Public Education is the Bedrock of our Democratic Society

ELECTION 2021

By George Griffin

Note: The Local Reporter has invited all candidates for local office in the upcoming Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district elections to submit up to two guest columns.

I am running for a seat on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (CHCCS) Board of Education to pay it forward to generations to come. I have lived in the Chapel Hill community for over 40 years. I have two adult children who both attended CHCCS schools from kindergarten through high school. My three-year-old grandson lives nearby and spending time with him is truly the high point of any day! To learn more about me, my career as a teacher and school administrator, and my educational leadership history, please visit my website at: https://griffinforschools.com

Born and raised in Detroit, I attended public schools from kindergarten through high school. I came south to North Carolina to attend Duke University, moved to Anchorage, Alaska for an adventurous two-year stint and then returned “home” to North Carolina for good.

My education includes:

  • B.A., Sociology, Duke, 1971
  • M.Ed., Special Education, Duke, 1975
  • Ph.D., Special Education, UNC-CH, 1984

My first day in kindergarten in September 1954 (yes a very long time ago!) was in Harper Woods, Michigan. I remember many scenes and events from that year that are eerily like our current struggles with the COVID-19 virus. The polio epidemic had been raging for several years and continued to take its annual summer toll, and my family was no exception. On July 4, 1954, my neighborhood was having a Fourth of July bike parade and I was in it! My mother fell ill while watching, was carried into the house, and the next day was taken by ambulance to the hospital, stricken with the dreaded polio virus. It would be a year before she returned home, now a paraplegic and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. The first polio vaccine became available in 1955, and our world was changed for the better. Hopefully, the same is beginning to happen again.

Fast forward to today. I recently retired from a successful and fulfilling 46-year career in teaching and administration. Serving now on the school board is a way to “give back” to our community, and to support quality education for students in the years ahead. I am passionate about public education. To me, it is a bedrock of our democratic society, and it is under siege like never before.

Our children are fortunate to have an excellent and progressive school system with many strengths. We also have challenges that require experienced and thoughtful leadership.

  • The achievement gap between white and nonwhite students remains unacceptably large. Some systemic changes are needed and are long overdue. We’ve got to get this right.
  • School safety issues require thoughtful and pragmatic solutions. I learned early in my career that a safe school is a sine qua non for an effective school.
  • Many students have unmet social/emotional needs. My entire career has focused on teaching students with social/emotional problems and on developing community partnerships to support them.
  • The pandemic has created an entire subset of challenges (e.g., health safety, remote instruction, student attendance and participation, calendar planning, etc.), highlighting the need for experienced leadership.

My education impacted me in ways I never imagined. I fondly recall some of my teachers and professors who challenged my thinking, lived their values, and were passionate about their work. As an undergraduate, I began volunteer work with young residents of the Murdoch Center in Butner, North Carolina. This experience launched me into a career in special education. I also became actively involved in anti-war and civil rights issues; both are passions that have carried over to today. Back in the day, I thought I could change the world one student at a time. I still believe that today.


George Griffin is a candidate for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education.

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