Chapel Hill: Opinion

July 11, 2014

Tom Forcella: Our school district’s hidden gems

I have come to the conclusion that we have many people and programs who are a large part of the success of our school district, but who go largely unnoticed.

With graduations behind us, we are already working diligently to prepare for another great school year in 2014-15. However, for any leader to be effective, he or she must occasionally take time to reflect – seeking out regrettable decisions as important lessons, and celebrating victories as refreshment.

So, while reflecting, I have come to the conclusion that we have many people and programs who are a large part of the success of our school district, but who go largely unnoticed. These folks rarely get public recognitions, awards or media coverage. Still, they maintain a laser-like focus on student achievement, and it is time we, as a community, thank them for their important work. I want to use my column space this month to highlight the great work of just a few of these “under the radar” groups.

First, our Career and Technical Education (CTE) program is amazing. Kathi Breweur directs the program for our district, and does a fantastic job. The teachers are creative, competent and caring. I would like to see more of our middle and high school students enroll in our CTE courses. High tech options like engineering, architecture and Microsoft Certifications are offered, as well as construction, biomedical sciences, agriculture and many more. Our students are developing skills that are much sought after by employers, and will provide a lifetime benefit.

Another incredible program is Parent University. Carla Smith is our Parent Engagement Specialist. She has built a model to be emulated by other schools and districts nationwide. Parent University courses are free and available to any parent. The courses are organized into four competencies: effective parenting; leadership and advocacy; supporting and navigating the school system; and, health awareness. In order to close our achievement gap, we need all parents to be actively engaged in supporting our students and teachers. Parent University is a making great progress toward that end.

Finally, I want to bring community attention to Boomerang.

Boomerang is a program grounded in community collaboration, and serves middle- and high-school students who are on short-term suspensions. The program provides an encouraging and accountable environment – a refreshing alternative during their time away from school. Students are offered a clean start, and an opportunity to reflect on recent choices as well as future challenges. They can also keep pace with their school work and learn about services that may be of assistance when they return to school.

By all accounts, Boomerang is an important part of our community.

Unfortunately, this very effective program is in great danger now, as it is in need of an adequate facility. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA has been a wonderful partner and host. However, that space will no longer be available after August 15. If anyone in our community can recommend a viable facility, please contact Director Tami Pfeifer to let her know of your potential solution., a real estate blog, recently listed Chapel Hill as the top-rated small city for education in America. While it is certainly an honor to be included on their list, it is important to point out the essential roles so professionally executed by each of the programs and people mentioned earlier in this column.

The programs highlighted here – Career and Technical Education, Parent University, and Boomerang – fit cohesively to help our students grow into productive and well-rounded adults. Please join me in saluting all the dedicated men and women who serve these programs with excellence.

Tom Forcella is the superintendent of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. 

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