SROs in elementaries

Sergeant Mayfield in his office. Photo by Ben Tignor

“To protect and to serve” is a motto adopted by countless police departments across the nation. Nowhere else in law enforcement is this mantra so pertinent as in the role of a student resource officer. Student resource officers, or SROs, are critical resources for the security of public schools across the nation. The role is not just one of law enforcement, but of community representation and personal relationships. In Carrboro-Chapel Hill, we have an officer in every middle and high school, but our elementary schools lack the same protection.

In the past few months, the district has been deliberating over the decision of whether or not to implement SRO positions in our elementary schools.

The N.C. Special Committee on School Shootings–formed as a result of the recent wave of highly publicized school shootings in the US–is making the decision. Through the consultation of the CHCCS community and relevant organizations, the committee created and presented a report on the issue to Governor Roy Cooper in February. Months later, the decision is still up in the air.

“We’re a vital resource, not only for mentorship, but to have programs put in place, even for younger children, to get to know us and see us in a different light,” said Sargeant Mayfield, Carrboro High School’s own SRO.

It’s not unusual for districts to not place SROs in their elementary schools. Often times it’s simply not practical or feasible, especially in smaller districts.

“It does come down to a matter of resources and money. It’s a lot of money,” said Mayfield.

It can also be difficult to find the right person for the job.

“You don’t want a rookie police officer,” said Mayfield. “You want a veteran officer. Somebody that can make split-second decisions based on policy and law and the school.”

All of that can be hard to come by, especially considering that police departments are often hard-pressed to find new qualified hires in the first place.

“You need to have a personality that’s going to fit well in a school,” said Mayfield. To serve in an SRO position demands a completely separate set of soft skills–and even more so in an elementary setting.

“It’s even bigger. Now you’re going through the halls with the little tykes, trying to high five and fist bump them. You want to be that positive role model. You can’t just come in there and ‘lay down the law.’ That’s not what we do,” said Mayfield. “I’m not just an enforcer here. That’s not what I want to do. I’m here for you guys.”

Governor Cooper has yet to respond to the Special Committee report, and make a concrete decision.

CHS Celebrates CTE Month, Promotes Benefits of CTE Courses

CTE students working in Ms. Francis’s class. Photo by Ben Tignor.

This February, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and school districts across the nation celebrated CTE Month.

At Carrboro High School, teachers and students marked the occasion with presentations around the school. For each week of February, the CTE department showcased one of four program areas with large posters and displays positioned in each wing.

The CTE department provides students access to a number of different programs covering subjects including engineering, business, design and other applicable real-world skills.

As Beth Landis, who teaches Adobe software, says, the courses prepare students for “a career, rather than a field of study.” Students are constantly considering what their path will be after graduation, and CTE courses can equip them with experience they may not otherwise gain in a high school setting.

“By taking career and technical education courses while you’re in high school, you get the chance to try out different types of things for free before you go off to a school and are paying tuition to do it,” said Sarah Mack, CTE Populations Coordinator.

While core classes offer students the background knowledge for broad disciplines, CTE courses offer the experience necessary to perform in the workplace. As the job market evolves, so do the demands placed on students entering the workforce. One important function of CTE programs is in closing the “skills gap,” which refers to the difference between the skills that employers are seeking, and the skills the workforce offers. Mack said that Carrboro High School has “historically done an excellent job of promoting academic achievement and pushing people to try harder, apply to really good schools, and get their GPA up, but it’s not enough anymore. What we need to do now is to have that academic rigor along with the skills that students need.”

Students looking to get involved in CTE programs have a number of different available routes to do so. “The best way is, during registration, to sign up for a CTE course,” Mack said. Available fields of study include textiles, engineering, design, electronics, and more throughout the district.

“If you’re not sure which course you want to take, there are some career assessments you can do through Naviance,” said Landis.

Students can also speak to their Career Development Coordinator or a CTE teacher to learn more about pursuing CTE courses. In addition to registering for classes, students can join clubs like DECA, Skills USA, Carrboro Robotics and other career and technical organizations throughout the district.

For students engaged in CTE programs, the experience can be invaluable. Virgilio Hernandez,CHS senior, compared his experience at CHS to his prior school.

“The previous school where I was at, I didn’t have these opportunities,” said Hernandez. As a result of his experience at CHS, he now plans to pursue a career in programming after he graduates.

Jackson Lee, another CHS student, is a member of the DECA leadership club at the school. He spoke about the way in which experience with a leadership group can provide students with valuable exercise presenting in a professional setting. “It’s really one of the most real-world skills you can possibly learn in high school,” Lee said. “I just think it’s so important for kids to learn this at a young age.”

In addition to offering essential skills, CTE courses provide both an alternative to the “traditional” career route, and a way for students to set themselves apart from others when seeking higher education, according to Julie Francis, Business and Marketing teacher at CHS. Francis spoke on the accessibility of Career and Technical Education programs.

“It gives everybody an opportunity. You don’t have to have the highest GPA. You don’t have to be a senior. You don’t have to have any other credentials. It’s about what you’re interested in, and it’s about driving that passion that you have and making it applicable in the real world,” said Francis.

Students who make the decision to pursue those passions in higher education will also benefit from their CTE experiences when applying for schools. Francis spoke about visiting the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School with students, where they found MBA students who had engaged in CTE programs during their high school careers. “They were able to differentiate themselves from other students that were applying for the business school,” said Francis. “When they get into industry, when they get out into the world, they know what the expectation is.”

For students interested in registering for CTE courses in the upcoming registration window, Carrboro High School offers the following courses

  • Apparel and Textile Production I
  • Apparel and Textile Production II
  • PLTW Introduction to Engineering Design
  • PLTW Principles of Engineering
  • PLTW Aerospace Engineering
  • PLTW Computer Science and Software Engineering
  • Adobe Visual Design
  • Adobe Digital Design
  • Adobe Video Design

Fall Sports Banquet: Review

The sports season has come to a close, and that means that the Fall Sports Banquet came once again. Monday, November 26 was an evening of family, families, friends, and of looking back on the accomplishments of Jaguars across teams.

Student athletes gathered together with their coaches and parents on Monday evening to say goodbye for the year, and the mood was bittersweet. As attendees enjoyed cake and coaches presented awards, teammates shared memories of significant moments of the season.

“It was a great way to reflect on our season,” said Elly Hensley, senior volleyball player. Throughout the banquet, the sentiment of reflection and appreciation was prevalent. Coaches spoke about the successes and challenges that defined the season and lauded the athletes who went above and beyond.

“It was great coming out and seeing everyone tonight to celebrate our successes,” said Sydney West, senior volleyball player.

Men and women’s teams came together, and coaches had an opportunity to speak earnestly to their teams about their potential as the season closed out- and not just as athletes.

“It was really inspiring to see Drexler say that he cares more about our development as good people than players.” said Bela Maetzel, senior soccer player.

Poetry Club: A “Slam” Dunk

This school year, big changes are coming for Carrboro High’s poetry lovers: Lisa Rubenstein, English teacher, is co-advising the Slam Poetry Club with Andrew Jester, English teacher. The club has transformed over the years.

Sarah Warner, senior, has led the Poetry Club with Jester since 2016. The club has always functioned as an opportunity for the young poets of our school to share their work in a public forum, but things are little different this year.

Clara Ruth Logan, a long-time member of the club is enthusiastic about the transition to a club that places greater emphasis on performance.

“I am excited about it, because I love slam poetry, and I think it’s basically what we were trying to do before, because poetry club was based on reading poems, and now we can really dive into the reading emotionally,” said Logan, a senior.

Beginning last year, the Poetry Club began the practice of starting classes with writing

prompts to encourage participation from members who aren’t actively writing poems. This practice will be continued this year with Ms. Rubenstein’s involvement.

“I feel like Ms. Rubenstein will come up with some pretty creative prompts,” said Logan.

Another major addition coming this year is club participation in outside performances. Mia Spadavecchio, club co-leader, spoke on the upcoming change.

“Every second Thursday of each month at Flyleaf, they have a slam poetry open mic thing, so we’re going to start making that an active part of our club,” said Spadavecchio.

Despite the new changes, one thing that the leaders intend to maintain in Poetry Club is its open and welcoming tone.

“It’s a very safe space,” said Logan. “I felt like I could share my poems, and I did, and I became a better poet because of it.”

March 14th Walkout Retrospective

On March 14 at 9:55 am, one month after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, hundreds of Carrboro High students gathered in the school courtyard for 17 minutes in response to the shooting. They stood in protest of the gun violence facing students in the United States by way of more-restrictive gun control legislation.

The 2017-2018 school year has since come to a close, and six months have passed since the walkout. Looking back at the event, a few important questions stand out: What insights on the walkout can we gain from hindsight? Was the walkout handled as effectively and appropriately as it could have been by students, teachers and administration? And perhaps most importantly, what was the impact of the walkout on our school and on the nation as a whole?

Varying Perspectives

Students invested considerable effort in the organization of every aspect of March 14. In coordination with the organization Enough CHC (Chapel Hill-Carrboro), student representatives from Carrboro High began planning shortly after Stoneman-Douglas and working with school administration to ensure the event would go smoothly.

Ensuring that the event occurred without injury or violence was a major focus of administration and staff at CHS.

“My main concern was coming from a safety aspect,” said Grant Mayfield, Carrboro High Resource Officer.

Mayfield, a sergeant of the Carrboro Police Department, helped to offer a police presence to the event. His intent was to provide protection to students due to concerns that someone from outside the community would target the walkout as a result of it being so publicized.

Another matter of contention, voiced by students after the walkout, was a perceived misuse of the event by students as a 17-minute break from school rather than an actual show of support.

“I kind of wish that maybe people took it more seriously. I think a lot of people chose to use it to get out of class,” said Charlotte Ellis, an Enough CHC student leader.

Not all students at Carrboro chose to take part in the walkout. The emphasis on implementing gun-control legislation led some to opt out of participating.

“If it had just been to honor the people who lost their lives, obviously, I would have gone; I think that’s an honorable cause. But it was very obviously politicized,” said Ryan Helms, a senior who did not take part in the event.

Adult Supervision

Some raised issue with the way in which the school administration was involved with the event. In preparation for the student-led exit, walkout organizers spoke with Principal Beverly Rudolph and the school board, and as a result, the schedule of March 14 was modified to accommodate the event. What would otherwise be considered skipping class was turned into a sanctioned movement into the courtyard, causing some to feel that the intended purpose was diminished.

“They robbed the people who did it of the opportunity to actually do something” said Helms.

Helms was not alone in his concern. Some people at Carrboro reflected on how  the sanctioning of the walkout affected to the tradition of “civil disobedience” typically associated with an event like this.

“The whole part of a ‘civil unrest’ or ‘civil protest’ is to put yourself out there and have a consequence to it,” said Mayfield.

This wasn’t the only issue raised regarding the nullifying of consequences for participants. Some considered the potential precedent set by that decision to be most concerning, and what it may mean for administrative handling of future student protests.

“Let’s say I’m a student. If I have something I want to walk out for, why do I get consequenced when it didn’t happen the first time?” said Mayfield.

Many of these points were raised by people concerned that the intended message of the walkout may have been softened or diminished through the administrative involvement in the protest, but the attitude is not held by all CHS students. Some believe that the impact and reach of the walkout stood on its own.

“There weren’t really that many consequences for whatever we were doing, but I don’t think it was so significant that we completely missed the point,” said Ellis.

Others are of a similar opinion that the event was both meaningful and significant beyond administrative involvement.

“It’s really nice that you guys had your voice, and it was only you. It wasn’t adults. It wasn’t other teachers; it wasn’t anyone else. It was only you guys up there talking, and you guys protesting. That’s what it should have been all along,” said Mayfield.