Ken Larsen's web site - Chapel Hill/Carrboro School Issues


I don't have any children in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro school system, but in October of 2015 I thought I'd make an effort to understand the school issues ... so that I could make an informed decision in the November 2015 local election. 


Here's the website of the Chapel Hill/Carrboro school system:


This list is ordered by my opinion of their priority, and the content is my opinion.  Don't treat anything said here as official school policy. 




Ken's comments and questions
1 Capital needs There is a $ 350M backlog of maintenance needs.  Some of our schools have passed their intended life and are over capacity.  There is a high need for renovation, and repair. [details]

It's important to note that maintenance must be done on a regular basis.  If this is not done, then costs can skyrocket.  For example, if a roof should be replaced after 30 years, but you wait until year 40, then leaks may occur.  Damage from those leaks may be far more expensive to fix.
The Board of Orange County Commissioners (BOCC) is at fault.  They have mismanaged the budget.  In 2017 they voted 5-2 to throw taxpayer money at light rail (DOLRT) instead of at schools.  [details]
2 Operating budget Continued decline in revenue as education needs increase.  (State and Federal funding down significantly since 2008) The fault lies with: 

1. The NC General Assembly (principally Republicans).  They have passed laws (e.g the voucher system) that have crippled public schools.

2. The BoCC.  In an April 2017 they voted to support light rail (DOLRT).  They will be an extraordinary waste of taxpayer money.  Scarce funds should be spent on school ... not light rail.  [details]


Achievement Gap Some subgroups continue to not be successful learning in the CHCCS system.  We see persistent gaps in testing outcomes in populations of Black, Latinos, economically disadvantaged and children with disabilities versus white and Asian students.  The gaps are very significant (for example, on average white/Asian students score 80% on proficiency test while on average blacks score about 30%, that is, more than 2/3 black students do not meet basic proficiency standards!) and persistent and we need to figure out how to design a system that can educate all children effectively.  We're all connected so everyone's education is important.

[October 6, 2015] This achievement gap has been in continuous existence for almost 50 years according to Rani Dasi.

[Ken's paper on the achievement gap]

(January 21, 2016) I speak before the school board to advocate that they consider using Kepner-Tregoe decision analysis as a way to decide how best to resolve the achievement gap.  See my 3 minute speech:  (video of my 3 minute pitch)  They never take me up on my offer.

Example of how I believe Kepner-Tregoe decision analysis can be used to address the achievement gap issue:

4 Confederate Flag issue Some white students wear the confederate flag on their clothing.  Some have it decaled on cars that they drive to school.  This upsets the black students. I posted this online comment to a Chapel Hill News story.

(May 5, 2017) I think the Confederate flag has been the response by white students to the "black lives matter" and the achievement gap/racism issues brought forward by the black community.  This has turned into an ugly issue.

5 Gifted education Gifted education:  How do we service more students effectively?  
6 Teacher acquisition and retention The state legislature which sets teacher pay has continued to not show value for teachers.  Currently NC is the 50th state in teacher funding.  This has become such a public issue, we are now losing teachers and challenged to fill spots. Same answer as #2.
7 Affordable housing Teachers and other school employees (cafeteria workers, bus drivers, security personnel) can't afford to live in Chapel Hill due to their low salaries and the high cost of housing.  
8 Racial inequity Gregory McElveen, chair of NAACP Education Committee (N&O Nov 19, 2015) "Black and brown students are disciplined at three to five times the rate of their white and Asian peers.  Parents of color frequently report feeling disrespected, discouraged or ignored by school faculty and staff.  Moreover, ongoing incidents of racial insensitivity on the part of students and teachers alike indicates that we are not preparing students well for the multicultural, interdependent world which they will need to navigate." See Excellence with Equity:  The Schools Our Children Deserve (87 page document developed by Carrboro/Chapel Hill NAACP.  It documents proposals for how best to deal with racial inequity.)

(March 10, 2016) NC Policy Watch article: "Black students significantly more likely to face suspension in North Carolina".
9 Teacher-Administrator conflicts It's alleged that administrators have been bullying teachers causing many them to feel underappreciated, and they leave.  
10 Discipline issues Discipline issues are more frequent than many years ago. Children are bored with traditional brick and mortar schools and classroom education.  They have internet, cell phones, smart phones, and video games.  All of these are fast paced.  A bored child is more likely to become a discipline problem.
11 Standardized testing There is debate about the value of standardized testing. I regard standardized testing as an absolute necessity.  The tests provide a uniform way of seeing where strengths and weaknesses lie across the entire U.S.  Without standardized testing, testing is left up to individual teachers, and the tests could vary by a significant degree.  An "A" on one teacher's test could be a "D" on another.  That would be like comparing 100 meter sprint times when the length of a meter varied from one track to the next.  That would be absurd.

The argument against standardized testing is that standardized tests have cultural bias.  I think that's a lot of malarkey. 
12 Insufficient number of teacher aids    
13 Charter schools There is a lot of debate about the value of charter schools.  What changes should be made?  
14 Walkability Schools need to be made more walkable ... Or, should we bus children to achieve better integration? (March 10, 2016) NC Policy Watch article: "Veteran NC school teacher explains why integrated schools are essential".
15 LGBT issues Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender issues such as which bathroom for a transgender teen to use.  
16 Life preparation (added November 10, 2017) I recommend that some "vital life skills" classes be taught in high school. [details]
17 Mandarin dual language program This program began several years ago to help the children of visiting Chinese who were serving a fellowship or doing grad study at UNC.  Immersion is pretty hard for these children.  The child's math and social studies programs are taught in Mandarin while the child’s English and science are taught in English.  These classes are taught at Glenwood elementary school.  Many of the approximately 100 children have to be bused there. To my knowledge, UNC is not helping to fund this program.  That's not right, because they are the beneficiaries.  UNC has recruited the Chinese parent to attend UNC.  Curently, Chapel Hill taxpayers must foot the bill (busing + specail instructors), but Chapel Hill schools are under extremely tight budget constraints.

It should also be known that some local English-speaking parents are enrolling their children in this program ... to help them learn Chinese.  That's not the original intent of the program.



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