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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Following GSA controversy, A.L. Stanback Middle School names interim principal

Posted by on Tue, Nov 11, 2014 at 11:10 AM

Orange County Schools has chosen former Wake County principal Jan Hargrove to serve as interim principal at A.L. Stanback Middle School. The Indy reported last month that the school's current principal, Gloria Jones, is stepping down following complaints from parents and staff who accused her of blocking the formation of a school Gay-Straight Alliance for more than two years.

Jones will remain as the school's administrator through November. She did not say why she is resigning, but members of the system's Board of Education publicly criticized the principal for her handling of the LGBT support group this year.

The club, which met for the first time last spring, fit in four meetings before Jones announced a new policy banning non-academic clubs such as the GSA during school hours. School staff said Jones indicated the new policy was ordered by Orange County Schools' central office staff, but Interim Superintendent Del Burns told the Indy that was untrue.

Hargrove is currently the interim principal at Grady A. Brown Elementary in Hillsborough. “It’s all about relationships and communication,” Hargrove said in a statement. “Honoring the teachers and families here is important to me."

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Burroughs in Orange County

Posted by on Tue, Nov 4, 2014 at 9:40 PM

In Orange County's lone contested race for the Board of Commissioners, former school board member Mia Burroughs easily dispatched Republican Gary Kahn in District 1, collecting 76 percent of the vote.

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    Burroughs wins District 1 seat on county board.

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Walker, Price and Butterfield winning in Congressional races

Posted by on Tue, Nov 4, 2014 at 9:34 PM

Early results in Congress races showed mixed results for both parties Tuesday night.

As expected, longtime U.S. Rep. David Price was on course to easily best his opponent Tuesday, picking up 75 percent of the vote in heavily left-leaning U.S. House District 4 with most precincts reporting. His underdog opponent, Republican Paul Wright, had mustered just 24 percent of the vote. 

Incumbent Democrat G.K. Butterfield, a voting rights attorney from Wilson, appeared bound for victory against his GOP challenger, Sampson County accountant Arthur Rich, in the race for U.S. House District 1. With more than half of precincts reporting, Butterfield holds 75 percent of the vote and he seems bound for a sixth term in Congress. 

And in U.S. House 6, Greensboro minister and Republican candidate Mark Walker was likely to beat Laura Fjeld, a strong pro-public schools Democrat running in a right-leaning  district. With more than half of precincts reporting, Walker tallied 58 percent of the vote to Fjeld's 41 percent.

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    Mixed results for parties.

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Insko, Foushee and Meyer in state races in Orange County

Posted by on Tue, Nov 4, 2014 at 9:23 PM

This is an easy call early on. Democrats may be bound for hard times in Tuesday's midterm, but in Orange County, the bubble remains.

There were no close races between N.C. Senate District 23 and N.C. House 56, where Democratic incumbents Valerie Foushee and Verla Insko hold apparently insurmountable leads in their bid for re-election. Foushee and Insko will beat Republican challengers Mary Lopez-Carter and Dave Carter, respectively.

In N.C. House 50, which includes portions of Orange and Durham counties, Democrat Graig Meyer also appears bound for victory, earning a 28-percentage point lead at press time over Republican Rod Chaney.  

No surprises here.

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    Democrats winning expected seats in N.C. General Assembly.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hillsborough principal accused of blocking GSA leaves behind four-year contract

Posted by on Thu, Oct 30, 2014 at 12:33 PM

Gloria Jones, the A.L. Stanback Middle School principal stepping down after staff accused her of blocking the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance, will leave behind a four-year contract worth $86,240 in annual compensation.

Jones, whose last day will be Nov. 30, signed a contract with Orange County Schools in April that included $7,186 in monthly salary and supplements. The contract was approved by the system's Board of Education prior to an Indy report in June detailing students' and staff's complaints that she hindered the LGBT support group's startup for more than two years.

School board members publicly criticized Jones for her handling of the group, particularly after she started a new policy this school year barring non-academic clubs such as the GSA from meeting during school hours, a move that essentially nixed the group after just four meetings last spring.

Orange County Schools spokesman Seth Stephens said the system will not be forced to pay Jones for the remainder of her contract.

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    Board of Education approved contract for A.L. Stanback Middle School principal in April, prior to Indy report on Gay-Straight Alliance controversy.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

School principal accused of blocking GSA is stepping down

Posted by on Mon, Oct 27, 2014 at 4:17 PM

The Hillsborough middle school principal accused of hindering the formation of a Gay Straight Alliance for more than two years is stepping down.

Administration for Orange County Schools confirmed this week that A.L. Stanback Middle School Principal Gloria Jones has submitted her resignation. Her last day at the school will be Nov. 30.

Jones did not return Indy messages, so it’s unclear why the principal is stepping down. But she has been criticized by leadership on the system’s Board of Education for her handling of the GSA issue.

Students and staff at the school said she blocked creation of the GSA, which offers support and counseling for LGBT students, before finally allowing students to meet weeks before the end of the 2013-2014 school year.

In September, the Indy reported that Jones all but squashed the group by ordering a new policy barring non-academic clubs such as the GSA from meeting during school hours. Jones said the GSA can meet outside of school hours, but student and staff supporters said the move would make it more difficult to attend.

Multiple members of the school’s staff said Jones told them the policy change came from Orange County Schools’ central office. But the system’s Interim Superintendent Del Burns said that was untrue, prompting criticism for the school principal.

"As a principal at the school, you have to be respectful of the needs of all your kids, not just the 98 percent majority," said Orange County Schools Board of Education Chairman Stephen Halkiotis in June. "You're responsible for the 2 percent too."

Full coverage of this in Wednesday's Indy.

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    Principal at A.L. Stanback Middle School in Hillsborough had been criticized for her handling of the LGBT support group.

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Colonial Inn saved, for now

Posted by on Thu, Aug 7, 2014 at 12:25 PM

For the moment, Hillsborough's historic Colonial Inn has been saved. 

Members of the town's Historic District Commission unanimously voted Wednesday to reject a request to demolish the decaying structure on King Street. 

The inn's owner, Francis Henry, hasn't spoken to media about his request, but his demolition application to the town indicated he wanted to replace the inn with a grassy lot. 

The downtown Hillsborough structure, built in 1838, has languished in disrepair since he bought the property in 2001. Since then, town officials have sued Henry, accusing him of attempting the demolish the inn by neglect. 

Commission Chair Mark Bell recused himself from a vote Wednesday, citing that he had a prior business relationship with Henry.

Vice Chairwoman Anna Currie said the board denied Henry's application because it was not "congrous" with the town's historic district guidelines, which preserve structures of historic significance. The inn is the only building in Orange County to have been recognized by the state as a landmark of historical significance. 

"It's near and dear to people's hearts," said Currie. "The town would like nothing better than for someone to bring it back to significance."

Last night's meeting attracted droves of preservationists seeking to save the building. Check next week's Indy for a review of what's next for the Colonial Inn.

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    But the future of the historic downtown Hillsborough inn remains in doubt.

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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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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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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Orange County neighbors seek to block solar farm

Posted by on Thu, May 29, 2014 at 4:39 PM

In left-leaning Orange County, one might expect a warm welcome for a proposed solar farm. It appears, however, that one might be wrong.

Orange County commissioners heard this week from multiple property owners near a proposed solar farm north of Chapel Hill who say they strongly oppose its construction, chiefly on the grounds that the  green energy station would lower neighboring property values and spoil the view. 

The farm, if built, would sit on two parcels totaling 50 acres off Mount Sinai Road near Cascade Drive. Roughly half of the land would be occupied by the solar farm. 

The builders, Arizona-based Sunlight Partners LLC, are seeking a special-use permit to build the solar arrays, which will feed in to the public power grid. Chief to the debate will be one key requirement in order to grant a special-use permit, namely proving that the farm will not lower property values. 

To that end, commissioners heard during Tuesday's public hearing from Rich Kirkland, a licensed appraiser who told officials that his review of similar facilities other North Carolina municipalities such as Zebulon showed no proven impact on property value. 

Kirkland added that the location of the proposed Orange County solar farm near single-family residential homes is in keeping with the norm for other solar farms. The unmanned facilities require open space and nearby homeowners to use the energy , he said. 

Nearby property owners were not convinced. Robert Cantwell, a Cascade Drive resident, said he supports solar energy, but believes the proposed solar farm would be "grossly out of character" with the neighborhood. Cantwell also suggested that the Arizona builders are too far removed from the area to care about the quality of life for neighbors. 

Neighbors brought their own appraisers too Tuesday. Pam Davis, a longtime certified residential appraiser from Orange County, said she has performed thousands of appraisals in Chapel Hill. 

Davis estimated a 10 percent drop in property value for a neighboring property owner if the solar farm is built. "It's more valuable in Chapel Hill than anywhere else to maintain a beautiful view," Davis said. 

Expect this back and forth to continue. Orange County commissioners, as expected, took no action on the permit application Tuesday. It will now be referred to the county Planning Board, which is expected to make a recommendation in time for commissioners' Sept. 16 meeting.

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    County commissioners are considering a special-use permit to place solar arrays near residential development north of Chapel Hill.

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