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Wednesday February 8th

New CHCCS PTA council president puts students and staff first

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools PTA President Erin Schwie Langston poses in her office building at Southern Village in Chapel Hill.
Buy Photos Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools PTA President Erin Schwie Langston poses in her office building at Southern Village in Chapel Hill.

Erin Schwie Langston was shaped by her experience in public schools.

After attending public schools in her hometown of Germantown, Tennessee, Schwie Langston studied at The University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where her interdisciplinary education encouraged her to do more than simply enjoy the benefits of her own schooling. She worked to increase access to education for those who did not have the same opportunities as she did.

Immediately after graduating, she joined the Peace Corps and moved to Honduras. She worked in the public health sector, where she did educational outreach in schools, focusing primarily on hygiene and HIV/AIDS.

“I could see how the education and public education access really impacted the high-achieving students in Honduras,” she said. “It reinforced my growing understanding of how education can be a path to, sometimes, different opportunities.”

She is now president of the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools PTA Council Executive Board after serving on the board for two years. After returning to the United States, Schwie Langston completed the master of public administration program at UNC and joined the public sector. When her husband was relocated to Texas after graduation, she worked as the assistant director for the City of Dallas.

Six years later, she returned to Chapel Hill in 2011.

“Once you move here, you never want to leave,” she said.

She worked as the finance and administrative operations director for Orange County before accepting a position as the assistant vice president of the UNC System Office. She is also the director of business development at Academic Benchmarking Consortium, a service that helps university decision makers align metrics and budget while benchmarking against peer sets.

Rani Dasi, a CHCCS board member, said Schwie Langston has a strength in understanding data and using it to make decisions.

Chapel Hill Mayor Pro Tem Jessica Anderson said Schwie Langston is committed to transparency.

“She’s had really great insights on our previous town budgets, and one of her biggest things is not just what are you trying to do, but how are you trying to do it, and you need to make sure that people understand what you’re doing, and you need to present the numbers in a way that people can understand so you’re telling the full story,” she said.

Anderson said she often asks Schwie Langston for her input on policy and politics, and that even when the two don’t agree on a policy solution, they agree that it should be transparent and ethical.

Dasi said Schwie Langston’s transparency extends to conversations with other local leaders.

“One of the things I like about her is she’s very direct, and so she won’t hesitate to address something even if it feels uncomfortable for some other people to have that discussion,” she said. “If she feels like it needs to be addressed to improve outcomes for students or staff, she will speak up about it.”

Lisa Kaylie, the president of Frucon International and the former president of the PTA council, said Schwie Langston has brought attention to schools’ need for community support.

“I think one of the things that Erin and I really share is the idea that our public schools, whether we like it or not, are where a lot of social support takes place for our kids — and I say ‘like it or not’ because I feel like it puts a lot of responsibility on our schools, but it’s really the only social services support a lot of kids are getting these days, and a lot of people aren’t so cognizant of that — so we try and make people in the community aware of the incredible work that our schools are doing and how important it is to support them,” she said.

Schwie Langston said the Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools are very fortunate to have local leaders that highly support funding public education, but school funding is still an issue statewide, partially because of the diversion of public tax dollars for opportunity scholarships and voucher programs.

Dasi highlighted Schwie Langston's commitment to serving students.

“She is the type of person who does the work with no expectation of being recognized for it, but does it because it’s the right thing to do, and she seems to have a genuine concern for all students, and that’s really important,” she said.

@SLesnewski 

city@dailytarheel.com

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