By Heather Smith Craig
New CHCCS Board of Education members George Griffin, Riza Jenkins and Mike Sharp were surrounded by friends and family as they were sworn in by Judge and former BOE member Joal Brown at the board’s Dec. 2 meeting. These new additions bring the total number of board members up to 7 members, including Ashton Powell, Rani Dasi, Deon Temne and Jillian LaSerna.
The terms of outgoing members Lisa Kaylie and Mary Ann Wolf expired after the Nov. 18 meeting and a vacancy was left when Joal Broun was appointed Judicial District 15B Court Judge in July. Lisa Kaylie was appointed in March 2021 to replace Dr. Amy Fowler, who had been elected to the Orange County Board of Commissioners. Mary Ann Wolf was elected in 2017.
Jillian LaSerna nominated vice chairperson Deon Temne for the position of BOE chairperson. In her nomination, LaSerna said, “He has shown excellent leadership and dedication. … He always puts students first, no matter what.” His nomination was seconded by Ashton Powell, and the board elected him unanimously.
Ashton Powell nominated Rani Dasi for the vice chairperson position and Jillian LaSerna seconded the nomination. LaSerna said, “I was so grateful for her mentorship and leadership as a new board member. … She has the experience to help us through as we continue to navigate a pandemic and really work toward moving students and schools forward in this new period of learning.” The board voted unanimously to elect Dasi vice chairperson. Dasi has served on the school board since 2015; she served as vice chairperson from 2016-2017 and as chairperson from 2017-2018.
After shuffling seats and name plates, the board approved several personnel items and opened the floor to public comment.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro Association of Educators President Brian Link began by congratulating the new board members and noted the in-school experience the new members bring to the board. He also expressed his support for those who are protesting the treatment of certain Black male teacher assistants at East Chapel Hill High School. Chapelboro originally reported that a Black male TA at ECHHS was transferred to a different classroom at the request of a parent. Subsequent reporting clarified that the email message in which the parent asked for the TA to be reassigned did not specify gender or race.
A number of parents and students spoke regarding this issue, including Lauren Butler, the parent of a ECHHS student, who recited a poem to the board to protest racial inequity.
Students from the ECHHS – NAACP Youth Council spoke regarding Black and minority teacher attrition in the district and recounted how few Black or minority teachers they have had in their academic careers in CHCCS.
Superintendent Dr. Nyah Hamlett, in a Dec. 3 email message to the community, acknowledged the concerns voiced by those who commented at the meeting. “I hear you,” she said, “and we are taking action.”
CHCCS attorney Ken Soo will take a three-month sabbatical starting Jan. 31, 2022.
The next BOE meeting will take place Dec. 16.