Culbreth Middle School Teacher Named District Teacher of the Year

Culbreth Middle School teacher Jessie Grinnell has been named the Chapel Hill – Carrboro School District Teacher of the Year.

The award was announced at the Annual Recognition Reception on Friday at Carrboro High School.

Grinnell teaches eighth-grade English Language Arts at Culbreth.

As part of the award, Grinnell received a $1,000 check from the Bank of North Carolina as well as gifts from area businesses.

You can see the full list of recipients honored at the ceremony here.

Back to Normal at Culbreth Middle School After Tuesday Scare

Students at Culbreth Middle School are back in the classroom after the school was evacuated on Tuesday morning.

Chapel Hill Carrboro Assistant Superintendent Todd LoFrese spoke to the media following the evacuation of Culbreth Middle on Tuesday.

“At approximately 8:05 [Tuesday] morning, a piece of refrigeration equipment malfunctioned in our cafeteria,” he says, “and created a loud noise and a lot of smoke.”

The incident was sparked from a unit that contains juices and other drinks for students during the breakfast timeframe, according to Culbreth Principal Bev Rudolph.

“School opens at 7:50,” she says, “and from 7:50 to 8:13 students may go into the cafeteria for breakfast.”

School spokesperson Jeff Nash gave a little more detail on the cause of the anxious moments.

“The fire was inside the compressor, and it burned the little seal where the wires come in,” he says. “And so that caused the oil and the smoke to start going out.”

LoFrese added that school staff worked quickly to evacuate the cafeteria and set off the alarm, which led to the evacuation of the entire school.

“Both the fire department and police department responded immediately,” he says, “and did a great job assessing our situation, helping provide support in the cafeteria and beginning the ventilation process to clean out the smoke from the facility.

“EMS also responded, as we had some students and one staff member that were complaining about feeling dizzy or light-headed.”

LoFrese says those who were taken to the hospital were transported by ambulance and bus out of an abundance of caution. He says it was less than 10 students and one member cafeteria staff. There was no update available on any of their conditions, as of Tuesday afternoon.

The faulty piece of equipment had been removed by late Tuesday morning.

CHCCS: Culbreth MS Student Behind Bomb Threat Hoax

The alleged author of a bomb threat at Culbreth Middle School has been caught – and the whole thing was apparently a hoax.

Executive Director of Community Relations for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Jeff Nash told WCHL Monday that the culprit is a male student at the school. No other information about him was available.

Culbreth was put on high security alert after a note was discovered at the school Friday afternoon.

The writer of the note indicated that there would be an explosive planted in the school on Thursday, May 8 at 1:50 p.m.

Nash said the author of the note has been identified and has confessed to the hoax. He said that “appropriate disciplinary action” will be taken, although he couldn’t yet reveal what that would be.

Nash said he wasn’t aware of the student’s motive for writing the note.

Beginning Tuesday morning, students will resume their normal school-entry conditions. That means that book bags and backpacks will once again be allowed.

Principal: Bomb Threat Targets Culbreth MS

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

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.

Beverly Rudolph

Student Teachers from Carrboro High Bring ‘Language for Youth’ to Culbreth Middle

A group of students at Carrboro High School have taken the initiative to teach foreign languages to students at Culbreth Middle School.

For about a year now, Carrboro High School senior Lee Mook and some other student volunteers have been teaching classes every Thursday at Culbreth Middle School.

The classes are held between the drowsy hours of 7:15 and 8:15 a.m. Carrboro High School Junior Maddie MacMillan is one of the volunteer teachers. She admits she’s not a “morning person,” but she’s happy to be there, regardless.

“It’s so much fun going to Culbreth every morning,” she says. “The amount of motivation that the Culbreth students have is outstanding. I’m blown away by every single day.”

MacMillan will be taking over the leadership of the Language for Youth program next year after Mook, its creator, graduates. And there’s talk of expanding it to other schools.

Mook says he got the idea for the program when he noticed the small number of students enrolled in Chinese-language classes at Carrboro High. That puzzled him.

“It started as just an idea I had to go to Culbreth Middle School and teach Chinese language,” he says. “From studying Chinese for a couple of years, I’d seen that it was a very, very important thing in the world, and that it would continue to be important.”

Mook credits Culbreth Middle School Principal Beverly Rudolph for being so receptive to his idea.

“Middle schoolers don’t have the opportunity to take Chinese classes,” he says, “and so the first time they’re getting the chance to do it is in high school.”

What started as one Chinese-language class has snowballed into around 50 students learning Spanish French, Chinese, Japanese and German from teachers that are just a couple of years older than themselves.

Academically & Intellectually Gifted Specialist Helen Motta of Culbreth Middle School has also been instrumental in the program’s success. For one thing, she helped out with advertising the program to potential students and teachers.

After that, she says, the program sells itself:

“Once they started coming, they keep coming, because the classes are fun, and they learn a lot.”

Culbreth Middle School Breaks Ground On New Science Wing

CHAPEL HILL – Culbreth Middle School held a ceremonial “groundbreaking” Thursday as they started construction on the new $4.9 million science addition.

Bill Mullin, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools’ Executive Vice President of School Facilities, says the project will add several new aspects to the school in addition to significantly increasing its size.

“It’s about 14,700 square feet of space that’s adding to the building, and we will increase the student capacity there at Culbreth by approximately 104 students,” Mullin says.

The new science addition will provide six new class rooms, two for each grade, and each about 50 percent larger than the old classrooms.  These classrooms will come fully stocked with equipment for science experiments.  Project architect for the science building, David Taylor, says one of the more unique features is the common room.

“We’ll have what we’re calling a science commons area, which is basically a large open space, out in front of the sixth grade class rooms, it can be a place where people can gather and wonder around and see different things going on at the school,” Taylor says.

Mullin says they hope the new science addition for the school will be finished in time for the 2014-15 school year.

“Hope that by August of this year we’ll finish and open it for the 2014-15 school year,” Mullin states.

The new science building at Culbreth Middle School will give more children the opportunity to pursue more science classes and experiment with an array of tools.  Taylor says they area adding a greenhouse to the science building that the students will be able to use.

“Down at one of the building it’ll actually be a free-standing greenhouse about 20 feet by 30 feet roughly, and so the teachers are going to take that greenhouse as part of their curriculum and be able to do experiments out side they’ve never been able to do before, and so we’re really excited about that as well,” Taylor says.

Orange County commissioners Alice Gordon, Bernadette Pelissier, Penny Rich and Chair Barry Jacobs were among the elected officials in attendance.

OC Commissioners Commit to Culbreth Labs, But Other Projects Face Delays

CHAPEL HILL- Orange County Commissioners on Thursday re-prioritized the five-year capital spending plan in order to kick-start construction on a nearly $5 million dollar science wing for Culbreth Middle School.

“In terms of it being the right thing to do, these labs have been needed for a long, long time,” said Commissioner Alice Gordon, who has been a staunch supporter of the project.

No formal vote was taken, but board members signaled that they are prepared to spend $600,000 in the next fiscal year and approximately $4.3 million over the next three years to build the six classroom expansion.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro Assistant Superintendent Todd LoFrese told the board that the extra space will delay the need build a new middle school by at least two years.

“The addition would result in the increase of school capacity of 104 students, which based on the current SAPFO projections would push the need back two years at this point in time,” said LoFrese.

But in order to stay under the county’s debt limit, construction funds for the Southern Branch Library will also be delayed. Though commissioners agreed to spend $600,000 next year on land acquisition, the $7 million needed to build the library would not be available until 2017.

The push to build a science wing for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district met with push back from Board Chair Barry Jacobs, who argued that the plan did not take into account the needs of the Orange County School system.

“We used to talk about equity. We don’t even talk about it any more. It’s not even on the radar,” Jacobs told the board. “One part of equity is treating both school systems with some degree of fairness. Y’all are ready to jump in and spend all this money without even worrying about the impact it might have on the Orange County system.”

He sought assurances from board members that they would support allocating $3.3 million to build an auxiliary gym at Cedar Ridge High School in two years time.

And while both school projects could conceivably fit into the budget for the next five years, Finance Director Clarence Grier warned the board that six years out the county would exceed its debt capacity.

“We can handle it in the short-term, but as we add projects in the long-term, it affects our debt capacity and becomes an issue,” said Grier.

Jacobs suggested the answer to the funding puzzle may lie with voters.

“If we’re going with debt capacity as our guiding principle, we’re done,” said Jacobs. “We are done unless we do a bond, unless we ask the voters, “Are you willing to tax yourselves for other needs? Do you want to tax yourselves for a jail, for park development, for affordable housing, for the next middle school?’ Or are we going to say, ‘We’re done for a while. No jail, no nothing. Done.’”

The board will finalize the Capital Investment Plan at a future work session. The manager’s recommended budget will be presented on May 21.