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Year in Review: A hard year for school

By Susan Dickson
Staff Writer

It has certainly been a year of transition in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, with the opening of new schools and facilities and the appointment of new administrators. But while many would like to look back on 2008 and remember the new successes of the sports teams and the first Carrboro High School prom, at the forefront of the memories of many members of the school community are the untimely deaths of three Chapel Hill High School students.

In July, recent Chapel Hill High graduate Lilli Manis was killed when a drunk driver struck the car she was riding in with her boyfriend, Philip Jurov. The two had been returning from a 2 a.m. showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show when the driver ran a red light, killing Manis and seriously injuring Jurov.

Then in August, Chapel Hill High senior Atlas Fraley was found dead in his home. He had called 911 earlier that day and told operators he thought he was dehydrated and needed an IV. Fraley, a football player, participated in two scrimmages that morning, and had suffered from dehydration in the past.
Orange County Emergency Services has said paramedics arrived at Fraley’s home shortly after his call, but have not released information regarding whether or how he was treated.

Tragedy again struck Chapel Hill High in November when senior football player Rodney Torain, one of Fraley’s good friends, was killed in a hit-and-run car crash. Torain was riding home with two friends along Old Greensboro Highway when a car began closely following their vehicle. The car then began to pass, striking the vehicle on the left side and causing it to run off the road.

Police are still looking for information regarding the driver of the car that struck the vehicle.

Despite the tragedies, the school community moved forward. Among the 2008 schools’ highlights:

Morris Grove Elementary opens
Morris Grove Elementary School, the district’s 10th elementary school, opened its doors to more than 500 students in August. The school, located on the corner of Eubanks and Dromoland roads, was named for Morris Hogan, a freed slave who founded the original Morris Grove School near the site of the new elementary school in the 1880s.

Thomas replaced
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools officials announced in June that Carrboro High School principal Jeff Thomas had been reassigned to the central office. Superintendent Neil Pedersen said his decision to replace Thomas was based on unsolicited feedback from staff and parents, confirmed by student and teacher surveys, as well as his own experience working with Thomas. Thomas submitted his resignation from the district in July.

New principal at Carrboro High

Carrboro High School started its second year with new principal Kelly Batten. Batten, a graduate of UNC, came to Carrboro High from Wake County Schools, where he served for a number of years as an assistant principal and high school world-history teacher.

New facility for Phoenix Academy

Phoenix Academy celebrated 10 years of success and the opening of a brand-new facility this fall. The academy, created by the school board in 1998 and previously housed in three trailers in the parking lot of the Lincoln Center, serves as a school for students who are at risk of dropping out due to long-term suspension. The new facility is located in the old pottery shop building behind the Lincoln Center administrative offices.

Hemminger resigns, McElveen appointed to school board
Greg McElveen was appointed as the newest member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education in November. The board selected McElveen from a pool of seven applicants to fill the seat left by Pam Hemminger, who resigned in order to serve on the Orange County Board of Commissioners. McElveen has lived in Chapel Hill for 14 years and works in corporate market research at IBM. He has six children.

Scroggs retires
Long-time educator and administrator Steve Scroggs retired in June as assistant superintendent for support services for the school district. Scroggs served as assistant superintendent for eight years and worked in North Carolina public schools for 35 years. He led Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools through a period of massive growth, overseeing the construction of five schools. He was replaced by Todd LoFrese.

New school for Northside
District officials voted in July to build the district’s 11th elementary school in the Northside neighborhood in downtown Chapel Hill. The site was the location of the Orange County Training School, a school for black students that later became Northside Elementary School, which closed its doors when schools were desegregated in the 1960s. The elementary school is scheduled to open at the site between Caldwell and McMasters streets in the fall of 2011.

Racial slurs used at CHS
The Carrboro High community was left saddened and bewildered in January after racially charged comments led to a fight among three students. The school rebounded, coming together to form a committee of students, staff and parents to hold discussions on race issues at the school.

Cheating scandal rocks CHHS
Four Chapel Hill High School students were suspended in February in connection with a cheating incident that school officials said involved a stolen master key to the school and dated back several years. According to school officials, a student took pictures of exam answers on a camera phone and emailed them to other students. While investigating the incident, school administration learned about a master key that was stolen a number of years ago. The school then held discussions about the incident and integrity in classes.

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