The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday December 5th

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools’ new superintendent sets expectations

After leading a Connecticut public school system during its rise from 30th to 8th-best in the state, Thomas Forcella is ready for a change of scenery.

In his first year as the newly selected Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools superintendent, Forcella plans to meet community leaders and organizations to listen to their needs and views.

His main goals include closing the achievement gap in education and improving the quality of classroom instruction.

“What I would look for is the degree to which I see students really thinking and the degree to which they’re engaged with what’s going on in the classroom,” Forcella said.

Beginning July 1, Forcella will replace Neil Pedersen as superintendent of the district. His salary will start at $195,000 per year.

Forcella, who has been superintendent of Guilford Public Schools in Connecticut since 2005, chose to apply for the position to be closer to his three sons who live in the South.

For Forcella, relationship-building within the school system is critical.

“You can’t ignore the culture,” he said. “The culture is a big part of what goes on in schools, both for students and staff.”

To foster this, Forcella said he’ll plan district learning walks where he and district officials would visit schools for half-a-day to a day.

Elected unanimously by the district Board of Education on Thursday, Forcella will face new challenges as he transitions to a state-influenced system, Pedersen said.

“I think he’ll have a learning curve where he’ll need to get a good handle on the politics in North Carolina, the budgeting process and working with the commissioners,” said Pedersen, who has served as district superintendent for 19 years.

With an N.C. House of Representatives proposal for a $5 million budget cut pending approval, School Board Chairwoman Jamezetta Bedford said potential cuts could cause the district to lose 40 percent of its fund balance and eliminate at least 62 positions.

Bedford said coping with budget cuts and reducing the achievement gap will be Forcella’s biggest challenges.

School Board Vice-Chairwoman Mia Burroughs said the board chose Forcella because of his experience.

“We have high expectations, and not just high expectations for high-flying students,” Burroughs said. “We have the expectation that all children can and will learn.”

Hoping to build off the accomplishments of Pedersen, Forcella said he believes all schools can continuously improve.

“You’re either moving forward or moving backward,” Forcella said. “There’s no such thing as a status quo.”

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