Pipeline problems

Recently, Jordan Owen, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and member of Carrboro class of 2015, had the opportunity to go with a group of students to the site of the North Dakota Access Pipeline project.

The project itself is a 1,200 mile pipeline being built from ND to Illinois, with the goal of transferring crude oil to the East coast. The project is currently on hold, however, because of ongoing protests from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies.

These “protectors” are occupying an area of the pipeline construction in ND, saying that the pipeline will pollute their water source, the Missouri River, and that it would go through the tribe’s sacred burial grounds.

Jordan Owen spoke to Mr. Cone’s class and shared her thoughts, and the Jagwire staff talked to her separately.

How did you get the opportunity to go [to Standing Rock]?

I’m a diversity inclusion facilitator at UW-Madison, and one of my fellow facil- itators is the American Indian Community Campus Liaison. She emailed the group and mentioned that there was a spot left in the car. I felt it was too important an opportunity for true education and activism to pass up.

What do you think you accomplished while you were at Standing Rock?

We talked to a lot of people. Because mainstream media hasn’t been there, there haven’t been a lot of individuals who have been interviewed and been able to share their stories, other than through their own social media. Us going there, [we were] able to ask people what it has been like, what they wanted to tell to the world and gave them a channel for that.

How has your point of view changed on activism and specifically this issue?

I tried to go into Standing Rock with a completely blank mind, absent of main- stream conceptions of who Natives are, which, of course, was not entirely possi- ble. Once there, it was easier to interact with people as individuals rather than as the group the white majority assigns them. As for activism, I don’t like the notion of wanting to “save the world” that I personally entered with. The culture of activism as a whole is problematic to me. It is now permissible for people to champion a cause for a short period on social media, neither taking the time to do back- ground research to understand the root causes nor committing to the long run.

Broken-down trucks cover the road at Standing Rock. Photo courtesy Jordan Owen

CHS community shares equity struggles

The Jagwire spoke to various students and teachers to ask for their opinions on how CHS deals with the issue of racism. From personal experiences to insight as a seasoned edu- cator at Carrboro High School, each individual shed light on their views of how discrimination has affected education in 2016. Here is what they have to say:

“It’s the little stuff that the kids don’t realize, no matter your race. It can be intentional or hidden stuff. And that’s the stuff a lot of other students don’t see, like not getting something, people trying not to sit next to one another, and it’s not all verbal. Not everyone who has a Confederate flag is a racist. You just gotta trust people and give everybody the chance, but you still got to have your radar on.” – Melvin Griffin

“I can’t speak for all black people in general; I can literally only speak for myself. But I’ve been told [by people at CHS] that I ‘shouldn’t just try to be in class with my friends,’ even though I had in fact applied several times to be in higher level classes… This sends the message that I don’t have any white friends, and I focus my academic career on social life, not excelling. There have been multiple occur- rences of having to prove myself as a black woman.” – Cameron Farrar

“I do think it is important to be more explicit with talking about race. I think often times the students have this perspective that we, the teach- ers, don’t know there’s a problem. But that’s just not true. One thing I really want to stress is that it does take a lot of willingness to be open and honest about the problems that we have. We all have to recognize that every single one of us in the building has in some way contributed to it.” – Jamie Schendt

“Microaggression is a really big problem and I think people do it so unintentionally that they don’t realize, and one thing is like, ‘Oh, you speak so well.’ Or a lot of teachers will ask, ‘Do you live with your mom?’ And those are just things I think that a lot of people of color deal with on a daily basis… I don’t want to say that we’re not socially accepted, but there are these automatic assumptions that a lot of people have in the back of their minds.” – Diamond Blue

Desegregating CHCCS: a look back

A recent town hall, held by the Orange County Training School Lincoln Northside Alumni Association, highlighted the complex racial history of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

Before 1967, Chapel Hill High School was located downtown on Franklin Street. Today when people stand where the school once was and look across the street, they see the storefront of an Aveda hair salon. Students at Chapel Hill High peering out their classroom windows half a century ago saw the front doors to Belk’s Department Store, complete with separate white and colored entrances.

2017 marks the ten year anniversary of the opening of Carrboro High. But it also marks the 50th anniversary of the first desegregated class to graduate from Chapel Hill High School.

Chapel Hill High opened doors at its original downtown location in 1916, only enrolling white students until fifty years later.

The first African-American high school in the area was established in 1924 in the build- ing now known as Lincoln Center. The school was called the Orange County Training School but was renamed Lincoln High in 1949.

Brown v. Board of Education ruled segregated public schools unconstitutional in 1954. In 1963, students at Lincoln High were allowed to transfer to Chapel Hill High, but the vast majority opted to stay.

The two schools combined elements of their respective school’s heritage: CHHS brought their colors to CHHS, black and gold, and Lincoln High brought their mascot, a tiger.

At the town hall held in October, panelists recounted the history of their school and the process of desegregation. The panelists included former students and teachers.

Many explained that while integration was a victory for students of all races, those at Lincoln were sad to see their school close. They were proud of their teachers, their sports teams, their band and the community they had built. And while some of these things transferred over to their new school, it still felt like a loss in many ways, at least for those first few years.

Alice Page Battle is a member of the Lincoln High class of 1951, where she returned in 1955 to teach until 1966. After integration, she taught for 25 more years.

The local school board didn’t force integration until 1966. That year, both segregated high schools were shut down. Students from Lincoln High and the old Chapel Hill High transferred to a newly constructed Chapel Hill High School fur- ther out of town, which still operates at its current location today.

Battle said that she has a lot of fond memories from CHHS, including the chance to teach James Taylor, but she remembers the bad as well as the good. She recalled white parents questioning the grades she gave their children, at one point culminating in angry phone calls to her house at night.

She also remembers them challenging her teaching qualification, which resulted in her being switched last minute from teaching English to French.

Stanley Vickers, who was one of a handful of African-American students to attend Chapel Hill High pre-integration, remarked on the school supplies he had access to at CHHS for the first time as a student.

The history of Lincoln High is a major part of the history of Chapel Hill-Carrboro as a whole, yet it is often not emphasized in school curriculum.

Moreover, this history still relates to the district. When considering racial issues like the achievement gap, many don’t realize that these issues have roots that go at least as far back as desegregation.

Carolyn Daniels, who graduated from Chapel Hill High’s first integrated class, said that students from Lincoln were either discouraged from taking AP classes, or were unqualified because the prerequisites they needed weren’t offered at their old school.

Julie Kemper, a teacher at Estes Hill Elementary, remarked how she still sees the qualifications of African American teachers questioned disproportionate- ly more than those of white teachers. Kemper’s comments, and the event itself, come at a time when equity and social justice are key concerns in public schools. The panelists’ perspectives emphasize the value of understanding the past, even as the district reaches toward the future.

Old and new photos of Lincoln High School and Chapel Hill High School students. Photos courtesy Lincoln High Alumni, Chapel Hill High School and News & Observer

School’s Out! Determining a Snow Day

Winter: the season of holidays, hot chocolate and — best of all for students — canceled school. Some years, the number of district snow days reaches a total of two weeks or more. However, many students and parents never stop to consider who makes the decision to cancel school, and how, even though it affects their lives considerably during the winter months.

Assistant superintendent Todd Lofrese is in charge declaring snow days, and his insights may clarify the process for parents and students.

“It’s a difficult decision,” LoFrese said. “It isn’t something we take lightly. We want to hold school whenever possible, but safety is first and foremost.”

First, Lofrese and his colleagues must consider school and road conditions. Even if conditions seem clear to adults, driving on icy or snowy roads is especially challenging for high school students if they don’t have a lot of experience.

Furthermore, even if roads in and around Chapel Hill-Carrboro are clear, staff who live in other districts might be facing different, possibly worse, conditions entirely.  Because the state Department of Transportation prioritizes highways over city and rural roads, cleanup can also be slower than expected.

Lofrese thinks there are misconceptions about the process of canceling school, though critics are not necessarily ill intentioned. “Some parents and staff like to know [whether or not there will be school] as early as possible,” he said, so if school is canceled, they will have time to arrange for childcare.

Chapel Hill covered in snow during a storm last year. Photos by Sofia Dimos.

Many surrounding districts call families with a verdict the night before a possible snow day, while CHCCS often makes that call the morning of.

Lofrese pointed out that these surrounding districts are geographically larger, and their buses start leaving to pick up kids as early as four in the morning. Buses in CHCCS, on the other hand, leave around six o’clock, meaning district officials have the luxury of waiting until the morning to make a decision.

This extra time can be very helpful, said Lofrese. Because of North Carolina’s location, weather forecasters sometimes have a difficult time predicting whether precipitation will come in as a rain, or snow/ice.

“Ice is tricky to predict, but extremely treacherous,” LoFrese said. Waiting until the last minute may be more inconvenient, but it helps district officials make the most informed decision.

Next time you find yourself sleeping in on a Tuesday because the roads are covered in a thick blanket of snow, or you’re eagerly awaiting a call from the district late at night, maybe take a second to consider the people and decisions that got you there.

Between looking out for the safety of students, and ensuring school is open 180 days, their job is often complex, and likely stressful.

Longstanding Carrboro Tradition Inspires Giving Back

This year, Karen refugees graduated from CHS will be able to see their friends and family for the first time after coming to the United States, with the help of our students and a fundraiser run by student government.

Winter Links is a long-standing tradition at Carrboro. The yearly fundraiser is hosted by student government and encourages giving back to the local community in a friendly competition between homeroom classes.

Students are encouraged to give back by donating money to a chosen organization. Every time a student donates money, it goes towards a “winter link:” a piece of color paper used to create a decorative chain that is a creative way to show the progress of how much money each class has raised. 

In past years SGA has chosen organization such as Positive Impacts for Kids, a nonprofit run by junior Leanne Joyce.

This year SGA chose to fund a project that teacher John Hite started. Hite is organizing a trip over the summer of 2018 for Burmese Karen refugees, all of whom are former or current students.

The goal is to raise enough money to help the students to travel to Thailand over the summer to visit friends and family living in refugee camps.  

“It would be very meaningful to these former CHS students to be able to know that their school and community is in support of them and their desires to reconnect with friends and family,” Hite said.

The charity is hoping to collect enough funds to visit Burma (Myanmar) as well, if it’s safe, because not all of the students’ families are currently living in Thailand.

Paw Ray, Ser Gay Paw, Danielle Montgomery, Mu Eh Pay, Eh Mu Ra, Tay Nay Sar and John Hite at a food fundraiser at Transplanting Traditions Community Farm

Throughout the year, Hite and the group will be doing more fundraisers in order to raise more  money for their trip, such as multicultural nights, food fundraisers  and possible silent auctions.