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/
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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:
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.
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/
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/
The Tigers jumped out to a 23-6 lead after the first quarter of the 3A NCHSAA state championship game, but the Red Tornados never gave up and made it a game in the second half.
***Listen to the Broadcast***
The quest for perfection comes to an end Saturday as two undefeated teams fight for the 3A NCHSAA girls’ basketball state title, Chapel Hill High School and Hickory High School.
Chapel Hill lost in the title game last year in Reynolds Coliseum on N.C. State’s campus. This year, the Tigers get to play in their home town in one of the biggest and best-known arenas in the state, UNC’s Dean Smith Center.
Long-time head Tiger, Sherry Norris says this game has become so much more than just representing Chapel Hill High School.
“Every coach dreams of having an undefeated season and coaching a state championship team, and there are so few of us that get to do that,” Coach Norris says. “That’s one of the things that we talk about at practice is that, right now, not only are we representing our school and our community but also the eastern part of North Carolina. We are their team that is vying for this state championship. It’s an honor and a privilege to do that.”
***Listen to the Full Interview***
Tipoff between East Regional Champion Chapel Hill and West Regional Champion Hickory is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. Saturday in the Dean Smith Center. You can hear all the action exclusively on Chapelboro.com beginning with WCHL Gameday at 4:30 p.m.
The Chapel Hill High School Student Government is hosting a tailgate party beginning at 3:00 p.m. in the parking lot of the Dean Smith Center. Parking is $10 per car (the cost to park for the game), but burgers, hot dogs, and condiments will be provided. You will need to bring your own drinks.http://chapelboro.com/sports/high-school/chhs-girls-basketball-seeks-perfection-state-title-saturday/
School officials are reviewing better ways of getting last-minute alerts out to parents, after last Friday’s freezing rain shut down Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools just before lunchtime.
Assistant Superintendent for Support Services Todd LoFrese of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School says that last week’s freezing rain was one of those weather events that catches everybody off-guard.
He says it’s because there’s so much guesswork involved.
“It always seems that we’re like, on the edge of the forecast, and the temperature, both in terms of the amounts, and where we’re going to be talking about rain or snow.” says LoFrese. “It just always seems like Chapel Hill and Carrboro are right on that dividing line.”
Another problem was that the storm really hit Orange County hard by later in the morning, which had school officials scrambling to get the word out about closings.
“Friday was definitely a challenge,” says LoFrese. “Conditions were such that in our district, when we made the call, things looked good. It was raining. The Weather Service had indicated that temperatures were rising. We had checked power in our schools around 6 o’clock, and all our systems were good.”
Then, the weather took a quick and nasty turn. LoFrese says the school system received the first reports of school power outages between 7 and 8 a.m.
By mid-morning, five schools were without power. CHCCS made the decision that if power was not restored by 11:30, the five affected schools would be dismissed for the day.
“Obviously, the temperatures inside the schools were a concerning factor,” he says. “But at the same time, we didn’t want to dismiss students out into an unsafe travel situation.”
The word went out around 10:45, and CHCCS was informed at 11 a.m. that travel conditions were OK for dismissal.
But officials felt that safe-travel window closing rapidly, when high-wind warnings for the afternoon started coming in.
So the decision was made to close all schools in the district that day.
LoFrese says the message went out around 11:50 that the five schools without power would be dismissed first, with the remaining schools to be closed on a scheduled rollout.
He admits that sending the information out took longer than expected. The situation was complicated by the loss of phone service.
“We recognized that we weren’t providing a long window for parents to get home,” he says. “And so we contacted the schools and held buses at the school, beyond what we had originally planned for, to provide time for parents to get home.”
LoFrese says that one bright spot was a policy of some elementary schools to contact parents directly from classrooms.
He says he’s only heard a couple of reports from concerned parents whose children were delivered back to their bus stops without parents being notified first.
Lofrese says that the school system will work to improve communications in preparation for the next weather emergency, as well as making sure schools get more and quicker updates on weather conditions.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/chccs-works-get-quicker-school-closing-information-parents/
Are you thinking about buying a home? Wondering how you can afford it?
Chatham Habitat for Humanity and EmPOWERment are co-hosting a two-part Home Buyer’s Education Workshop in Pittsboro, on Thursday, March 6 and Thursday, March 13 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. You’ll learn tips for shopping for homes and mortgages, how to financially prepare, and how to maintain your home after you’ve bought it.
The workshop takes place at 467 West Street in Pittsboro. It’s free and open to the public; dinner, door prizes and child care will be provided. To RSVP, contact Amanda Stancil at EmPOWERment by calling 967-8779, or Anna Schmalz Rodriguez at Chatham Habitat by calling 542-0794.
Congratulations to Casey Rimland, a medical and doctoral student in the UNC School of Medicine who was recently named as a Gates Cambridge Scholar.
Created with a donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gates Cambridge Scholarship provides students with a three-year full scholarship to study at Cambridge University in England. Between 80 and 100 Gates Scholarships are awarded annually; Rimland is the second honoree from UNC.
Casey Rimland is originally from Charlotte and graduated from UNC-Charlotte in 2011. She’s also a thyroid cancer survivor, having been diagnosed in her first year of medical school.
To compensate for all the snow days, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board has updated the district’s class schedule for the rest of the school year.
There were three remaining days on the district’s calendar that were set aside as delayed-opening days, but all three have now been changed to regular school days. Those three days are March 13, April 10 and May 8 – all originally delayed opening, but now functioning as regular, full school days. Students should report to school at the regular time.
Congratulations to the AVID students from Smith Middle School, winners of this year’s sixth annual Black History Knowledge Bowl!
The event is sponsored every year by the Mu Omicron Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. It’s a competition between students at Culbreth, McDougle and Smith Middle Schools who participate in the AVID program (Advancement Via Individual Determination). This year’s Knowledge Bowl took place at Culbreth Middle School on February 22; Smith took first and Culbreth took second.
Results are in for the Town of Chapel Hill’s Community Survey, and the numbers indicate that—for the most part—residents are extremely happy with the town’s services.
More than 90 percent of residents who responded say they’re satisfied with the town’s fire department, library, and trash collection services; more than 80 percent say they’re satisfied with Chapel Hill’s park maintenance and police department. Those numbers are “well above regional and national benchmarks,” according to a release from the Town.
On the down side, residents said they were most concerned with traffic congestion and “how well the Town is preparing for the future,” and also said the Town could do a better job providing affordable housing and “access to quality shopping.”
You can check out the full results at TownOfChapelHill.org/survey.
It’s tax season—and if you need tax forms, the Orange County Public Library is offering select forms for free. Those forms include the 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, Schedule A, Schedule B and Schedule SE.
In addition, the Orange County Department on Aging is offering its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program—VITA for short—which provides free income tax preparation for qualifying individuals with low- to middle-incomes, regardless of age or county of residence.
For more information or to find out if you qualify, visit OrangeCountyNC.gov/aging/VITA.asp.
UNC has received a grant of more than $40 million from the National Institutes of Health, to fund a global clinical trials unit working to treat and prevent the spread of HIV.
The grant will fund five clinical research sites through the year 2021. Three of those sites are located in North Carolina; the other two are located in Africa, in Malawi and Zambia.
UNC received $430 million in external funding for HIV research between 2008 and 2012. The university is ranked as one of the top 10 programs in America for HIV/AIDS research.
Coordinator of Teacher Recruitment and Support Mary Gunderson and Carrboro History teacher Christoph Stutts joined Aaron Keck on the WCHL Afternoon News Friday to discuss the ongoing conversation of teacher pay in North Carolina.
***Listen to the Panel’s Discussion***http://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/chccs-panel-discusses-teacher-salaries-announcement-raises/