Steve Wells's blog

Bridging the Achievement Gap

I am not sure how many folks have read Macolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, but it has a very interesting take on the gap in success between poor kids (often, but not alway minority) and middle class ones.

Because I live in Chapel Hill and work in Hillsborough, I have the opportunity to interact with school officials and parents from both county systems - Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Orange. One thing that is clear is that there are excellent students, teachers and administrators in each system. As a parent with a Middle Schooler, I am curious about the way we make decisions regarding teaching our kids.  As one of the original members of the Parent-Advisory CMTE for the Dual Language Program, I remember discussions about how to implement the program and reach out to an ethnic and economically-diverse population.  What struck me was the pre-conceived notions regarding poor people and minorities. 

What's Up with the APS of Orange?

As an avid animal lover, I am disturbed by what is happening at APS of Orange. When the Orange County Board took over control of the Animal Shelter, there was a hint of a problem at APS. Now, the Chapel Hill News comes out with a report that it has lost its right to raise money due to lack of filing a 990.

It also appears that there may be budget and other issues. All politics aside, the lives of animals are at stake in this. The victims of this mismanagement cannot speak for themselves. As someone with 2 shelter cats:

Subsidise Local???

Someone brought up the idea of downtown businesses giving a discount for people shopping off peak hours. Unfortunately, small business really doesn't have the money to do that. Part of that is that State and Local subsidies and development go to out of town ventures - like Interstate 40, The Parton Theater and Carolina North. We encourage people to buy locally, but what is government doing to help local businesses?

I don't have any preconceived notions on this, just the usual anectdotal evidence that many cite as fact. However, it is interesting how Micro-Loans have helped in developing countries. I believe someone won a Nobel Prize with that one.

As a taxpayer and homeowner in Chapel Hill, I am in favor of things that help out working people (and students) like free bus service. I feel like that is giving people a hand-up rather than a hand out and helps local business, the environment and actually keeps taxes lower (fewer car trips, fewer road repairs).

Is Downtown Development the Problem?

As I read Tom Roche's comment on the new development in Carrboro and the idea of the Developer attempting to get out of building adequate parking by claiming it is the "Green Thing to Do" - Building parking = Less profit. It is nice to see to Progressives and Builders agreeing that more parking is bad, even if it is for different reasons - I am struck by something I had never really thought about - Is Downtown development the problem and not the solution?

I don't know and I don't really have a vested interest in any of this other than being a suburban resident with limited access to services without the use of a car - thanks to zoning and a really big, wide and dangerous street (MLK BLVD) separating me from shopping and services.  I am very proud of Chapel Hill and Carrboro and what they are trying to do with their downtowns - better lighting would be my first thought.

But wouldn't it be nice if there was a small development, perhaps with some rental apartments within walking distance of the neighborhoods off Weaver Dairy or if it was less annoying and dangerous to walk to the ones off Homestead?

Expand Dual Language

I am proud to say that I and my son were part of something very cool. Almost 6 years ago, he was asked to participate in the Chinese-English Dual Language Program at Glenwood. At the time, no one knew much about the program or whether it was necessary.

There were fears by Principals, community leaders, the Latino/Hispanic community and a whole bunch of people with a very limited understanding of the program's educational goals. 6 years later, the programs at Carrboro and Glenwood are still going strong.

Middle School will pose a challenge and I am not sure how it will go or even if it is necessary to continue the program beyond 5th grade. After the first year of begging children to be a part of it, it has become competitive and somewhat elitist from where I sit. This is not Travel (fill in the sport that excludes poor children, so you can brag at the office here). This is something that could be beneficial to the entire community.



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