Education

Could smaller schools mean safer schools? One of the nation’s best teachers believes so

As the North Carolina General Assembly House Select Committee on School Safety meets again on Tuesday, one of the the America’s best public school teachers has several suggestions for improving safety.

Gaston County high school English teacher Bobbie Cavnar believes that smaller schools paired with more nurses and psychologists will enhance the safety of our classrooms.

Cavnar, named by the NEA Foundation as the nation’s top educator, recently discussed school shootings and making students feel safer with NC Policy Watch director Rob Schofield:

At today’s legislative hearing, members of the Student Physical Safety Working Group will hear from the:

  • Executive Director of the North Carolina Christian Schools Association
  • Former Chairman of the Governor’s Task Force on Safer Schools Community
  • Development and Training Manager of the Center for Safer Schools
  • Sheriffs of Rockingham County and Carteret County

View the complete agenda here.

And be sure to listen to the full 20-minutes interview with Cavnar below in which he discusses his love of teaching and how he inspires students.

Commentary, News

The week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

#1 Governor appoints Joe John as head of Courts Commission after Duane Hall resigns

Rep. Duane Hall (D-Wake) quietly resigned as head of the North Carolina Courts Commission a month ago, shortly after NC Policy Watch detailed sexual harassment allegations against him.

Gov. Roy Cooper this week appointed Rep. Joe John (D-Wake) to take his place.
John said in a phone interview this week that he was honored by the Governor’s appointment. He is a first-term representative but had a 25-plus year career within the court system — he’s been a prosecutor, defense lawyer, district court judge, chief district court judge, superior court judge and court of appeals judge.

“I pretty well covered the waterfront and I have broad experience and overview as to how the court system operates,” John said. “I’m probably as familiar as anyone with the things that courts do well and the areas where probably there could be some improvement.”

The Commission, which has around 30 members, is tasked with evaluating changes to the state’s court system and making recommendations to the General Assembly.
The state court workload is one thing John hopes to address during his tenure. [Read more…]

Bonus reads in Courts & Law:
Judges: Wake legislative districts likely unconstitutional but election already underway
Pioneering women celebrate progress in the judiciary, make the case for more at Supreme Court ceremony

# 2 A second natural gas pipeline proposed for NC would run through Rockingham, Alamance counties | Read more

Bonus read in Environment:
DEQ, Duke agree on (small) penalty for illegal leaks from coal ash basins

#3 Controversial former charter principal’s involvement raises more concerns about takeover of Robeson County school | Read more

Bonus read in Education:
N.C. Supreme Court to hear arguments in pivotal Halifax County school case Monday

#4 Really? This is the best they can come up with?
After decades of propaganda and promises, the effort to privatize public schools in NC continues to fizzle | Read more

#5 Experts: We already know how to reform the state’s flawed cash bail system | Read more

Education

More schools in North Carolina are isolated by poverty and race (podcast)

The US Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education concluded that segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race deprives the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities.

Yet despite half a century of law and a growing understanding of the importance of eliminating segregated schools, achieving a fully-integrated public school system remains an unfinished act.

A new report by the NC Justice Center examines school segregation in our state over the past 10 years. The report finds racial and economic segregation on the rise, and charter schools tend to exacerbate the problem.

If you missed it over the weekend, be sure to listen to Rob Schofield’s radio interview with Matt Ellinwood, director of the Education & Law Project, as they discuss the finding in the report: “Stymied by Segregation: How Integration Can Transform North Carolina Schools and the Lives of Its Students.”

News

The Week’s Top Five on Policy Watch

1. Carcinogens, other contaminants found near Roxboro and Sutton coal ash sites as EPA looks to weaken rules

Policy Watch recently reviewed more than 20,000 pages of data for a series of stories about groundwater contamination in wells around Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds: Marshall, Cliffside, Allen, Buck and Dan River. This is the final installment in the series, which covers Sutton and Roxboro in context of the recent announcement of proposed changes to coal ash rules by the EPA.

Tomorrow Policy Watch will examine proposed changes to the state rules and how the EPA’s proposal interacts with them under federal legislation known as the WIIN Act.

The 20 million tons of coal ash stored in two ponds at Duke Energy’s Roxboro plant is not merely sitting there, inert and resting. Rather, the unlined basins are known to leak contamination into the groundwater as well as Sargeants Creek and Hyco Lake. And now it’s known, at least in part, the type and amount of toxic contamination that is seeping into the groundwater within the plant’s boundaries, heightening residents’ anxieties that it could threaten private drinking water wells.

Data recently released by Duke Energy showed concentrations of radioactivity in groundwater at Roxboro as much as 11 times the maximum contaminant level. High concentrations of arsenic, chromium, cobalt and selenium were also detected in some wells near the west and east coal ash ponds. (See bottom of story for data tables.)

And at the Sutton coal ash ponds in Wilmington, contaminant levels were equally disturbing: 461 times the groundwater standard for arsenic, a known carcinogen. And six times state and federal standards for the chemical antimony, which, when consumed in drinking water, can cause stomach ulcers and other health problems.[Read more…]

2.  Homeowners to homelessness: Siler City residents battle eviction after chicken processor purchases mobile home park | Read more

*** Bonus read: Siler City families facing eviction reach deal with chicken processing company

3.  When runaway government spending really is a big problem (and one important thing we could do about it) | Read more

4.  Charlotte-Meck split? School district “secession” idea draws heavy criticism from integration proponents | Read more

5.  Is NC’s cash bail system just? Advocates, reforms in other states raise serious doubts | Read more