Reema Khrais

Fletcher Fellow for Education Policy Reporting

Reema Khrais joined WUNC in 2013 to cover education in pre-kindergarten through high school. Previously, she won the prestigious Joan B. Kroc Fellowship. For the fellowship, she spent a year at NPR where she reported nationally, produced on Weekends on All Things Considered and edited on the digital desk. She also spent some time at New York Public Radio as an education reporter, covering the overhaul of vocational schools, the contentious closures of city schools and age-old high school rivalries.

A North Carolina native, Reema began her radio career with Carolina Connection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as an anchor and reporter. She later interned at The Story, and traveled to Cairo, Egypt to produce stories from the 2011 revolution. Her work has also appeared on CNN, The Takeaway and On The Media.

Ways to Connect

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

This story is part of the NPR reporting project “School Money,” 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.

Deputy Chief Cerelyn Davis with the Atlanta Police Department and Major Michael Smathers of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police
Deputy Chief Cerelyn J. Davis, Atlanta Police Department/Maj. Michael J. Smathers, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department

After a months-long search, the city of Durham is getting closer to choosing its next police chief. The city manager has announced two finalists: Deputy Chief Cerelyn Davis with the Atlanta Police Department and Major Michael Smathers of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police.

Lead teacher Amy Brewer goes over a Math lesson at Concord Middle School in Cabarrus County.
Reema Khrais / WUNC

Over the last five years, four different principals have cycled through Concord Middle School. The latest principal to step into the role is Carrie Tulbert. She remembers when the superintendent of Cabarrus County Schools called her last year and asked her if she could come.

“The more he told me about Concord Middle School, the more he just kind of inadvertently pulled at my heart strings,” she explains.

A former state principal of the year, Tulbert decided to take on the challenge of helping to turn around the high-poverty, low-performing middle school.

Reema Khrais / WUNC

On February 10th, 2015, three young Muslim-Americans were murdered in their Chapel Hill apartment.

As kids, Razan Abu-Salha, 19, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and Deah Barakat, 23, attended Al-Iman Islamic School in Raleigh. In the video below, middle schoolers from Al-Iman react to their deaths and reflect on growing up in a climate that feels increasingly anti-Muslim. 

Ted Cruz visited a Raleigh Baptist church on Tuesday afternoon.
WUNC

On Tuesday afternoon, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz greeted supporters at a Raleigh Baptist church and taped a town-hall style interview with Megyn Kelly of Fox News.

He’s the latest presidential candidate to visit North Carolina ahead of the March 15 primary.

Thomas Favre-Bulle / Flickr

About one out of ten black students in Wake County’s Public Schools were suspended last school year, according to an annual report presented to Wake County School Board members on Tuesday.

Black students accounted for 63 percent of Wake’s total suspensions, while making up about of fourth of the overall population. Black students also made up 59 percent of Wake’s individual suspensions.

Yusor Abu-Salha, Deah Barakat and Razan-Abu-Salha were murdered on Feb, 10th, 2015.
Yasmine Inaya, Deah Barakat, Nida Allam / Facebook

One of Yusor Abu-Salha’s favorite foods was butter chicken, an Indian dish. She was a movie buff and ‘Saturday Night Live’ was her go-to show.

Her friends describe her as someone with a solid sense of humor – she had an affinity for pulling pranks and sending colorful Snapchats.

“She had a lot of swag,” her friend, Morjan Rahhal, remembers. 

Photo: Suzanne Barakat
The Moth Radio Hour/ Ian Tervet

On the day of her youngest brother’s wedding, Suzanne Barakat combed his hair, held him and watched him dance in a ballroom with his new life partner.

She thought about how her 23-year-old brother, Deah, was no longer a lanky, basketball-obsessed teenager who struggled to focus on school. He had transformed into a well-rounded, ambitious student at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry and was marrying someone who shared his passion.

An image of child sliding down a sidewalk
Jess Clark / WUNC

Snow, sleet and ice continue to cover the state. Meanwhile, many people are staying safe as they experience the wintry weather. Take a look at what people are up to as the storm sweeps through:

Reema Khrais

In Durham’s Central Park School for Children, classrooms look and feel different than they did just a few years ago. Frankly, the charter school is not as upper-middle class or white as it used to be.

“There’s a greater diversity of viewpoints, there’s a greater diversity of perspectives,” Director John Heffernan explains.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, data from a few years ago show that about a fourth of NC teachers work a part-time job.
Flickr user Mike Mozart

In the popular teenage movie Mean Girls, there’s a scene where a few high school students spot someone unexpected at the mall.

“Oh my god, that’s Mrs. Norbury,” one student exclaims.  

“I love seeing teachers outside of school, it’s like seeing a dog walk on its hinds legs,” a second student adds.   

It’s their math teacher, played by Tina Fey. But she’s not shopping.

“No, actually I’m just here because I bar-tend a couple of nights a week,” she says.

Taking On A Retail Job

10-year-old Tiylar Friday
Reema Khrais / WUNC

Tiylar Friday is a long-time reader.

"Ever since I was, I think, five," he says.

Today, he's 10. And he's got a lot of books.

"Sometimes I wouldn't like to read a book, but after I get in the middle of it, I just want to keep going cause I’m curious about what would happen next."

When Tiylar was in the third grade at his school in Greensboro, he and his peers were tested for gifted classes.

History teacher Karla Albertson goes over civil rights cases with her students at Louisburg High School in Franklin County.
Reema Khrais

Over the last couple of decades, many of North Carolina’s public schools have become increasingly segregated. But in Franklin County, it’s a different story.

The district stands out as having some of the most racially balanced schools in the state—a bright spot in a system working to overcome several challenges.

school bus
Reema Khrais

Franklin County Public Schools are one of a handful of districts in the state bound by court desegregation orders. The federal orders are what helps keeps the schools among the most racially balanced in the state at a time when many districts are re-segregating.

Several local service and faith organizations hosted a multicultural Thanksgiving Dinner to welcome immigrants and refugees.
Reema Khrais

Local service and faith organizations are urging state leaders to not turn their backs on Syrian refugees.

Responding to a national backlash against Syrian refugees, faith leaders and several groups gathered in Greensboro Monday night for a multicultural Thanksgiving dinner to welcome local refugees and immigrants.

A group of student protesters interrupted a UNC town hall meeting about race and inclusion to present their demands.
Reema Khrais

A town hall about race and inclusion on UNC’s campus Thursday drew loud protests and candid reflections from students. The discussion comes on the heels of several campus protests across the country related to racial issues.


classroom
Malate269 / Wikimedia Commons

A coalition of community members has filed a federal complaint accusing the Harnett County school board of perpetuating racial inequalities within its school system.

Republican Phil Berger of Eden is president pro tempore of the state Senate.
http://www.ncleg.net/

Republican Senate leader Phil Berger made blunt remarks about public school reform at a recent gathering held by Best NC, a business-backed education advocacy group.

He suggested “scrapping schools of education” and likened investing in teacher assistants to investing in manual typewriters.

“The stakes are too high to be risk and conflict adverse when it comes to education policy,” he argued.

A group of students, parents and community organizers held a press conference Wednesday to urge Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools to provide a more supportive environment for people of color.
Reema Khrais

A coalition of students, parents and community organizers is calling on Chapel Hill-Carrboro City schools to close the achievement gap between minority and white students.

In a recent report, the group, The Campaign for Racial Equity in Our Schools, urges school leaders to increase access to gifted education programs, provide a race-conscious curriculum and to require training on implicit bias.

School officials say they’re listening to community members and have been developing a long-range plan that holds teachers more accountable. 

The pick-up trucks and cars adorned with Confederate and American flags flapping in the air were hard to miss as they rolled down Franklin Street.

As the caravan came to a stop, one woman got out of her truck with a flag wrapped around her waist. Others sported rebel caps and Confederate t-shirts.

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt speaks to a group of mostly UNC Muslim students during a dinner intended to promote dialogue and encourage connections.
Catherine Lazorko

Aisha Anwar remembers when she attended a campus lecture last year as a UNC-Chapel Hill sophomore. She was one of the only Muslims in the crowd. The guest speaker gave a talk about Catholicism, and then touched on Islam.

“And concluded with some really, you know, I would say intellectually irresponsible conclusions,” she says.

The chambers of the NC State House
Jorge Valencia / WUNC

Lawmakers at the N.C. General Assembly have adjourned for the year, ending the longest session since 2001. An almost all-night session included passage of bills related to immigration, environmental regulations and technical corrections to thousands of pages of legislation passed during the last eight months.

Before the day started, Senate rules chairman Tom Apodaca (R-Hendersonville) told a committee room to “stay tuned” and that “we could see all kinds of things between now and later.”

Immigration Bill Sparks Tense Debate

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

Many school districts in North Carolina are looking for ways to fund some of their teacher positions after changes in the state budget.  

Under the spending plan passed last week, school officials are no longer allowed to use money set aside for teacher assistants to pay for teachers.

State Senate chamber
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

North Carolina cities and counties would be prohibited from being “sanctuaries” for people living in the country illegally, under a bill tentatively approved by the Senate on Thursday.
 
The plan would prohibit local governments from directing their police officers to not collect people’s immigration information and report it to federal authorities. Senate Republicans gave the initial nod in a largely party-line vote of 34 to 11. The House of Representatives would have to agree before sending the bill to the governor.
 

Jorge Valencia / WUNC

Bill Would Ban The Sale Of Fetal Tissue From Abortions

Republicans in the Senate's rules committee cleared a bill on Wednesday  that would ban the sale of fetal tissue from abortions.

House Bill 297  is a reaction to a national controversy after an anti-abortion group’s undercover videos suggested Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue from abortions.  

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