Chapel Hill News

Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools leader Tom Forcella wins regional honor

Tom Forcella
Tom Forcella

Since Superintendent Tom Forcella was hired in 2011, he has been committed to improving and updating how Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools operates.

In 2013, after holding community meetings to review the school system, Forcella introduced the Long Range Plan, a five-year plan focused on accomplishing five goals.

These goals are to focus on instructional excellence in the classroom, eliminate achievement gaps among students, encourage professional development and training, create a system of accountability to report growth in student learning and promote a culture of schools that encourage innovation.

On Thursday, Forcella was honored as the Central Carolina Regional Superintendent of the Year.

Former Superintendent Neil Pedersen, now executive director of the Central Carolina Regional Educational Service Alliance, announced the honor at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board’s meeting. The Central Carolina region has 18 school districts.

Forcella is among eight finalists for N.C. Superintendent of the Year. The statewide honor will be announced in November, and the winner will be eligible for the National Superintendent of the Year honor. The national award is presented by the American Association of School Administrators annual conference in February.

“We were extremely pleased to learn of Dr. Forcella’s selection as Regional Superintendent of the Year,” school board Chairman Mike Kelley said. “His dedication to student success, innovative approach to leadership and determined focus on quality instruction make him an excellent candidate as he moves through the process.”

Jeff Nash, executive director of community relations for the school district, said Forcella is focused on closing the achievement gap among students, though Chapel Hill-Carrboro city schools has high overall performance rates.

“We’re not going to sit by and just rest on these high-end test scores,” Nash said.

The Long Range Plan is based on the “growth mindset,” a concept developed in Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset.” The growth mindset describes the idea that intelligence and talent are not fixed traits, but can be developed through training and hard work.

Under Forcella's leadership, the Long Range Plan is also working to redesign teacher compensation through Project ADVANCE. The project is anticipated to launch during the 2016-17 school year.

N.C. teacher pay is determined by a state-wide pay rate based on student performance, and each district can offer a supplemental pay. ADVANCE proposes to base this supplement on four levels of competency teachers can obtain, with corresponding pay raises, rather than student performance.

Nash said this would be a “game-changer for education.”

Although the district can only control the supplemental pay rate, Nash said the district hopes to create a system that works so well that state-wide changes would be made.

Forcella joined the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district in July 2011, after serving six years as superintendent of the Guilford Public Schools in New Haven, Conn. He also worked as a special education teacher, high school principal and superintendent in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, and in Regional School District No. 4 of Essex, Chester and Deep River, Conn.