CHCCS Prepares To Ask County For Nearly $4.5 Million

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education is getting ready to ask Orange County for an additional $4.465 million to help with increases in teacher salaries.

Superintendent Tom Forcella said these increases were necessary to help recruiting new teachers and retaining current ones.

“As we are now in a process of recruitment and going to these fairs where the candidates are, it would really help if we could share with them that we have a commitment to increasing our local supplement,” he said.

Teacher’s salaries are determined two ways. First they are given a base salary set by the state, which the district expects to rise by five percent this year. That increase is estimated to total around $2.1 million.

Teachers also receive a supplement decided by individual districts. CHCCS is looking to increase its supplement for new teachers from 12 percent to 16 percent to keep up with an increase in Wake County last year. That increase is expected to total around $1.8 million.

Board chairman James Barrett said they need to be clear with the county as to why they need this funding.

“They need to know, here’s what the state is ‘doing’ to us,” he said. “Not because of cuts, because those may still come, but because of the salary increases from the state, that has an impact on what (Orange County) has to provide. And then there’s an additional impact from the match Wake effort.”

The board will meet again April 7 to approve the supplement increase.

Once approved, the district will have to pay for the increase, whether or not the county commissioners give the funding the district is asking for.

“The 4.4 million, almost all of it will be non-discretionary to us and so therefore anything less than that, we will have to make reductions in people to match whatever we don’t get out of that 4.4 million,” Barrett said.

But even if the commissioners give the district all the money they’re asking for, they could still be at the mercy of the state increases.

The district expects a five percent increase in salaries, but assistant superintendent Todd LoFrese said state could bump the increase to seven or eight percent.

“If that is what occurred we would need to come back to the board with a way to balance our budget,” he said. “Because that would put us, assuming we got our entire request from the county commissioners, that would put us all of the sudden $1 million behind.”

The district will present its proposed budget to the commissioners April 26.

5K For Education Is Saturday

This Saturday morning, hundreds of runners (and joggers and walkers) will take to the streets of Chapel Hill for the annual 5K For Education.

Organized every year by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public School Foundation, the 5K begins on East Franklin Street and winds around campus and nearby neighborhoods before circling back to McCorkle Place. The event begins at 9 am, with registration starting at 7:30 at McCorkle Place.

WCHL’s Aaron Keck (who’s MC’ing the event) spoke Thursday with Christine Cotton of the Public School Foundation.


Register for the 5K For Education here.

CHCCS Wins National Recycling Award

Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools has been named the national district winner of Keep America Beautiful’s Recycle-Bowl, according to the school system.

A release says Recycle-Bowl reaches nearly 700,000 students and teachers in 1,266 schools across 45 states and the District of Columbia.

Dan Schnitzer is the Sustainability Coordinator for CHCCS, and he says, “Winning this competition is a testament to the dedication of our teachers, administrators and students to care for their environment, reduce waste and ensure a healthy future.”

The competition was held over four weeks last fall culminating on November 15 – America Recycles Day.

Four million pounds of recyclables were recovered during the 2015 competition. Officials say that prevented the release of more than 5,700 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, and the reduction in greenhouse gases is equivalent to the annual emissions from more than 950 passenger cars.

While CHCCS won the District Division in the national competition, Egg Harbor Community School in New Jersey was crowned the national champion. Egg Harbor recycled 50 pounds of material per student and teacher during the competition.

Egg Harbor City Community School of Egg Harbor City, New Jersey, was crowned national champion of Recycle-Bowl, recycling 50 pounds of material per student and teacher during the competition.

Keep America Beautiful president and CEO Jennifer Jehn said in a statement:

“Recycle-Bowl provides teachers with a great opportunity to integrate concepts of sustainability and waste reduction into classroom curricula through experiential learning as well as a way to introduce recycling into a school’s general operations. CHCCS exemplifies the goals and mission of Recycle-Bowl. It’s inspiring to see students across the country becoming so enthusiastic about recycling and conserving our planet’s natural resources.”

CHCCS Considers Teacher Pay Increase

CHCCS superintendent Tom Forcella said next year’s budget has one thing in mind — teacher salaries.

“This budget this year has a focus addressing the salary issue problem,” Forcella said. “And very little else in terms of dollars for this year are included in any kind of enhancement of any other kind of programs.”

Teacher salaries are decided by the state, but school systems can offer supplements to that income from their own budgets.

Last year Wake County Schools significantly increased their budget after receiving 15 million dollars for teacher salaries from their county commissioners.

Forcella estimated that Wake County Schools pays teachers an average of two to three thousand dollars more per year and recommended the board increase supplements in next year’s budget.

“I hear principals tell us they have a hard time retaining teachers with Wake County paying a significantly higher supplement than we do,” said board member Andrew Davidson. “So I think it’s absolutely imperative that we get behind this salary increase in every way that we can.”

Forcella recommended the board increase supplements for new teachers from 12 percent to 16 percent as a way to stay competitive in recruiting and retaining teachers.

This expense would add an additional $1.85 million to next year’s budget.

The move would come at some risk because the board is scheduled to ask the county for the necessary funds in April, but there is no guarantee the county will approve.

“We understand that we would be doing this at some risk of cuts,” said board member James Barrett.

The school system will soon begin trying to recruit new teachers and retain others. Because the board is moving forward with this proposal, they will be offering jobs at this increased supplement before receiving county approval for increased funding.

Should the county deny the board’s request; Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools will be responsible for cutting $1.85 million next year from its budget to finance the increase in teacher pay.

“It’s something that we have to do,” he said. “And the timing is absolutely critical because of the recruitment cycle and the retention cycle that we’re right in the middle of. It’s the right thing to do to focus on salary.”

The board will submit their proposal for next year’s budget to the county on April 13 and present their proposal April 26.

Jewish Families Call For CHCCS To Stop Saturday School

We all have memories of sledding and snowball fights on the days we were fortunate enough to have school canceled as a child, but for some students, the snow day is a little more complicated.

“In the Jewish faith, the Sabbath or Shabbat, begins at sunset on Friday and continues to Saturday evening,” Rabbi Jennifer Feldman said. Shabbat is essential to the rhythm of Jewish life. School on the Sabbath forces Jewish students to choose between their religious commitments and their secular education.”

Feldman, along with other members of the community, spoke in front of the CHCCS Board of Education, to discuss the dilemma that Jewish parents go through when schools have to hold classes on Saturdays to make up for days canceled by snow.

“Our students should not have to choose between Jewish observance and academic progress,” she said. “Jewish students and their families should not be forced to choose between communal celebration and public education. Jewish teachers should not have to choose between their job and their religion.”

So far, the school system has not had to hold class on Saturday this academic year, but did so twice in 2015. Feldman and Jennifer Weinberg-Wolf asked the board to create working groups to help come up with possible solutions.

“Because of the pressing time issue we feel and immediate task force to look specifically at the 2016-2017 calendar is imperative,” Weinberg-Wolf said. “In addition, were requesting that the board or administration convene an ongoing working group to look at the calendar for the district as a whole.”

Board member Andrew Davidson said he was in favor of the working groups and wanted to get community involvement as well.

“Our community has demonstrated an understanding of the challenges we face, rather than asking us to shoehorn an unworkable no Saturday school policy,” he said. “I think they recognize the challenges we recognize which is it’s going to take more than just a simple policy. It’s going to take some work and some community input.”

The issue becomes more complicated due to a law passed in 2012 that creates hard start and end dates for North Carolina public schools. They are not allowed to hold classes after the Friday closest to June 11.

Joal Hall Broun Appointed To CHCCS Board Of Education

Joal Hall Broun was chosen from seven applicants to fill the vacancy on the Board of Education left by Michelle Brownstein, who resigned in December.

While electing the new member in their meeting Thursday night, no board member spoke about any specific candidate.

“We’re normally very verbose,” said board member Andrew Davidson. “We tend to clam up during this process because when we have this, what we called an ’embarrassment of riches’ last time, we have seven highly qualified candidates so it’s hard for us to speak up.”

Davidson said the board did not want to discourage anyone who applied for the position.

The board voted initially to narrow down the field. In the first vote, the top three names, in no specified order, were Broun, Allen Baunsi and Mary Anne Wolf.

In the second vote, composed of the three remaining candidates, Broun received the majority of the votes and was unanimously approved.

Board member Rani Dasi explained how she evaluated candidates.

“What the board in my mind needs is some structural support,” she said. “We lost 31 years of experience in our last three board members who have left the board. So I really thought about making sure that my candidate had elected experience.”

Broun has worked on the Carrboro Board of Alderman and has served on the board for the Orange Water and Sewer Authority.

She did not address the board on Thursday, but spoke at the meeting last week. She said scrutinizing our expectations of students is important for closing the achievement gap.

“Do you expect that child because he does not look or she does not look like someone else, do you expect them to do well? So the expectation is that all students should do well,” Broun said.

She will be sworn in and officially begin her duties at the next meeting on March, 3.

Call For Volunteers: CHCCS Wants You!

Are you looking for an opportunity to make a difference in your community? Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools is calling for volunteers.

Volunteer specialist George Ann McKay says hundreds of local residents volunteer in the schools every year – many of them parents, many of them just community members (some as old as 100!) who want to chip in. There’s a wide variety of ways you can help out, depending on your interests; McKay says you can volunteer as much time as you’re able – even as little as an hour or two a week.

McKay stopped by WCHL last week and spoke with Aaron Keck.


The CHCCS volunteer office is located at the PTA Thrift Shop building on Main Street in Carrboro, if you want to stop by and become a volunteer. You can also call the office at 919-967-8211, or find them online at this link.

“Untold Stories Of Pearl Harbor”

Franklin Roosevelt described it as “a date which will live in infamy”…but there’s still a great deal about Pearl Harbor that isn’t widely known.

Chapel Hill High School history teacher and author Bill Melega is giving a free lecture on “The Untold Stories of Pearl Harbor” Saturday, January 23, from 10:30 am to noon at the SECU Family House in Chapel Hill. Melega will share personal stories of survivors, talk about the events leading up to the attack, and answer frequently asked questions.

Bill Melega (and Sondra Komada of the SECU Family House) spoke this week with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


Melega is the author of “Bringing the Great War Home, Volume IV,” part of a series on World War I, as well as an SAT review book for Barron’s Publishing. He’s also been widely recognized for his teaching skills: he was CHHS Teacher of the Year in 2007-08, and in 2010 he was named the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Citizenship Teacher of the Year.

The lecture is free, but space is limited. To reserve a spot, email Sondra Komada:

Located at 123 Old Mason Farm Road, the SECU Family House provides low-cost housing for patients at UNC Hospitals, as well as their families.

Volunteer This Year At CHCCS

Looking to volunteer your time for a good cause? Try Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

That’s the message CHCCS officials are sending out as the new semester gets under way. They’re hosting spring registration throughout January for UNC students who want to volunteer, with a booth set up at the student union from 10:00-3:30 on Thursday the 14th, Wednesday the 20th, Thursday the 21st, and Monday the 25th. CHCCS volunteers and partners coordinator Julie Hennis says the district does a recruitment drive at UNC twice a year – and typically pull in hundreds of volunteers.

Julie Hennis and CHCCS school reading partner specialist Christine Cotton joined Aaron Keck this week on WCHL.


Hennis says there’s a wide variety of volunteer opportunities in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools; volunteers give as little as an hour a week of their time, and district officials can tailor the experience to their needs and interests.

The recruitment drive on campus is geared to UNC students, but there are volunteer opportunities for everyone. (The district’s Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate program is one of the best known, but there are many other ways to volunteer.)

For more information, contact the CHCCS volunteer office: visit this page for contact info, or stop by the office in the PTA Thrift Shop building in Carrboro.

Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools Will Pay Employees a Living Wage

The Chapel Hill – Carrboro City School system has been recognized by a local non-profit for paying its employees a living wage.

Orange County Living Wage has been compiling businesses and organizations that pay employees a living wage, which is defined for Orange County as $12.75 per hour or $11.25 per hour for employees covered by health insurance. Other communities have similar non-profits pushing for employers to pay a living wage.

OCLW says that the school system makes up the largest living wage employer to date in the organization’s registry.

In order to qualify, 72 employees in the CHCCS system – mostly custodians and bus monitors, according to OCLW – were given raises of $1.30 per hour. A release from OCLW says the combined raises totaled $36,000 over the course of the year. Orange County Schools was recognized as a living wage employer last month.

Newly-elected CHCCS board chair James Barrett said in the release:

“We’ve heard from many parents about how frustrated they feel when district staff can’t afford to live within our community, and it goes against our traditionally-expressed values. Paying a living wage is, simply, the right thing to do—and the smart thing to do, from a business perspective. That’s a lesson I’m happy for our students to learn through our example.”

The living wage in Orange County is calculated off the compensation that employees need in order to meet “their most basic needs” while free of government assistance, including costs of housing.

A total of 48 businesses, municipalities and public school systems, with a combined employment of over 4,000, have been recognized by OCLW as paying their employees a living wage.

The combined wage increases total $276,240 over the course of the year, according to OCLW.

You can see a full list of the recognized employers here.