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

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.

a nationwide collaboration between NPR’s Ed Team and 20 member station reporters exploring how states pay for their public schools and why many are failing to meet the needs of their most vulnerable students.
Leigh Ann Cross

State Board of Education members voted Thursday to approve eight new charter schools.

The schools got the green light, but they will still have to meet a number of requirements by next summer before being allowed to open for the 2017-2018 school year. Those requirements include hiring staff, finding a facility, recruiting board members and drafting policies.

Wake County School Bus
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Wake County school board members are considering where they can make cuts in order to fill a $17.5 million budget gap. A proposed plan would increase class sizes, freeze teachers' local salary supplements and cut back on custodial services.

Studies show later school start times for teens improve health and academics.
Wikimedia Commons

Students in Durham's year-round traditional public schools head back to the classroom today. They'll be the first group of students to experience the district's new bell schedule.

Composite photo of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
U.S. Embassy and Gage Skidmore / flickr

Updated July 6 at 7:06 a.m.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump fired up supporters at two separate rallies in North Carolina Tuesday, as both presumptive presidential candidates sought to gain a lead in the battleground state.

House lawmakers propose small increases in teacher pay based on years of experience.
www.audio-luci-store.it / Flickr

In their budget compromise, lawmakers have allocated millions of dollars to give certain teachers bonuses for how well their students perform. Top third-grade reading teachers would earn thousands of dollars extra, and Advanced Placement teachers would receive $50 for each of their students who passes an AP or other advanced test.

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrest.
Wikimedia Commons

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the most recent action from the state Legislature.  

Republican lawmakers in the state Senate have passed a provision that would allow the state to withhold school and road funding from cities, towns and counties that don't comply with state immigration laws. The change would also prohibit local governments from issuing their own identification cards to people who are in the country without papers.

North Carolina State Legislature
Dave Crosby / Flickr

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the most recent action from the state Legislature.

State Senators approved a budget Tuesday night following more than an hour of review and debate.

Lawmakers are considering a number of education changes.
Courtesy of Pixbay.com

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the most recent action from the state Legislature. 

Changes to the charter school renewal process have cleared both the state House and Senate, and are on their way to the governor's desk.

A body camera on a North Charleston police officer.
Ryan Johnson / Creative Commons

Lawmakers in the North Carolina House have voted in favor of a bill that would keep police body camera video out of the public record. Under the provision, the footage wouldn't be personnel records either.

A bill seeks to protect air space for military exercises by prohibiting wind farms.
Paulo Valdivieso / Flickr Creative Commons

Lawmakers in the state Senate have passed a bill that would prohibit wind farms from being built in most of central and eastern North Carolina. Bill sponsor Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow) says the measure protects airspace the state's military bases use in training exercises.

Pages