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Sixteen candidates file to run for CHCCS board in unusually crowded election

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The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Administrative Office building in Chapel Hill, N.C., is pictured on Monday, Nov. 28, 2022.

Over a week after the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education candidate registration opened on July 7, not one person had filed to run for a seat.

Triangle Blog Blog noticed the lack of candidates and wrote a piece informing people that no one had run for any of the four open spots. They wrote about the concern that, if no one ran, right-wing groups like Moms for Liberty could stage a takeover of the school board.

Candidate registration closed four days after the article was published. Geoff Green, a writer for Triangle Blog Blog, said 52 people reached out to the blog asking for information about running for school board. Ultimately, 16 people, including three incumbents, filed to run for the school board.

CHCCS board vice chair George Griffin said when four seats are available, the board typically receives six to eight candidates.

“I've been here for 40-plus years in Chapel Hill, been in many elections, and I've never seen anything like this ever,” he said.

School board members implement programs and hire school employees, Griffin said. 

“The primary role is setting policy for the district that is in line with community values, state and national law and educational best practices,” board chair Rani Dasi, who is running for reelection, said.

She said the board also plays a role in advocacy and creating awareness about education issues. The board engages with other elected officials and community partners to support education, Dasi said.

For CHCCS, the board is specifically working to close the achievement gap between white students and students of color, as well as improve other equity issues such as standardization between different schools’ programs, Griffin said. This is especially evident in elementary schools, where schools are using different reading or math programs which yield different results, he said. 

Dasi said the board is also working to increase pay for CHCCS employees through funding from a district school tax. The extra pay is used to help retain teachers in the area, she said. The board is also involved in finding ways to create affordable housing in Chapel Hill, as many school employees currently have to commute

First-time school board candidate Barbara Fedders said she was concerned about students' personal and educational rights. She cited the recent passage of a state law banning gender-affirming care for minors and the banning of certain books around the country as motivating factors in her decision to run.

Following the resignation of Orange County Schools superintendent Monique Felder last month, Fedders said she worried the same thing could happen in CHCCS. 

“Under [Felder's] leadership, students' reading scores had improved more than any other district in the state," Fedders said. "And they pushed her out. And so now they don't have a superintendent. They have an interim person, and it's just really not good for a school district to have that kind of turmoil at the top.”

With so many candidates running for school board, residents may find it more difficult to decide who to vote for in the Nov. 7 election. However, Dasi said she was grateful that so many people want to help support education in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. 

“I am just asking people to become aware of what's happening in public education in North Carolina and to be active in supporting it and opposing the attempts to dismantle it,” Dasi said.

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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