A seasoned group of elected and appointed officials joined the Carrboro learning experience this fall. As an interactive component for their unit on elections and government, System Level teacher Melissa Barry invited several respected community leaders to speak to her class about real-world implications including division of power among various government levels, voting and occupational responsibilities.
Mrs. Barry’s class of six students welcomed five guests in September, including Lydia Lavelle, Carrboro Town Mayor, and Dr. Jim Causby, Interim Superintendent of CHCCS. The guest speakers aided in students’ understanding of the difference between elected and appointed officials among numerous other political concepts.
Two of Mrs. Barry’s students will vote for the first time this November. A goal of this program is to teach how one vote influences the lives of individuals and the life of the community at large.
“What I look for as a teacher is: how can I make the concept as functional, practical and relevant as possible? We want to help students understand that when they vote for a candidate, there is a ‘ripple effect’ that can directly impact their lives,” said Barry.
Dr. Jim Causby enlightened CHS students about his connection to state and local government during his visit on September 9th. As superintendent, Causby was appointed under a four-year contract by elected officials on the local Board of Education. Causby explained that the role of a superintendent involves making decisions in regard to school buildings, classes and staff, further emphasizing the idea that voting for a candidate influences a wide array of people and functions.
Senior Lucia Romano thoroughly enjoyed meeting and learning from all of the guest speakers. “I like when they talk about their jobs and what they do,” she said.
Students generated a list of questions prior to Dr. Causby’s visit and were each given an opportunity to share their inquiries and practice their communication skills. Causby responded to questions ranging in topic from job inspiration to favorite food, birthplace and even favorite NBA team from the 1970’s (response: the Chicago Bulls).
In his fifth role as a superintendent, Causby advanced his career position to education administration after teaching multiple grade levels and coaching middle school basketball and track. Originally from Marion, North Carolina, Dr. Causby shared with Mrs. Barry’s class about his experiences working with school systems in 47 different states before joining the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community.
When asked about his aspirations for change in the CHCCS school system, Causby didn’t hesitate to respond.
“If I could instantly change anything with the wave of a magic wand, I would do away with the achievement gap – any inequities – to make sure everyone is treated fairly,” he said.
Mrs. Barry’s class continues to serve as a model for active learning as occupational preparation and life skills are of central value in and outside of their classroom. To Barry, learning should be centered around preparation for life and community service.
“I always want our students to know that they can have a positive impact in their community,” she said. “If every student can graduate knowing that they matter, and that they can impact our world in a positive way, then I think we’ve done our job.”
Ernest Moniz (left) and Max Van Name (middle) speak with Dr. Jim Causby (right.) Photo courtesy Melissa Barry