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.
“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.http://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/chccs-board-seeks-public-input-memorial-day-makeup-day/
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.”http://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/asst-chccs-superintendent-explains-change-culture-instruction/
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.http://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/save-money-help-local-teachers/
The new school year begins Monday, and top administrators of Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Orange County Schools say they’re excited about new initiatives.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Superintendent Dr.Tom Forcella spoke to WCHL about a convocation with school staff that was held on Thursday.
“We spoke to all staff about our direction for this year,” he said. “People are very excited. We’re in the second year of our long-range plan. We have some new initiatives that I think will make a big difference in the school system.”
There are no new schools opening this year, and Forcella said that does make things a little easier.
Last year, Northside Elementary opened for the first time, as well as the Frank Porter Graham Dual Language Magnet School in the district.
“It was a little bit more that we had on our plate last year,” he said.
Forcella also reminds local drivers to be start being mindful again about kids waiting for buses in the morning, and getting dropped off in the afternoon.
“I just urge everyone to be careful and to really watch themselves as they’re traveling on the road,” he said.
Interim Deputy Superintendent of Orange County Schools Dr. Pam Jones sent this message to WCHL on Friday:
“There will be excitement and anticipation in the air on Monday morning as traditional classrooms reopen for over 7,500 Orange County students,” she wrote. “As always student safety will be of utmost concern. We ask each driver to honor our students and teachers as they embark on the new year by being particularly watchful when approaching a yellow bus and driving through school zones.”http://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/orange-chccs-districts-ready-new-school-year/
School’s almost back in session, and teachers are getting ready – which, in many cases, means paying out of pocket for essential school supplies.
Many teachers – here and nationwide – say they spend hundreds of dollars of their own money each year for supplies, without which their classes couldn’t run.
But this week, some teachers in the CHCCS district will get a bit of a break – thanks to the East Chapel Hill Rotary Club, which has operated a “Teacher Supply Store” every year since 2008. This year, 440 teachers will receive a $75 voucher to shop in the store – open for two days this Wednesday and Thursday – for supplies ranging from pens and pencils to facial tissues.
Daniel Corley of the East Chapel Hill Rotary Club spoke to WCHL’s Aaron Keck on the Tuesday afternoon news.
The Teacher Supply Store is open Wednesday from 2-6 pm and Thursday from 2-5 pm at the American Legion Hut in Chapel Hill. CHCCS superintendent Tom Forcella will attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday at 2:00.http://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/supply-store-benefits-chccs-teachers/
With the new state spending plan in place, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools are facing a nearly one million dollar budget gap.
The $911,000 shortfall means the school board will consider a plan to cut four and a half gifted education specialist positions at the elementary level and transfer some custodial staff to contract work.
Because of state budget cuts, the district could lose 22 teaching assistants. Legislators shifted the $800,000 that would have paid those assistants to fund classroom teaching positions in an effort to lower class size.
While school systems have some ability to shift that money back to TAs, Chapel Hill-Carrboro administrators say the state has put limitations on the exchange that don’t make it feasible for the district. School officials plan to reallocate teaching assistants in grades 4 and 5 and hire more teachers instead.
While the state budget provides more money for most teachers, veteran educators and other school employees are not likely to see much of pay raise. In response, CHCCS administrators are asking for $2.5 million to make sure all public school employees get at least a three percent raise.
This newest version of the local budget was released on Tuesday and no final decisions have yet been made.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board will meet at 7 o’clock at the Lincoln Center on Thursday to vote on the 2014-2015 budget proposal. You can read the full agenda here.
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Friend
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board members gather Thursday night to vote on the upcoming year’s budget.
The district’s website projected posting the budget proposal late last week, but due to the delay by the North Carolina Legislature on its budget decisions, the district pushed the release date to Monday. However, the proposal, which has one hour of the nearly four-hour meeting set aside for it, wasn’t posted to the district’s website until Tuesday morning.
Many concerns swirled around the General Assembly’s budget as teaching assistants were in danger of losing their jobs. Last year, in response to state budget cuts, CHCCS hired new teaching assistants on one-year contracts that the district paid for using reserve funds. School officials said the district ran out of the reserve funds to cover the shortfall, and they waited to see what, if anything, the state would do to help pay for teaching assistants.
With the passage of the $21.1 billion state budget, teaching assistants should be safe. However, some teachers aren’t happy with the final numbers.
Though some called the new budget “historic” for putting $282 million towards education, some educators themselves have criticized the new teacher pay plan.
That’s because longevity pay, the bonus once awarded to teachers with more than ten years of experience is no longer guaranteed. Instead, the new plan caps teacher salaries at $50,000 for those with more than 25 years in the classroom and rolls longevity pay into the base salaries.
This has some long-term teachers estimating their raises at closer to 2-4 percent, while starting teachers will receive a seven-percent boost. Those with half a decade of experience could see as much as an 18-percent increase.http://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/chccs-still-working-budget/
With the start of the school year looming, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Human Resources department is racing to fill teaching positions. Local administrators had been forced to put some hiring decisions on hold over the summer while state lawmakers haggled over a new spending plan.
Though the recently approved budget agreement provides more certainty, Teacher Recruitment Coordinator Mary Gunderson says there’s still a sense of unease among educators.
“The big piece that I see that’s different than in years past is just this sense of worry about the future of teaching in North Carolina, worry over how competitive North Carolina will be with other states,” says Gunderson.
The district has hired more than 130 teachers in the past two weeks, and while that number is about average for the district, she says she’s seen more teachers declining job offers than before, and some of those who have already accepted job offers have changed their minds.
“We have had more than usual in terms of candidates declining offers, and I think that’s symptomatic of what’s happening at the state level with dissatisfaction with what’s happening with teaching salaries,” says Gunderson. “To date, I’ve had 23 candidates decline offers, and then, unfortunately, I’ve had another 12 candidates accept an offer and then a few weeks or even a few months later change their minds and take another offer.”
Gunderson says this makes it particularly hard to hire teachers in high-need areas like math, science and exceptional education.
“In some of the high needs area, as we move farther into the calendar, those pools have much smaller numbers of teaching candidates who are available for positions, so as we move later into the summer, fewer and fewer of those candidates are available and seeking positions.”
Gunderson says many of those seeking employment elsewhere are looking at other school systems, private schools, charter schools, or new professions altogether.
North Carolina’s low teacher pay has been a political hot button in recent weeks, as the exact percentage of proposed pay raises was one of the major sticking points between lawmakers trying to reconcile the House and Senate budget plans.
Ultimately, the General Assembly settled on a new pay scale for teachers that offers an average seven percent raise. However the actual amount varies widely depending on experience. New teachers will see a seven percent increase, and those with five years experience will see as much as 18 percent. But veteran teachers could see as little as one percent. Some say the plan to cap salaries at $50,000 and do away with longevity bonuses shows a lack of respect for those with decades of classroom experience.
“I just spoke with a candidate this morning who has 28 years experience and she says ‘You know, it’s just sad for someone in my position that my experience is not valued in the current state salary system,’ and that’s really a true statement,” says Gunderson. “When the pay scale raises are dramatically different -this year the range is huge, all the way from one percent to 18 percent- it really is hard to separate that from a sense of value when you’re one of the people who just gets the one percent raise.”
Some hiring decisions are still up in the air as the final local school budget has yet to be approved. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools board meets next week to hash out the details. Board members are expected to pass a budget on Thursday.http://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/local-teachers-lukewarm-new-pay-plan/
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/
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/