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Thursday, July 24, 2014

DENR investigating landman behind Triangle fracking bids

Posted by on Thu, Jul 24, 2014 at 1:59 PM

Reps for the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) say they are investigating the Pennsylvania agent behind a handful of likely doomed offers to buy mineral rights in the Triangle.

As the Indy reported Wednesday, state law requires representatives for gas and oil companies, otherwise known as "landmen," to register with DENR or risk a civil penalty. Frank Sides, the agent named on the mineral rights offers of Crimson Holdings Incorporated, does not appear to be registered in the state, based on DENR's online registry.

DENR spokesman Jamie Kritzer said his agency was only recently informed of Sides' letters, and will be investigating to determine if he is breaking the law. Sides did not return an Indy phone call this week.

Documents obtained by the Indy this week show Crimson Holdings made offers to buy mineral rights in Durham and Chapel Hill. In Durham, the company sought to buy the rights for several tracts of nature preserves owned by the conservationist Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association. In Chapel Hill, Crimson Holdings offered to buy more than 50 acres of land owned by the town of Chapel Hill in a park abutting the upscale Meadowmont development.

Landowners say they have turned down the offers from Crimson Holdings. Still, it's the first confirmed reports of gas leasing offers made in the state in several years, and it comes weeks after state leaders lifted the fracking moratorium. More on this as it develops.

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    Pennsylvania rep for a prospective driller could be breaking the law.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Driller apparently wants to frack Meadowmont in Chapel Hill

Posted by on Wed, Jul 23, 2014 at 2:58 PM

It appears the relatively unknown Crimson Holdings Corporation wants to frack more than a handful of nature preserves in Durham, as reported in today's Indy.

Documents obtained by the Indy Wednesday show the company, which appears to be a small operation in Pittsburgh, made a similar request for mineral rights to the Chapel Hill Town Council last week. Their target? Roughly 51 acres of town-owned park land abutting Meadowmont, an upscale development on the border between Durham and Orange counties.

Chapel Hill Town Councilman Ed Harrison said the Meadowmont land is the largest town-owned tract in Durham County. The response from Chapel Hill appears to be bemusement.

In an email to Town Council members last week, Town Manager Roger Stancil wrote that he did not plan to take any action on the Crimson Holdings request following a meeting with the town's attorney.

In the letter, Crimson Holdings offered the town a fairly low leasing bonus of $5 per acre. As reported today, landowners in states with more of a known quantity of gas can command bonuses in the area of tens of thousands of dollars per acre.

It's the third confirmed gas leasing correspondence between Crimson Holdings and local landowners. Last week, leaders of the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association, a conservationist group in Durham, declined the company's requests for mineral rights on several tracts. Another Durham County resident near Falls Lake also confirmed that they received a mineral rights leasing request from Crimson Holdings.

According to James Robinson, a leasing expert with Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA), it's the first confirmed leasing activity in North Carolina in several years. It comes about two months after state leaders lifted North Carolina's fracking moratorium.

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    But don't expect Chapel Hill Town Council to go along.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Chapel Hill High graffiti artists troll principal

Posted by on Fri, Jun 20, 2014 at 12:46 PM

Graffiti trolling Principal Jackson at Chapel Hill High this month.
  • Graffiti trolling Principal Jackson at Chapel Hill High this month.

Behold: Graffiti artists with an apparent, albeit spotty, grasp of ethics.

An Indy reader sent us this photo, taken at Chapel Hill High School earlier this month. It appears to be a prank trolling Principal Sulura Jackson, who was accused by teachers last year of failing to cite her sources in numerous letters and writings.

Although it's cut off in the photo, the pranksters wrote "cite this" before directing Jackson to Easybib, a free, online bibliography generator. They also took the time to misspell Jackson's first name and write the word "plagiarism" with a slash through it.

Tensions are high at Chapel Hill High these days, following the plagiarism allegations and a recently-released teacher survey panning school leadership.

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    Prank takes aim at plagiarism allegations against Principal Sulura Jackson.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Orange County commissioners to consider tax increase tonight

Posted by on Tue, Jun 17, 2014 at 2:31 PM

Guard your pocketbooks. One of the Triangle's most expensive places to live may soon be a little more expensive.

Orange County commissioners are expected to vote tonight on a $200.4 million budget that includes a 2-cent property tax increase. Officials say the cash is needed to pay for the needs of the county's two school systems, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and Orange County Schools. The plan would spend roughly $97 million on the two systems.

Chapel Hill leaders have already approved a one-cent tax increase. Tonight's meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Southern Human Services Center on Homestead Road in Chapel Hill.

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    Proposed budget would raise property taxes by 2 cents.

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Chapel Hill High principal addresses plagiarism allegations

Posted by on Mon, Nov 25, 2013 at 5:12 PM

Embattled Chapel Hill High School Principal Sulura Jackson addressed the allegations of plagiarism in a recorded phone message this weekend, apologizing for the distraction caused by the controversy and pledging proper citation in the future.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools spokesman Jeff Nash confirmed Monday that parents and staff at the Chapel Hill school received the message Friday night. Jackson is accused of plagiarism in school memos and letters both before and after her arrival in Chapel Hill this summer.

“Although I was saddened to hear it through the newspaper, I have heard the requests of this staff and community and, beginning now, I am committed to citing these sources, whether broad or specific, and modeling proper protocols for all to see,” Jackson said in the message.

Nash did not say whether any additional disciplinary action is pending for the principal. Multiple documents obtained by INDY Week show Jackson seemed to lift entire passages for letters and messages written in her capacity as principal at Chapel Hill High and her former school, Skyline High in Ann Arbor, Mich. Jackson would sign those passages herself and offer no citations.

Members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education have not returned multiple phone calls for comment on the controversy, which has angered parents and some staff at the school.

Jackson defended herself last week in the INDY, saying her actions do not qualify as plagiarism because she is not receiving compensation for that work or turning in her writing for a grade. That would seem to clash with her school's definition of plagiarism. According to the student handbook, plagiarism would denote "copying the language, structure, idea and/or thought of another person and representing it as one's own original work or using information obtained from printed or electronic media that is not appropriately referenced."

Here is Jackson’s recorded message in its entirety:

“Good evening Chapel Hill High students, parents and staff. This is Principal Sulura Jackson.

I'm calling this evening to tell you about an important lesson I learned this week regarding the value of always citing sources in newsletters and other internal correspondence that goes out to staff. Throughout my career, I have made a practice of implementing a variety of resources, including books, online tools and even public access templates specifically designed for educators to use in communicating.

Although I was saddened to hear it through the newspaper, I have heard the requests of this staff and community and, beginning now, I am committed to citing these sources, whether broad or specific, and modeling proper protocols for all to see.

As always, I am happy to entertain any questions about my intentions or sources and I apologize for any distraction this may have caused.

Thank you for listening and have a great weekend.”

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    Principal apologizes for the distraction caused by the controversy.

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

More evidence of Chapel Hill High plagiarism?

Posted by on Thu, Nov 21, 2013 at 3:06 PM

The future for Chapel Hill High School Principal Sulura Jackson is unclear at the moment, following this week's plagiarism allegations. The allegations, as well as the evidence, are covered in detail in this week's Indy. Read it online here.

Members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education were already scheduled to meet tonight at the Lincoln Center in Chapel Hill. The board's agenda says members will discuss a personnel matter in closed session starting at 6 p.m. The public portion of the meeting begins at 7 p.m.

School administrators have defended Jackson, lauding her for attempts to increase communication at the school. However, many parents and teachers are angry.

For her part, Jackson has not denied using other materials to fill her writing, but she says it would not be considered plagiarism because she is not turning in her memos and letters for a grade or compensation.

Here is the Chapel Hill High student handbook. This is what it says on plagiarism: "Plagiarizing is copying the language, structure, idea and/or thought of another person and representing it as one's own original work or using information obtained from printed or electronic media that is not appropriately referenced."

Due to space limitations with this week's story, not all of the corresponding documents could be shown. We will post some of these documents here, including memos that show the principal—before and after her arrival at Chapel Hill High—lifted quotes and ideas from books without providing citation.

This first memo on finishing strong, dated November 2012 when Jackson was principal at Skyline High in Ann Arbor, Mich., pulls directly from a book by motivational writer Dan Green. Jackson signs the memo as if they are her words and does not offer any citation.

In this August 2013 memo (PDF below) to Chapel Hill High staff, Jackson talks about something she calls the "100/0 principle," a method of relationship building she explains as taking "full responsibility (the 100) for the relationship, expecting nothing (the 0) in return."

August_26_-_30__2013.pdf

The problem is that the idea belongs to workplace consultant Al Ritter. Watch a video explaining the idea here. The word choice will sound familiar.

More to come on this as it happens.

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    Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education to discuss personnel matter in closed session tonight.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Redistricting begins again in Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools

Posted by on Thu, Nov 7, 2013 at 2:33 PM

Expect redistricting drama to begin anew in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools tonight.

The school system's Board of Education will take on the subject of Glenwood Elementary overcrowding during tonight's meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Smith Middle School auditorium on Seawell School Road. Read the agenda here.

School officials say Chapel Hill's Glenwood Elementary, home of an expanding Mandarin Dual Language program, is already 90 students above its capacity. That number will grow to 155 in 2014-2015 as the school's dual language and non-dual language programs continue to swell.

The popular dual language program allows students to receive instruction in both English and Mandarin with the goal of encouraging bilingual students.

Solutions on the table for school board members include a redistricting and the creation of a magnet school with Spanish and Mandarin dual language programs in fall 2015 or fall 2014.

Redistricting, which must be approved by the Board of Education, figures to affect multiple schools, with one staff recommendation diverting 84 children to Northside and Rashkis elementary schools.

The new redistricting comes just months after school board members settled a contentious redistricting to fill Chapel Hill's Northside Elementary Schools. Expect fresh fireworks. Stay tuned.

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    Board of Education to take up Glenwood Elementary overcrowding tonight.

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Orange County races over

Posted by on Wed, Nov 6, 2013 at 8:07 AM

Incumbents coasted and a few plucky newcomers were winners in last night's elections in Orange County.

In the race for four seats on the Chapel Hill Town Council, the clear winners were current Mayor Pro Tem Ed Harrison, Councilwoman Sally Greene and two challengers in local pastor Maria Palmer and Duke University pathologist George Cianciolo.  

In Carrboro, the three incumbents—Jacquelyn Gist, Randee Haven-O'Donnell and Sammy Slade—were the victors.

In Hillsborough, Jenn Weaver and Kathleen Ferguson won seats on the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners.

And in the race for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education, information technology specialist Andrew Davidson joined incumbents Michelle Brownstein and James Barrett in victory. 

Meanwhile, Lydia Lavelle, Tom Stevens and Mark Kleinschmidt ran unopposed for mayor in Carrboro, Hillsborough and Chapel Hill, respectively.

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    Incumbents coast and a few newcomers claim open seats

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Chapel Hill leaders call for break with Russian sister city

Posted by on Thu, Aug 22, 2013 at 3:28 PM

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt
  • Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt

Amid the continuing backlash to Russia's anti-gay "propaganda" law, two openly LGBT leaders in Chapel Hill are calling for the town to sever its "sister city" relationship with a Russian city.

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Councilman Lee Storrow condemned the law in a joint statement Thursday afternoon, describing the news from Russia as "heartbreaking."

"Innocent individuals and families face persecution, violence and detainment for expressing themselves openly and non-violently in the public square," the statement reads. "These laws are deplorable and do nothing but create hardship, suffering, and in some cases death, for innocent people."

Chapel Hill currently has the "sister city" bond with Saratov, a port city in western Russia. Generally speaking, sister cities indicate mostly symbolic agreements to foster cultural understanding or, in some cases, business agreements.

Kleinschmidt and Storrow say the town's relationship with Saratov is "inactive" and should be eliminated.

Chapel Hill Town Councilman Lee Storrow
  • Chapel Hill Town Councilman Lee Storrow
"LGBT citizens in all societies represent a great source of talent and value, able to contribute immeasurably to the betterment of a nation and a people," the statement continues.  "Until Russian society is able to come to this basic truth, we see no ability to move forward in a productive sister city relationship with a Russian city or town."

Durham leaders are also under pressure to sever their relationship with the Russian city of Kostroma.

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    Kleinschmidt, Storrow condemn anti-gay Russian law

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Indeed, Cardinal Innovations receives federal funding

Posted by on Wed, May 15, 2013 at 12:32 PM

As an addendum to today's story, Cardinal Innovations spokeswoman Rachel Porter confirmed after deadline Tuesday that her agency—known in official lingo as a managed care organization—does indeed receive federal funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

That information is key because it confirms the state-funded Cardinal Innovations, formerly known as Piedmont Behavioral Health, is subject to the findings of a federal investigation into whether Cardinal has broken federal law by denying mental health care reimbursements for the treatment of undocumented immigrants in its 15-county service area, which includes Orange and Chatham counties.

As reported in today's INDY Week, HHS' Office for Civil Rights is probing the Kannapolis-based organization. Latino advocates say Cardinal's policy is effectively cutting off treatment for the undocumented community, a possible violation of federal discrimination laws.

Managed care organizations such as Cardinal Innovations are tasked with disbursing state mental health care dollars for the treatment of low-income residents. Undocumented immigrants do not qualify for Medicaid cash. But the state has deployed an alternate form of funding, known as integrated payment and reporting system (IPRS) dollars, to cover Medicaid gaps in the past.

Activists say Cardinal Innovations is declining the use of IPRS funds for that purpose today, and the impact has been felt in nonprofit organizations such as El Futuro that offer mental health care and substance abuse treatment for the undocumented community.

If the Office for Civil Rights inquiry finds Cardinal Innovations in the wrong, Cardinal can be forced to alter its policy or risk losing federal funding. Porter could not specify how much HHS funding the agency receives as of Tuesday night.

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    The news confirms the agency is subject to a federal investigation into discrimination against the undocumented community.

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