OP Live Candidate Forum: Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board

Welcome to Orange County's First Online Candidate ForumTonight, we have with us candidates for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education. Thank you all for joining us.Come December, there will be at least one new member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education.Incumbent Jamezetta Bedford is running unopposed for an unexpired  two-year term and three of her board mates are running for re-election in a seven-way race for four four-year terms.Got all that?Good.Let’s get started. We’ve a lot of ground to cover.Here comes the first question . . .

As you’ve been out campaigning, what have you been hearing from voters? What’s on their minds?

The economy and state cuts to education have been on folks' minds.  Parents are also curious about our new Supt.Jamezetta Bedford

I have heard a wide variety of topics discussed.  Most people ask about the new superintendent, many questions about budget and how that will impact our schools, school growth and ES#11, personnel issues, reaching all chidren, bullying and discipline, changes to the curriculum, language instruction, among others. 

The issues that remain on the forefront of voters' minds are the quality of education for ALL students and concerns about how we are coping with budget cuts.  Parents in particular are often concerned about times when their child appears to have fallen through cracks in our system.  These worries come from parents of all types of children: struggling, special needs and academically gifted.  We have to implement the programs we have very well and make sure that all students benefit from them by assuring that no student is forgotten. 

It's nice to have time to fix typos while waiting for the next question! 

Trying to keep it light here!

Hi All,I've had a great time listening to stakeholders (voters included) about their concerns and the state of our schools. What I hear time and again is inconsistency among schools around resources for struggling students resources to accelerate the gifted student and discipline; overcrowded classrooms; and the lack of real application of concepts taught in the classroom.Stakeholders are also frustrated about the heavy tax burden on property owners. Among parents who have struggling students, the concern is when will we do something about the achievement gap. 

People are curious about the new superintendent, bullying in the schools, academic rigor and more uniformity across the system...Kris Castellano

Thanks to OrangePolitics for hosting this forum.  I appreciate that we’ll be able to get into greater depth on questions and do more follow-up because of the format here tonight.  Plus, there will be a great record of the forum available forever.  I encourage all who are reading this to check out my website even while we are blogging here -- http://barrettforschools.com.  I have lots of my previous answers there to questionnaires and even all 76 questions that were submitted for our last forum (all on the “Q&A with James” page).  I’ve been listening to stories about our district for the past five years as a leader in Justice United (http://tinyurl.com/3logdzo).  This broad multi-faith, multi-racial coalition of interests has talked about the need to make progress on the goals we share in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, especially closing the achievement gaps that have been persistent for ages.  It became clear through that work that changing the district from the outside is tough, thus I started this year considering this run for school board to continue a focus on social justice from the board.  I’ve been talking with voters since February about this election in coffeehouses and homes across the district, and attending or listening to many SIT meetings recently and every school board meeting for many months.The issues I hear consistently are: how our schools have a good overall perception, but fail many children, especially at the higher and lower ends of achievement.  How we pit groups against each other, especially in our budget process.  How hard parents have to advocate to get schools to follow through on written policies.  How little sharing of best practices occurs, also increasing inconsistency.

How soon before the next question? 

or so

Thanks. If you want to add anything to a previous question thread please feel free to do so.Next question: I feel fairly sure that everyone is happy to have a new superintendent hired on (please chime in if you’re not), but the transition is hardly complete. How will you as a board member ensure a smooth transition to the Forcella administration?

First, we asked Dr. Forcella to write a transition plan and provided input on that for consideration.  Second, the board has met with Dr. Forcella for a joint training session on superintendent evaluation moderated by an individual from the NC School Board's Association.  From these activities to date, we have developed a list of actions.  I do not think we need further NCSBA sponsored sessions but I do think further discussions between the board and Dr. Forcella will be useful to ensure a good transition. I will continue to communicate openly and respectfully with Dr. Forcella and board colleagues.  It is important for Dr. Forcella to become familiar with our district and he is well on his way in that regard.  We provided him with a long list of key constituents with whom to meet to gather input.   He has recently concluded a series of three listening sessions so anyone from the community could communicate with him.  

Early this summer each board member reviewed a Supt transition plan from various districts which included Durham and Wake counties plus Ithica, NY and several others.  We met and discussed the items that would be helpful for our district.  We wanted to educate ourselves about transitioning.  Then this summer, Dr. Forcella, presented a draft transition plan and then presented an update last month.  Key elements include meeting with community and school leaders, as well as each board member, and visiting schools.  He has held several meetings with school principals and central office staff.  But, more important are the classroom walkthroughs done with the building principal and asst principals to evaluate instruction.  About twice a month the chair (that's me currently) and vice-chair (Mia) meet with him as well.  This provides time to set agendas and cover any snafus like the scheduling of Homecoming at East and CHS on Yom Kippur.   The board also held master board training Sept 29 on the Evaluation of the Supt c/o NC School Boards Assoc to have a chance to talk about the big picture items for our district.  We will need to schedule a mini-meeting/business retreat to do more work on this transition to seque into the spring strategic planning process.Jamezetta Bedford

I have had the opportunity to meet Dr. Forcella a few times and have spoken with others in our community (parents, teachers, staff) who have also had the opportunity.    I think he brings a lot of energy and experience and he has already made over 100 classroom visits which is very encouraging…in addition to seeing him at multiple school functions all across our district.  This will provide him a better picture of our district and how to properly mentor our leaders so we are afforded the best possible outcomes for our students.  An effective leader needs to be an effective communicator and one that can cultivate relationships.  I trust that the current board made this assessment and that all stakeholders can be active and accepting recipients of his communication.  I will support Dr. Forcella and provide him with opportunities and encouragement to engage with other experts, our parents and diverse community resources outside the administrative circle that can bring value and depth to achieving our ongoing district goals for our students.Kris Castellano

I think Dr. Forcella has done a remarkable job understanding what makes this district unique in the short time he’s been here.  I appreciate his focus on excellent instruction in the classroom, accountability (including personally doing district-level walkthroughs in classrooms), high regard for the expectation that every student can learn and grow intellectually, and an understanding of ground-up budgeting and how that can help us get through budget crises that we’re in and even make us stronger in the process.  He is coming on board at a time of such change nationally and across the state in education that we will all be learning together how to use the streams of new data effectively in setting our district’s direction. I’ve spoken with him several times, and I look forward to helping him achieve greater two-way engagement of the community, based on my previous Justice United work and the expected role of board members as a voice for the entire community. 

The board developed, along with feedback from Dr. Forcella, a comprehensive but fluid transition plan. The summer he hit the ground running, getting out into the community and meeting a variety of stakeholders. The transition plan includes thoughtful planning to meet with district and school leaders, teachers, parent advocacy groups and community leaders. We all realize that needs this time to get to know us, see what's working, what's not and from there develop and articulate a vision and plan for taking CHCCS to the next level. I appreciate his excitement about learning and supporting teachers. He believes that all students can achieve. He believes, as I so , that teachers are the most critical factor in a child's academic growth and achievement. I will support him by facilitating introductions to parents, staff and community leaders who might not otherwise have an opportunity to engage with him. He welcomes all to share with him.

You'll have to excuse my errors. Meant to say 'this summer'.  I don't have a scribe. This whole refresh thing is a bit frustrating as well . I feel like I'm in a race to beat the auto refresh. LOL

As long as you use the reply button (as you are doing) the page should not auto-refresh. Take as much time as you need.

The Superintendent has met with dozens of stakeholders and will continue meeting with more.  The Board met in work session a week or two ago to develop plans for evaluating the superintendent that will allow us to give him useful feedback in a timely fashion.   Fortunately, Dr. Forcella has been a Superintendent in the past so he has a broad understanding already of what he needs to do to make this transition as smooth as possible.  The Board felt strongly that we needed a new Superindent who had a lot of experience and this is one example of where we will benefit from that experience.

We especially were pleased to have candidates with experience as high school principals.Jamezetta Bedford

OK, here's a tough one/two:Neil Pedersen was in the job a long time. What policies and programs implemented during his tenure do want to make sure continue to be maintained and supported?And, yep, the follow up to this is: What programs and policies do you want to see reviewed, changed and/or discontinued?

I would like to see the Bridges program for high schoolers with mental health needs continued.  Similarly the Triumph Academy in collaboration with OPC and Orange Co Schools that began last year fills a need.  I would like the Dual Language programs expanded to serve more children.  One of our five current year priorities for the district is to examine world languages pre-K to 12th grade, including a plan for DL.  I support the academies at each of the three large high schools too.  And, Phoenix would like to add evening classes.  An earlier board along with Neil did an excellent job in creating Phoenix .  Professional Learning Communities serve as a good model.  I think the FLES (elem world language needs to be revamped or eliminated in its current form.)  I'd redo Middle College as Early College in order to have more opportunity.   Jamezetta Bedford

Not many students have made use of Middle College.  For those that have, it represents a good program, in my opinion.  I would like to see if it could be offered closer to CH-C and more efficiently. 

I agree -- the students in middle college are not having their needs met elsewhere and have a great opportunity to a successful path to college and life and we should continue this program.

I agree with most of Jamezetta's points but also agree with Mike's view on Middle College.  It is an alternative pathway that is really helpful for particular students.  Like any program it can be improved but I would not make drastic changes.

When there is a change in leadership, it should be an opportunity to review/evaluate existing programs. What we have in place were implemented by board policies that speak to the experience that we want children and staff to have within our schools/environment. Policies may come from federal laws or state statutes and sometimes we don't have control over program/services that are dictated by policy. I believe that the board should continue to evaluate/review its current programs not just because of the budget crisis that we continue to work under but because regular review is essential to governing a large organization such as ours. Specific programs that I believe should be reviewed are literacy, world language, and programs that provide for collaboration with community non-profits, businesses and the university.

Yes, the board has asked for a review literacy curriculum and delivery for two years now.  Learning to read is the most important skill students need.  Something is not working.Jamezetta Bedford

First, I am appreciative of Dr. Pedersen's long service to our community.  My comments are not a reflection in any way on his service.  I think all programs and policies should be considered for re-evaluation.  Having Dr. Forcella on board provides us with an opportunity to reflect on all our work.  I want Dr. Forcella to provide input as to which programs or policies should be reconsidered. There are a few areas in particular that I think need rethinking.  First, for students who are behind and not growing at a desired rate, I think we need to find ways to provide more instructional time.  There may be better instructional methods (perhaps in literacy, for example) but I do not think such changes will provide all that these children need to reach their potential.  Another example is the foreign language instruction in elementary school, and to a lesser degree, in middle school.  We need more students to have a better mastery of the target language (primarily Spanish but also French and Chinese).  

The board just received a report on student growth.  About 7-9% of students had low growth last year.  I want to see how students look when considered for both growth and achievement level.  Clearly students who are below expected achievement and below expected growth need more.  Teachers already know who those students are but with this growth/achievement approach, we need to find ways to provide additional time to see them be successful. 

For foreign language, we have FLES or Dual Language in elementary school.  This presents an inequity because all students do not have a chance of accessing Dual Language (Spanish is available at 3-4 schools), which results in much higher level of foreign language acquisition.  However, Dual Language implementation in our district is currently done as school-with-a-school model, which creates its own problems so it is probably not the best approach to simply try to expand it into every school.  This will be a priortiy this year. 

We need to keep Dr. Pedersen's absolute dedication to the idea of excellence for all students.  What we need to do better is to ensure that no student gets lost by the system.  We need to refine our systems of support for students to address the challenges that they bring with them to to school. Our district has the great fortune of having full-time counselors, social workers and nurses in every school but students still occasionally slip thorugh the cracks.  A board priority of I will promote for next year is to look at systemic reasons for that and implement solutions.  While this isn't entirely new, I am very pleased with Dr. Forcella's focus on ensuring that every student has a great teacher in front of them every day.  He has already begun his Learning Walks that he perfected in his other districts.  These walks will help him coach principals on how to help teachers improve through frequent observation and feedback.  P.S. I don't know where that computer gibberish is coming from since I retyped my answer to get rid of it.  Perhaps the OP folks can edit it out for others reading ease!

Looked like code from Microsoft Word. We've zapped it.

I agree with Mia's comment about focusing on teachers.  I have been impressed with the amount of time Dr. Forcella has spent in the classrooms.  We need to reconsider how we provide professional development for teachers.  Funding has been cut drastically so at this point we provide very little PD. 

Dual language and Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocates are clear examples of programs that are delivering great value for our district at limited cost and need to be maintained, enhanced, and expanded.  There is a perception in our district that we’ve been better at creating programs and policies than seeing them consistently implemented and supported.  I think we see this in our results that have been fairly flat on primary goals we share, such as the achievement gap.  I expect our district to be reviewing all of our programs at some level for effectiveness every year.  We should not be continuing to do things we know aren’t working.  I’m glad to see that foreign language is a priority for review this year by the board.  Foreign language in elementary schools is a program that doesn’t appear to have clear goals and is delivering inconsistent results.  I support world language as important to education, but we need clearer goals to ensure that we are achieving what we want.  Differentiation is another policy that has not delivered the results we expect, as evidenced by our continuing achievement gaps.  Whether that is because it is not a sufficient method for instruction or because we have not supported well enough, we need to improve how we address the needs of each student as an individual.  One way we are making progress toward this, but not quickly enough, is to focus our metrics on growth for each and every student. 

Sign up at http://blueribbonmentors.org if you're interested in participating in this program which is a great success for our students

I also want to say that Dr. Forcella has talked about more than programs.  He is focused on great leadership in the principal's office and the culture among our teachers that will improve results, and I fully support these ideas.  Culture change is not easy, perhaps even harder in our schools, but it is critical.

Dual Language was one that was implemented in his tenure that has now been in existence in our school district ten years.  It is proving to be a successful program for students in many of our subgroups, which is consistent with national data results.Phoenix Academy is another program implemented.  It has grown from a few employees to over a half dozen and it looking to further expand its student base if necessary.   The Boomerang Program is another that was rolled out in this district in 2006 for middle and high school students and is meeting those needs.Blue Ribbon Mentor would be yet another great program, that I believe was rolled out during his tenure.  That program has grown in volume and support and has had some additions including recently Parent University to be rolled out in the spring.PLC’s (professional learning communities) were rolled out in his tenure.  That is one that is relatively new and is meeting various success and challenges at different schools.  It needs closer monitoring with accountability to ensure more district wide uniformity to capitalize on its benefits.Walk for Education was 15 years strong this year.  The Public School Foundation is a huge supporter of our schools and Neil cultivated that relationship- I was happy to see Dr. Forcella out there this year for such a great community event.SIT (school improvement teams)/ previously SGC (school governance committee) is one that has morphed.  It is an important vehicle for dialogue and interaction with all stakeholders.  In a system that has held site based management as its directive from the superintendent, this was an important piece of a system of accountability where all stakeholders have a voice.  In hearing from the most recent forum and follow up questions from it, that voice seems to have been lost a little lately and the SITs not as regularly attended by the board. Kris Castellano

There has been a long standing policy against having schools be substantially different from one another. Where are you on that?One concern I've heard over the years is that it makes innovation more difficult. So, how do we do innovation district-wide in a timely manner?   

The challenge that we will have going forward is balancing innovation against accountability.  Innovation can be wonderful but only if the innovators have a science-based plan in advance for measuring success.  The days of experimenting to see if a program "feels" more successful are over.  Without some substantial evidence that a program is working to increase student learning and thinking, we may actually be increasing the number of students who fall through cracks.Also as our district has grown, we have had particular challenges when we
have had to redistrict students.  When students move from school to
school it can be quite difficult if they have experienced different

Some children that have been redistricted between elementary schools with different FLES target languages (French and Spanish) is an example of the phenomenon of which Mia describes.  Some children get turned off by foregin language all together from bouncing back and forth in this manner. 

I disagree with the statement.  When I moved here in 1992, site-based managment was in.  Each school adopted its own reading and its own math curriculum.  Only as we built more schools and needed to redistrict was there a shift in the past 8 years for consistency to make redistricting easier for kids.  Now we have a district curriculum adoptions (math = Envisions).  Test scores are up across the schools with this consistency.  The real issue was equity and fairness.  During the 10+ years of site-based management, the lack of any innovation or proposed substantial change was a problem.  PLCs, the welcome center for new English Language Learners, Phoenix, Bridges,  high school academies, varied CTE classes like e-commerce, Japanese, have been innovations from the district central office in conjunction with the district curriculum management committee.  North Carolina Virtual Public School has been a state led innovation that our students embraced.  Any employee, parent or student may bring new ideas to their PLC, their SIT and/or principal for consideration.  Schools are doing some new time-management scheduling for interventions for students who need some help, for example.  They may also bring ideas to the related district committee.  Jamezetta Bedford

Thinking about the possibility of different style schools. I remember when the district considered partnering with Edison on Scroggs (Ted Vaden made me spend three days in Wichita). That didn't happen and today Scroggs is not all that different from its sister schools. Also, for years there’s been a large number of parents who want a year-round program, but no school has been willing to convert and the district has been unwilling to push the idea. 

Elementary #11 might be considered for a themed school, magnet school, or perhaps year round.  I have raised the issue of year round schools several times but there has not (yet) been support to move forward.  One problem is that families may have children at different levels (elem, middle, high) and if they all are not on the same calendar, that can be a real hardship on families.  Of course, that would not be a problem if all our schools were year round. 

Yes.  Just last Thursday we discussed considering options for the new elem #11 such as year-round.  [Watch out though.  Some new data says there are not academic increases from year-round, but staff and children feel better/happier.  I have not looked at the detail to see if intersessions were used for remediation and/or acceleration though.]  Certainly some students need more time.  I think this board is willing to consider new options.  Jamezetta Bedford

We have just began to discuss whether we might want to do something different at Elementary #11 located at the site of the original Northside Elementary School.  At our last board meeting, Mike Kelley reminded us that when Rashkis opened, the district surveyed parents about whether they would be interested in a year-round school.  He pointed out that we should ask that question again since enough time has passed and attitudes have changed.  For any new focus for Elementary #11 we will need to make sure that we study carefully to make sure we aren't just adopting the education flavor of the moment.  For example, we now know from at least one research study that year-round schools aren't necessarily a solution to the achievement gap unless students actually get extra time either in their day or in the number of days of school. 

Historically, our District has had emphasis on site based management.  I have heard that for eight years while on the SIT teams.    In order for us to move forward as a district and share in best practices and have students afforded similar learning experiences no matter their address, we need to do a better job of operating under the same blueprint.  There needs to be accountability for this.  Each school can have its own special environment, that we as a community value.  But we should all be afforded the opportunity to share best practices.  We need to share resources and ideas, yet maintain each school’s unique footprint. Kris Castellano

I would like to add that with any innovation, there needs to be more frequent monitoring and a shorter feedback loop for more direct and meaningful modifications.  i.e. be quicker with eliminating/modifying the challenges and replicating the successes. Kris Castellano

All of our schools are not the same and never will be.  That said, how they are different needs to be done thoughtfully.  Allowing unfettered "innovation" is not something I can support.  For example, one year two teachers decided to create same-sex classrooms at one of our middle schools because they were convinced it was a better way to teach.  If there is a better way to teach, I will likely support it but I think that in public schools there should be public discussion of such programatic changes.  In this case, I do not think a full and open discussion would have convinced our community to support this approach. Also, the board frequently receives complaints of lack of uniformity of programs.  I have already mentioned the lack of equitable access to Dual Language, for example.  The high school Academies are not available to all students (though the board was told when they were started that they would be after a short time). So, if teachers want to innovate (for example), they can do so after there is discussion with the principal and perhaps district administrators and leaders.  

There are two sides here that need to be balanced.  On one side, consistency is good because parents, students, and teachers know what to expect from school to school, and if we’re doing things the “best” way, we have replications of that effort throughout our schools.  On the other side, we definitely need to continue to search for that “best” way, and for some things, there is not a single answer that applies to all teachers and students and schools.  One way we can improve innovation is to have more open conversation about what we are doing.  We are public schools and need to have more public conversations about what we're doing.  I know there is some collaboration among principals now on a regular basis, but many teachers feel they are actively discouraged from sharing great ideas, especially with district staff, because of the unwritten policy you reference in the question. We should encourage innovative ideas from our teachers.  There are lots of great teachers in our district who should share what they’ve learned and help us apply to classrooms across the district.  We need to promote this by providing recognition for those who share and those who re-use ideas that have been proven to be effective for our district.We should be flexible enough on policies that are best implemented by teachers who have different styles and students that need different styles to ensure we have the best mix of excellent instruction for every student.I expect that all my decisions on the board will be based on what the expected results will be, based on what relevant, concrete data shows us.  There isn’t a lot of great educational research in districts that look like Chapel Hill/Carrboro, but part of the reason I’m open to innovation is that we can learn from ourselves what works best.  But I will always put results first in deciding what programs are appropriate to deliver on our mission of a great education for every child in our district.  I’m used to making these decisions in my work -- determining priority and funding of programs based on projections of business cases.  We need some level of this same rigor in our school board decisions.

You'll have to show me that policy that prohibits schools from being substantially different from one another. I think your question comes from a longstanding concern from parents on both sides of this issue. I can certainly appreciate innovation when it comes to how/when curriculum is delivered. Many of our schools have benefitted from relationships with parents and other community stakeholders to bring in services and programs that support instruction. With that said, it concerns me when those benefits that are deemed best practice cannot not be delivered on a large scale. A disparity such as this should not exist when it comes to those tools that are esential to delivering the Standard Course of Study. Many of the innovative services that have come into our schools via parent volunteers and/or industry can contribute to the disparity among schools. What about the schools that don't have access to those services. I, as a board member, want to ensure that the district has the resources to provide access to these innovative opporunities for learning for all students. Unfortuntately, at present these extras are typically visible only in schools whose families have above average financial resources and networks. We have to create opportunities for families of diverse backgrounds and resources to share their knowledge and history. But I don't think we should penalize students and restrict their opportunities because their families do not have the resources to support our schools. I am supportive of the district looking at ways it can partner on a large scale with businesses to push in more tools and real life applications for our students. I also want to ensure that there is consistency in delivering essential curriculum. In order for students to advance to the next grade level, teachers must introduce curriculum in a timely manner. There has be curriculum alignment both vertically and horizontally. As a board member, I will continue to support policy that directs the superintendent and staff to utilize best practices to deliver instruction and that includes regular monitoring of services and its effectiveness.

We’ve had a lot of people asking about how you’re going to deal with the state budget cuts. Concerns include arts funding cuts in elementary schools, teaching jobs, classroom sizes and whether cuts at the state level mean more taxes at the local level.Please spell out what will guide your thinking on the budget in what promises to be another challenging year.

I agree that budgetary limitations are limitations are likely to continue to be a concern in the coming years.  First, I will continue to advocate for adequate resources for our district.  (Please support the quarter cent sales tax.)  In approaching budget this coming year, I think we need to adopt a zero baseline approach.  That is, everything should be considered for whether it is effective and efficient.  At this point, we have trimmed back nearly everything and further cuts will negatively impact our education program.  In approaching the budget I want to have recommendations made by the administration on what should be considered for reduction or elimination, and then have an open public process to receive input on those recommendations.

Technical mod: why is the alignment all messed up?  How do I fix that?  Also, please remove the duplicate words in the first sentence.  Thanks.  

Mike - You will need to either type your comments directly into the OP reply field, or prepare them first in a plain text editor (not Word, etc) and paste them into the OP reply field.

Much of our funding for capital projects has been redirected to operating budget.  That approach is not sustainable.  About half of our buildings are "older", around 50 years of age.  Even our newer schools need continuing investment to ensure they are safe and well maintained.  So, the budget will need to reconsider how we fund our capital needs.  Another item on the capital list is construction of ES#11.  There is also a start-up cost for opening a new schools, which is incurred the year before opening. 

Thanks to EduJobs, we had $2.1 million to cushion the state cuts and federal cliff this fiscal year ending 6/30/12.  We have sufficient fund balance to continue this for another year and perhaps a second.  But, it is unsustainable.  I think there needs to be a different election outcome in 2012 at the state level.   I think we need to plan for a longer economic downturn period of closer to a decade to restore our state and national economy, regardless of the election.  We must consider what constitutes a sound basic education in our district.  The arts and PE are definitely part of a sound basic education.  But, many positions did not exist in 1992.  There were only part time nurses, no social workers, no gifted education specialists, no proficiency specialists, no tech specialists, no high school academic coaches, no PAR teachers, no literacy coaches, no science specialists (cut to 1/4 position now), no service learning coordinator, and that's all I can think of right now.  So we need to reevaluate the value of each of these positions and which have the most positive impact on student achievement.     To open elementary #11, taxes will have to increase.  So far, state cuts have not resulted in increased local property taxes.  I do support the 1/4 cent sales tax referendum.  I could go on and on about the budget... Jamezetta Bedford

The additional $2.1 million allocated this year from fund balance was (I think) 40% of the savings in local funding from EduJobs, and perhaps other savings.  We will have 30% of that savings for the next two years and then it will go away.  So, even with even funding from BOCC, state, and feds next year, we will be about $500,000 lower than this year.  And because the state reversion this year is larger (~$700,000?), we can expect about $1.2 million shortfall without any other considerations such as incresed costs. 

There is a large chunk of the school budget which is mandated by state and national requirements -- the number of classrooms and teachers so that we don’t go over classroom size limits, etc.  Then there are high-priority items that we all agree are necessary to deliver the education we want in Chapel Hill and Carrboro (school nurses, family specialists).  Beyond that, I don’t think we have a clear idea today as a community about what we’re really spending money on, and whether it is delivering the most effective results.I’m glad that Dr. Forcella has experience with ground-up budgeting to help us through this exercise (he corrected a quote I gave in the last forum that indicated he needed help on this).  This process will ensure that what we are spending our money on is best aligned with the goal we share as a district -- to grow every student by delivering an excellent education.  This will also put a damper on the fighting we have among groups today when we present every budget as a list of items to cut, under the assumption we’ll continue with everything we have today.I expect that this prioritization will allow us to react to a flat budget over the next couple of years, but beyond that, increased pressure from continuously rising health costs and lack of raises for our teachers will mean we need additional revenue to maintain the quality of education our community demands.  Our county commissioners have been very helpful by maintaining support for our schools over a long period of time, and I have stated that I don’t think we can ask our local citizens right now to increase the property tax burden which is extremely high already.  The gap that exists in our funding is at the state level as North Carolina has decreased its funding of public schools from 53% of its budget to 38% over the past 40 years.  Therefore, this is where we need to focus our advocacy as board members.

First we need to recognize that although we have lost millions in state funding in the last couple of years, the Board and staff have protected the student experience.   The district built up its fund balance (savings) in order to meet the funding cliff caused by the end of federal stimulus money and additional state cuts.  The Orange County Commissioners have been fully apprised and supportive of our plan to use fund balance over the next two to three years to protect students.  That fund balance was augmented by Federal Edujobs funding that Congress approved a year and a half ago.  While we know that the state funding picture will become bleaker if the State insists on adopting the budget that they planned for next fiscal year, I believe we can cope with it without hurting students.  If the state legislature decides to make even deeper cuts than those already planned then we will have to harm the student experience.    There is nothing left on the possible cut list that doesn't make me lose sleep at night.  While I've learned not to make plans for cutting until we see the actual dollars that we have to make up, I do fear for the future of our elementary foreign language program.  (And, I really do fear, since I was a Spanish major and have had two children benefit from the district's foreign language program.)   Will we need to raise taxes?  That depends primarily on the actions of the NC General Assembly.  Our voters value education and have elected County Commissioners that agree with that value. If the State passes more devasting cuts, I believe our Commissioners will step up. We also need to consider the needs of our staff who have not had a raise in three years while being given fewer and fewer resources to do their jobs.   

Frankly, we have been concerned annually about budget cuts.  We have been asked to attend our County Commissioners Meetings to advocate for the local school funding portion of our budget process.  This past year was more concerning due to the “cliff” created by elimination of some national funding and we used some of our rainy day funds to help offset this gap in funding.  The state has reduced “more at four” funding which is essential in giving our most struggling early students “a leg up”.  There was an article in Time Magazine, October 10 issue talking about just that.  UNC researchers published a study last fall that found that “low income students who participated in the state’s More at Four preK program had higher math and reading scores in third grade than their low income peers who did not attend preschool.”  Recent studies point to third grade as the critical benchmark year.  If children aren’t performing at grade level then, they may never catch up.  EARLY INTERVENTION IS KEY.We are dictated class size by the state.  Traditionally as a district we have tried to consistently be under those numbers, as we recognize that lower student teacher ratios yield better results.  That said, class sizes may need to increase so we can maintain our arts funding and teaching assistants.  This all means we need to tighten scope and sequence.  We need to be better at PLCs so we can more efficiently target better efficiencies without compromising quality of educational rigor.We need to utilize our SITs to really dig and get information from those delivering our resources.  Ask those delivering:  Where can cuts be made?   Not just programing, but supplies.  Where can we be more efficient in our delivery?  We need to think out of the box and do more collaboration with our Parks and Recreation, Town of Carrboro, Town of Chapel Hill when sourcing out and contracting similar items.  We need to collaborate and utilize the great University right within our school district.  And they are Division I athletics...  We have PTA thrift shop here…we love hand me ups!  There are opportunities for student resources, athletic resources and mentoring through communication and partnership that we have only begun to explore! Kris Castellano

There are only a few drivers that will guide my thinking when it comes to school funding.1. instruction2. health and safety3. student engagement I will seek to support a budget that provides for resources to teach the standard course of study (soon to be called essential standards) and later the national common core standards. Both of these sets of standard will prove to be more demanding and difficult for students to meet. Funding is critical to preparing and developing our teachers, providing technical support to deliver and monitor instruction as well as providing facilities in which to provide the instruction. I will advocate for increased local funding to support professional development for our teachers. I will continue to support a budget that meets the most critical health and safety needs of our schools. The summer, the district was fortunate enough to be able to make substantial improvements in several schools that will provide more security in and around buildings, improve air quality and improve heating/cooling.Student engagement is a third area that will drive my consideration of funding. It's important for students to feel a sense of community in their schools. They should have the opportunity to participate in activities that peek their interests, enhance their learning and make them civically responsible. While they may not be a part of core instruction, activities such as sports team/clubs, driver education, extracurricular academic clubs, school based afterschool programs can be critical to a student's growth and can directly impact their learning. 

It is probably worth noting for the audience that the funded capital improvement plans which support the improvements Ms. Streater notes are critical to health and safety have been cut over the past several years in half.  This is where the 1/4 cent sales tax referendum will do us a lot of good -- we will spend this money on infrastructure investments (like energy efficiency) and technology that will free up capital funds for other critical needs.  www.co.orange.nc.us/salestax/ for more information.

Weigh in if you would on bullying policies.And specifically, as we look ahead to next May and the marriage amendment referendum we know from other states’ experiences that many LGBT students will face added pressure from their peers due to the intense political environment. What should the district do to counter that?

Editors: I saw this question was submitted publicly on OP so I gave it a lot of thought this week.  Unfortunately, I don't know how to get rid of the goobledygook that comes with cutting and pasting.  Thanks for your master zapping! Bullying in General:*We have but must consistently implement policies that specifically prohibit it and lay out clear steps that staff and principals must take when they see or learn about bullying.* We need more eyes on students particularly at vulnerable times-- recess and lunch for elementary and any unsupervised time in the middle and high schools.  This was one of many good reasons our board refused to accept state cuts that would have severely cut our number of teacher assistants.* We need to continue to refine our programs that address some of the mental health issues that can be a contributing factor.  A few years ago the Board approved the Bridge Program for high school students experiencing symptoms such as depression and anxiety.  Last fall the District launched Triumph Academy for middle school students with very significant mental health needs.  The program was a collaboration with OPC Mental Health and Orange County Schools.  It has had some growing pains.  District leadership will need to continue to focus on this program to ensure it is meeting the needs of our students in a timely fashion.* I believe our biggest barrier to stopping bullying is that students are still reluctant to report it for fear of retribution by the bully and/or his/her friends.  Some of the bullying incidents mentioned recently in the press had never been reported to staff.  We need to talk with students to get their ideas on how we can deal with this challenge.Prevention of bullying and other disruptive behavior:Our schools have been slowly adopting the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program.  Essentially, this is a detailed program that trains all staff from teachers to bus drivers to catch students behaving well and reinforcing that type of behavior.  Smith Middle School has been the flagship school not just in our district but in our state and the last data I looked at showed a significant decrease in referrals to the principal's office for bad behavior.  We need to continue to strengthen this program in all our schools.Bullying of LGBT youth:* Over the last several years, the Board has unanimously approved inclusion of the words "sexual orientation" in any Board policy that list specific groups of people against whom discrimination will not be tolerated. Going forward we should also consider issues of gender identity.* As noted in a story on CNN, our district is uniquely welcoming of staff who are "out".    Encouraging our staff to feel comfortable being themselves while, of course, being professional strikes me as one of the best ways we can provide role models for LGBT youth and teach other youth that LGBT people deserve the same respect and consideration as they do.* District leadership must confront any reported instances of slurs against LGBT people.  A new coach joined our district a while back.  Students reported to a trusted adult that he was using anti-gay slurs.  That adult contacted me and I passed it on immediately to district leadership who shared with the coach that that type of language will not be tolerated in this district.  What worked well here is that the students were willing to share this with a trusted adult and that the adult trusted that I would get the info to people in the district who would take action.

I don’t think we have a policy issue here; rather, I think we need great leadership in the schools, especially in the principal’s office, to ensure consistent implementation of the policy.  I doubt any school is capable of completely eliminating bullying, but with great follow-through and good communication about our expectations of every student and teacher, I think we can do a better job across the district than we do today.  From what we have seen so far, I believe Dr. Forcella can be the right leader to ensure this happens.  While I understand the concern for potential issues around the May ballot, bullying is unacceptable regardless of the cause, and we need to focus on all types of bullying.  Some communication reminding teachers and staff about the potential based on this specific issue is worth doing.

I don't know.  It is unbelievable to me that I live in a state where the legislature and evidently many citizens think a marriage amendment is a good idea.   This summer the state legilature rewrote student discipline code in cooperation with the NCSBA, a child advocacy group out of Duke and several other child-centered agencies.  Our policies already we aligned in that manner to not be "zero tolerance" and to consider the needs of the child and each situation so we had minimal revisions to make.  Our bullying policy is strong.We do have a need for better reporting and implementation of the anti-bullying curriculum at some schools.  Using the PBIS (Positive Behavior Something I Support) programming is generating good changes in our schools.  There will be bullying.  But we need to educate and discipline offenders, not just punish and build a school climate that reduces bullying. I will talk with our high schoolers and the clubs for friends and LGBT students as well as their advisors to see what they offer that we can do to help reduce the added pressure. Jamezetta Bedford

Bullying is never acceptable.  We have programs to try to combat it but it is still a common occurrence, especially in middle schools.  Implementation of our Positive Behavior Support program needs to be more uniform and with fidelity.  Our schools have generally been supportive of LBGT students.  I expect our community to largely reject the Constitutional Amendment in May and its presence on the ballot may be a learning opportunity to discuss issues related to gender orientation.  

I think we all remember last September’s tragedy at Rutgers University, where cyber bullying resulted in Tyler Clementi’s suicide.  North Carolina has state legislation against cyber bullying.  Legislation alone does not protect our children.  We want to foster a community that embraces diversity; we have such a community.  Clarity in our discipline structure and expectations as parents, teachers and administrators  provides a safe environment.Discipline starts with school policies, rules, and clear expectations.  It is up to the school community to consistently communicate and enforce these expectations in a kind and respectful way.  Respect breeds respect.  This modeling and enforcement is done in the hallways and in the classroom by our school teachers and support staff.  It starts here.  Adherence to these expectations, starting at the classroom level, will minimize the need to bring students to the next step of intervention.  The goal of catching a student behaving, instead of misbehaving is the premise behind the program Positive Behavior Support (PBS) that our district embraces.  Individuals need to do a better job of embracing it. Teacher and administrator training should be provided so there is consistency throughout the school and the school district.  And of course, accountability for this modeling is important. Minimizing disruption and loss of instructional time are also critical.  When students lose hours sitting in the front office, especially a struggling student, they are only getting further behind in their studies.   There is a district student code of conduct handbook that clearly outlines offenses with its ranges of consequences.  Certainly our staff should be able to identify problems before they reach the critical stage of long term suspension.  Identifying and matching needs with resources will help to minimize the elevation to school long term suspension.We have an extensive discipline policy on our district website. (link) I would like to reiterate two great programs in our district:  Phoenix Academy and Boomerang.  Phoenix Academy serves some students in our district that need more individual attention and some students that receive long term suspension.  It began in 1998 in one room with one teacher and one assistant.  It now is able to offer programming with 5 rooms, 7 teachers, 2 assistants, 1 guidance counselor and a principal.  It also has its own School Improvement Plan (SIP).  Boomerang is a community program in our district that offers an alternative to short term suspension for middle and high school students.  These are excellent programs. Kris Castellano

sorry! my formatting isn't being accepted by the blog.  :(Kris Castellano

I think your URL is too long.  You might try something like tinyurl.com (hopefully the technical moderator can fix it for you). 

thanks!Kris Castellano

Fixed it.

We strongly recommend composing your comment directly in the comment form (the box can be resized) or a plain text editor. Pasting from Microsoft Word and other programs can bring in a lot of extraenous characters that muck up the comments in various ways.

Bullying is driven by a person's sense of self and their need to be powerful over another. Unfortunately, most children cannot (or will not) admit to their own shortcomings, insecurites or fears. Families, communities and schools must work together to do three things and strive to do them well: 1. create opportunities for children to feel good about themselves,  2. articulate expectations about acceptable and unacceptable behavior and 3. articulate and implement a plan for discipline and reporting. The school district cannot singularly wipe out all bullying in school. But we must put in measures in place that protect and support students. This includes communication with stakeholders about our expectations and systems. I believe that we have strong policies that support inclusion and discourage bullying behaviors. We as a board direct our superintendent to ensure training and comliance. But stricter consequences, character education and solid reporting systems alone won't deter or reduce bullying. It starts with the child and their own positive self-image and self-confidence.  

What are the top two or three strategies/programs the district needs to make headway in closing the achievement gap?

Note:  Kirk's questions have been different than what we typically get.  This one, for obvious reasons, is one we've answered before.  As such, I'm cutting and pasting part of my answer that I gave to the Independent.  It is so nice to have more than 150 words to answer this question! For three years until last year we saw more growth in reading End of Grade scores among our Black, Latino, Free and Reduced Lunch and Students with Disabilities populations than any other subgroups. While raw scores remained much too low, by growth measures, the reading gap appeared to be closing. Math growth measured over 5 years has been less clear. See pages 158 to 161 at http://bit.ly/op4MNw for detail. Last week, the Board received a public briefing as part of a regular board meeting on growth for last school year.  Sadly, growth measures dropped back for our "fragile" subgroups.For the bit of growth we have had, I give particular credit to our teachers who have been working increasingly in Professional Learning Communities to figure out how to help each student.  In addition, I believe that the students who are served by the Blue Ribbon Mentor Program, the Youth Leadership Institute and other smaller school-level initiatives have increased odds of staying on track to a positive future. These students receive additional attention and advocacy from positive adult role models. In addition, Boomerang (in partnership with the Chapel Hill Carrboro YMCA), Triumph (a partnership with OPC Mental Health) and Phoenix Academy High School (the district’s alternative school) have given fragile students the undivided attention that they need to graduate.  Regardless,  the raw scores for these students are still too low for each student to graduate from our schools prepared for college or a career.   There is no silver bullet but there are interventions starting at birth that can make a difference.  Access to health care and quality birth-to-three programs are out of the purview of the schools but we applaud our partners in the community who keep working to make access to these services a reality for our students.  Starting with Pre-K, the district continues to increase its commitment to providing children from fragile households with an excellent preschool experience.  Just this school year, the Board’s budget increased funding for Pre-K to make up the hole left by state budget cuts to the More at Four Program.  Staff members are continually working to align the Pre-K programs to ensure that the students who leave them to enter Kindergarten have the academic and social skills they need to be successful in the academic big leagues.  The heart of what the schools can do for students who are lagging behind is to identify them early, never let them fall through the cracks and provide them with excellent curriculum and instruction.  The federal Response to Intervention model has been systematically rolling out over the last three years in our elementary schools.  It is designed to change elementary teaching practices to ensure that any deficits that students have are identified and addressed immediately.  The Board needs to get an update from staff to get their assessment as how this intervention is working.  Until I’ve heard otherwise, I like the concept but the jury is out on its effectiveness.  Regarding excellent curriculum and instruction, the district is addressing that need on several fronts.  North Carolina is one of several states that has adopted the national Common Core curriculum for math and English.  Educational professionals from our district have been very complementary about how much better the curriculum appears to be than what is currently mandated by the state.  Apparently, it will be much more detailed in a way that makes it much easier for teachers to use.  Our district is spending this school year and next summer preparing our staff to implement this curriculum by next fall.   In addition, the current CHCCS Board has been very focused on improving literacy instruction particularly for children who don’t respond well to the standard curriculum that all students receive.  Students are increasingly handicapped as they move up through the grades if they can’t read well.  By the time they reach high school so much of the work requires the ability to read and understand text that it’s no wonder we lose a disproportionate number of students when they reach 9th grade.  I believe it is a moral imperative that we do everything possible to prevent students from reading below grade level at any point in their school career. We also need to understand that there will be some students who will need support throughout their schooling.  Federal law gives students with disabilities, including learning disabilities, additional protections and rights at school.   I’ve learned while on the Board that some families do not want their child to receive a label because in the past a label was often a passport to dumping-ground classes.  At the same time, we have families with resources who are fighting hard to get their child labeled so that they can exercise their rights.  The Special Needs Advisory Council has been considering ways to help all parents see past the stigma so their students can get access to what they need.  That work should continue. Finally, as I said earlier, we also need to continue to refine our systems of support for students that address the challenges that they bring with them to school.  Our district has the great fortune of having full-time counselors, social workers and nurses in every school but students still occasionally slip through the cracks. For example, a few years ago the Board was hearing an appeal from a high school student who had been suspended.  The Board receives a transcript in these situations and it was clear that this student had been having severe academic trouble for several semesters. I asked what interventions had been tried for this student and there was no answer.  Apparently, she had moved here at the beginning of sophomore year and no one had noted that she was failing several classes. The high schools have been working since that time to develop more comprehensive flagging systems.  That work needs to continue until not one single student falls through the cracks.

There a many achievement gaps but the one that matters the most is the gap between where a student is achieving now and where they could be achieving.  We need to look at this from the perspective of the individual student.  One way to begin to get at this is to look at student growth and achievement together.  As I mentioned above, we just received a report on growth. The two most important strategies are to assure high quality instruction (highly qualified teachers who are well supported and provided with needed professional development opportunities and using highly effective instructional strategies) and providing additional instructional time for those students who are not on an achievement/growth path to reach their potential.  Students should be monitored frequently for their progress and those who have or later develop difficulties should receive increasing levels of support.  There are many supporting strategies such as ensuring children are not hungry, providing specialized services as needed (e.g., speech therapy), family support specialists/counselors/other members of the student support team.  

Pre-K for 3 and 4 year olds is a critical strategy.Increased time for students who need it.LITERACY!  Teach each child to read and read well by the end of 2nd or at the latest, 3rd, grade.Jamezetta Bedford

For far too many years we have said gaps are a district priority without actually making the changes necessary to see real progress. Our kids can’t afford to wait.As a board member, I will push to ensure that all in our district—administrators, principals, teachers, students, even parents and communities—believe that every student can be successful and have high expectations for each and every student.  There will be gaps in some end results, and we will allocate special resources to ensure student needs are addressed.  We are a small enough district that we can meet needs of individual students and we should do so.If this is truly our big priority, then we need to also put our money where our mouth is and name a “gap czar” (for lack of a better name): someone specific within the administration whose full-time job it is to close our gap. That person should have the time to research what works, oversee the implementation of the solutions quickly and properly, track how they work, drop what doesn’t work–again, quickly, because our kids can’t wait–and be held accountable for the results. Along the way, that person should be taking a close look at any classrooms within our own district that have made great strides in closing the gap to understand what lessons could be applied to the entire district. And for the parents of children who are not among those struggling the most, and who would hear this as yet another time where other kids get all the attention–I believe focusing in this way on the gap will benefit all our students; a culture change in our schools is sorely needed on this.A third strategy is to change our focus from proficiency to growth for every student.  If a student is a full year behind, a teacher has little incentive today to try to get the gap closed because we measure on proficiency.  If, instead, we expect every teacher to “grow” the student to make 1.5 years of progress over the year in school (as the best teachers in America are proven to do), we can expect that student to “catch up” in 2 years, and credit both teachers over that time with the great growth shown.What should we not do? We shouldn’t: create more programs that we can’t prove works; lecture parents about all the things they’re doing wrong; dictate to community groups all the things that they must do and programs they must have.So we should: start with culture changes in our schools that truly recognize that all children are capable of learning and growing, and the teacher’s job should be to nurture all children to their potential. This sounds obvious, but I’ve heard too many stories where it isn’t happening for every child in our district. After we change our culture, we can create true partnerships with parents and community groups that will provide even greater results.

Do you know of any districts that have closed the achievement gap?  A gap czar sounds simplistic.  Any such person would be a multi-millionaire by now?Jamezetta Bedford

LITERACY INTERVENTIONThe goal of literacy competency is imperative; this is the key to success in all academic studies.  One cannot possibly advance his/her studies without this core competency. This district must have a system in place for active community engagement and participation. Schools need to actively encourage parent involvement because it is essential to accomplishing the goal of literacy. Increased literacy performance is known to follow increased parent involvement. The district needs to implement literacy assessments at every level and cannot rely on End of Grade (EOG) results alone for this student specific information. Some children have learning based reading disabilities.  Pushing for language acquisition that leads to true fluency will help our students get ahead in this challenging economy.  In recent years we have been more focused on the finish line and not the journey. Our students need to be engaged and challenged to think creatively and in new ways, with focus on the process not just the solution. We must support our teachers with professional development so they can create this stimulating learning environment.You need to build your house on a strong foundation.  Literacy is that foundation for our students.PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT and COMMUNICATIONConnected families are better able to help their students, with test scores reflecting these positive connections.  We need to show interest in and change practices and school structures to accommodate the cultures, languages, customs, and values of all its constituents. For example, at Carrboro Elementary, it is a welcoming environment where all parents and families can walk through the front door and ask questions knowing they will receive and answer, no matter their native language.  Translating of both written and spoken word is the norm, not the exception.  Each building needs to have a diverse staff to meet the needs of their students and their families to properly greet, direct, engage and answer questions for parents and families.  This creates a both a welcoming and inclusive environment.   The Blue Mentor Program is reaching out in many ways to assist in making this connection.  As I said before, they are hoping to roll out a “Parent University” in the spring. FIRST SCHOOL APPROACHIn the October 10th issue of Time Magazine outlining Preschool Wars, the following statistic was mentioned:One in four third graders who have lived in poverty and are not reading at grade level will drop out of fail to graduate by age 19, a rate more than 6 times the one for proficient readers.  This is a substantial part of the achievement gap that requires our focus. Kris Castellano

Note: We're going to add an extra five minutes to the end of the forum so you all will have time to respond. So 9:05 or so.One of the real struggles that I saw as school reporter during the fast growth 1990s was getting the district more in synch with the towns and county in land use planning.As a school board member your mission is the education of our young people, but your decisions also have an impact on the rest of us, especially in how and where the community grows. What will you keep in mind in this regard?

At this time land next to Morris Grove is set aside for middle school #5. Elem # 11 plans are approved at the old Northside location.  UNC-CH has reserved space for an elementary school when they develop UNC-North.  And, CHS is designed for an addition.  But, we still are not part of the land use planning.  If the development over across from Sothern Village is approved, there is no school site planned or approved.  The board has the right of first refusal for a handful of poor sites within Chapel Hill planning jurisdiction.  It seems to me that the towns plan how the community grows along with the developers, not the schools determining growth.  We play catch up despite SAPFO.  Jamezetta Bedford

If I am correctly interpreting the question, I think what you are saying is that we need to find a balance with economic growth and development.   We need to work closely as a community in our planning- the schools, the towns.  We need to remind ourselves that our infrastructure needs to be strong and supported and well thought out.   I think this is the place where we chime in for supporting the ¼ cent tax to provide the infrastructure for business growth and hence provide a tax base to support our community growth and in turn our public schools.   It is about building and cultivating relationships with all our community partners.  I feel that I will contribute well to those relationships and continue to move our community forward together in a positive working relationship. Kris Castellano

The school board's duty is to provide educational opportunities for the children of the community.  We have no role in regulating growth directly or indirectly.  SAPFO is a mechanism by which towns, county, and schools can monitor school capacity and delay growth until there is adequate capacity.  I have always been an advocate for communicating to the towns and county about the negative impact of growth on the schools.  In addition to the expense, building and opening a new school is disruptive.  Many students have to change schools, which also changes the communities around schools.  We always have to move students into a new school but also usually move many others in other schools to achieve some balance among them.  The board does play the major role in selecting school sites.  I will continue to do so in an open and thoughtful process in collaboration with the towns and county with regard to overall development plans.  There is also a role in school placements in terms of neighborhood development.  For example, ES#11 was sited in Northside with the vision of building a stronger neighborhood in that area.  The school system should also seek to partner with towns on community facilities, such as the community gym at Rashkis Elementary Schools. 

Chapel Hill has an ordinance that allows the school system to designate possible future school sites.  We just recently release one such site from that designation and I think there may be one remaining.  There is also the Greene Track near Rodgers Rd that we were considering for a school site in the past.  The area near Morris Grove has sites for two additional schools (Middle and another Elementary perhaps).  Land is limited in Chapel Hill-Carrboro so we need to consider different model of building schools than the suburban spiraling campus.   

Excellent public education has been a key value in this community since a bunch of UNC professors decided to create a special taxing district in 1909 so that UNC could recruit excellent faculty by offering great publics schools for their children.  I can't imagine that this community will lose that value as long as we are located in the home of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (And, yes, I say that with pride although, heaven forbid, I am a Duke grad.)  Since excellence for our students is a value that isn't on the table, then we will continue to grow as long as there is new housing added to the stock.  I would be really surprised if any of our partners on CH Town Council, the Carrboro Board of Alderman or the Orange County Commissioners would want the School Board to compromise that value.  Thus we all need to work together to make sure that the draw of our schools does not exacerbate other problems such as possible large increases in property taxes and limited affordable housing.   Out of time.  Thanks OP Editors.   This was a great experience!  

First is to remember that keeping a strong school system is of vital importance to the property values we have in our community and thus we bear a lot of responsibility.  It has been a “miss” of Chapel Hill’s 2020 visioning process thus far that we have not emphasized this enough, and my ties to the wider community beyond schools will help keep this in front of everyone in our community.Second, we need to cooperatively work with the towns on planning, ensuring that school sites are reserved where growth will occur.  Carolina North is an example where we have talked about a school site, but the housing demand from that development is unclear.  I spoke with Roger Waldon about the process that was created during his time on the board to achieve the coordination we have today.  We need to revitalize that process and ensure the schools have a seat in planning growth.  The potential for overcrowded schools and resulting decreased educational quality is just too great for the towns to ignore, and it will help to have someone with my experience from Justice United on the board to work with town and county officials.

Thanks again to OrangePolitics and especially Kirk Ross for moderating tonight.  For those who don’t know, Kirk is doing a great job of bringing journalism to our small town in the Carrboro Citizen (http://carrborocitizen.com).  Even as print journalism struggles throughout the country, Kirk has brought a unique voice to our unique community and is consistently providing a broad view of what matters to us right here.  And I want to thank OP for this entire campaign season.  It has not been as nasty as some others have been, and I think part of that is the maturity that has come from the 8 years of experience Ruby has at moderating an online community conversation as well as great involvement by all who read and post here.  The final thought I want to leave you with tonight is engagement.  I believe our community leaders need to be engaged with the entire community in order to best represent all of our views in office.  I have tried hard to demonstrate this in my campaign -- through many coffees with people from all over the school district (teachers, parents, community leaders of all stripes), through the most accessible and interactive web presence (http://barrettforschools, http://facebook.com/barrettforschools, http://twitter.com/jcbarr, http://orangepolitics.org/user/jcb), through knocking on a lot of doors to talk with voters -- to show that I want to be one voice on the school board, but will be a representative of everyone in our district.  Feel free to reach out to me at any time -- jcb@barrettforschools.com, 919-593-0592. I want to continue these conversations because we all have the same goals for our children and the children in our district, but the school board can be effective only if we are engaged with the community.

Good job everybody. Thanks so much for participating is this forum.If you’d like you can join the rest of the OP community on the open thread to this forum here.


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