycling program. The program had been funded with an annual fee attached to residents’ property tax bill, but that fee has been discontinued.

The public hearing takes place on Tuesday, April 1, also at 6:00 p.m. at the Social Services Center at Hillsborough Commons on Mayo Street in Hillsborough.

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Chapel Hill-Carrboro’s three high schools are holding “mock crash” events this spring to raise awareness of the dangers of impaired and distracted driving.

The events will begin with an assembly, followed by a crash reenactment in the footbal stadium. A UNC Air Care helicopter will land in the stadium as well, to simulate transport of an injured victim.

The mock crashes will take place at Carrboro High School on Friday, March 21; at East Chapel Hill High on Wednesday, April 9; and at Chapel Hill High on Friday, May 2 during the school day.

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The Greater Chapel Hill Association of REALTORS has earned a grant to promote affordable housing in the local community.

The grant comes from the Housing Opportunity Program of the National Association of REALTORS; the Greater Chapel Hill branch will use the funds to produce a housing expo in Chatham County.

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Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Amanda Bennett will be on campus Thursday, March 20, speaking as part of UNC’s Women in Media Leadership Series.

Working for the Wall Street Journal, Bennett won the Pulitzer in 1997 for her coverage of the AIDS crisis, and a second Pulitzer with The Oregonian for an expose of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. She’s also the author of “The Cost of Hope,” a book about confronting death in the context of the U.S. healthcare system.

Bennett’s talk will begin at 5:30 p.m. on March 20 in the Freedom Forum Conference Center in Carroll Hall. It’s free and open to the public.

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This weekend, a nationally-recognized dance choreographer will be in the Triangle to support arts education in local schools.

Jacques d’Amboise is the principal dancer-choreographer for the NYC Ballet. He’s in town from Thursday through Saturday, March 20-22, to support NC Arts in Action – which provides in-school and afterschool dance programs for kids, based on a model d’Amboise developed back in the 1970s.

On Thursday d’Amboise will be in Chapel Hill, meeting with fourth-graders at Northside Elementary School.

http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/biking-drinking-recycling-driving-housing-reporting-dancing/