CHCCS Board to Review Discipline And Suspension Rates On Thursday

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board will discuss student discipline and its disproportionate impact on minorities when the board meets on Thursday.

Black students make up just 11 percent of total enrollment, but account for 39 percent of all out-of-school suspensions and 41 percent of in-school suspensions. Latino students are 14 percent of the school population but make up between 19 and 22 percent of suspensions.

Some of the most common infractions include aggression, defiance, disruption and disrespect. Officials note that the largest disparities between white students and black students are in infractions that are the hardest to define.

School board members will review the past two years of data on suspensions to see how the implementation of a positive behavior intervention program is changing the way discipline is defined and administered.

The school board meets at 7 o’clock at Chapel Hill Town Hall. You can read the full agenda here.

15 Apply For Vacant CHCCS Board Seat

Fifteen applicants have put their names forward to fill the vacant seat on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education.

School board member Mia Burroughs is making the move to the Orange County Board of Commissioners after easily winning the race to represent District 1. The school board will appoint a replacement on December 4 to serve until the 2015 election.

Among the fifteen applicants, two have sought public office in the past.

Ignacio Tzoumas ran for a seat on the school board last year, finishing fourth with 14 percent of the votes cast.

Theresa Watson ran for a seat on the Carrboro Board of Aldermen in the special election held last May. She came in second with 27 percent of the vote.

All applicants will answer board questions at an interview session Monday night scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Lincoln Center on South Merritt Mill Road. The session is open to the public.

Here’s the full list of applicants the board will interview:
Anne DiBella
Desiree Cho
Gary Winzelberg
Greg Dye
Ignacio Tzoumas
Jennifer Clark
Jennifer Marsh
Joanna Cleveland
Katherine Worley
Kulwadee Yung
Mary Ann Wolf
Mary Litsilas
Rani Dais
Theresa Watson
David Saussy

CHCCS Seniors Succeed On SATs

SAT scores are in for 2014, and students in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools scored well above the state and national average.

According to numbers from the College Board, the average Chapel Hill-Carrboro senior scored a combined 1183 on math and critical reading; the national average was 1010 and the statewide average was 1006. Including the essay portion, the average Chapel Hill-Carrboro senior scored a 1753; the national and state averages were both just below 1500.

And at Carrboro High School, the average score in 2014 was 53 points higher than the 2013 average.

79 percent of Chapel Hill-Carrboro seniors took the SAT – 710 students in all.

On “Unity Day,” Phillips Middle School Fights Bullying

At Chapel Hill’s Phillips Middle School, this Wednesday is “Unity Day” – as students, staff and faculty come together to fight bullying.

“All of our students are going to come out wearing orange, the national color for anti-bullying,” says school counselor Kevin Duquette. “We’re also going to have a banner in the cafeteria that the students will be signing as a pledge against bullying here at Phillips.”

Unity Day is actually a national day, sponsored by the Minnesota-based PACER Center and held at schools across the country.

Learn more about “Unity Day” and National Bullying Prevention Month.

At Phillips, the campaign against bullying has taken on a bit more meaning since a public dispute that broke out in 2011 and 2012. Students, parents, and some staff spoke out about a serious bullying problem at the school; there were even demonstrations outside Phillips, as well as a lawsuit, and then-principal Cicily McCrimmon stepped down amid the controversy.

Assistant principal Kristin Walker had just arrived at Phillips in 2011. She says even then, in spite of the public perception, Phillips was really no different from any other school – but she says the school has made great improvements since then, largely because of a commitment to anti-bullying education.

“We have the same issues that other middle schools do,” Walker says, “but we have done a lot to proactively address those concerns in the last few years, namely around educating our kids through our guidance department, our student services department – going in and doing classroom lessons on what bullying looks like and what to do if you see such things going on.

“I would say that Phillips is a safe school – I think Phillips was a safe school (in 2011-12) as well – but I also think that the more educated we all get about it, the safer we are in the end.”

School counselors like Duquette have taken the lead on anti-bullying education, but it’s been a school-wide project. A discussion in P.E. classes about developing positive peer relationships, for instance, eventually grew into a wider campaign where students highlighted each other’s differences as things to celebrate, rather than reasons to ostracize.

Principal Rydell Harrison says those are the things that make him proudest.

“Helping students create this kind of grassroots movement around creating safe spaces for themselves – I think that really is the thing that we’re seeing take off,” he says. “And I’m really proud of that, and I think the staff has been supportive of that as well.”

While the anti-bullying campaign goes on all year, the month of October is recognized as National Bullying Prevention Month.

Darlene Ryan Is CHCCS Principal Of Year

Congratulations to Darlene Ryan, principal of Glenwood Elementary School – winner of Principal of the Year honors from Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools!

Ryan was honored in a surprise announcement Friday morning. She’s served as principal at Glenwood since 2010.

Darlene Ryan gets emotional after receiving her honor. Photo via CHCCS.

Darlene Ryan gets emotional after receiving her honor. Photo via CHCCS.

Solarize Chapel Hill To Help Bring Solar Power To CHCCS Schools

The Solarize Chapel Hill initiative could soon be helping local students learn to harness the power of the sun.

The effort encourages homeowners to work together to earn group discounts on solar panels for residential use. Now, for each home that goes solar, money will be donated to build educational solar arrays at Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools.

Homeowners who enroll will vote for their school of choice, and if enough families participate in the program, the school with the most votes will have a solar array installed where students can regularly access it.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools are already constructing one such array at McDougal Middle School. A dedication will take place Friday, October 24 at 1:30 in the afternoon.

If you want to learn more about Solarize Chapel Hill you can attend an information session at 7 p.m. on Monday, October 27 at Chapel Hill High, or visit

CHCCS Students OK After Orange County Bus Crash

A Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools bus collided with a car Tuesday afternoon at the intersection of Bethel Hickory Grove Church and Jo Mac roads in Orange County.

No injuries were reported, but the back of the sedan was crushed. The driver reportedly reversed after missing the turn onto Jo Mac, causing the bus to rear-end the car.

The 37 students from McDougle Elementary were transferred to another bus then taken back to the school to wait for their parents.

CHCCS Board Seeks Public Input on Memorial Day as Makeup Day

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education wants to get more public input before members will consider taking Memorial Day off the list of inclement weather days.

Fred Black

Fred Black

“I interviewed leaders in every surrounding district,” said U.S. Army veteran Fred Black, a well-known Chapel Hill community leader. “And they were shocked, quite frankly, when they heard that you had school on Memorial Day. And one of the even went so far as like, ‘Well, that’s Chapel Hill.’ And that upsets me.’”

Thursday night’s work session at Lincoln Center wasn’t the first occasion for members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education to hear from Black about schools being open on Memorial Day during the 2013-14 year.

Black voiced similar outrage at the June 5, 2014 meeting. On May 23, he appeared on WCHL’s “The Commentators,” where he slammed what he called the “disrespectful” and “embarrassing” decision to use Memorial Day as a makeup day for inclement-weather closings.

“To say that bad weather this winter is the cause is disingenuous,” said Black, during his radio segment. “The cause is that the school board put Memorial Day on their list of makeup days in the first place. The staff that recommended this, and the board members that accepted it without comment should be ashamed.”

At Thursday’s meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Support Services Todd LoFrese recalled that the schedule was impacted 12 times by bad weather last year. Six school days were canceled. Delayed openings and early dismissals on six others accounted for 18 hours of lost instruction time.

“Due to all the inclement weather, we exhausted all of our designated days on the calendar last year,” he said.

That meant going back in the spring and modifying the calendar. Delayed opening days were canceled, and the school year was extended by as many days as the staff could identify. One of those was Memorial Day.

Black wasn’t the only person to contact the Board of Education to complain about the decision, and so the matter was reopened. It prompted a lengthy discussion about scheduling challenges, and what some board members called inflexible state parameters.

According to a state law passed in 2012, the school year must start no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26, and end no later than the Friday closest to June 11. Some exemptions are granted with waivers.

Board member Mia Burroughs suggested exploring different options to fit each year, in an effort to keep Memorial Day as a guaranteed school holiday.

“I do believe that we should try to change this away from Memorial Day,” she said.

But Board of Education Chair Jamezetta Bedford and other members said Memorial Day should remain a makeup day of last resort.

She said that less than 10 members of the public have complained about it.

Bedford also conceded that Memorial Day school openings are disrespectful to those who have served, and some who died, in the service of their country.

“But I am an Army brat,” said Bedford. “My four uncles all served. My dad served. My other two uncles served. My grandfather served and was gassed in World War I.

“So I wouldn’t intend to be disrespectful.”

She added that having classes on Memorial Day could actually present an opportunity to teach kids about sacrifices made for this country.

The matter was tabled until there’s more input from the public.

An agenda abstract for Thursday’s meeting includes a list of inclement weather options proposed by the CHCCS staff.

Asst. CHCCS Superintendent Explains Change in ‘Culture of Instruction’

An assistant superintendent for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools says the “culture of instruction” is improving for African-American and economically disadvantaged students this year.

“Children need to see and understand that when you have a challenge, that you work through it,” said Magda Parvey, assistant superintendent for Instructional Services for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. “That’s what smart people do. Things don’t necessarily come easy to you.”

As The News & Observer reported on Sept. 5, Parvey and Schools Superintendent Tom Forcella expressed dismay over disparities in results for end-of-grade and end-of course tests that had just been released.

The federal goal for 60.9 percent of white students in grades 3-through-8 to score a Level 4 or 5 in end-of-grade reading tests had been exceeded by 24.8 percent in CHCCS.

The bad news is that black students in the system did not achieve the federal 33 -percent goal for the same test. Only 31.7 percent scored a Level 4 or 5, and only 29 percent of economically disadvantaged students hit the mark.

Parvey responded by saying that the “culture of instruction” at Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools needed to change, to address the problem.

Speaking recently with WCHL, Parvey talked more about what that means for the 2014-15 school year. She said the school system will focus on planning.

“High-performing schools that have all students performing well, including students in subgroups – such as our special education students, our students of color – they plan,” said Parvey. “And not only do they plan, they plan using backward design.”

Backward design, she said, involves planning with the outcome as a starting point, and then working back from there.

“First, looking at what will students be able to do as a result of your instruction at the end, and planning backward from that,” said Parvey, “so that your tasks are aligned with the outcome.”

According to Parvey, CHCCS instructors are working to instill a growth mindset in students whose self-image may be holding them back.

She said that some kids get the mistaken impression early in life that tough subjects come easily to more advantaged students. As a result, they may give up, thinking they’re not smart enough.

Parvey said the message needs to get through, that if you exercise your brain, and work through difficult tasks, you will get smarter.

She said that while Common Core standards offer the kind of rigor that put young minds through those paces, the school system must also be ready to pre-teach some “foundational skills” to students who need extra help.

Parvey added that despite recent action by the Republican-led General Assembly to replace Common Core, she doesn’t envision a drastic change that will hinder such efforts.

“I would say that there may be some changes,” said Parvey. “But I believe that they’re going to be minor changes, simply because of all the efforts that have been put into implementing the Common Core.”

Parvey downplayed the recent loss of more than 20 teacher assistants in the district, as a result of cuts in the state budget.

She said that interventionists are still available to help struggling students. Literacy coaches are also there to help teachers close the achievement gap, she added.

“We value our teacher assistants, and the role that they play in classrooms, and helping teachers,” said Parvey. “But we also feel that there’s a lot that happens in the classrooms, through the classroom teacher as the instructional leader that helps to close that gap.”

Half of CHCCS teachers surveyed for a 2014 report said they lacked sufficient instructional time to meet the needs of all students.

Parvey said she agrees.

“That’s fair to say, that we need to provide teachers more time to plan,” said Parvey. “That’s something that I think that they’d be spot-on about.”

Save Money, Help Local Teachers

Help raise funds for teachers at Estes Hills Elementary School – and you can save some money for yourself as well.

It’s the “Earn to Learn” fundraiser, created by Estes Hills bookkeeper Michelle Hoover (a former WCHL employee). Twenty dollars buys a coupon book, with deals at a variety of local restaurants, stores and other establishments – and the proceeds go to fund professional development training for Estes Hills teachers.

Hoover joined Aaron Keck on “Aaron in the Afternoon” to discuss the fundraiser, along with Estes Hills teacher Alex Kaji and teaching assistant Savada Gilmore.

To purchase a coupon book, stop by Estes Hills Elementary School on weekdays from 7 am to 3 pm – or contact Hoover at 942-4753, extension 30222.