Education

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Wake County School Bus
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Wake County School officials are holding information sessions for parents starting today. The five events are designed to help families navigate a school choice plan that will take effect next year.

The five information sessions will take place in churches, preschools, and town halls in an attempt to reach out to populations that may not be easily reached otherwise. One of the sessions will be held in Spanish.

UNC System Turns 40

Nov 10, 2011

Only five people have ever been the president of the 16-campus UNC system. Tom Ross, Erskine Bowles, Molly Broad, C-D Spangler, and Bill Friday got together last night to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the creation of the UNC system. It was a night of shared experiences and behind-the-scenes stories. But, the best story of all may be how the system was created in the early 1970s.

wake bus
Dave DeWitt

Democrats have regained control of the majority on the Wake County School Board. Incumbent Kevin Hill defeated Republican Heather Losurdo in a runoff election last night.

Looking worn out and even slightly embarrassed, Kevin Hill greeted supporters last night after the final votes were in.

In the most expensive Wake School Board race in history, Hill defeated Losurdo by just four percentage points. He is the fifth Democrat to win this election season – a strong rebuke of the Republicans who held the majority the last 2 years.

Education officials in Halifax County are stepping up efforts to hold parents accountable for student attendance. The county court system will host monthly truancy sessions starting at the end of November. Many other counties have similar programs. The move comes as dropout and truancy rates continue to rise in Halifax County's three school districts. County District Attorney Melissa Pelfrey says those districts don't always take the same steps to address truancy.

The final seat on the Wake County School Board is up for grabs today. Voters in Wake County’s District 3 will decide between Republican Heather Losurdo and Democrat Kevin Hill.

The runoff campaign has been intense, personal, and expensive. Counting all five school board races and the District 3 runoff, school board candidates have spent around $500,000. Outside interest groups have spent tens of thousands more. Losurdo says these messages are distracting to voters in District 3.

Researchers at N.C. State are working with Cumberland County Schools in an effort to improve education among foster children. The university's Department of Social Work says it will examine issues that might interrupt the learning process such as frequently switching schools. Dr. Joan Pennell is a professor of social work at N.C. State and the program's principal investigator.

The Wake County School Board has voted to adopt a new student assignment policy.

The new student assignment policy replaces one that re-assigned thousands of students. It moved some them based on family income, so that no school included too high a percentage of low-income students.

The new policy has no such control. It's a choice plan with four stated pillars - stability, choice, proximity, and student achievement. Opponents of the plan wanted stronger assurances that high-poverty, low-achieving schools would not be created.

The Wake County School Board is close to voting on a new student assignment plan. Last night, the Board conducted its only public hearing on the plan. It was a chance for parents and interested residents to address the Board directly as it considers how to assign more than 140,000 students to schools.

The plan is front and center in the ongoing political fight for control of the Board.

When his good friend and mentor Ron Margiotta lost his re-election bid on Tuesday, Republican John Tedesco offered this warning…

Ron Margiotta
WCPSS

It was a near clean sweep for Democrats in yesterday’s Wake County School Board Election. Four of the five seats up for grabs were won outright by democrats. The fifth is not yet decided and will go to a run off, as no candidate captured 50 percent of the vote.

It was a stunning victory for supporters of the district’s old diversity policy… and a rebuke of the Republican majority that has been in charge for the last two years.

Some voters in Wake County did not receive voter cards this year showing new boundaries for local school districts. Residents head to the polls tomorrow to vote for five seats on the county school board among other offices. Wake Board of Elections director Cherie Poucher says county commissioners denied the funds needed to send voter cards with the new districts. Despite that, Poucher says she expects a higher turnout than normal.

The Wake County School Board campaign season is entering its final few days. It’s also a crucial time for the district’s long-awaited student assignment plan.

Wake Schools superintendent Tony Tata has worked for about 7 months on the specifics of the plan. He presented it to the school board earlier this week. A public hearing is scheduled for next Thursday.

The new student assignment policy in Wake County Schools is now in the hands of the School Board. Superintendent Tony Tata and staff members walked board members through the plan at a meeting yesterday.

If you’re the parent of an elementary school student, the new assignment plan will give you 5 options – and promise you that your child won’t be reassigned against your will. Among those choices will be a high achievement option, a magnet option, and others. How many parents get their first or second options remains to be seen.

CMS Wins Broad Prize

Sep 21, 2011

A North Carolina school district has been recognized as the top urban school district in the country. Charlotte-Mecklenburg won the award, given by a prominent and controversial foundation.

The Broad Foundation is one of the largest dedicated to public school reform. It runs an academy to train non-educators to become superintendents and places a high priority on market-based competition and test-based accountability.

Peter Gorman was the superintendent in Charlotte and is a Broad Academy graduate, as is Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata.

The future of the state's residential schools for the deaf and blind will be the subject of a series of public hearings this month.

Families and other interested people will gather tonight in Morganton, the site of one of North Carolina's three residential schools for the deaf and blind. Until this summer, those schools were managed by the state department of health and human services. The legislature transferred oversight to the Department of Public Instruction over the summer, cut the budget, and told DPI to recommend the closing of one of the schools.

The Chancellor at North Carolina Central will play a key role at a White House event next week. Charlie Nelms will lead a town hall at the annual conference of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Police at UNC-Chapel Hill are now using a GPS to track stolen bicycles on campus. Under the strategy implemented this week, officers plant a tracking device on a so-called "bait bike," and then follow the signal if it leaves a certain boundary. Police at N-C State started using the device last November. Deputy chief Jon Barnwell says his department started seeing immediate results.

The idea of merging school districts in one of the state's poorest counties is gaining traction.
Dave DeWitt

Most school districts in North Carolina are county-wide. Mergers of county and city schools occurred mostly in the 1970s through the 1990s, driven by cost and desegregation orders.

But one county remained steadfast against consolidation. Halifax County in northeastern North Carolina has three separate school districts… Roanoke Rapids, Weldon City, and Halifax – for just 8,000 total students. By comparison, if Wake County was divided into a comparable number, there would be 53 different school districts.

Public schools across eastern North Carolina are implementing backup plans for classes due to extensive damage from Hurricane Irene. In Tyrrell County, all but one public school building were breached by three feet of water and sewage. Students there are on a limited schedule in makeshift classrooms until further notice. State school support director Ben Matthews says coastal districts are still trying to come up with estimates for how much it will cost to repair their schools.

The first of a series of public information sessions on the proposed Wake Schools student assignment plan will be held tonight. The sessions are designed to update people on the status of a new plan.

The presentations will be held at high schools throughout the county. Members of the student assignment task force will offer some details of the plan and discuss what it may mean for where kids will go to school next year.

Walnut Creek Elementary School
Dave DeWitt

Traditional calendar schools across North Carolina start today. It’s an especially anxious day at Walnut Creek Elementary in Wake County. That school is opening its doors for the first time – the first new elementary school to open in ten years with a large majority of students who are both high-poverty and low-achieving.

Thousands of students are returning to area universities. They will be greeted by a variety of changes brought on by budget cuts.

An architect's rendition of the entrance plaza to the renovated Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library.
duke.edu

A large gift will make possible a the renovation of Duke University's rare books library. Duke Trustee David Rubenstein, a 1970 graduate of the university and co-founder of the Carlyle Group, is giving Duke $13.6 million. That's the largest ever donation to the libraries. Deborah Jakubs is a University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs. She says rare books document the development of scholarship and human creativity.

Bedbugs have recently been found on the campus of Wake Forest University. Officials say dogs discovered evidence of the pests in a very small number of dorm rooms. Those rooms have been treated and are expected to be free of bedbugs as students arrive. Michael Waldvogel is an associate professor of entomology at North Carolina Statue University. He says N.C. State and Wake Forest use heat generating equipment to deal with any outbreaks of bedbugs.

Duke In China

Aug 17, 2011
Model for Duke Kunshan University
Duke University

Today, the Duke men’s basketball team is in Kunshan China. They are there to kick off a global tour that will also take them to Shanghai, Beijing, and Dubai.

It’s the latest, and most public, effort by Duke to expand its global reach.

Shaw University is bringing back a familiar administrator to lead the institution as it searches for a new leader.

Shaw University is bustling this week as students return for the fall semester.  But they returned to a school without a president. Irma McClaurin resigned last week after less than one year on the job.  Andrew Tillery is a 23-year-old senior at Shaw.

Andrew Tillery:  "Like, I’m a senior, I’ve been here a little, a long time now. And for 11 months, you know that, you can’t hardly get a bond with a president like that for a school."

UNC BOG Supports Thorp

Aug 12, 2011

UNC system leaders today expressed public support for UNC-Chapel Hill chancellor Holden Thorp. Thorp has been under fire from some alumni for firing football coach Butch Davis last month.

UNC system president Tom Ross and Board of Governors chair Hannah Gage released a statement this morning, reiterating their support for Thorp and his leadership of UNC-Chapel Hill.

Earlier this week, an alumni group threatened a lawsuit. They said they were misled into helping pay for a stadium expansion and were led to believe Davis would continue as coach.

Perdue Pushes Pre-K

Aug 11, 2011

The state legislature may be out of session until September, but that hasn’t stopped Governor Bev Perdue from firing the latest shot in the fight over pre-k programs.

On Wednesday, Perdue issued an executive order that directs the Department of Health and Human Services to offer pre-K education to all eligible 4-year olds in the state.

She says that will put North Carolina in compliance with a ruling last month by superior court judge Howard Manning. Last year, about 32,000 4-year olds were enrolled in More At Four. About double that many qualified.

Personal information on 1,800 school children was accidentally posted online by NC State researchers.

The security failure affected elementary students who attended Wilson and Richmond County schools from 2003 to 2006. The personal information posted online included names, dates of birth, and social security numbers.

A parent was the first to notice the error. NC State removed the data when it became aware of the situation late last month and has begun the process of trying to contact affected families.

North Carolina will be one of the states seeking a waiver from the Department of Education, exempting it from parts of No Child Left Behind. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced this week that he will allow some states to opt out of the controversial education law.

State Superintendent June Atkinson says educators have become increasingly unhappy with No Child Left Behind's all-or-nothing system of judging schools.

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