And the magic number is... 420

At the Carrboro board meeting tonight, there was a presentation and public comment period concerning the new "Carrboro Senior High School". One of the striking things about the initial plan is that, despite adhering to environmentally sound building design principles, the overall layout of the school still encourages the same kind of sprawl as usual. There was a disconnect between the idea of "green building" and "sustainable" development practices. For instance, the school will be extremely energy efficient and will even catch rainwater to flush toilets, but there will be 420 parking spaces and the current layout of the road system puts the nearest bus stop to the school much further away than most of the parking spaces. In a world where many of our life lessons are learned in high school, it seems like the school board would be interested in designing a school that encouraged students to use public transit or bike to school and that left a small footprint on the landscape.

Should Keith Cook Resign?

Folks may have heard that Orange County School Board Chairman Keith Cook cribbed his commencement speech delivered at Orange County High School last week. This is a serious infraction given the problems with plagiarism among students and the efforts by teachers to prevent it. Cook surely ought to be a role model in such matters.

Perhaps even worse than Cook’s plagiarism is his continuing denial of it. He initially denied it to the Herald reporter. Moments ago, he told the WCHL reporter that it was not plagiarism because he did not know who wrote the speech and that what was important was the content. He might talk to any English or history teacher to find out just how important they would consider the content if a student turned in a speech by Donna Shalala.

Meanwhile, Eleanor Murray embarrassed WCHL by repeatedly agreeing with Cook that it was inadvertent plagiarism. Yet Cook admits to making a web search for “graduation speeches” and making liberal use of the one he found. That is intentional plagiarism even if he did not trouble himself to find out who the author was.

Calling All Friends of Bill W.

This isn't politics, but it's terrifying nevertheless. The most saddening part is hearing a teenager in high school argue that throwing down some liquor is the only way to unwind after a hard week. How many harder weeks and months and years have some of us brought on ourselves by thinking like that?

I'm not as shocked by the idea of teenage drinking as I am by the professed attitude, expressed at such a young age: that alcohol is a routine comfort, and sometimes the only comfort.

I never believed in the scared straight bull. It surely never worked for me. But, damn, I'm sorry for some of these kids. There's a big world out there waiting to smack them around for no discernible reason during much of the next 70 years of their lives, and they talk as if they're exempt from the sorts of tragedies and miscalculations that we bring on ourselves.

Anyway, read for yourself:

High School Students Say Drinking Safe, Strictly Social

Is Education a Zero-Sum Game?

Guest Post by Eric Muller

In last Wednesday's Chapel Hill News, school superintendent Neil Pedersen wrote the following:

We take th[e] goal for equality a step farther by advocating for 'equity,' which means that students deserve to receive whatever resources are necessary to meet common educational goals. In some cases, equity will lead to some students receiving more resources than others in order to meet the same, high educational goals.

In last Friday's Chapel Hill News, editor Ted Vaden wrote the
following about the perception that recent and proposed changes in gifted education have led to a "dumbing down" of the curriculum:

This is an unfortunate perception, because it proceeds on an assumption that advancement for one group of students - low-performing African-Americans and Latinos - can come only at the expense of others, particularly more advanced students.

Nepotism or Politics?

The Orange County School Board just appointed a former board member, Susan Halkiotis, to fill a vacated seat until the next election. Halkiotis says she has no intention of running to keep the seat after the fall election. Sounds like an example of good government in action, right?

Problem is, Susan is married to Steve Halkiotis, who is the Director of Auxiliary Services for the school system, plus he's an Orange County Commissioner (they fund the schools). This means she could be in a position to vote on her husband's salary, among other uncomfortable situations.

Board member Randy Copeland reminded the board of the nepotism policy they recently put into place.

The policy, he said, should not allow husband and wife to hold positions so closely dependent on each other. "I believe we're placing ourselves in a position of saying, 'don't do as I do, do as I say do,'" he said. "I would be strongly opposed to seeking Susan, even though she's experienced."



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