Close Contacts Of ECH Student Who Died Being Monitored

The Orange County Health Department worked closely with East Chapel Hill High School and the school district shortly after finding out a 14-year-old student at East contracted meningococcal disease and later died.

“We have given prophylactic antibiotics to 14 contacts at this point,” said Orange County Health Department Director Colleen Bridger as she addressed the media Thursday morning. “Typically it’s going to be close family members that are the most exposed.”

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Superintendent Tom Forcella joined Dr. Bridger and said the student left school Tuesday after telling the school nurse he felt ill.

“The nurse advised the family to seek medical attention,” Dr. Frocella said. “He thought maybe he just wasn’t feeling well. The nurse contacted the parents and advised them to seek medical attention, and the family did go see either their doctor or a clinic.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of meningococcal disease include nausea, vomiting, photophobia (increased sensitivity to light), and an altered mental status (confusion). It is spread through the transmission of respiratory and throat secretions like saliva.

“Meningococcal disease is a generic term that encompasses the different types of illnesses that you can get if you are infected with the bacteria,” Dr. Bridger said. “You’re most commonly, probably, familiar with meningitis, which is when the bacteria gets into the spinal fluid and the brain of the infected individual; that would be meningitis. We believe we are dealing with a blood infection in this particular case, which is why we’ll be referring to it a little bit more generically.”

Dr. Bridger said it’s impossible to trace where the student picked up the bacteria.

She said the disease is most commonly seen in adolescents.

“I think 10-15 percent of people who are infected with a meningococcal disease will die,” Dr. Bridger says. “Another up to 50-percent will suffer life-long consequences of the disease if they do recover. So it’s a very, very serious disease. The good news is it’s very, very hard to get.”

Anyone experiencing symptoms should contact the Orange County Health Department or your personal physician immediately.

For more information about how East Chapel Hill is handling the situation at the school, click here.

14-Year-Old East Chapel Hill Student Dies Wednesday

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools spokesperson Jeff Nash says a 14-year-old male student of East Chapel Hill High School died Wednesday, presumably from meningococcal disease.

Nash says at this time it has not been confirmed whether or not he had meningitis at the time of his death. He says the school worked closely with the Orange County Health Department to make sure other students are safe.

East Chapel Hill principal Eileen Tully sent a message to parents informing them of the situation. She shared a letter from health director Colleen Bridger, which included more information about the disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of meningococcal disease include nausea, vomiting, photophobia (increased sensitivity to light), and an altered mental status (confusion). The disease is spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions like saliva. Anyone experiencing symptoms should contact the Orange County Health Department or your personal physician immediately.

Principal Tully plans to meet with students in the morning, according to Nash, and counselors will be available for students.

The health department worked to find a list of close friends of the student and called their families Wednesday night.

Something Wicked This Way Comes: “Macbeth” At ECHHS

CHAPEL HILL – Though last week’s snow pushed back opening night by a day and made for a difficult tech week, the curtain went up Friday on East Chapel Hill High School’s production of “Macbeth.”

To make a Shakespearian play about kings and royalty intelligible to a young American audience, guest director Tom Marriott says he reimagined it as a story about fathers and sons. Marriott says he hadn’t set foot in a high school in decades—but he was impressed by the students in his cast and crew.

“I have no kids of my own, so I was like, ‘what am I going to do with kids?’” he says. “(But) I went in there–and they are so incredibly wonderful. I absolutely love them–these kids are so focused and so centered and so disciplined. I am absolutely amazed.”

“Macbeth” continues at East Chapel Hill High for one more weekend; shows are 7:30 on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Advance tickets are available for $10/person at; for the Friday and Saturday shows, you can also purchase a preshow catered dinner along with the play for $20.

Hold Your Hat And Hang Onto Your Soul: “Little Shop” At ECHHS

My first play in high school was “Little Shop of Horrors.” I was a sixteen-year-old junior, still in the midst of breaking out of my shy-nerd shell—and “Little Shop” pretty much completed the process. (Though playing Seymour, it helped to keep that shy-nerd persona around. My director/drama teacher told the local paper she instantly thought “Seymour!” the first time she ever saw me, and I’m still not sure whether that’s a compliment or an insult.)

It was a terrific experience.

But because it was my first play, I feel a sense of ownership over “Little Shop” that I don’t feel with any other show. Which means my relationship with “Little Shop” is a love/hate thing: it’s absolutely my favorite musical, no question (I’m one of those annoying people who lip-synchs along with all the songs), but I also have a really specific idea in my head for how I think the show ought to go—so invariably I end up walking out of the theater going, “Man, I loved that! But gee, if only they’d done this, and this, and this…”

(It’s a blessing and a curse.)

So. They’re doing “Little Shop” at East Chapel Hill High School, now through Saturday, 7:30 p.m. every night. Y’all should go.

Of course I was there for opening night. How did ECHHS’ version stack up to my imagined ideal?

Pretty well, actually, all things considered.

I was impressed as soon as I walked into the theater: the preshow soundtrack is all doo-wop music from the 50s and 60s, and they project a loop of old B-movie trailers against the curtain. Nicely played. I had a lot of fun just sitting there watching those.

As for the show itself. If you don’t know, “Little Shop” too is a takeoff of a B-movie horror flick, with songs inspired by early-60s doo-wop. It’s the story of a nebbish named Seymour Krelborn (played here by John Pate), working in a rundown Skid Row flower shop, whose life takes a sudden turn when he runs across a “strange and interesting” plant—an unidentifiable flytrap he names “Audrey 2” after the girl he’s secretly pining after (“the girl” here played by Danielle Katz). And suddenly everything’s great for Seymour—aside from the fact that the plant turns out to be a talking, scheming, very hungry alien with a taste for human flesh…

It’s a comedy. Go with it.

“Little Shop” is a popular show for high schools in part because it offers the coolest special effects that a high-school production can reasonably pull off. That would be Audrey 2, always the star of the show—a moving, talking plant that grows and grows as the show progresses. (How does it work? There are four Audrey 2 puppets all told: two hand puppets for the early scenes, then two much more elaborate contraptions manipulated by an unseen performer inside. In ECHHS’ production, Shira Snyder and Austin Lord are credited as the puppetmasters—but Pate, as Seymour, also gets to play puppeteer in one song. Watch for it.) Manipulating Audrey 2 is a daunting task—when our high school staged “Little Shop,” we cheated and had a teacher do it—so kudos to Snyder and Lord for making it work. (Kudos also to director Hope Hynes Love and set designer Alec Arshavsky. The set design for “Little Shop” is deceptively simple—all but one of the scenes take place either in or just outside the shop, but the design still needs to account for the fact that you have to move gigantic plants on and off stage in mid-scene, without anyone noticing. They do a fine job with it. I also liked the glass window they put in the backdrop—so you can see unheard conversations transpiring outside the shop throughout the show.)

So, how did it all come together?

I loved the little directorial touches Hope Hynes Love sprinkled throughout the show. A wino (Evan Douglass) takes a leak behind a phone booth. Audrey—the human Audrey—gives a dollar to a homeless woman. The Kleenex Seymour uses to win Audrey’s heart (“Suddenly Seymour”) gets called back later, when he’s weighing whether to destroy the plant and a spotlight suddenly fixes on it. Stick around for intermission, and you’ll catch Seymour creeping out on stage to dispose of evidence midway through.

And speaking of Seymour, let’s talk about the acting. From an actor’s perspective, “Little Shop” is a thin, thin tightrope to walk: it’s a campy parody, sure, but it also really cares about its lead characters, really loves them and wants them to succeed. Audrey’s song “Somewhere That’s Green” is the best example: it’s Audrey’s dream of a perfect life, and we chuckle because it’s so mundane—a garbage disposal, frozen dinners, a TV with a “big enormous 12-inch screen”—but at the same time, she believes in it so darn much that we find ourselves believing in it too. (Especially since Audrey’s real life is so horrible that, mundane as her dream is, it’s a dream she can never really hope to attain.) It’s a devastating song, when it’s done right. But you have to do it right. The temptation with “Little Shop” is to play up the camp and make it jokey—but the reason the show succeeds is that there’s a very real emotional heart at the center of it all, so to make it work you have to play it straight. (I saw the Broadway revival in 2004, with Joey Fatone as Seymour. They, um…did not play it straight.)

But as Seymour and Audrey, John Pate and Danielle Katz play it straight. “Suddenly Seymour,” their second-act duet, doesn’t have quite the crowd-rousing finish it could have, but whatever: Katz blows the roof off the place with “Somewhere That’s Green”—I got choked up—and Pate absolutely nails Seymour’s tragic desperation in his “Skid Row” solo. I could quibble with both performances if I want—all the actors do have those moments where they rush through the lines and choreography without stopping to feel them, and that’s true of the two leads as well—but let’s stick with this compliment: Pate and Katz get Seymour and Audrey better than anyone I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen “Little Shop” on Broadway.

(My one directorial quibble: Seymour should keep his glasses on.)

From the technical side, the show is solid but still has a few kinks. Well, really just one, and it’s the same problem you get with every musical: how to make sure the orchestra doesn’t overwhelm the actors’ voices. (The actors do wear mics, which helps a bit. I didn’t have much of a problem with it anyway, but then again I know all the songs by heart.) But I did find myself impressed with the lighting design, especially the use of strobes and backlighting to make Audrey 2 that much more menacing. Well done there. (Credit Domenica Sutherland for lights—and credit Audrey 2’s voice actors Ethan Fox and Jones Bell for the menacing laugh.)

Highlights: “Skid Row” and “Somewhere That’s Green” in the first act and “Suppertime” in the second; I also liked the grand finale, where the special effects really take over. (Lowlight: “Call Back In The Morning,” the opening number of the second act. This is not ECHHS’ fault. It is just a bad song.)

So, final verdict: Is “Little Shop” worth seeing? Absolutely. It’s true, I did walk out of the theater saying “Gee, if only they’d done this, and this, and this”…but I also walked out saying, “Man, I loved that.”

For me, with “Little Shop,” the two tend to go hand in hand.

The Grid: East Chapel Hill

CHAPEL HILL–The dog days of summer provide a definite lull in the normal buzzing of sports activity in every other season. With the unfortunate void, minds tend to wander to the end of August, when the glories of football return.

***Listen to the interview***

Although on a national scale, the college and professional games garner nearly all the attention, for some purists, there is nothing better than Friday night lights. Yes, high school football reigns supreme in many regions.

And if you can cast your eyes past the giant in the room that is UNC in these neck of the woods, you may just find a palpable mix of passion and performance on the gridiron that has many locals all fired up!

With this in mind, we kick off our high school football preview series with a rising program that made some noise for the first time in a while last season, making it to the state playoffs. With a new, energized head coach at the helm looking to build on the success of last year, don’t count out these boys from East Chapel Hill High School.

Recently, I had a chance to sit down with Jonathan Sherman, the Head coach over at East Chapel Hill to discuss the state of the program and the expectations for the 2013 season.

Fresh on the job and entering his first season as the main guy, Sherman discussed how he landed this opportunity and highlighted some of his past experience.

I got the opportunity here because I was the associate head coach last year. When Coach Renner retired, I got the opportunity to interview for the job, Sherman said.

Previously, Sherman coached at Jack Britt High School where his team made it all the way to the state championship game before falling to Richmond Senior.

Sherman hopes to build on the improvements made by recently retired coach Renner to achieve big things at East Chapel Hill. He provided a comparison between himself and Renner in our chat.

In terms of his organization and as far as building a program, I think Coach Renner had the same point. We have a different offensive philosophy a little bit. I run a little more, and he is more of that five-wide philosophy. But he built a great thing here. He rebuilt it. I am just trying to keep it going and keep it established in a little different direction, Sherman said.

Although Sherman paid tribute to his predecessor, he was quick to point out that his own high-energy, high-intensity coaching style is one of his distinctive characteristics. In fact, Sherman isnt afraid to step in and participate in the practice drills himself.

I believe strongly in being involved. If I expect them to run the field and move to another station, Im moving, too. Im not going to stand still. I am going to get involved in as much as I can and do as much as I can. At least at the age I am at, I have the ability to do so, Sherman said.

Sherman is even known to compete against his own players. In one instance, he did some tire pull competitions with one of his defensive linemen, and he was looking forward to more head-to-head action with his players.

Tomorrow morning I am hopefully going to beat him out. Thats the goal. We did best out of three, he got me the first one. I slipped, thats what Ill say. I slipped a little bit. This week, Im going to get him. Im going to pull him across tomorrow, Sherman quipped.

Sherman can see a determined look in his players eyes through their intense workout program this summer. The team meets every day, but the coach sees nothing but excitement and passion in the Wildcats each and every day.

When asked about specific goals for the season, the coach empahsized the importance of not looking too far ahead. For Sherman, maintaining that energy and intensity is key to his teams success.

Keeping that high intensity. Thats our major goal-always working hard with energy and never give up. Thats the kind of mentality I bring into it, Sherman said.

Last season, the Wildcats of East Chapel Hill achieved their first playoff appearance since 2003. They tasted success. And now they want more. Sherman believes his team is building off the momentum and really thinks his players have that burning desire to truly make a name for themselves in the high school football ranks.

What I love so much about these kids is just the passion. You look them in the eye, and they want it. They want it bad. They tasted it last year, and they want to keep doing it. So thats huge, just the passion and energy of them wanting to work hard to get there, Sherman said.

The energetic passion exuded from Coach Sherman boiled over in our conversation. It was infectious-I was even fired up! Indeed, a philosophy of hard work and high energy seems to be cemented in place for the ever-improving East Chapel Hill football program. Now all we have to do is wait once again for those lights to burn bright on Friday nights.

***Coming up next on The Grid: a write-up on my conversations with a few of the standout Wildcat team members!

***Listen to the interview***

ECH Recognizes Life Hurdles At Commencement

CHAPEL HILL – East Chapel Hill High School principal, Eileen Tully celebrated two people at Saturday’s graduation with the Principal’s Choice for the hurdles they overcame during their time as Wildcats and throughout their life.

Michael Arneson overcame a traumatic brain injury, cancer, and his family’s house was struck by lightning and caught fire all while in high school. Through all that, he was still able to earn one of the 19 valedictorian spots.

“Your past is behind you, and it will always stay there no matter what you do,” Arneson says. “You can only change your future, and that’s all you should try to do.”

Jeimy Martinez shared with those in attendance her story of how her family faced being forced out of the country since it arrived in the United States undocumented when she was one. Her brother was deported when she was a sophomore.

“I am an American, a high school graduate, a scholarship recipient to Barton College, a future nurse,” Martinez says. “I am determined, passionate, and definitely an adventurous person.”

But those weren’t the only stories told by East Chapel Hill graduates Saturday morning. The stories were shared in English, Spanish, and Latin.

East Chapel Hill gained 350 alumni who will now move on to continue their academic career, serve our country in one of the armed forces, or head directly to the employment field.

***Listen to the Full Commencement Ceremony***

CHCCS Seniors To Turn Tassles Saturday

CHAPEL HILL – Throughout Saturday, more than 850 high school seniors will turn their tassels and set their courses for the next adventure.

At 9:00 a.m., East Chapel Hill will send the largest class this year down the aisles of the Dean Smith Center as 350 Wildcats ceremoniously complete their primary education. Chapel Hill will follow at 1:00 p.m. with 325 graduates while Carrboro concludes its seventh year with 176 graduates.

Phoenix Academy started off the graduation season in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district with four graduates Friday night.

Saturday night, the 21st celebration of Project Graduation will host the then-former attendees of all four schools from 11:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. Sunday. The event is designed to keep the graduates safe and supervised in a substance-free environment while enjoying the momentous occasion with their peers.

Scholarships totaling $19,000 and prizes totaling $20,000 will also be given away Saturday night.

ECHHS: Girls Lacrosse Advances To State Final, Boys Fall In Semis

CHAPEL HILL – The East Chapel Hill girls’ lacrosse postseason run continues while the boys’ season came to an end Tuesday night.

The Wildcats girls’ late surge past the defending-champion Green Hope Falcons led to an 18-12 victory in the NCHSAA 4A State Semifinals. Earlier this season the two teams went to overtime in which East snuck away with the 16-15 win.

Thirteen of East’s 18 goals Tuesday night came from Sydney Holman, the UNC recruit and sister of UNC men’s lacrosse star, Marcus Holman. Sydney is rated the No. 2 girls lacrosse player in the country.

With the win, East Chapel Hill advanced to the state final which will be played Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at WakeMedSoccerPark in Cary. The Wildcats will face the Charlotte Catholic Cougars for the second time this season. The Cougars defeated the Wildcats 13-10 in early March.

The East Chapel Hill boys were knocked out of the tournament Tuesday night by Apex, 11-7.

East went in front on goals by seniors Ryan Dotson and Baxter Perkins. The contest was tied at two after one quarter, but Apex outscored East 4-1 in the second to take the 6-3 lead into the locker room. The Cougars added three more in the third, and while the majority of the Wildcats’ scoring came in the final period, it wasn’t enough.

The Wildcats finished their season 16-3 and were the Conference 5 champions with an undefeated record of 10-0.

East Chapel Hill Hosts Transition Fair Tuesday Evening

CHAPEL HILL – More than fifty businesses, organizations, and places of higher education are taking part in a fair to help students in need of special accommodations prepare for life outside of school.

“This in an opportunity for our families to come to East Chapel Hill High School and meet with many different representatives from a variety of area resources,” says Susan Lombardo, Transition Facilitator at East Chapel Hill High School.

“The transition facilitator is most concerned about the students’ transition from school life to adulthood,” Lombardo says.

Tuesday’s fair at East Chapel Hill presents students and young adults the opportunity to find their next step in life. Lombardo says not only does it allow those who don’t want to continue their education a place to find a job, but connects other individuals with the right people at colleges and universities to make sure they get the right help to make the most of it.

“Students who perhaps will go on to a four-year school and requires some type of modification or accommodation through disability services, this event would also be appropriate for them,” Lombardo says.

A few of the local organizations participating in the event include The Arc of Orange County, OE Enterprises, Extraordinary Ventures, different departments of the Department of Social Services, Vocational Rehabilitation Services, and much more. Local colleges and universities will also be representatives.

The fair is designed for students in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Orange County districts, but Lombardo says families of those who are already out of school are also welcome.

“We have to think that the community is really where it’s at for the individuals with disabilities,” Lombardo says. “As many connections as a family can make on their children’s behalf and their children making is really critical to having a quality of life once they leave school.”

Tuesday’s Transition Fair takes place in the Café Commons of East Chapel Hill High School from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m.

For more information, call Susan Lombardo at 919-969-2482 ext. 27023.

ECH Creates Social Media Constitution To Combat Inappropriate/Harmful Behavior

CHAPEL HILL – With advancements in technology have come additional methods of bullying in schools and one local high school is working to deter the misuse of social media.

“Students are always going to find new and unique ways of finding power,” says Rob Frescoln, administrative intern at East Chapel Hill High School. “Bullying is just that, somebody who might previously had not had power expressing that, trying to find out who they are.”

Frescoln says bullying isn’t the only concern those advancements have brought on.

“If you post it, it’s permanent,” Frescoln says. “Applications such as SnapChat where kids can send messages back and forth, send images back and forth and those images supposedly disappear after four, six, ten seconds, they have this idea that it’s not permanent.”

Together with some students and the administration at East Chapel Hill, Frescoln created a summit where experts in the social media industry along with counseling interns and the school’s administration got together to talk to the students about the dangers of things like Facebook, Twitter, and SnapChat, but more importantly to talk about how they can be used in a positive way.

“Gary Kayye came to talk to the kids about how social media is portrayed in the media,” Frescoln says. “We had a speaker come from WUNC public television to talk about how social media effects life after high school. We had an investigator from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office come in and talk about the legal ramifications about social media. And then we had the administration and teachers talk about how social media can be used and is used at the school, and what are some of the implications of that usage both positive and negative.”

At the summit, Frescoln says the group created what they call their constitution for social media use.

“This is our idea—what we feel social media is—and because of this idea, these are the things, these are the behaviors that we will exhibit to make it more of a positive, useful, and powerful thing here at school,” Frescoln says. “

He says with this in place, the hope is that the health and safety of students—at least at East—can be threatened less by the digital age.

“It used to be that parents were concerned about the stalkers, the child molesters, and the child abductors,” Frescoln says. “But, they really need to understand that it’s students who are hurting other students and themselves by what they’re posting these days.”

And, he says this summit was not a one-time thing.

“What I’d really like to see happen—and what I plan on doing—is bringing this down to the middle school,” Frescoln says.

He says when the Internet first came about, many schools and families went through the process of learning the rights and wrongs of it together. With social media, that isn’t regularly the case.

“Social media right now is, at the middle school level, kind of a free-for-all,” Frescoln says. “There’s no lifeguard at the pool, so to speak. Parents and other adults aren’t as savvy with their middle school kids, and the middle school students are pretty much learning on their own.”

Frescoln says he hopes this first stab at social media training and comprehension will spread to other areas of the district.

“It would be great if we could develop some programs to look at social media literacy,” Frescoln says. “We have this assumption that kids know what to do and how to do it, but I think we really need to take a step back, look at what’s out there, learn it for ourselves, and then help kids to navigate it and make good choices.”

And regardless of what is done going forward, Frescoln says one thing is certain.

“Social media is here; it’s here to stay,” Frescoln says. “It’s not going anywere, so we need to help kids make those good decisions.”

East Chapel Hill High School Social Media Constitution

We, the students of ECHHS, believe that Social Media is important, a huge part of our culture, and is not going away.  It is also a privilege.  You should always think before you post and be aware that what you say will be there forever.  We believe that it should be used for fun, but not at the expense of others.

Because of these beliefs, we agree to do the following when using social media:
-use it in a positive way,
-be courteous and cautious,
-think before we tweet, post or send,
-be aware of consequences,
-maintain our privacy,
-report negative behavior like bullying,
- send only images that we would be proud of, and won’t regret later,
-reach out to those using social media irresponsibly,
-spread the good word about social media as well as educate others about possible consequences of irresponsible uses,
-and use social media respectfully and responsibly by treating people the way we want to be treated.

By writing down our beliefs and agreed-upon behaviors, we intend to create a Social Media culture that is positive, bully-free, and supportive of all students at East and others in our community.