The N.C. Department of Public Instruction released reports today on school discipline and high school dropouts. The rate of dropouts decreased statewide and in Durham, Orange, Wake and Chatham counties. The rate increased slightly in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools.
Statewide, the numbers of suspensions and expulsions of students decreased, as well, according to a statement from N.C. DPI.
With the approval of almost 57 percent of voters, Durham County Commissioners officially adopted a resolution Monday night to begin collecting a new quarter-cent sales tax on April 1, 2012. The tax will apply to the sales of goods, but not food, medicine, housing, gas or utilities.
Voters approved the tax, which will benefit public education in Durham County, through the Nov. 8 ballot.
That ballot also included a new half-cent tax for mass transit, which voters also approved by 60 percent. But the transit sales tax won't be levied until Durham leaders see whether leaders and residents in Wake and Orange counties will also consider a similar tax to move forward on regional commuter and light-rail projects.
The first full year of collections for the education tax in 2013 is expected to generate as much as $9.2 million. Most of the revenue will preserve teaching jobs and pay for school facility improvements in Durham Public Schools. Durham Technical Community College will also receive funds that will be used for scholarships, and Durham's Partnership for Children, which provides educational and other programs for young children.
State education officials are reviewing 27 applications for new charter schools across the state, including two in Durham County, two in Wake County and one in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district.
A new state law passed this year raised the limit on charter schools in North Carolina, which previously had been capped at 100. The applications were due last Thursday, and will be reviewed by the N.C. Public Charter School Advisory Council (CSAC) before being submitted to the State Board of Education.
The applicants are aiming to have their schools up and running in August 2012. This first group of applicants is a special, "fast-tracked," pool because they have a previous relationship or record with the state, according to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction website. For instance, several of the applicants had been interviewed by the state before, but were not granted a charter because of the previous statewide cap.
The state will hold a separate, regular application process later this fall for other charter schools. Those applications will be due in April 2012. (More information on the application process)
The applicants in Triangle school districts are:
The Howard & Lillian Lee Scholars Charter School, Angela Lee
Research Triangle High School, Pamela Blizzard
Quality Education Academy of Durham, Alethea Bell
Widsom Academy, Craig James
Triangle Math and Science Academy, Kenan Gundogdu
Brian Bower, who said his top priority if elected to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board would be “to pick my jaw from off the floor,” removed that possibility Wednesday night by dropping out of the race.
Bower, a UNC graduate student who was running primarily to establish in-state residency and earn lower tuition costs, is withdrawing from the race both because of the “remote possibility that my candidacy might jeopardize the re-election of Ms. (Jamezetta) Bedford,” he wrote in a statement, and because UNC recently approved his application to be an in-state student.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Chairwoman Jamezetta Bedford thought she had no opponents in her re-election bid. Today, eight days before the polls open, she learned she has to contend with seven other candidates also running for school board seats.
Seven other candidates, including three other incumbents, filed for four seats, all four-year terms.
But today, Bedford learned that she can't just run for a two-year term. The Orange County and North Carolina board of elections overlooked local election law passed in 1975 that requires all candidates to run in the same pool. The top four finishers will earn four-year terms, and the fifth place candidate will be awarded the two-year term.
A controversial proposal to bring a center for the N.C. Constitution to the N.C. Central University law school is now off the table.
The proposal was withdrawn in a letter Tuesday from Bob Orr, a former state Supreme Court justice and director for the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law. In the letter to NCCU School of Law Dean Raymond Pierce, Orr said he had a change of heart.
"...for the past several months it has become increasingly clear that my time and efforts can be best spent elsewhere," Orr wrote in the letter (PDF). "Starting a Center at the Law School is now clearly inconsistent with the direction I prefer to go in my career. Therefore, I am respectfully withdrawing the proposal I submitted."
The letter alluded only vaguely to the controversy brewing in recent weeks surrounding the proposal to locate a center for study of the state constitution at the law school in Durham, with Orr as the inaugural director. Orr was an adjunct law professor at the school for more than 10 years.
"While I have been appreciative of the positive comments I have received about the proposal, there have also been unfortunate misapprehensions about the governance and mission of such a Center," Orr wrote. In an interview Friday, Orr added that he's answered questions about how the center would have operated, but they apparently lingered.
Orr said he originally started talking to Pierce about forming a center at NCCU last spring, but that the process has dragged on much longer than he expected, and because of other priorities, he decided he no longer wanted to be involved. Both in his letter and by phone, Orr said that the law school needed to be "enthusiastically supportive" of the idea. Overwhelmingly, that was not the case.
Alumni of the law school and other members of the NCCU community sent letters and emails to law school faculty against the proposal because its initial three years of funding would come from the Pope Foundation—an organization led by former Republican legislator and conservative activist Art Pope. (See one flier passed out at NCCU, PDF)
Update: Former Director of Housekeeping Services Bill Burston "is no longer employed" by UNC as of Wednesday, a campus spokeswoman confirmed Friday. Burston was removed from his director role in June amid employee complaints and reassigned to a new role. University Mail Services Director Lea Holt was named interim. The school will begin a search for a new full-time director immediately.
PRM Consulting, the Washington, D.C., firm UNC hired in March to investigate claims of discrimination, harassment and other poor working conditions in its housing department, released 45 recommendations for change Thursday, including a new performance evaluation for managers and an audit or all new hires and promotions.
Surveys with 400 housekeeping employees revealed “a culture with employee morale issues, lack of trust and overall frustration.”
At least 30 percent or those queried disagreed or strongly disagreed that work assignments are made fairly, that management promotes an environment of respect and dignity, free of harassment, discrimination and intimidation and that management cares about the welfare of its employees.
Results were detailed to housekeepers at three closed-to-the-media meetings Thursday to cover all shifts, before the report was publicly released.
Last year, the Indy reported that housekeepers were being suspended without pay for taking their entitled breaks. Housekeepers and their supporters rallied and delivered a collective grievance to Thorp.
In June, we reported that housekeeper Amanda Hulon filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against supervisor Wade Farrington stating that he offered her a promotion in exchange for sex and touched her inappropriately.
In his memo to faculty and staff, Thorp announced 10 steps to respond to the report, among them: establishing an advisory committee of housekeeping employees, conducting a study of salaries in the department to determine possible pay discrepancies and reviewing and revising recruitment and hiring practices,
“As expected, the report makes it clear that Housekeeping Services has substantial issues that the University must address. More importantly, the report also offers a host of recommendations and potential action items that we can consider, on both a short- and long-term basis,” Thorp wrote.
“I am absolutely committed to making things right in Housekeeping Services. We have been working to fix these problems, but those sincere attempts have fallen short.”
Look for analysis and more on the consultant’s report in Wednesday’s print edition.
Shortly after reading the news that the N.C. Central University law school could potentially host a constitutional law institute funded by conservative politico Art Pope, law school alumna Sarah Farber sent a letter to Dean Raymond Pierce, imploring him to vote against the proposal.
An affiliation with the Pope name would tarnish the NCCU brand, Farber wrote in her letter, which she also sent to the Indy.
"I want the Law School to continue its storied tradition of producing not just lawyers, not just legislators, but social engineers who fight for the rights of under-served and under-represented populations. I question the School’s ability to continue that bold mission if its funding is tied to Pope monies, funds that seem to be destined to undermine civil rights," Farber wrote.
Pope, a business owner, former lawmaker and Republican activist, is a major funder of the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law. This month, the director of the institute wrote to NCCU proposing that NCICL locate a center on the NCCU campus in Durham. The proposal says Pope's foundation would provide $600,000 start-up money for the center. The proposition also states putting the NCICL center on campus would enhance the constitutional and civil rights concentration at the law school.
An NCCU spokeswoman told the Indy last week that law school faculty are scheduled to vote on the matter in the next few weeks.
Read Farber's entire letter on the jump.
An N.C. Central University spokeswoman confirmed late Thursday that the director of the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law has proposed locating a center at NCCU's law school with money from conservative Raleigh businessman Art Pope.
Faculty at the law school are scheduled to vote on the matter in the next few weeks, said Cindy Fobert, a spokeswoman for the university. (Read a copy of the Aug. 19 proposal, submitted by former N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Bob Orr, the Institute's director (PDF).
The website for the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law describes itself as a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public about and litigating constitutional issues.
The proposal calls for a center that would collaborate with the UNC School of Government, and with NCCU's history department to develop scholarly study of constitutional issues, fitting with the law school's concentration in Civil Rights and Constitutional Law. The proposal suggests that Orr be the center's first executive director. It states that the Pope Foundation would provide $600,000 over three years to pay for a staff position, a part-time executive director and initial programming.
As the Indy and Facing South reported in March, the Institute has received large contributions from the Pope Foundation.
Pope is the treasurer of the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law and has served as chair and vice chair of its board of directors. The institute, founded in 2003, has received more than $3.2 million from the Pope Foundation, according to the Indy and Facing South reports.
The news was noted earlier today by progressive blogger James Protzman on BlueNC, who received an anonymous e-mail from a member of the NCCU faculty opposed to the proposal.
Pope, controversial for his involvement in the election of the new conservative majority on the Wake County school board, as well as his affiliation to national conservative groups, has contributed money to several universities through his family's foundation, and through other organizations that he leads.
But his largesse hasn't always been well received. In 2004, after proposing contributions for a new "Studies in Western Civilization" curriculum at UNC-Chapel Hill, several university faculty said Pope was trying to use the money to create courses to promote his own right-wing agenda.
Also this week, Orr was appointed by state House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican, to the WUNC-TV Board of Trustees. Orr was one of four new appointees.
The candidate-filing period opened with a flourish Friday in Orange County as mayors from Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough all signed up to defend their seats and challengers emerged in the Chapel Hill Town Council and Board of Alderman races.
In Chapel Hill, Lee Storrow and August Cho filed as expected, and Laney Dale, a tech entrepreneur who moved to town four years ago, joined the race for the four open positions on the nine- member, including the mayor, council.
He is the CEO and founder of two start-up companies, Appuware and Appubater, which create computer and mobile applications. Appuwhere allows customers to be developers. Appubater accepts ideas from clients and partners to realize them.
Both businesses are located in Durham, and Dale says Chapel Hill needs to work to make it easier for businesses to establish offices there.