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'A good, fun thing to celebrate': Rashkis Elementary School celebrates 20th birthday


Rashkis Elementary School stands on Monday, March 20, 2023.

On Saturday, Rashkis Elementary School in Chapel Hill celebrated its 20th birthday. Students, staff, parents and alumni gathered at the school to celebrate with a carnival that included food trucks, games and a Rashkis museum.

Rashkis opened in Chapel Hill's Meadowmont neighborhood in 2003 due to redistricting needs. The school is named after Mel and Zora Rashkis, Chapel Hill community members who were dedicated in supporting public education.

Michelle Wood, a physical education teacher at Rashkis and a member of the planning committee for the celebration, said they gathered donations so everything at the carnival could be free for attendees, except for the food trucks. Wood added that it was important to the committee that the carnival was free because Rashkis is a Title I school.

Title I schools are part of a federally funded program for schools with high percentages of low-income students to help ensure that all students meet academic achievement standards, according to the Durham Public Schools website. Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools had seven Title I schools during the 2020-21 school year — all of which were elementary schools.

“We’ve been very fortunate," Wood said. "We've had really good staff and some good principals, and we just think it would be a good, fun thing to celebrate.”

Wood was on the planning team that worked to open Rashkis in 2003. The school was opened by the late Deshera Mack, the first principal of Rashkis.

Because several schools in the area were overcrowded, Rashkis housed the surplus of students.

“[Mack’s] main thing was that we treat every kid like they were our own, and wanted to treat ones in our community to be like our family," she said. "I think she was very successful doing that.”

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public School Foundation offered the Deshera Mack Scholarship in 2023 in honor of the former principal. The scholarship awarded $1,000 to one graduating high school student in the community with an interest in pursuing education.

“We just tried to plan lots of things that would get people, the families into the school to show them that we were there for the kids,” Wood said. “We love the kids and we were going to do whatever we could that was best for the kids.”

Wood said she loves teaching at Rashkis because of the supportive community of staff and parents. She said she feels she can retire at any time but wants to keep teaching because she loves what she does.

“Our PTA is just the most generous, thoughtful organization for us — they spoil us rotten,” Claire Nelson, a third grade teacher at the school, said.

Princess Pressley, the principal of Rashkis, started at the school in August 2023. She said it has been a seamless transition because everyone has been very inviting and supportive. 

“The staff is more like family," Pressley said. "You don't feel like you're working with strangers, everyone is connected, somehow. We look out for each other."


@DTHCityState |

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