Chapel Hill: Opinion

Jamie Detzi: Chatham County Schools – strong, diverse and growing

As the school year reaches the halfway mark, it is a great time to reflect on the state of the schools.

“The state of the Chatham County School District is strong and getting stronger daily,” says John Zaremba, the chair of the Chatham Education Foundation. “In the 2014-2015 school year we met or exceeded growth in all schools, now offer dual language programs in four schools and continue to forge public-private partnerships to enhance educational opportunities for all our students.”

Chatham County is a geographically (707 square miles), racially and economically diverse community. “We have 17 schools, over 8,400 students with three of our schools hosting over 90 percent free and reduced-price lunch students,” says Chris Ehrenfeld, CEF vice-chair and board chair of the Chatham Economic Development Corp.

“The spectrum of poverty to wealth in our county is outstanding,” Ehrenfeld continues. “We have students in parts of our county that attend a school where only a few students pay for their own lunch, and on the other end of the spectrum are students living in a wealthy, gated community. As with all school systems, managing the student diversity as well as varying parent expectations makes for a challenging road. In order to mange this breadth of diversity, a strong leader is needed. Chatham County Schools are fortunate to have the leadership of Dr. Derrick D. Jordan, a UNC graduate dedicated to the individual successes of all students in Chatham County Schools.”

Entering his third year as superintendent, Jordan embraces and conquers obstacles daily and is leading the Chatham County Schools in a direction of growth, with a focus on narrowing the achievement gap.

Dr. Jordan and his team have much to be proud about for the 2014-2015 school year.

As reported this year, all 17 of the Chatham County Schools met or exceeded growth for the state-mandated measurable objectives. Chatham County is one of only 16 districts in the state to meet this level of achievement, and we were the largest.

“As a school system, we are thrilled that every one of our schools met or exceeded growth, especially with the implementation of more rigorous standards and assessments,” Jordan says. “Moving forward, we are committed to identifying and addressing the greatest opportunities for improvement to ensure that every student continues moving in an upward direction.”

Each of the three traditional high schools in Chatham County offer the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program. This program is dedicated to closing the achievement gap by preparing students for college or other post-secondary opportunities. We are proud to share that all of our high school seniors in this program during the 2014-15 school year were accepted into four-year colleges. This is a tremendous accomplishment that took dedication. For many, they will be the first in their family to attend college.

All of our high school seniors in the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program during the 2014-15 school year were accepted into four-year colleges. This is a tremendous accomplishment.

Chatham County Schools currently has four schools offering Spanish dual-language programs: North Chatham Elementary, Siler City Elementary, Chatham Middle School and Jordan-Matthews High School. During this school year, all dual-language and ESL teachers will work with consultant Karen Beeman, a national dual-language bi- literacy expert.

In addition to all of the amazing things Chatham County Schools are doing in-house, they are also forging partnerships with business and nonprofits to increase the opportunities to students in Chatham County.

Chatham County Schools and the Chatham Education Foundation are leading a collaborative effort to improve literacy in Chatham County with a new initiative, Chatham Reads. With start-up funding from the Duke Energy Foundation, the Chatham Reads collaborative is ready to encourage, inspire and educate the community of Chatham County about the importance of literacy from our babies and beyond. Early initiatives include community book baskets, small community take-and-read library kiosks, books for babies and reading rewards.

The Chatham Education Foundation salutes the Chatham County School District for its accomplishments and growth. We are proud of its innovation, progress and success.

For more information on Chatham County Schools, please contact Dr. Lori Carlin ( For more information on the Chatham Education Foundation, please contact executive director Jaime Detzi (