Jess Clark

Fletcher Fellow for Education Policy Reporting

Jess is WUNC's Fletcher Fellow for Education Policy Reporting. Her reporting focuses on how decisions made at the North Carolina General Assembly affect the state's students, families, teachers and communities.

Jess graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2015 with her master's in Journalism and Mass Communication. As a graduate student she was lead writer and managing editor for WholeHogNC.org, a special multimedia report on North Carolina’s hog industry from UNC’s award-winning series, "Powering A Nation."  Her broadcast experience comes from working as a reporter and producer for Carolina Connection, a student-produced radio newscast from UNC's School of Journalism and Media, where her work received multiple national awards. She has also interned with the production team for WUNC's "The State of Things" and reported for WCHL on local schools and state policy, among other issues.

When she's not reporting, Jess is singing second soprano in the Choral Society of Durham, searching for taco trucks or dreaming of her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

Ways to Connect

Photo: A Massachusetts voting station sign
Katri Niemi / Flickr

Since at least the 1990s, partisan politics haven’t had a place in most school board races in North Carolina. Historically, just a small minority of state’s 112 school boards have been elected on a partisan basis. But that may be changing. In the last five years, the state legislature has more than doubled the number of school boards elected on party lines.

An image of a gavel
creative commons

Legislators will meet next week to consider bills that would strip local school boards' of their right to sue county commissioners for more education funding.

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse seen from the light keepers house in Buxton. The lighthouse was put in service in 1870 and is the world's tallest brick lighthouse at 208 feet. Its beacon can be seen 20 miles out at sea.
Cliff Owen / Associated Press

North Carolina's school calendar law can be a nightmare for school systems to navigate. Take it from Anthony Jackson, Superintendent for Vance County Schools.

"It's very, very difficult. It's putting together a puzzle," Jackson said.

photo of an apple on top of books
Kate Ter Haar / Creative Commons

Durham Charter School Kestrel Heights has lost its appeal to keep running its high school.

The state Board of Education voted Thursday to uphold an earlier decision to revoke the school's right to serve high school students.

Cedar Fork Elementary in Wake County would have to add three more kindergarten classrooms under the class-size change scheduled to go into effect in the fall.
Jess Clark / WUNC

Public-school officials are panicking ahead of state-mandated class-size reductions in kindergarten through third grade. School systems say lawmakers gave them an unfunded mandate when they demanded schools cut K-3 class sizes starting next school year.

Luis Padilla poses for a picture with his daughter, Isabella near their home in New York. Padilla was arrested at 16 and sent to Rikers Island. New York and North Carolina are the only two states to prosecute all 16 and 17 year olds as adults.
Seth Wenig / Associated Press

Second of two stories. Click here for the first.

North Carolina is one of just two states that automatically charges 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system. But in several counties, the court system is working with local law enforcement to give would-be young offenders a second chance.

A bill to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 16 to 18 has support in the state house.
Associated Press

First of two stories. Click here for the second.

When you turn 16 in North Carolina, you still can't vote, or drive on your own at night. You can't buy cigarettes or alcohol, or get a tattoo. But you can be charged, tried and convicted as an adult in the criminal justice system.

HB2's Impact: Schools

Mar 23, 2017
Hunter Schafer and her parents Katy and Mac
Allen G. Breed / AP

At the heart of the HB2 court case is the question of which bathroom and locker room transgender students are allowed to use in public schools. For one of the plaintiffs in the case, HB2 has made life much more complicated.


Parents at a Triangle charter school listened to a presentation about how to deal with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
Jess Clark / WUNC

President Donald Trump’s new rules on immigration enforcement have undocumented immigrants on edge.

a teacher in a classroom
Bart Everson / Flickr/Creative Commons

State Board of Education members voted Thursday to revoke Kestrel Heights Charter School's right to serve high school students. The Durham K-12 charter school is on thin ice after it uncovered a long-running diploma scandal.

Nestled in the Smokies Robbinsville High School is one of the few schools in the state that still uses corporal punishment.
Jess Clark / WUNC

Corporal punishment is still a legal practice in North Carolina schools. But today there are just two districts in the state where educators still inflict pain on students as a form of discipline.

North Carolina legislative building
Wikimedia Commons

Legislators filed  dozens of bills on the first day back since session officially opened, including a proposal to develop a plan to change how the state funds public schools.

Women and their supporters turned out in droves for the Women's March on Raleigh on January 21, 2017.
Jess Clark / WUNC

On Saturday, women and their supporters took to the streets of Washington, DC and other cities around the world to voice their opposition to incoming President Donald Trump. In Raleigh, marching women donned knitted pussyhats, the headwear that has become emblematic of feminist protest.
 

Host Frank Stasio speaks with WUNC reporter Jess Clark about the march in Raleigh and the range of issues protested including xenophobia and House Bill 2.

Tammy Thompson monitors her daughters while they do their school work through North Carolina Virtual Academy.
Jess Clark / WUNC

It looks a lot like Saturday morning at the Thompson household in Johnston County.  Three young girls are in comfy sweats at the breakfast table or kitchen island, each slouched in front of a glowing laptop. But this is 11 a.m. on a Monday. And while the Thompson girls aren’t in a classroom, they are in school.

photo of an apple on top of books
Kate Ter Haar / Creative Commons

It began with a tip from two Kestrel Heights Charter School staff members. They pulled aside Kestrel’s executive director Mark Tracy on his visit to the Durham K-12 charter and told him they were worried two seniors did not have the credits to graduate. That tip set off an internal investigation by Kestrel, which revealed past school administrators had been giving out faulty diplomas for years. Since 2008, 40 percent of Kestrel students received a diploma without meeting the state requirements.

Flickr via Cynthia Ahrens / Flickr

An internal investigation has revealed 40 percent of Kestrel Heights Charter School graduates since 2008 didn't actually have enough credit hours to earn a high school diploma. The Durham charter school released a statement Monday saying there was "a systematic breakdown by the high school principals and counselor for the eight-year period in question."

Wake County School Bus
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Activist groups in Wake County are urging the U.S. Department of Education to take action against what they say are discriminatory disciplinary practices in Wake County Schools. In their letter, the groups have cited a video of a school resource officer slamming a Rolesville High School student to the ground.

An empty supermarket shelf on Thursday, January 5, 2016. Triangle area residents prepared for the first major snowstorm of the season by stocking up on the basics.
Elizabeth Baier / WUNC

Updated 1:20 p.m. Jan. 6, 2017.

The Triangle is bracing for up to eight inches of snow Saturday, with slightly smaller accumulations in the Triad and the Sandhills.

Wake County School Bus
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

 Updated 2:15 p.m. Jan. 6, 2017.

The North Carolina Board of Education has approved the distribution of millions of dollars in teacher bonuses.

The board discussed the allotments at its first meeting of the year Wednesday, and its first with newly-elected State Superintendent Mark Johnson.

Headshot of Roy Cooper
Courtesy of Roy Cooper

Governor Roy Cooper has made cabinet picks for the department of environmental quality and the department of transportation.

The new Democratic governor tapped Michael Regan to lead the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality. Regan was most recently the Southeast regional coordinator for the Environmental Defense Fund. Before that, he worked in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under presidents Clinton and Bush from 1998 to 2008.

Updated at 10:45 p.m. Jan. 3, 2017

A Rolesville High School student on Tuesday posted a video to social media of a classmate being slammed to the ground by a police officer.

Black Tip sharks feed on the coast near Cape Lookout.
Shark Attack News

Coastal Carolina officials may not be willing to prepare for climate change until it's too late, according to a new study out of N.C. State and Appalachian State Universities.

Smithfield Foods promised to cut emissions.
humanesociety.org

Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer, has promised to slash its carbon emissions.

Sarah Gilbert via Flickr

Researchers at the UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute have more evidence that children who attend pre-K see better outcomes down the road.

An image of UNC's Old Well
yeungb / Wikipedia Creative Commons

The NCAA has issued a new set of allegations against the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill over the years-long academic fraud scandal.

Pages