Tom Forcella, superintendent of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools since 2011, will retire effective Aug. 1, the school district announced Tuesday.
Forcella has been with the district since 2011 and in schools for 42 years.
“My five years in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools have been extremely rewarding,” he said in a statement. “I am thankful for the opportunity to work with our amazing students, as well as the staff, parents and agencies that make this community remarkable.”
Forcella focused on classroom instruction and lesson planning, and the design and implementation of a long-range strategic plan.
He helped to create Project ADVANCE, which ties teacher pay to professional development instead of longevity. He has been working with state leaders to investigate making it a model for teacher compensation statewide.
Local implementation partially stalled this year as the school system focused on raising teacher supplements to compete with nearby districts such as Wake County. It is now scheduled to fully begin in the 2017-18 school year.
“Dr. Forcella did a great job,” Board of Education Chairman James Barrett said Tuesday afternoon on Twitter.
Barrett said, in an interview, that Forcella led a cultural shift in the district, emphasizing a “growth mindset” that instills and operates on the belief that all students can learn.
“I think he’s done a tremendous amount to change the culture of our schools,” Barrett said.
He cited Project ADVANCE and the local district’s partnership with the Institute for Learning, which provides coaching for teachers and administrators, as systemic changes that will continue even after Forcella leaves.
In recent years, the district came under fire for its achievement gap, a national problem that the district has been working on locally for decades.
Forcella saw Project ADVANCE and racial equity training as tools to help reduce the gap, but as recently as February, teacher representatives said the new compensation plan remained nebulous and concerned many instructors.
Last fall, a group called the Campaign for Racial Equity in our Schools rallied outside the school system headquarters decrying “a crisis” in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools. Among other concerns, it noted 42 percent of black students and 47 percent of Latino students passed end-of-grade and end-of-course tests in 2014-15, versus 90 percent of white students.
Among other measures, the campaign members called on the district to end tracking, develop a race-conscious curriculum, and implement mandatory racial and cultural competency training for staff.
School board members say Forcella has continued working on equity and other issues.
“His diverse teaching and administrative background has allowed him to have the necessary perspective and vision to lead a school district,” Board of Education Vice Chairwoman Annetta Streater said in a statement. “The district’s Long Range Plan speaks to his efforts to engage children, raise achievement and prepare all of our staff to be leaders.”
“I had a former pastor who said Chapel Hill is an opinion-gifted community,” Barrett said. “I think he’s done a fine job of navigating through that.”