CHCCS Names Interim Superintendent

Dr. Jim Causby was unanimously named Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools interim superintendent in a meeting held Wednesday night.

Causby has 27 years of experience as a superintendent, retiring from Johnston County Schools.

“We’ve asked him to continue the great work the district has underway,” said Board of Education chairman James Barrett. “As well as coach our staff, and even the board, as we move ahead after the district’s loss of two key leaders.”

Causby will replace the retiring Tom Forcella, who was hired in 2011.

The school is also losing assistant superintendent Magda Parvey.

In what will be a turbulent time for the system, with an upcoming bond for schools on the November ballot and the implementation of Project Advance, board member Pat Heinrich said Causby’s previous experience as an interim superintendent in Hickory set him apart.

“I think we all got a warm and fuzzy about Dr. Causby’s experience,” he said. “He was able to share some of his experience and frankly, at least for myself, it’s pretty enlightening the difference between interim and permanent.”

Causby said one of his first tasks once he takes over will be to shake hands with every district employee in the first 30 days. He said he doesn’t foresee making any major changes to the district.

“It will not be my job to that,” he said. “My role will be to keep the things going the board thinks is important and make sure every child is getting the very best education they can while I’m here.”

Applications for Forcella’s permanent replacement will open September 1.

Causby will take over when Forcella retires July 31.

He will make Forcella’s $208,000 annual salary, along with a travel and living allowance.

CHCCS Receives Draft Of Racial Equity Plan

After over a year of research and work, CHCCS director of equity leadership Sheldon Lanier presented a draft of the district’s Equity Plan, designed to end racial inequity in schools, to the Board of Education Thursday night.

“We will be continuously updating this plan, as it should be a living, breathing document,” Lanier said. “I thought it was very important that any equity work, that there was actually a framework and a foundation in terms of the direction.”

The plan has four stated goals: to create an inclusive culture, to eliminate the achievement gap between students of color and their white peers, creating a fair punishment system and recruiting racially sensitive personnel.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools has long struggled with the issue of racial equality and last year received a report on how disciplinary actions disproportionately impact minority students.

Members of the community spoke before Lanier’s presentation and expressed their frustration with the plan.

“The updated equity plan just doesn’t seem comprehensive,” said Kenyana Clark. “Although 18 months have passed and my kids just can’t afford to continue to slip through the cracks.”

Some parents were upset that no dates were assigned in the plan as deadlines for future action.

Lanier said he would add deadlines as the plan became more concrete.

“I’m not going to rush my race and I don’t think my race is to be rushed,” Lanier said. “If we’re going to do something to target black and brown students, then I want to make sure that it is done correctly and it is rock solid and it is tight.”

He said he wanted to get more community involvement and that anyone with ideas who wanted to reach out to him should do so.

“I will tell you right now,” Lanier said. “The only S on my chest stands for Sheldon. It does not stand for Superman, I don’t know everything and there is point where you have to rely on those that may know more than you do.

After Lanier’s presentation, both board members and community members praised his effort, saying it was step in the right direction.

Chapel Hill – Carrboro Schools Superintendent Tom Forcella Retiring

Dr. Tom Forcella is retiring from his position as superintendent of the Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools District.

The announcement came on Tuesday afternoon.

Forcella has worked in school districts across the country for 42 years and has been with CHCCS since 2011.

“My five years in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools have been extremely rewarding,” Forcella said in a release. “I am thankful for the opportunity to work with our amazing students, as well as the staff, parents and agencies that make this community remarkable.”

CHCCS Board of Education chair James Barrett also released a statement following the news of Forcella’s retirement:

“While sad to lose him at this critical time, I am grateful for Dr. Forcella’s five years of service to this district. His efforts to improve quality of instruction will make a lasting impact for the benefit of all our students. These efforts are cultural shifts in our district that will live beyond his tenure and continue to help our students succeed.”

James Barrett spoke Tuesday with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


Forcella’s retirement is effective August 1.

The next meeting of the Board of Education is at seven o’clock next Thursday, June 2.

Board Of Commissioners Set To Talk County Budget

The Orange County Board of Commissioners will receive the county manager’s recommendation for the 2016-2017 fiscal year budget in their meeting Thursday night.

The budget will address a number of topics including school funding and public transit.

Both Orange County and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools have asked for more money to increase teacher pay.

CHCCS has already approved an increase that will cost the district $4.5 million. It did so before knowing the outcome of the budget and will still have to pay that money whether or not the commissioners allocate funds to pay for it.

County manager Bonnie Hammersly is preparing the budget ahead of a November bond referendum, which will be the largest in county history if approved.

The $125 million bond will go to pay for necessary health and safety upgrades to school buildings in the county and $5 million is put aside for affordable housing.

The county commissioners will hold public hearings on the budget May 12 and 19. They will have a work session with the school districts May 26.

“Color The Hill” – And Yourself – For A Cause (Or Three)

On Saturday, May 21, you’re invited to head to Finley Fields for the fourth annual Color the Hill Fun Run – billed as the most “colorful” run in town.

Beginning at 9:30 a.m., “Color the Hill” is a 4K run – or jog, or skip, or casual stroll – along the route used by UNC’s cross country team. Along the way, you’ll pass through five “color stations” where volunteers will shower you with non-toxic colored powder. (Don’t worry, it washes off.) At the finish line, there’s a party featuring music, food trucks and giveaways – and every runner gets their own packet of colored powder, so you can shower each other with color as well.

It’s all to benefit three terrific local causes: the SKJAJA Fund, the Be Loud! Sophie Foundation, and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools’ Academy of Information Technology (AOIT), which is based at Chapel Hill High.

The AOIT is a three-year program for students to learn technical skills and apply them in practice: students collaborate on technology-based projects, not only in computer classes but also in fields like English. (Last year’s AOIT class made a documentary about the “Bedford Boys,” a group of WWII vets from Bedford, Virginia, who fought at Omaha Beach on D-Day. The project included a field trip to Bedford, to the National D-Day Memorial.)

Laura Malinchock is a committee member for Color the Hill and a mother of two AOIT students; she joined Aaron Keck on WCHL to discuss Color the Hill, along with AOIT student David Hadar, a junior at Chapel Hill HS.


The Be Loud! Sophie Foundation was founded in honor of Sophie Steiner, who died of cancer in 2013 at the age of 15; its mission is to raise money to support adolescent and young adult cancer patients. (There are existing programs that support kids with cancer, but those programs often miss adolescents and young adults.) Be Loud! Sophie has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars since its founding just a few years ago – enough for UNC Hospitals to hire an adolescent and young-adult program director (Lauren Lux) for the first time ever.

Annabel Steiner, Leah Steiner, and Mia Colloredo-Mansfeld joined Aaron Keck on WCHL to discuss the Be Loud! Sophie Foundation.


If you’d like to register for “Color the Hill,” you can get more info and sign up online at Registration is $36 for anyone 11 and up, or $16 for kids 5-10 with a paying adult. (Kids under 5 can run for free with a paying adult.)

Carrboro High School Students Get A “Sense Of Place”

Chapel Hill and Carrboro pride themselves on being progressive, forward-thinking cities – but they also have a rich history as well.

This year, a group of students at Carrboro High School got to experience that history firsthand – and now, they’re exhibiting the artwork they’ve created to celebrate it.

Melissa Barry is an Exceptional Child teacher at Carrboro High. All year long, she’s been taking her students to historic sites around town – a dozen in all, from Carr Mill Mall to the Morehead Planetarium – so they could hear about our community and see historical artifacts. From those visits, the students created writings and works of art about the special places in our community, as well as the special places in their own lives.

Now, those works of art are on display at one of Chapel Hill’s most historic places, the Horace Williams House on East Rosemary Street.

Melissa Barry and six of her students joined Aaron Keck on WCHL this week.


The “Sense of Place” exhibit, with works of art created by the Carrboro High students, will be on display at the Horace Williams House from May 1-27, with an opening reception Sunday, May 1, from 2-4 pm. (The house itself is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 10-4.) Everyone’s invited to come take a look.

CHCCS “Probably” Won’t Get All Of Requested Funding For Teacher Pay

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools will likely not get all of the $4.5 million they have asked for to increase teacher salaries in the district.

Both Chair of the Board of Orange County Commissioners Earl McKee and commissioner Mark Dorosin echoed these sentiments in a joint meeting Tuesday night.

“As commissioner Dorosin mentioned, full request probably not going to be accommodated,” McKee said. “But I know we’re going to make every effort to do everything we can, just as you all make every effort to do everything you can.”

While no decision has been officially made, comments made by the commissioners were not good news for the Board of Education, which has already committed to a total of $4.5 million to increase teacher pay.

No matter what the outcome of the budget, CHCCS is obligated to pay that money.

“The most important thing we can do is make sure we’ve got the highest quality teachers in every single classroom,” chair of the CHCCS Board of Education James Barrett said. “It’s what’s going to make a difference in the achievement gap and everything we do.”

The rush to raise the teacher supplement was due in part to Wake County raising their supplement last year.

Wake already had a higher supplement than CHCCS, but assistant superintendent Todd LoFrese said the gap in wages between the two counties would make it even harder for the district to keep and attract quality teachers.

“These are real dollars,” he said. “A teacher earning what we’re able to offer teachers this year ranges somewhere between $1,400 to $2,500 less than what Wake County currently offers teachers.”

While commissioners said they were sympathetic and wanted to commit to raising teacher pay, McKee said there were concerns about raising taxes.

“In the back of my mind I have to play out the possibility of a four to five cent tax increase this year, with the sure and certain knowledge that a bond in November and borrowing part of that funding will drive another three to five cents.”

McKee said the increase would be over a longer period of time, but it also doesn’t factor any other increase in the county funding.

“I know you hear from people that say ‘raise my taxes because I want my kids to have the best education,'” commissioner Renee Price said. “But I’m also hearing people say ‘this is hurting me, I can’t do it and if you raise taxes more I’m going to leave the county.”

If CHCCS doesn’t get the amount they’re looking for, they will have to make up the difference in budget cuts.

Barrett said the board will not comment publicly about specific cuts at this time because he said he doesn’t want to alarm any employees.

School Boards Prepare To Present To County Commissioners

Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools will present their 2016-2017 budgets to the Orange County Board of Commissioners in a meeting Tuesday night.

The presentation will be the next formal step for CHCCS, in its attempt to get approval for an additional $4.5 million to its budget for the next school year.

The county commissioners make the final decision on the budgets for the school districts in the county.

The additional money in the CHCCS budget will go towards increasing teacher pay.

In North Carolina, teachers are given a base salary mandated by the state, but individual school districts provide a supplement to that salary.

CHCCS has already approved increase its supplement for new teachers from 12 percent to 16 percent, meaning that no matter what the county commissioners decide, the school system will still have to pay the additional $4.5 million.

Members of the Board of Education said that although the move is risky, it was done to make CHCCS more competitive for recruiting and retaining top teachers.

Wake County increase its teacher supplement to 16 percent last year, which is what prompted CHCCS to change its policy.

Board members said they needed to formally make the change before getting approval from the commissioners because this time of  year is recruiting season for new teachers and they wanted to make sure they made their best offers to potential candidates.

The meeting will start at 7:00 p.m. at the Southern Human Services Building.

Julie Hennis: Hometown Hero

Julie Hennis is Tuesday’s Hometown Hero.

Julie is a volunteer coordinator for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School System.  Recently, she was involved in a “Day of Service.”  The Orange/Chatham Board of Realtors got together for a day of community work at Chapel Hill High School.  Construction, Renovations, Repairs, and Beautification.

You can nominate your own Hometown Hero.  WCHL has honored local members of our community everyday since 2002.

Commissioners To Hold Public Hearing On Upcoming Bond

The Board of Orange County Commissioners will be taking public comment on the upcoming bond Tuesday night.

It will be the first of two public hearings on the bond which, if passed in November, will be the largest in county history at $125 million.

Up to $120 million dollars is planned to make necessary health and safety upgrades to Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. This would be the first step in acquiring the funding needed to finance over $300 million in repairs.

Another $5 million dollars is expected to go towards affordable housing.

The meeting will begin at seven p.m. at the Southern Human Services Building in Chapel Hill.

A second hearing will be held in Hillsborough May 5 at the Whitted Building, which will also begin at 7:00 p.m.