By Heather Smith Craig
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education met virtually Jan. 20 to make committee assignments and to discuss the district budget and mentoring programs.
In addition to their participation in regular monthly meetings of the full school board, BOE members serve on three different kinds of committee: board committees comprise a subset of BOE members; district committees are convened and scheduled by CHCCS staff; and non-district committees are convened by local municipal and/or county governments. There are two types of board committees: standing committees must have at least two board members and can make recommendations to the full board, while ad hoc committees are formed by the BOE Chair as needed to work on a particular task and report back to the full board.
BOE members generally are assigned to particular committees based on their interests or expertise and serving on district and non-district committees helps members stay engaged with and informed about different school district and community groups.
At Thursday’s meeting, the board voted to merge the Finance standing committee and the Facilities standing committee and changed the Communications, Curriculum, and Building and Grounds standing committees to ad hoc committees.
The board learned that the Equity Advisory Committee (EAC) and Technology Advisory Committee (TAC) have not been meeting. Both committees are district committees. CHCCS Chief Equity and Engagement Officer Dr. Rodney Trice said he would be meeting with his team Jan. 25 to talk about the future of the EAC committee. He further said he has discussed what the EAC committee should look like with the local NAACP chapter, the Campaign for Racial Equity and with parents who previously served on the EAC committee. Board Chair Deon Temne praised these steps and said, “This is where some of our core work lies.” The Technology Advisory Committee, which began meeting during the pandemic, may be folded into a different committee and have different goals than as currently structured.
Board member Ashton Powell stated that board members should be able to attend meetings of committees to which they are not assigned in order to “hear what is going on,” and become better informed. Chair Temne stated his support for this idea.
A new standing committee on “Data review, teaching and learning and student success” may be formed after the board receives an update on this subject from district administration at the Feb. 22 board meeting.
Board member Riza Jenkins suggested that community members be permitted to apply to serve on district committees. Superintendent Dr. Hamlett agreed, but cautioned that, “This is a new process,” and the public does not yet have a way to access these district committee meetings all in one place.
Chair Temne requested that committee meetings be posted on an online calendar that the public can access.
Because all board committee meetings are subject to the North Carolina Open Meetings law, Dr. Hamlett suggested that board members update each other on their committee work during the ‘sharing’ segment of board meetings so there is no communication between board members external to their meetings. Any written committee reports would be posted publicly.
Chair Temne will finalize board member committee assignments and make the information available to the public.
CHCCS per pupil spending below national average
Chief financial officer Jonathan Scott presented an overview of the district’s budget development process. Priorities that will guide development of the budget include equity, staffing and capital improvement needs. Staff will hold meetings from January through May and then submit the proposed budget to the Orange County Commissioners. Mr. Scott reminded the board that CHCCS’s per pupil spending is $1,647 below the national average, though CHCCS ranks first in North Carolina on this metric.
Board member George Griffin said, “Budget drives what we can do, yet I always want to approach it [in terms of] what we think is important… from a big picture perspective.” He asked Dr. Hamlett how the budget could address “our big picture problems.”
Dr. Hamlett responded that the district is “developing a tiered system of support for our schools based on multiple data points, so we can develop a menu of services” tailored to each school’s needs. Staff will develop this support system along with the budget and share it with school principals.
The meeting began with a proclamation of National Mentoring Month and ended, appropriately, with an update from Dr. Trice about the district’s Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate program. Trice said, “Research has found that mentoring is one of the most stable predictors of positive student achievement.”
The BRMA program is undergoing revision. Coordinator of Student Leadership & Engagement Lorie Clark presented some of the challenges facing the program, including fewer student enrichment activities, lack of mentor recruitment and lack of mentoring at the elementary school level. To address these challenges, efforts are underway to create a new leadership structure and to initiate new services. Ms. Clark said that the program would begin recruiting 3rd– and 4th-grade students in the spring and fall. Currently, 84 students in the program are matched with mentors.
The next board meeting will take place Feb. 22.