To Manage Info, NC Schools Step Up To “Home Base”

CHAPEL HILL – Students across Orange County are headed back to school on Monday—and as the schools get ready to reopen, Chapel Hill-Carrboro chief technology officer Ray Reitz says the state Department of Public Instruction is rolling out a new student information system called Home Base.

“It’s a major statewide initative that’s impacting all 115 districts in the state,” he says, “and it’s one of the largest technology initiatives that the state of North Carolina has ever endeavored.”

Click here for the NC DPI’s page on Home Base.

Home Base is replacing the old student information management system, NC WISE. It’ll be used to manage student attendance, schedules, grades, and transcripts—among other things. Reitz says teachers can use Home Base to develop lesson plans, collaborate with students and fellow teachers, manage data, create assessments, and communicate progress reports to parents. And administrators can use it to manage and monitor professional development, which Superintendent Tom Forcella says is a priority for the district this year.

“We believe that Home Base will become a very powerful new tool to streamline the work of teachers and administrators,” says Reitz. “In addition, it will really help parents and students become more of an active participant in the educational process.”

The Department of Public Instruction is implementing the new system in several phases. Reitz says teachers, parents, students and administrators have access to the basic components right now; more components will be rolled out in October and March, and then again at the start of the 2014-15 school year.

If You Tell Them, They Will Come!

Town leaders and the planning team for “Chapel Hill 2020” went to amazing lengths to get the word out that all citizens were invited to come to East Chapel Hill High School on Tuesday, September 27th, to participate in the first sessions to help develop a new comprehensive plan. Getting that word out included a variety of methods – mail, email, news articles, radio, phone calls, contacts with specific groups and organizations, and person-to-person, just to name some.
It worked! The thought that “wouldn’t it be great if 200 came” actually resulted in some 400 coming out to provide their vision for Chapel Hill’s future. They also identified a variety of themes that would help realize their vision. I had the opportunity to facilitate one of the many table discussions, and if all were like mine, everyone was enthusiastic, respectful and focused on the task.
By any measure, this first step of “Chapel Hill 2020 – Our Town, Our Vision,” was a success because so many from all over the community came to help shape our future. But what about those who, in spite of all of the efforts made, still didn’t know about the opportunity to be part of this? This is the information age, isn’t it?  I guess we might assume that when you push information out, magically, it hits the target. Just not the case!
It’s my opinion that we do have a problem with getting information to all of our citizens, and it’s not because of a lack of trying. Some do not read newspapers or follow local news on the radio or TV. Some do not use the computer, so they may not get the information that the Town goes to great lengths to make available. And some do not interact with people who might be in a position to bring some of the critical and timely information to their attention.
So what’s the solution? What else can we do to get the word out in a timely and efficient way? I’ve had several conversations with people lately who had nothing for me when I asked them my question. Matter of fact, one person told me in a pretty blunt way that the Town just can’t do much more than they are doing to help keep people informed. He went on to say that at some point, people have to assume some personal responsibility for keeping themselves informed.
I continue to  ponder this because this is important and I’m just optimistic enough to believe we can come up with ideas. As we move along developing our comprehensive plan, just to cite one example, getting information out to people is critical. So bottom line, if we transmit all of this critical information, can we increase the number of citizens in a position to receive? 
What ideas do you have to help get the word out as broadly as possible? Do you believe that some are just not willing to expend the effort to be informed? There must be some ideas and possible solutions out there! Please leave your comments.

If Helping Kids and Women is Your Passion…

Many of us lead very, very busy lives these days. We want to make a difference, but it is hard to choose where to focus our efforts. For those of us who are interested in charities that help local children and women, it seems that there are almost too many choices to consider (which is a good thing!)

I have a possible solution for those of you who want to focus your efforts but still have a wide-ranging impact on the lives of children and women in our area.

The solution is the Chapel Hill Service League. The League has been around for 72 years and partners with other local nonprofits to provide womenpower (volunteers) and other types of assistance. Last year, the League worked with numerous groups, including: NC Children’s Promise, Ronald McDonald House, SECU Family House, Communities in Schools, Beacon Child and Family Program, IFC Homestart, Dress for Success NC, UNC Horizons, and Kidzu Children’s Museum.

By joining the Chapel Hill Service League, you can help children and women with lots of different kinds of needs.

The League manages its own flagship project — Christmas House — in addition to assisting local nonprofits. Christmas House has provided a brighter holiday for 800+ local children for more than 50 years. Not familiar with Christmas House? Well, when the holiday season arrives and you see the Christmas trees at University and Carr Mill Malls and other locales with the cute teddy bear wish cards on them, that’s the League’s Christmas House project. Wouldn’t it be fun to be one of Santa’s special elves at the Chapel Hill Service League this year? The Christmas House project requires the efforts of more than 200 volunteers from the League as well as the community.

But if you prefer running to eating Christmas cookies, you might be interested in helping plan the League’s annual Southern Village 5K Race and Family Fun Run this November. The funds raised are used to support Christmas House and other community projects.

Women of all ages and backgrounds are invited to join the Chapel Hill Service League. The League’s New Member Informational Fair is being held on Wednesday, August 31, 7:30 p.m. at the Horace Williams House. More information about the League can be found at their web site:

For those men who were disappointed to read that last paragraph (about the League being just for women), don’t worry because my upcoming columns will highlight lots of ways you can help children and women in the local community. And don’t forget that when you walk by one of those Christmas trees at the mall, there will be little teddy bear wish cards hanging from the limbs . . .