Fearrington said reducing and reallocating the police budget is one change, among many, that she would like local leaders to continue in order to address equity gaps across the board.
“If you look at the money that’s committed to the police compared to the money that’s devoted to housing in our community and education, and then you look at the statistic that says we have the largest achievement gap in the nation among college towns, and you look at the gentrification that’s happening in the Northside and the Pine Knolls communities, it doesn’t reflect what we want our town to look like,” Farrington said.
Despite being named the best school district in North Carolina, research from Stanford’s Center for Education and Policy Analysis released last fall showed Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools to have the second-largest achievement gap between white and Black students of all districts surveyed.
Deon Temne, a recently elected member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education, said this achievement gap manifests in tangible ways for Black students, including his own daughter, one of two Black sixth graders in the highest level of LEAP, the district’s academically gifted program.
“My daughter is two out of, I want to say, 59 students in the sixth grade,” Temne said. “You’re telling me only two little Black girls were smart enough from the sixth grade to do this thing? We gotta look at those programs.”
Eric Zeigler, the Smith Middle School coordinator of Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, a program working to close the district’s achievement gap, also spoke at the march.
Zeigler said closing this achievement gap would take collaboration between educators, board members and district stakeholders — and it will take votes.
“This situation that we find ourselves in did not happen overnight, and we will not fix it overnight,” Zeigler said. “It’s going to take votes.”
Temne said it’s also important for UNC students, especially those who grew up in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community, to contribute to closing these gaps by voting for officials who want to see them closed and participating in other forms of civic advocacy.
“Reach out to those school board members. Let them know, because you’re actually just coming out of this,” Temne said. “If you just came out of this district, you know what it’s like.”
Emile Charles, another protest organizer and a rising first-year at UNC, is a former Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School district student. Charles said it’s important for UNC students to advocate for changes in the community, like the achievement gap.
“A lot of people don’t get off campus to see other parts of town,” Charles said. “Just take a drive, see where you live, and then be aware of town hall events, of school board meetings, of things like that that you should also be invested in.”
With school having gone remote due to coronavirus for the last three months of the 2019-2020 school year, a lot is uncertain for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. However, Temne said one thing is certain: the school board, alongside interim superintendent Jim Causby, is ready for change.
“I really like this board because I think all of us are bringing unique experiences to figure out this new direction, and I think we’re going to go in a new direction,” Temne said. “It’s up to us to provide direction for our superintendent.”
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