Heterogeneous classes for CHS

This fall, Carrboro High School introduced heterogeneous grouping—combining standard and honors courses—into ninth grade English and World History classes. The initiative, intended to help incoming students make informed decisions about their enrollment, may also help reduce the achievement gap.

Within the first nine weeks of the school year, students are able to switch their enrollment between standard and honors. Teachers of these classes define what constitutes honors work and standard work, therefore allowing students to have a better understanding of the level of rigor they want. For example, in English 9, students received a sheet detailing what signified honors level work and how they would earn honors credit.

Within heterogeneous classes, students can help one another. English teacher Anthony Swaringen commented on the change in classroom culture.

“I’ve noticed that students are reinforcing positive behaviors in each other more than what I’ve ever seen in the past,” said Swaringen. “When you don’t have students who are modeling good student behavior—such as how to study, how to effectively read, or how to hold a class discussion—it’s hard to get that going in a classroom.”

World History and Psychology teacher Jacqueline Cerda-Smith added her perspective on blended classes.

“I really enjoy the class climate more this year,” said Smith. “I feel like everybody is more focused, and I’m seeing way less behavioral problems in class overall.”

Blended classes may also help close academic, social and other gaps between students.

“Everyone needs equal opportunities to be successful and not have their opportunities artificially limited by systems,” said Swaringen.

There are also students who want to take honors-level work but don’t see students that look like them and, as a result, find those classes less welcoming.

“A lot of students register for classes based on where their friends and family are registering,” said Swaringen. “I think that’s another place where we see those patterns of segregation, both racial and economic.”

The teachers involved in heterogeneous classes put careful thought into its implementation.

“You can have everybody together in a class and do a pretty terrible job of it,” said history teacher Matt Cone. “People have been pretty thoughtful about what are the different strategies we might use to have success.” He added that simply grouping students by enrollment would be ineffective.

Cameron Ferguson, a history teacher, added how he differentiates work for students.

“For me the difference is how independent students have to work,” said Ferguson. “I will give both students an honors level reading and the honors kids will be responsible for doing it on their own, and I will sit there and help the standard kid.”

Ferguson assured that all students are exposed to honors level instruction within heterogeneous classrooms.

Teachers of heterogeneous classes are also piloting Actively Learn, an online platform where teachers can give students the same reading with different questions or supports. Additionally, students can take separate tests in blended classes.

No concrete plan exists for implementing blended classes in other grades.

“Right now we have the hard research about the transition from eighth the ninth grade, but there’s not a lot of research about heterogenous grouping in upper grades,” said Swaringen. “We kind of have to produce our own case study to show this is something we think would work.”

On Columbus Day, town of Carrboro celebrates alternate holiday

While much of the country is commemorating Columbus Day on October 9, the town of Carrboro has taken a stance against the national holiday. Carrboro adopted the alternative holiday, “Indigenous People’s Day,” in 2015. Indigenous People’s Day was first celebrated on October 10, 2016. Lydia Lavelle was mayor at the time.

The concept of Indigenous People’s day stems partly from the idea that Columbus did not discover America the way some perceive. He and his crew landed in modern day Haiti and the Dominican Republic; while his journey contributed to the subsequent colonization of North and South America, Columbus never actually set foot on either continent.

Many history curriculums and textbooks paint Columbus as a hero who discovered the Americas. However, this portrayal of discovery ignores any dark side of Columbus’s expedition as well as the actions of the Indigenous People of North America, who crossed the land bridge from Eurasia to what is now Canada 15,000 years ago and populated the Americas. In recent years, this concept has been especially debated because of the way the discovery of America is portrayed in schools.

Annie Williams, a social studies teacher at CHS, discussed the complicated history that established Columbus Day. “In the late 20th century [the Italians] wanted to create a holiday for their ethnic group…they picked Christopher Columbus because he was Italian,” said Williams.

The holiday was intended to acknowledge the importance of Italian immigrants to the United States; in years prior, Italians faced a substantial amount of persecution and felt underrepresented.  

As time has passed and the meaning of Columbus Day has evolved, communities like Carrboro are establishing new traditions. Indigenous People’s Day is a concept communities across the country are slowly adopting. The effort to diversify holidays, on both a local and national level, is increasing, and Carrboro was one of the first towns to do so.

Al’s to host fundraiser for Puerto Rico

Al’s Burger Shack, a restaurant on Franklin Street, will be hosting a fundraiser to help Puerto Rico this Sunday, October 8th. Al’s will be serving classic Puerto Rican dishes all day, such as tostones (fried plantains), smoked chicken and roasted pork with mojo sauce and black beans and rice.

All of the proceeds will be donated to an organization, called United for Puerto Rico, started by the First Lady of Puerto Rico. Many well known corporations, such as Burger King, Coca-Cola, Microsoft and AT&T help to sponsor this organization. Our local fundraiser will provide help to those who have been devastated by the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and María.

Photo courtesy Al’s Burger Shack

Puerto Rico, in the weeks since the hurricanes struck, is still recovering from the lasting damage. According to CNBC, many residents are still without shelter, water, or other basic necessities. As reported by USA Today, Hurricane María also impacted the island’s electrical grids, economy, and the health system.

On October 4, USA Today reported that the Red Cross had collected only $9 million dollars in donations for Puerto Rico, compared to $350 million for Texas relief efforts.

Other nearby businesses are also participating in the Al’s fundraiser, including Beer Study, Belltree Speakeasy and Baxters. They will be serving specials whose proceeds will go to the cause. Live music from bands such as the Grateful Dads, Pete Joyner Quartet, and Liquid Pleasure will be performed outdoors as well.

The event itself is free, but there will be plenty of opportunities to donate at each location.


CHCCS holds annual college fair

Local high schoolers and their parents crowded the Dean Dome on Tuesday, September 19, for the 2017 College Fair. The CHCCS event featured representatives from over 100 schools, including community, public and private colleges.

While North Carolina schools comprised the majority of displays, students wishing to venture out of NC had plenty of options. Most out-of-state displays represented neighboring states like South Carolina and Virginia, but recruiters came from as far as Colorado and Indiana.

Recruiters informed families of their respective schools’ programs and answered questions. Leah Abrams, a CHS alum, was there to recruit for Duke University.

“I came to this college fair when I was a junior,” said Abrams. “It really kind of sparked my interest in Duke, and I wanted to do that for other students from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district.”

Though not promoting a specific college, organizations like the College Foundation of North Carolina guided attendees through the applications for admission and financial aid.

Event organizers hope the fair provided insight into the college process and the many schools to which students can apply.

Class of 2021 gets first look at Carrboro High

The Class of 2021 experienced Carrboro High for the first time today, August 25.

Around 11:00, students and their families crowded the school’s entrance to attend Freshman Orientation. Junior Advisor Guides (JAGs) greeted the students with signs.

Junior Advisor Guides (JAGs) welcomed the Class of 2021 at the school’s entrance.

Event organizers, including students, faculty and other volunteers, ushered the newcomers to sign-in tables where seniors (SPOTs) provided instruction. Students then headed to the auditorium for presentations while parents had the opportunity to buy C-Town spiritwear.

Once inside the auditorium, JAGs greeted their assigned freshmen with large signs. Cheerleaders also lined the auditorium entrances to show school spirit.

The cheerleading team showed their spirit as they welcomed students into the auditorium.

The presentation was a chance for the new principal, Beverly Rudolph, to welcome students and establish herself as the face of CHS. In response to recent events in Charlottesville, she reminded students that hate has no home in CHCCS.

“You have freedom of speech until that speech becomes hate speech,” said Principal Rudolph as a reminder.

After student and faculty presentations informing students of various opportunities, including student government and athletics, students took a tour of the school.

Event organizers hope Freshman Orientation gave students some familiarity with CHS before they begin high school next Monday.

CHS faces changes to administration

Big changes are coming to the Carrboro High School (CHS) administration this year.

Principal LaVerne Mattocks will become Executive Director of Secondary Schools and Students Services of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, and Assistant Principal James Hopkins will take a principal position at Lakewood Elementary School in Durham.

“I will be able to support middle and high schools in all their curriculum and programming with a special emphasis on student services to include discipline and things related to official student records and student code of conduct,” said Mattocks on her new position. “This is the plausible next step to my career that’s dedicated to public education.”

Compared to her current job at CHS, Mattocks will support all principals in the CHCCS district as well as carry out the superintendent’s vision.

Mattocks believes that principals are central to the success of school and district initiatives, and she hopes to provide structures to support their work in her new position.

While Mattocks is excited for this new step in her public education career, she is also thankful for her time at CHS.

“I will really miss the closeness to students on a daily basis,” said Mattocks. “I think I’ve grown to understand our students and create a culture where students feel empowered and at ease to teach me.”

According to Mattocks, staff changes will proceed without disruption.

“It is normal to be anxious about change, but I would encourage people to know that the district is committed to CHS and they will get someone who is great for the school and who will continue to support and provide a safety net,” said Mattocks. “The heart of the school is in the people who are here…and if CHS has been this great place [for you], now it will be up to you to help protect it with all the change.”

As for Assistant Principal Hopkins, he is excited for his new leadership position at Lakewood Elementary in Durham.

“I’m looking forward to being back in there,” said Hopkins, who spent most of his professional career in Durham. “I think Durham is often overlooked when it comes to school districts that possess those systems and programs that are designed to improve student achievement.”

Hopkins hopes to bring about various changes to Lakewood.   

“I think that the students of Durham believe what their friends outside of Durham say about Durham. I want to help change that narrative in a way that all Durham students are proud to be educated in Durham,” said Hopkins. “Contrary to perceptions about the challenges in Durham, it is one of the most honest, forward thinking, eclectic and promising cities in the United States.”

“Most importantly I’m looking forward to working with the elementary school kids and inspiring confidence in their short term dreams,” said Hopkins about his new leadership position. “And [I’m looking forward to] making sure they are valued and are worth more than circumstances would otherwise tell them.”

While the transition to a new job can be bittersweet, both Mattocks and Hopkins are hopeful for the future and thankful for their time at CHS.

“I will miss the students. I’ll miss interacting with the students. I’ll miss asking them questions about life,” said Hopkins, reflecting on both his and Mattock’s admiration for the school. “And I’ll miss witnessing the school spirit that is ever so present.”

Jags take paths less traveled

In August, some CHS students will leave Carrboro for more unconventional programs, including United World Colleges (UWC) and Global Citizen.

Bella Larsen, junior, is one of those students. Starting this fall, Larsen will join the United World Colleges in New Mexico for a program spanning two years.

UWC consists of schools and colleges in 17 countries, with one school in the U.S comprised of 75 percent international students.

When asked why she applied to UWC Larsen said “as an American, I sort of feel ignorant of other cultures unintentionally, so I want to broaden my scope. I also want to grow as a person and be more prepared for going into college and past college.”

According to Larsen, UWC students described every day as culture shock because they met several people from different backgrounds.

The curriculum for 16 to 19 year olds is based on the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme. Students choose to study one of the six following courses: language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, sciences, mathematics or the arts.

“From what I’ve heard, [the curriculum] is still as vigorous [as CHS] but it’s different,” said Larsen. “There’s less homework intensity but more intensity of what you’re learning and taking it to a real life level.”

Other CHS students will travel outside the U.S through a program called Global Citizen.

Global Citizen, which functions as a gap year program, spans over nine months. Applicants rank their preference of the four countries offered by the program: Senegal, India, Ecuador and Brazil.

Senior Leo Salvatore will spend his nine months in Brazil, and hopes to be influenced by its musical culture.

“My ultimate goal is to use music as a way to teach people about different social issues,” said Salvatore “[I want to] use music as the bridge between different groups of people.”

Within the first month of arriving in their country, participants will take part in apprenticeships within the community.

“You can work at a local business, school, farm, or clinic depending on your strengths,” said senior Yessi Martinez. “You can have multiple apprenticeships [during your time].”

Aside from the experience participants hope to gain, other important factors included cost.

“I wouldn’t have gone if I didn’t get financial aid,” said Martinez. “It costs around a year of college tuition.”

Luckily, UWC offers blind need for all students applying, and everyone receives a scholarship. And under Global Citizen over 80 percent of participants receive financial aid.

For more information on Global Citizen, visit their website at https://www.globalcitizenyear.org, and learn more about UWC at https://www.uwc.org.

Grad policies face future changes

Carrboro High School graduation policies are changing for the upcoming school year. Next year will be the first year that CHS valedictorians won’t give speeches during the official graduation ceremony at the Dean Dome.

At CHS, valedictorians are students who have received a 4.0 unweighted average throughout all four years in high school and have not taken any classes for a pass/fail grade. In the past, the administration would allow each valedictorian to give a short speech during the graduation ceremony.

However, with the recent change in the grading scale from a seven-point scale to a ten-point scale, the number of valedictorian positions has rapidly increased according to Dr. LaVerne Mattocks, CHS Principal.

In 2016, only eight students were named valedictorian, a stark contrast to the 22 whom the school will honor this year.

Because of this increase, CHCCS decided to create a new ceremony, honoring the individuals for each school.

“It has become a technical reason for us needing to change the ceremony. We need to sort out goals, either represent and honor the valedictorian students’ high achievements or to have each student give a one minute speech that’s crammed,” said Dr. Mattocks.

Next year, CHS will hold a special ceremony at the school strictly for valedictorians, and families can attend. This will give recognition to all valedictorians without taking time away from the general graduation for all CHS seniors.

Previous graduations featured speeches from valedictorians, but this will change next year. Photo courtesy Adam Alfieri

CTE students wow with presentations

On Tuesday, May 16, seven upperclassmen from the Honors Advanced Studies class presented a year’s worth of research on a topic of their choice to friends, family, students and staff.

Their presentations covered a wide variety of creative subjects, including architecture, photography and two different types of animation—2D (traditional) and 3D.

Each student met with a local mentor throughout the year who works in their field of interest. Julie Francis, the Honors Advanced Studies teacher, paired some students with adults she already knew wanted to participate in the exchange, while other students reached out to prospective mentors on their own.

The project was entirely student-led with only minimal guidance from Francis. She explained that the presentations were so successful because they allowed students to explore something they are truly passionate about, no matter the subject.

Senior Emma Richardson spent the year researching traditional animation, something she plans to continue studying in college next year at UNC School of the Arts. Her interest in animation comes from her passion for art (specifically drawing) and a desire to pursue this passion professionally.

“I’m interested in the development of characters in stories, and I have a background in art, so I hope to apply this to to a job,” said Richardson.

Junior Jack Clemens chose to study something he was less familiar with: web design. His interests come less from a professional goal and more out of curiosity.

“[Web design] interested me, but I didn’t really know how to do it,” said Clemens.

The students acted as professionals, dressing up in business attire and wearing microphones in order to be heard by the auditorium’s sizable audience. Principal Laverne Mattocks and Vice Principal James Hopkins both attended the presentations and asked the students questions.

During her presentation, Richardson explored older and newer technology for traditional, 2D animation. She also talked about personal experience she has with different animation tech- niques and shared a storyboard for a character she created.

Junior Ethan Reid also focused the year on learning animation techniques, but he studied 3D animation. He explained the differences between 3D and 2D, as well as important movement patterns to keep in mind when creating a final product.

Reid concluded his presentation with an example of a successful animation which follows the 12 rules for creating realistic 3D movement, as well as an unsuccessful example to contrast.

Francis emphasized the fact that, for all the students, preparing for the presentations was no easy task.

“They have been practicing really hard to show you what they learned this year,” said Francis before presentations commenced.

Whether or not they plan to continue pursuing these passions, the students’ knowledge and engagement with the audience serve testimony to the amount of work they dedicated to their projects.

In C-Town’s Own Words: Boro Blowout

English teachers kick off opening ceremonies, singing “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. Photo by Mireille Leone


Francine and Elizabeth Ollila compete together in the Sibling Contest. Photo by Mireille Leone

“[The opening ceremonies] were awesome! I was talking to my friends and was like ‘only at Carrboro would this happen.’ It was really cool. The pie-eating contest was crazy, and I did not think Ms. Montgomery was going to win. But she took it home.”

Gabby Adams, junior


The inflatables, stationed outside in the courtyard, were a hit among students. Photo by Gaby Alfieri


Lisa Rubenstein, English teacher, taught students to make guacamole during her sessions. Photo by Gaby Alfieri

“I think it’s going really well. I think the opening ceremony is a good way to get everyone hyped and get more people to participate in Boro Blowout, and everything this year is very organized. The students and advisors have worked really hard to make sure today goes seamlessly. It looks like everyone’s having fun, having safe fun, and I’m glad we are able to continue this tradition.”

Dr. LaVerne Mattocks, Principal


Students had the opportunity to participate in a variety of science experiments. Photo by Mireille Leone

“Today’s pretty fun and hype! A lot of people kind of underrated this before today, but I think it’s turned out great. And being dunked [in the dunk tank] is really fun. It’s a great way to cool off. Also, it’s super awesome to be able to meet new groups of people!”

Jenna Livers, freshman


Juniors Emily Joashi, Chad Osborne, Erin Johnson, Izzy Benson and Dorie Speer decorate and enjoy cupcakes. Photo by Gaby Alfieri