Chapel Hill: Opinion

Tom Forcella: Community support essential to providing quality education

We have all heard the popular proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, the same principle can be applied to public education. Our entire community has an essential role to play in the growth and development of our young people.

Parents, guardians and family members take the lead, but our broader community also has a responsibility to help ensure that our district is able to provide every child with a high-quality education.

Fortunately for the students enrolled in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, we live in a community that has embraced its role of supporting our students and schools. Here in CHCCS, school involvement means much more than volunteers assisting in the classroom, chaperoning students, and helping with school events. While all those roles remain extremely important to our schools, our community has stepped up to assist in other ways, as well.

For example, non-profits such as PORCH, an all-volunteer, grassroots hunger relief organization, help support teaching and learning by addressing students’ social service needs, in addition to their academic needs. With one in four children in our district at the risk of going hungry, PORCH now provides a week’s worth of healthy groceries to more than 700 children and 500 adults in our district every month.

Another nonprofit organization, Community Home Trust is enabling low-income households to live in quality homes in desirable neighborhoods, so their children can attend good schools here in our district. The Home Trust is providing these children access to a quality education that they might not otherwise have.

As a champion for local public education, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public School Foundation works to provide additional funding for innovative programs and projects that support students and teachers in our schools. This group is dedicated to mobilizing community support for our district, and since its inception, has distributed nearly $4 million for programs that otherwise would not have existed in our schools.

These are just a few examples of the many ways our broader community has come together to support public education in Carrboro and Chapel Hill. Couple the great work of our nonprofit organizations with the support of our Chamber of Commerce, which urged the General Assembly to prioritize education funding and increase teacher pay, and our county commissioners who stepped up and approved a tax increase when it became obvious that state funding would be inadequate, once again, this year, and you can see some of the reasons why our district is able to provide our children with quality educational opportunities.

Such broad-based community support is essential for our schools to reach their goals of closing achievement gaps and increasing student achievement and success. Research has shown that when schools, parents, families, and communities all work together to support learning, students tend to earn higher grades, attend school more regularly, stay in school longer and enroll in higher level programs.

It really does take a village, an entire community coming together, to support our schools. I want to thank each of you for your involvement and continued support to help make Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools among the best in the nation. We could not do it without you.

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