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

Will North Carolina Decide The Presidential Election?

The North Carolina electorate, boosted by recent demographic changes, is an important state in the presidential election. In general elections prior to 2008, NC was described as a “flyover state” between Florida and Ohio—states which have traditionally been vital to a candidate’s success. But in this year’s election, NC is the sixth most likely “tipping point state,” according to the political statistics website, FiveThirtyEight.

In the battle for 270 Electoral College votes (the minimum amount a candidate needs to win the election,) several battleground states play an outside role in determining the election’s outcome. Battleground states have demographics that can allow either party to win the state.

Whichever candidate wins NC will receive all fifteen of the state’s votes, accounting for 2.8% of the total electoral vote. Though fifteen votes may seem insignificant, it’s the ability of either candidate to win the election.

According to the Real Clear Politics polling average, Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by 0.8 percentage points, 44.3%-43.5%. If the election were held today, that would make NC’s race the closest in the country.

Prior to the 2008 election, NC was considered a solidly Republican state—George W. Bush won with 56% of the vote in 2000. However, after more than a million people from the Northeast moved to suburban NC, Barack Obama won NC in 2008 by a 0.03% margin. In 2012’s Obama-Romney election, Romney narrowly took the state back for Republicans.

NC’s electorate is more diverse than the country as a whole, due to the aforementioned mini-migration of Northerners, as well as a swelling of the Black population in NC. This newfound diversity has contributed to NC’s attractiveness as a campaign target.

Donald Trump makes at least one visit to NC each week. For the Republican nominee, NC is a “must win state,” The News and Observer said.

Hillary Clinton’s director of battleground strategy, Michael Hall, similarly emphasizes the importance of NC in the race to 270. The Democratic nominee also makes trips to the state at least once a week, and either she or her running mate, Tim Kaine, will make an event appearance.

Although NC’s winner garners only fifteen Electoral College votes, the state gains considerable attention in the general election due to its above-average diversity. Democrats have only recently broken through years of Republican domination, and it is the closest state contest in this presidential cycle by a large margin.

Trump versus Clinton. Photo courtesy The Express Tribune

Mrs. Barry’s Class Connects with Superintendent Causby

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

Clinton’s Mental Illness Itinerary

On August 29, Hillary Clinton released a plan to integrate a stronger mental health system within the US. According to Clinton’s website, the plan consists of six main points containing specific plans for implementation. She also pledges to hold a White House conference on psychological health if elected president.

Debates between Clinton and Trump have dominated the media this election, and some argue that policy issues such as the mental health plan have been lost in the chaos.

The plan prioritizes six main goals: prevention, community treatment, treatment options over punishment, equality in mental health, housing and job access and psychiatric research. Each goal contains specific applications and examples.

A major part of Clinton’s plan emphasizes mental illness within schools and contains specific goals to ensure education along with mental health care for young people.

“Last year, for concussion baseline, testing we took a survey and I scored an 18/21 on the anxiety portion,” an anonymous CHS student said. “All of my anxiety [comes] from school work and grades.”

Such concerns within CHS are part of a bigger issue: “17 percent [of high schoolers] considered attempting suicide in the last year, with 8 percent actually attempting it,” said Clinton’s campaign website.

Mental Health America’s website ranks North Carolina as the eighteenth best state for adult mental well-being. But this number falls to 36th for NC’s youth population.

The candidate’s plan specifies the need for students of color and LGBT students to receive care. Since they often go without proper psychological help, these pupils are at a higher risk for suicide than others.

Clinton aims to teach future generations about the importance of mental health and prevent mental illness early to lessen the need for aid. This includes a suicide prevention initiative, which specifically targets suicide in high school and college.

Planning to work with the Department of Education to further mental health education in schools, Clinton emphasizes the importance of suicide prevention early on. “Hillary will direct the Department of Education to emphasize mental health literacy in middle and high schools…” said Clinton’s website. “[She] will work with regional and national PTA, school counselor associations, and associations of secondary school principals to encourage school districts to adopt this model policy.”

Another major part of Clinton’s new policy is enforcing clinical treatment for offenders with mental disorders. She proposes a plan to educate police officers in mental illness response, as well as to prioritize help for non-violent lawbreakers rather than punish them.

According to Clinton’s site, over 50 percent of convicts have mental health issues. Even more convicts fit the medical standards for addiction. She intends to lower these statistics by reducing mental disorders and the number of non-violent incarcerations.

Although this new agenda is barely spoken about, it could have a major impact on the lives of mentally ill people and the future of the criminal justice system.

Clinton addresses her supporters at her rally. Photo courtesy news-photos-features.com.

Shots Spur Protests

Protests in Charlotte have been continuous since the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott on September 20. Violent protests followed the shooting, leading to 40 police arrests. North Carolina’s governor is implementing a 12:00am curfew for the people who live in Charlotte.

Police officers were in the parking lot of the Village of College Downs apartment complex, looking for someone unrelated to the shooting. They apparently noticed Scott exiting his vehicle with a handgun, then getting back into his car. When the officers approached him, he returned to his vehicle but did not comply with the officers’ requests.

Charlotte police withheld the video footage of Scott’s shooting for fear of disturbing his family. When the footage was released, it did not show Scott holding a handgun or acting aggressively. Officer Brently Vinson, who shot Scott, has been put on paid leave.

While there was no handgun present in the video footage, there have been photos released of a handgun holding Scott’s DNA. There were also photos of a marijuana blunt found at the scene.  

“It is well within your political right to protest, so I don’t think personally as far as any legal consequences there is nothing I could do to stop you.” Said Officer Mayfield when asked about the issues of protests. “As far as I’m concerned, I would just make sure all of you are all safe for one, and two that there weren’t any major incidents where it broke into a fight.”

Angry Charlotte residents flooded the streets. In the first two nights after the shooting, the streets of Charlotte saw vandalism, violence and injuries. After the curfew was put into place, the protesters became more peaceful. Police have since allowed them to stay out after curfew.

The protests started out aggressive, but as the police officers attempted to control the demonstrators, they became peaceful. Police shot tear gas and fired flash grenades at the protestors in order to maintain control.

“I was very upset that such a horrible thing had happened in my city, but the response that the city had was amazing. Overall, most of the protests were peaceful and supported by most of the city.” Aubrey Hill, a high schooler at Ardrey Kell High School in Charlotte, said.

Protests break out in Charlotte. Photo courtesy CNN.com

Carrboro High Keeps the Hive Alive

Carrboro High School’s newest addition will play a significant role in various classrooms and clubs.

But the newcomers are not freshmen; they are bees. Environmental science teacher Stefan Klakovich is among several teachers and students who welcome their arrival. “The bees found us,” he said.

The Orange County Beekeepers Association serves to promote beekeeping and protect local hives. They do so by installing hives in public areas to increase awareness. The public and calm environment of CHS seemed an ideal area for installation. So when John Rintoul of the OCBA reached out to the school, Klakovich was eager to accommodate the bees. “I just jumped at the opportunity,” Klakovich said.

Klakovich plans to integrate the bees into his lessons on ecosystem services, a term to describe environmental benefits for humans. According to Rintoul, bees are vital for food production, with one-third of human food consumption reliant on pollinators.

Dr. Raymond Thomas, a CHS science teacher, says bees are also financially beneficial. Regarding their monetary value, Thomas said, “they contribute to U.S agriculture over $30 billion annually.”

Despite the species’ benefits, bee advocates argue they are misunderstood. Though viewed as aggressive, honey bees are a defensive species according to Rintoul and Thomas. Yellow jacket and wasp stings are often mistaken for bee stings, Rintoul explained.

Some misunderstandings prove harmful to bees. Pesticide use, a common human activity, can kill large bee populations. In response to the recent Zika epidemics, pesticides are increasingly prevalent. This September, millions of South Carolina bees died following mass pesticide sprays.

Senior Rodrigo Dubon hopes to counter such incidences. During his junior year, he started the CHS Bee Club. The club’s mission is to raise awareness of the species’ importance, as well as the dangers bees face. “If more people learn to appreciate the crucial roles that bees have in our environments, then maybe they’d be willing to step up and… help stop the gradual decline of their population,” Dubon said via email.

Before CHS housed hives, the Bee Club had limited options. Dubon is excited for the opportunities the bees bring to campus. “Since the hives are permanent, students will be able to get some hands-on experience with bees,” he said

Students looking to learn more about beehives are encouraged to join the Bee Club. Anyone interested in beekeeping can attend the OCBA Bee School, starting in January. Scholarships will be awarded to two or three students, and the application process begins in November.

John Rintoul, Katie Knotek and Sarah Brennum interact with bees. Photo by Mireille Leone

NC Infant Mortality Rate Plateaus

In recent years, North Carolina’s infant mortality rate has plateaued and now ranks higher than that of the United States’.

Despite the initial decrease at the beginning of the twenty-first century, in the past five years the infant mortality rate has flattened. This decline comes from the lack of proper healthcare for women in NC, according to a report by WUNC. Without adequate health care, that is both easily accessible available to women across the state, it is more likely for a baby to be born prematurely.

In the United States, NC has the ninth highest infant mortality rate. In order for NC’s infant mortality rate to go down, the state will need to provide better healthcare for women. When poverty rates rise, infant mortality rates rise with it.

Out of 1,000 babies in NC, more than seven of them will die within a year. For African American babies, that number jumps to over twelve, close to doubling the rate. In only one year, Latino babies mortality rate went from 3.7 to 6.3 per 1,000.

Half of the women without health insurance manage to get affordable prenatal care, making the other half struggle through their pregnancies and risk birth defects, premature birth, and death.

To people who live in suburban areas, this issue is not as prevalent. Places near a hospital that offers good health care do not realize that this is a problem in NC because it is not directly affecting them.

Without proper health care for pregnant women, it is predicted that babies will continue to be born unhealthy. NC’s infant mortality rate is the ninth highest in the United States, and if women do not get proper care, it will stop decreasing altogether.

NC has the ninth-highest infant mortality. Photo courtesy Citizen Times

Creatures of Carrboro

What is your biggest fear? Where do you think it comes from?  People in the town of Carrboro were asked to answer this question.  These are the responses I received.

“My biggest fear has to do with, I don’t know how to say this, but not living up to who I truly am. It probably comes from never being allowed to be who I was as a child, and never being able to speak my mind.”

“My biggest fear has to do with, I don’t know how to say this, but not living up to who I truly am. It probably comes from never being allowed to be who I was as a child, and never being able to speak my mind.”

 

“Recognition of my own irrelevance”

“Recognition of my own irrelevance”

 

“I don’t live in the moment; this comes from experiencing being in the moment and just how beautiful it is.”

“I don’t live in the moment; this comes from experiencing being in the moment and just how beautiful it is.”

Photos by Flora Devonport

 

Budget Cuts Challenge CHCCS

Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools is no stranger to budget cuts. Over the course of seven years the Board of Education has made as much as $10 million in reductions. On July 21st, CHCCS was presented with a new task for the 2016-2017 school year: create an operational plan for all 21 schools in the district with $1.5 million.

The original budget request presented to the Board of Orange County Commissioners — which totalled $4.46 million — was intended to attract new hires and offer an increased supplement for teacher income in the district. These efforts were intended to overcome new state mandates that would otherwise leave a further gap in educational funding. The biggest competition wasn’t just the waiting game that followed, but the increase in teacher pay across neighbouring school districts.

The deal with this is that in order to be competitive with Wake County, the school board here made the decision to raise teacher pay to keep and attract highly qualified teachers to this community,” said Melissa Zemon, CHS teacher. “They did this before the budget was approved. While there were a number of meetings to try to get the County Commissioners to fully fund the budget with the increase, this did not happen.”

Teacher turnover rates have reached 18 percent in the CHCCS district, and the ability to hire exceptional teachers primarily in the math and science departments is increasingly difficult. Twenty three local positions were terminated in coalition to boost CHCCS’ teacher salary for remaining positions, creating a new assistant-to-teacher program with less teachers overseeing a population of 12,000 students, thus causing drastic changes in the classroom. CHS departments, particularly the math department, have found themselves with the task of managing overpopulated class sizes. Additionally, with increased demand for AP online courses but a lack of funding, classes are maxed out to the point where many students don’t know where else to turn.

Many people in Chapel Hill-Carrboro choose to live here and pay higher taxes because of the schools,” said Zemon. “ It doesn’t seem right to give teachers a pay increase and then force a situation that makes the job even harder than it already is.”

Students in an AP United States History class. Photo by Mireille Leone