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CHCCS receives $4.3 million grant from Oak Foundation to fund equity projects


Northside Elementary School as pictured on Wednesday, Sep. 2, 2020. Northside Elementary School is one of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools that will benefit from the $4.3 million grant from the Oak Foundation.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and the district's Public School Foundation have received a $4.3 million grant from Oak Foundation, an international group that provides resources to the disadvantaged. 

The grant will be used to implement a comprehensive project focused on student equity and support with hopes to narrow the district's achievement gap.

According to a press release from the district, the Students First: Equity Through Opportunity grant funds programming over three years and will focus on supporting students of color, English learners and students with disabilities. 

The grant will support key initiatives, such as school exposure opportunities, transition support and literacy development for students. Additionally, it supports racial equity training for 650 district employees. 

“Data managers, receptionists, cafeteria workers, bus drivers…had not always been included in that equity training,” Misti Williams, the district's senior executive director for leadership and strategy, said. “That piece of the grant will be used to support that work and be certain that every person who interacts with a child has a racial equity lens."

Williams said the grant will also focus on employee training for a code of conduct revision that has been in progress since January 2019. 

“We are revising our code of conduct to be more restorative in nature instead of punitive,” Williams said. “There's quite a bit of re-culturing that will go along with that – so lots of training and supporting." 

The grant’s emphasis on racial equity and a restorative code of conduct aligns with the work of the Campaign for Racial Equity. The group has been advocating for equity and opportunity for local Black and Latino students in CHCCS since 2015. 

Dianne Jackson, a retired employee in the district and member of the Campaign for Racial Equity and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP's Education Committee, said she hopes the grant engages marginalized communities in its implementation.

“To be able to utilize those funds to support the most marginalized families and students would be excellent, but greater than that would be a plan to include the community in the development of what was going to take place,” she said. “Regular reporting on the status of this grant would be welcomed.”

Dr. Gloria Thomas, co-chair of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP's Education Committee, said she believes the funds should primarily serve Black students and other students of color who are the most marginalized.

“Teacher and staff training, specifically to implement anti-racist curricula at all levels across the district, as well as restorative justice practices for addressing inappropriate student conduct, are items the NAACP Education Committee suggests the district make funding priorities for the Oak Foundation grant,” Thomas said.

Williams said CHCCS has had a relationship with Oak Foundation spanning ten years. Oak Foundation has supported several smaller projects in the district in the past, but this time the school system desired a further-reaching project. 

“[Students First] is a comprehensive look at programming, training and all around support for our children,” Williams said. “We looked at areas where we could use funding that was a little more innovative and flexible than the funding that we already had."

Williams said flexibility is key as the school system enters the academic year mid-pandemic. CHCCS and the Public School Foundation have redirected funds from canceled summer programming to initiatives that support remote student learning. 

A partnership with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA along with Oak Foundation funding has yielded two learning centers offering free academic support for 100 students during COVID-19, she said. 

Williams said she is grateful for the ongoing relationship with Oak Foundation and the opportunities that are now open to the district.

“Their support, flexibility and willingness during our current crisis to think outside the box... I've worked in other districts, and I don't see that everywhere,” Williams said. 


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