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

Millbrook history teacher Brian Schneiderwind had his AP U.S. History class go classroom to classroom to get their peer preregistered.
Jess Clark / WUNC

About 9 percent of the state's teachers left North Carolina's public schools in the 2015-2016 school year, according to a draft report from the Department of Public Instruction. Teachers with less than three years of experience were more likely to leave the classroom than their more seasoned counterparts.

A study shows potentially dangerous levels of Chromium-6 in wells across the state.
Kelly Stemcosky / Flickr Creative Commons

Researchers at Duke University have found widespread contamination of North Carolina well-water with hexavalent chromium. Researchers initially believed the cancer-causing toxin was coming from coal ash ponds. But Duke professor Avner Vengosh said his new study shows the dangerous compound is naturally occurring across the state.

Volunteers for North Carolina's Candid Critters can set up motion-sensing cameras to capture photos of wildlife on their property or on public land.
North Carolina's Candid Critters / North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

North Carolina scientists are asking everyday citizens to help them collect data on state wildlife. The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences along with North Carolina State University and the State Wildlife Resources Commission are lending out motion-sensing cameras that citizens can set up in their backyards or state parks to capture photos of unsuspecting animals.

Jess Clark / WUNC

Early voting is off to a fast start in many North Carolina counties. As of Sunday, 408,906 voters had cast a ballot in North Carolina, according to the State Board of Elections.

Robeson Schools Superintendent Tommy Lowry surveys the damage outside the textbook and supply warehouse at the district's central services.
Jess Clark / WUNC

Outside Robeson County Schools central offices, Superintendent Tommy Lowry points to a large hole in the top of the chain-link fence. "Where that fence is cut there, that’s where I came across in a boat. That’s how high the water was," he said.

Faith leaders, police and town staff lay hands on one another and Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas to pray for strength against the slow-moving catastrophe headed toward them.
Jess Clark / WUNC

The Tar River cuts right through the city of Greenville, but it doesn’t usually cut through Steve Johnson’s backyard.

“I wasn’t prepared for flooding. You know, I don’t think anyone ever is,” said Johnson. “I was prepared for the hurricane. I was even prepared to leave if something happened during the hurricane...I wasn’t prepared for flooding, you just never know how that’s gonna turn.

a flooded road after Hurricane Matthew
Leoneda Inge / WUNC

Emergency officials in North Carolina say at least 20 people have died because of Hurricane Matthew.

In a press conference Wednesday morning, Governor Pat McCrory urged drivers to continue following marked detours, as two major interstates and many smaller roadways remain flooded as rivers continue to rise.

Contentnea Creek
Jay Price / WUNC

Updated 3:15 p.m. October 17, 2016

Governor Pat McCrory was in New Bern this afternoon to survey damage from the floods left behind by Hurricane Matthew. 

The state Department of Transportation says many roads are still closed in eastern North Carolina, but I-95 has reopened from Fayetteville to Lumberton.  At least 25 people have died in North Carolina. Most were trapped in the vehicles in the flooding.

Officials estimate that flooding from Hurricane Matthew has caused $1.5 billion in damage to 100,000 homes, businesses and government buildings.

flooding south of downtown Lumberton
Jay Price / WUNC

Officials say the death toll in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew has risen to 17.

Earlier in the day, officials in Robeson County said they found the body of a man who was in a car when it was washed away in the flooding. All but one of the victims were in vehicles when they died, according to authorities.

James Lowry (left) waits with his family as flood waters continued to rise Sunday, October 9, 2016 around their homes along Highway 401 in Bunnlevel.
Jess Clark / WUNC

The floor of Robert White's apartment is slick with water and a film of mud. The 67-year-old makes his way cautiously over the tile to where his nephew Kareem White is standing. He points out a faint line about two feet off the ground. It travels along the walls of the apartment like a giant bathtub ring.

Durham County Jail
Laura Candler

The Durham County Sheriff's office has received more than $275,000 in federal and local funding to improve mental health services for inmates at the Durham County Detention Facility.

Palm trees sway in high gusts of wind, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, in Vero Beach, Fla. Hurricane Matthew continues to make a path for Florida's east coast from the Bahamas.
Lynne Sladky / The Associated Press

Update 2:15 p.m. Friday, 10/7/16

The eye of Hurricane Matthew is now expected to come closer to the North Carolina coast than forecasters predicted. In a press conference Friday, New Hanover County Director of Emergency Management Warren Lee warned the county's coastal residents to move inland.

Millbrook High School students pregistered to vote in their science class.
Jess Clark / WUNC

One of the lesser known provisions of the sweeping 2013 voter ID law ended voter preregistration for 16 and 17-year-olds. Now that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down those 2013 restrictions, preregistration is back, and some North Carolina high schools are taking advantage. In Wake County Schools alone, 3,000 students have already preregistered or registered in school-based registration drives.

UNC linebacker Allen Artis (second from left) with his attorney Kerry Sutton (far left) and parents Johnny and Stephanie Artis.
Jess Clark / WUNC

University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill Linebacker Allen Artis stood on the steps of the Orange County courthouse with his lawyer and family Thursday morning and maintained he did not rape a fellow UNC student earlier this year.

Taheshia Williams, center, tells her eyewitness account of the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, in Charlotte, N.C. Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016. Scott's death on Sept. 20 led to protests and rioting.
Nell Redmond / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Charlotte police say 16 officers were injured last night in clashes with those protesting the fatal police shooting of a black man.

A map from NC State show “hot spots” denoting high concentrations of manganese in North Carolina well water.
NC State University

North Carolina State University researchers estimate that thousands of North Carolina residents and more than 1 million residents in the southeast have high levels of manganese  in their well water. Manganese is found naturally in soil, but studies have linked long-term exposure to health problems, including cancer and heart defects.

photo of a unisex bathroom sign
Tombe / Wikipedia

A third Republican lawmaker said the North Carolina General Assembly should call a special session to revise or repeal House Bill 2. 

North Carolina researchers uncovered this statue of Aphrodite while digging in the ancient city of Petra in Jordan.
Tom Parker / NC State University

Teams from North Carolina State University and East Carolina University were on a dig in the ancient city of Petra in Jordan this summer, looking for ceramics, coins, bones and other evidence of how the Nabatean people lived their lives there in the first four centuries A.D. 

N.C. State history professor Tom Parker said during an excavation of a second-century villa, the trench supervisor noticed what looked like two "butts" beginning to emerge from the sand.

Artis' defense attorney Sam Coleman (right) conferred with Orange County assistant district attorney Jeff Nieman regarding a court date.
Jess Clark / WUNC

The UNC football player accused of sexually assaulting a fellow student has a court date set for Sept. 29.

UNC-Chapel Hill Sophomore Delaney Robinson (right) and her attorney Denise Branch told reporters they believe the university is not adequately responding to Robinson's alleged rape.
Jess Clark / WUNC

UNC-Chapel Hill sophomore Delaney Robinson, 19, says neither the university nor local law enforcement have responded adequately to her allegations that UNC football player Allen Artis raped her last winter.

GLOW students Trinity Moore and Deniya Evans reacted to a lip-syncing performance by their teachers.
Jess Clark / WUNC

At GLOW Academy, about 100 rising sixth graders were out to recess during a recent summer bridge camp. The motto on the back of their bright yellow T-shirts leaves no doubt that GLOW is focused on the long game.

Magellan Charter School has one of the highest school performance grades in the state, but it also has a relatively wealthy student population.
Jess Clark / WUNC

In a small patch of pine trees outside Magellan Charter School, a fourth-grade science class is on the hunt for insects, plants and other life. One of the students, Mary Grace, has found a crabapple tree. Her teacher, Sara Dail, points to a small spongy lump poking through the pine straw bed below.

East Chapel Hill High School students
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

The percentage of North Carolina students testing at grade level on state standardized tests moved up last school year. That means fewer schools will be labeled D or F on the school grading system.

Attorney General Roy Cooper's campaign ads attack Governor Pat McCrory's record on education funding.
The Roy Cooper Campaign

Education is shaping up to be the issue in the battle for the governor’s mansion. Weeks after Republican Governor Pat McCrory released his TV ads touting the rise in teacher pay under his leadership, Democratic candidate Roy Cooper released his own TV ads attacking the incumbent governor’s record on education.

But how do the claims in Cooper’s TV spots stack up against the facts? Let’s take a look.

multiple choice test
Alberto G. / Flickr Creative Commons

North Carolina's class of 2016 had an average score of 19.1 on the ACT, slightly higher than the class of 2015's average score of 19.0 The average score has increased slowly, but steadily since all students began taking the test in 2013. But it remains below the national average of 20.8.

Newly hired teachers and staff attend an orientation for Wake County Public Schools. Wake County teachers make more than most teachers in North Carolina.
Jess Clark / WUNC

School districts across the state say they have somewhat fewer teacher vacancies going into this school year than they did in 2015. But  many students will still have substitutes for the first weeks of school.

classroom
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Wake County school board members have made some creative cuts to fill a $17.5 million budget gap.

Board members approved a 2016-2017 operating budget this week that they say manages to avoid any layoffs, but reduces air conditioning usage slightly, cuts the number of days schools are swept and vacuumed and increases class sizes.

Guilford County fourth grade math teacher Diana Watson scopes out the shelves of donated markers and highlighters at the Guiford Teacher Supply Warehouse.
Jess Clark

Guilford County second grade teacher Nicole Batts-Elder scoped out shelves stacked with spiral notebooks, multicolor folders and bundles of unsharpened pencils at the Guilford County Teacher Supply Warehouse on a recent afternoon.

Wake County School Bus
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

In two weeks, most of North Carolina's public school students will head back to the classroom. We talked to two Duke University researchers to get some tips for how parents can start the year off with their best foot forward.

This image from the governor's office shows teacher pay increasing starting in the 2013-2014 school year.
Office of Governor Pat McCrory

Governor Pat McCrory has made the rise of teacher pay a centerpiece of his bid for reelection. The image above shows the upward climb in average teacher salaries since the 2013-2014 school year. It has appeared behind the governor at public events, including the signing of the 2016-2017 state budget.

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