Thursday, December 31, 2009


I just wanted to alert everyone to a few changes I've made to the blog. There are some local links at the side now. If you know of a link we should add, let me know! Drop us a line or a comment.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Contact change notification

I will be leaving The News of Orange County after Thursday, Dec. 31. E-mails to my inbox will still be monitored, but as of Jan. 1, if you want immediate attention from somebody on the editorial staff, send your correspondence to editorial(at) All other relevant department e-mails will remain functional.

I hope everyone has a happy holiday and can avoid the airport or long car trips, if possible.

Thanks for reading.

Josh Kastrinsky

Monday, December 21, 2009

ho ho ho

A bit of Christmas cheer, just a couple of days early:

That's our Northern Orange Xtra cover picture, and that little girl — Kaylee Faison — was just so cute, I had to share. She's talking to Santa at the Hillsborough Police Department on Churton Street on Thursday, Dec. 17.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Saturday closings

The county has just sent out notices about Saturday closings because of "inclement weather." They are:

• The Orange County Landfill will be closed and all associated services (mulch sales, household hazardous waste, etc.) will be on hiatus for the day. It will open at 7 a.m. Monday, Dec. 21, weather permitting.

• Solid Waste Convenience Centers will follow the same schedule, closing Saturday but re-opening at 7 a.m. Monday.

• The library branches, animal services and Seymour Senior Center will also be closed Saturday. Orange Public Transportation will operate the dialysis route Saturday, and emergency services will still operate 24/7.

There's fluffy white stuff falling from the sky

Word is there's more snow north and west of us than there is here in Hillsborough, but when you faithful readers are done picking up milk, bread and peanut butter, we'd love to see your snow pictures.

Send them to editorial(at); include information about what's going on in the picture, who you are and how we can reach you, and I'll try to work them into next week's paper.

In the meantime, stay safe and warm.

what's next?

So, because of school closings in advance of today's winter weather, what I've got for this week is kind of up in the air; two of the four events/interviews I had planned have been canceled, while I'm not sure about the third and the fourth went on without a hitch.

But, I should have some school pictures, teacher recognition, Santa, chocolates and Educator of the Week.

So stay tuned!

DTCC library patrons not affected by security breach

This just came across my e-mail:

Durham Tech Library Patrons Not Affected by Security Breach

(DURHAM, N.C.) – Durham Technical Community College’s library patrons
are not affected by the library computer security breach the North
Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) recently announced. The breach
was caused by unauthorized access to a computer server that hosts
library patron information. When the Community College Libraries in
North Carolina (CCLINC) recommended that all of the state’s community
colleges cease storing Social Security numbers in patron records in
2007, Durham Tech followed the recommendation and discontinued using
them. The college has never recorded driver’s license numbers for
library use purposes.

According to Irene Laube, assistant dean for the Durham Tech’s library
services, college staff members examined every patron record and removed
all Social Security numbers before July 1, 2007. “Because of the
measures we had already taken, Durham Tech’s library patrons were not at
risk of having any personal information compromised by this incident,”
she said.

Although some of the state’s community college libraries stored Social
Security and driver’s license numbers in their patron records, NCCCS
officials do not believe this data was accessed. The NCCCS library
server provides a data entry system for cataloging and tracking library
materials for 46 community college libraries. The server is accessed by
more than 270,000 patrons. NCCCS officials think the recent compromise
was limited to the operating system and the installation of “chat”
software. The affected colleges are notifying 9,000 patrons of the
security breach.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What's coming next week

Yeesh, the holidays sneak up. We've reached that time of year when stories are being wrapped up for two of the slower news weeks of the year (the two weeks in late July usually being the others). But, not to fear — we are flush with photos and fresh content for next week, and the annual Year in Review package will be in the Dec. 30 issue. As for what I am working on for next week:

– End-of-year awards continue, with the Hillsborough/Orange County Chamber of Commerce and the Orange-Durham Cattleman's Association handing out the hardware.
– A few items remain from Monday's 3.5-hour town board meeting, including discussion of possible development in Fairview and on the northern end of town limits. I'll have some more details.
– I'll also have a recap of what is changing with the Bradshaw Quarry Solid Waste Convenience Center.
– I am working on a story about the county's shifting spaces and one property that's in high demand.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, December 11, 2009

What's coming next week

Amidst all my other musings, I neglected to tell you what we were working on for next week. Vanessa is out today, but I'll speak for her and say we have been holding on to many school-related items because of space. We'll be printing about twice the normal amount of education content because it has been waiting and it needs to be read.

I am attending the town board meeting Monday, which includes discussion of the downtown parking study, the town's official stance on Elizabeth Brady Road and discussion of the cemetery proposal discussed last month.

I will also have several end-of-year award announcements ('tis the season); we'll have basketball and swimming stories from Preston Spencer; and we'll have Letters to Santa.

Thanks for reading and have a warm, safe weekend.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

2010 is starting early

It's everyone's favorite season - if by "everyone," you mean media types looking for stories to get us through the winter, and "favorite," you mean filled with announcements of "running," "not running" and "may have an interest in running and will hold a press conference at 3 to say whether or not they are running."

That's right, the 2010 election cycle is upon us. Within 10 days of the November election, three people — Renee Price, Greg Andrews and Earl McKee — all announced they would seek the District 2 county commissioner seat next year. Since that announcement, campaigning has already begun.

At Saturday's Hillsborough holiday parade, Andrews walked down Churton Street between two giant banners with his face and campaign slogan, along with a few dozen supporters. The following Monday, Renee Price formally announced her candidacy at the Hillsborough/Orange County Visitors' Center and was met by 10 or so supporters and a film crew, which filmed "endorsements" which I gather will soon be broadcast in some form.

The Board of Elections' Web site isn't posting filing information for the 2010 election yet, and I have not noticed any of the three candidates' campaign Web sites so far, but that's probably just around the corner. The primary race is in May, and if the last BOCC election is any guide, that means the field will be largely decided in that round of votes.

To review, since we're entering the final leg of a transition to a districted board, one candidate will be elected to District 1, one to District 2 and another will be At-Large. Mike Nelson has said he will not run again, and he would have been either D-2 or At-Large. Barry Jacobs (D-2 or At-Large) and Alice Gordon (D-1 or At-Large) are the remaining potential incumbents. (Since all three announced candidates have said they are after a D-2 seat, and Price explicitly said she would not challenge an incumbent, it's a good bet that Jacobs would run as an At-Large candidate).

And I haven't even touched school board elections. Come January, you can expect that to heat up in a hurry. Stay tuned and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The cutting room floor from Monday night

And that's how the gym looked at the start of the hearing.

At Monday's Brady Road public hearing, I sat behind a woman who did not give her name and said she was not planning on speaking, but who had a very personal connection to this road project. A resident of Riverside Drive, she told me Alternative 4 could take her house. Though she wasn't a speaker — she told me she only speaks out on things where she knows all the facts — she sat in the front row, so I'm sure she was as interested as the several hundred others who packed the auditorium that night.

Some other quotes and tidbits that were cut from the long story appearing in this week's paper (I cut about 600 words' worth of other speakers, keeping those I thought best represented the viewpoints on the bypass issue):

Mary Fox, a resident of Buttonwood Drive, said she supported Alternative 3.
“It’s the only thing that will get the traffic off Churton Street,” she said. “The others are too costly.”

Jane Gaede, a resident of Ivey Drive in the road study area, said the timing of streetlights and the ban on large trucks through downtown has helped calm traffic issues foreseen in the 1980s.
“I cannot imagine that saving a few minutes is worth destroying the homes of 24 families and [impacting] the Eno River,” she said.

Holly Reid of the Walkable Hillsborough Coalition said she supports a DOT initiative to look at transportation beyond new roads and looking at multi-modal transportation plans for Hillsborough.
“Our town wants to be a leader in North Carolina and supports this model of transportation,” she said.

Joanie Alexander, who said she moved to Riverside Drive one year ago, said the DOT should support the town’s proposed alternatives to solve smaller issues instead of one large project.
“We have to start thinking outside the box, have to do things differently, to make things different,” she said.

Resident Renee Price delivered to DOT a petition with almost 1,000 names of residents who oppose any of the road construction alternatives. What started as a neighborhood petition grew into a community effort, she said, drawing in NASCAR fans who wanted the Speedway preserved and to others beyond the affected area.

(If I misspelled a name, please let me know and I will correct it. My request for the DOT's sign-in sheet has so far not yielded the document.)

Monday, December 7, 2009

bocc: waste transfer station

Alright, everyone. I'm at the Board of County Commissioners meeting at the Southern Human Services Center in Chapel Hill. I figured I'd post some nuggets as the meeting progresses, for those who couldn't make it but also can't wait until the news reports of the event come out.

So, stay tuned!

UPDATE (6:38 p.m.): Community activist group Orange County Voice and their supporters have arrived in force. They are handing out and wearing stickers that say "CHOOSE DURHAM" and "STAND UP FOR SMART TRASH" in support of their proposed solution to the waste disposal problem: use Durham in the short-term and find a better idea than a waste transfer station in Bingham Township or the Paydarfar site.

UPDATE (6:46 p.m.): Mini update: Commissioner Barry Jacobs is wearing one of the "CHOOSE DURHAM" stickers. Huh.

UPDATE (7:55 p.m.): County Manager Frank Clifton going over the options. He recommends using Durham's transfer station for 3-5 years while towns, county and UNC come together to find a better option, IF a WTS is deemed necessary.

UPDATE (8:09 p.m.): Public comment time. BOCC gave 1 hour for that.
Bonnie Hauser of OCV says: The situation is changing. We're all better informed, and with Mr. Clifton as manager, the staff now has the leadership to correct the missed opportunities of the past.

Clifton: Thank you, I think.

UPDATE (8:39 p.m.): Public comment still going on. The Rev. Campbell talked about meeting with White House and Cabinet staff, including Dept. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and EPA administrators. He said he received a letter from the EPA saying the complaint with the Dept. of Justice is moving forward and if the BOCC sites a waste transfer station in Millhouse, the EPA may launch an investigation into the county.

UPDATE (8:52 p.m.): Public comment over.

UPDATE (9:09 p.m.): Barry Jacobs makes a motion to ship trash to Durham. Mike Nelson adds a friendly amendment to remove the Eubanks Rogers Road community from consideration.

The motion passes, 6-1.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Man. Learning Gregg shorthand sure isn't easy, but I think it will make me a faster — and most importantly — a super accurate notetaker if/when I master it.

But, in the meantime, here's some of what I've got coming up this week:
• I talked to someone at Orange High School for the newly-restarted Educator of the Week feature. If you've got someone you think is doing great things for students, drop me a line at v.shortley (at)
• The Little School is having an open house this weekend, and I'll be there.
• Hands for Habitat is having their first community build this weekend, and I'll be there for that, too. Hopefully, the weather is better than today!
• I'll be at the BOCC meeting with the Waste Transfer Station siting on the agenda. If for some reason the date on that gets changed, I'll be at my regularly-scheduled BOE meeting instead. This will only be the second one I've missed in the 1 + years I've been here.

I've got other features and photo ops in the pipeline, but as always, let me know what's going on at the schools! Call me up at 732-2171 or send me an e-mail to v.shortley (at)

Back in the habit

Thanks to the holidays and the dreaded post-holiday publication, we have been away from this blogging thing for awhile. We've got a busy week coming up, with no fewer than four things taking placing Monday night with two reporters (and the GM) to cover them. There's a slew of weekend activities (see the paper or Word for some of them), and plenty of major issues to be covered in the coming weeks. On tap for next week's paper:

• Pictures of this weekend's activities: The town parade and tree-lighting; the Daniel Boone craft fair, gingerbread house contest and home tour; a Habitat home build event; and some education items.

• I will have a look at crime numbers over the past year in Hillsborough, which have taken a turn in a surprising direction.

• I'll have a story on another county non-profit hoping to keep its key programs viable.

• On Monday night, we have 1) The Elizabeth Brady Road bypass public hearing, 2) County commissioners' decision on a waste transfer station and 3) The first school board meeting in a month.
The Brady meeting will be my hangout, and judging from Monday turnout at a town information session (I was there but stuck in the back hallway because of a lack of seats and a stomach bug), it will be a doozy. Vanessa will be at the commissioners' meeting, and we'll figure out how to clone someone to cover the other things that night.

As part of our Year-in-Review issue, we want to know what you thought the biggest local story was in 2009 (a few nominees might not have happened yet). Send your thoughts to me at josh.kastrinsky(at) or editorial(at), and I will keep them jotted down as we compile the list.

Enjoy this lovely day and thanks for reading.

Friday, November 20, 2009

H1N1 vaccines by appointment

I just got this via e-mail from the Health Department:
Hillsborough-- Orange County residents can now call 1-888-252-3001 to reach a scheduler to make an H1N1 vaccine appointment. Utilizing H1N1 implementation funds, appointment scheduling was outsourced to Global Response to set up a professional appointment call center for greater public access to appointments.

Operators screen callers according to the Centers for Disease Control priority group guidelines and have up to ten lines active from 8:00am-5:00pm Monday - Friday. Callers will be offered appointments at the health department's Chapel Hill or Hillsborough clinic locations. Global Response will post a message for callers once all appointments are full, but will re-open as vaccine supplies are replenished.

Global Response is an appointment service only, for medically related questions the public can call the health department's H1N1 Nurse at 919-605-2051 or post an email to

Currently, half-day H1N1 clinics are being held daily Monday through Friday by appointment. The health department estimates that 400 appointments will be available weekly with additional appointments becoming available as more vaccine is shipped.

For general information about seasonal and H1N1 flu and updated information about vaccines visit the health department's website at or the Flu Information line at 919-245-2479.

Whatever happened here, the giant, neon pink bird lost

This is the scene down East King Street the morning after Ladies' Night Out. Look for pictures in next week's edition.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Brady meetings, recapped

Man, another post ... The Hillsborough/Orange County Chamber of Commerce this morning sent out a good recap of the meetings being held on the Elizabeth Brady Road bypass in the next three weeks. To wit:

"Dept. of Transportation Official to Speak At November Government
Affairs Meeting
Mike Mills, NCDOT Division 7 Engineer, will be the guest speaker at
the Chamber’s Government Affairs meeting on November 24, at 8:30 at
the Chamber office. Mike will be speaking about the status of the
Proposed Elizabeth Brady Road Extension."


"Hillsborough to Discuss Alternatives to Elizabeth Brady Road Bypass
Special Town Board meeting on alternatives to proposed
Elizabeth Brady Road extension
7 p.m. Nov. 30, 2009
Town Barn, 101 E. Orange St., Town Hall campus. Parking
lot is accessed from East Corbin Street.

The Hillsborough Town Board will hold a special meeting Nov. 30 to
discuss possible support of smaller, alternative road projects over
the proposed Elizabeth Brady Road extension, which would alleviate
traffic on Churton Street through the downtown.

The meeting — at 7 p.m. in the Town Barn, 101 E. Orange St. — is one
week in advance of a public hearing that the N.C. Department of
Transportation will hold on the Elizabeth Brady Road bypass project.

The Hillsborough board members will discuss the DOT’s draft
environmental impact statement on the bypass and the projects they
would like the DOT to build instead with the nearly $30 million
allocated for the bypass."

and then,

"DOT to Host Open House, Public Hearing on Proposed Hillsborough Bypass
NCDOT pre-hearing open house and public hearing on proposed Elizabeth Brady Road Extension
Dec. 7, 2009
Open House: 4 to 6:30 p.m. in the cafeteria
Presentation/Public Hearing: 7 p.m. in the gymnasium
Cameron Park Elementary School, 240 St. Mary's Road
The N.C. Department of Transportation will hold a pre-hearing open
house and corridor/design public hearing Dec. 7 on the proposed
Elizabeth Brady Road Extension.

The open house and public hearing will take place at Cameron Park
Elementary School, 240 St. Mary’s Road.

NCDOT representatives will be available from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at the
open house, in the school’s cafeteria, to answer questions and receive
comments regarding the proposed project. An opportunity to submit
written comments or questions will be provided.

A formal presentation will begin at 7 p.m. in the school’s gymnasium.
The presentation will explain the proposed location and design of the
project, the state-federal relationship, and right-of-way and
relocation requirements and procedures. Citizens will be able to
comment or ask questions. The presentation and comments will be
recorded, and a transcript will be prepared."

So, if these are meetings you plan to attend, plan on seeing me a lot in the next few weeks.

Thanks for reading.

Town push for increased occupancy tax hits a potential snag

Last week, the town board was discussing the next move to adopt up to a 3 percent additional occupancy tax on people staying at local hotels/motels, which is the preferred method among elected officials and other town leaders to pay for rising costs for special events.

The town says it is incurring greater costs than before with the sheer volume of events on public property (i.e. on town streets, parking lots, parks, etc.), and they are looking for a way to minimally impact event organizers, who have said the are operating on the razor's edge in terms of financing their events.

Town Manager Eric Peterson said the town’s plan to fund public services at events has run into a legal precedent. Similar bills establishing occupancy taxes for tourism purposes have been dedicated to fund tourism initiatives, he said, but he sees little evidence a tax would be approved to compensate for town services.

“We don’t think we can use this money to reimburse expenses,” he said.

Based on bills passed recently in other communities for a similar tax creation, the town would have to create another tourism advisory board, with roughly two-thirds of money raised through the tax benefiting tourism campaigns. One-third of the proceeds, Peterson said, could be used toward “tourism expenses.”

This would mean the town could use the money to offset other tourism-related costs, like its wayfinding signage plan, but using proceeds for event management costs “would be a stretch,” he said.

“It doesn’t mean we can’t ask for something special,” he said.

Peterson said town staff will bring back more information on what the town can request authority for in a General Assembly bill. They aren't tied to the bill language used by other towns, he said, but the town might have to make a compelling argument to use the tax income for so general a purpose. The bill was likely written to avoid potential abuses of the income, he said.

That will be something to watch. As for things coming up over the next issue or two (and around the holidays, we plan for two papers at a time and see what surfaces each week):

• I attended a rail station task force meeting this week, and the plans for the Collins property - which would include a train station, HYAA fields and perhaps a performing arts center - were much further along than I realized. More details next week.

• I'll finally have excerpts from my talk with Mayor Tom Stevens on what the next few years have in store for Hillsborough.

• I'm told there will be an update on the Colonial Inn repairs.

• Also, very likely we'll have Brady Road news/analysis.

• I have a feature or two in the pipeline for either this week or next.

As always, tips, story ideas and feedback are welcome at josh.kastrinsky(at) or editorial(at) (both go to me).

Technical updates

A quick programming note or two before we launch into our regular programming:

• The office is closed next Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday. We'll open next Monday, same time. Ad deadlines will remain unchanged. Home delivery will also be somewhat delayed for the holiday. E-mail is probably the best way to contact us editorial folks over the holiday, though I will not be checking my e-mail messages until Saturday after the holiday, when I return from the Great White North of Indiana.

• Our eEditions our going live, with the kinks worked out, next Wednesday. Basically, the entire paper is going to be available in PDF format on Wednesday mornings, either as downloads or in your browser, depending on your settings. It's a free addition for subscribers, same price as a print subscription for new folks. We'll have more details about how you sign up, etc., in next week's paper.

This is something I have been hoping for since several months ago, and I hope/think it's going to be a welcome addition to how we get you the news. Our Web reader numbers continue a solid upward trend, and the eEdition is a great tool for a weekly to offer, in my opinion. Again, more next week.

Back in a second with some more updates.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Central visits downtown

A quick production day post: First-graders from Central Elementary School took a field trip to downtown Hillsborough, visiting businesses. We were lucky enough to have them stop in.
In the picture, Josh talks to the last group to come in about what we do here at The News of Orange County.
It was great of them to stop by, and a blast talking to the students, many of whom I had photographed or talked to in my trips to the school.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tethering ordinance changes in affect next week

From Orange County Animal Services:

A tethering amendment to the Orange County Animal Ordinance, which restricts the tethering of dogs to a maximum of three hours within a 24-hour period, becomes effective Thursday, Nov. 19. During the first six months of the amendment's enforcement, only warning notices will be issued for tethering violations.

The amendment was approved by the Orange County Board of Commissioners at its Nov. 18, 2008, meeting. The amendment includes numerous exemptions to the limitations, including dogs that are within the visual field of a responsible party and those accompanying people in camping or other recreational areas.

The amendment also included 12 months of public outreach and education between Nov. 18, 2008, and Nov. 18 of this year.

The ordinance change is based upon a report and recommendations by the Tethering Committee, appointed by the commissioners, working in conjunction with the Animal Services Advisory Board, along with public input.

The ordinance only applies to the unincorporated parts of the county and Hillsborough. Chapel Hill has adopted its own tethering amendment, which differs from the County's and becomes effective in March 2010.

For more information on Orange County's amendment, including a full list of changes and exemptions, visit the Animal Services Web site at or call Animal Services at 942-7387.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Flu vaccine updates

We have a few items to share regarding flu vaccinations (H1N1 and seasonal) via the Orange County Health Department and the Hillsborough/Orange County Chamber of Commerce.

• The Orange County Health Department is sponsoring a Youth Flu Clinic for children ages 4-18 years old from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, or until the vaccine is gone, at Cedar Ridge High School in Hillsborough. Seasonal shots and H1N1 (mostly mist) vaccines will be available. The event is free, walk-in, rain or shine. People should be prepared to stand in line outside and dress according to the weather, according to the department.
The health department is expecting additional H1N1 vaccine shipments. When the department has vaccine hand, H1N1 appointment only clinics will be announced.
For H1N1 vaccine updates monitor the department's Web site at or the Flu Info Line at 245-2479.

• The health department will hold appointment-only seasonal flu clinks each Friday starting Nov. 13 through Dec. 18.
Clinics are open to adults and children. The clinics will be held from
1:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the department's Chapel Hill and Hillsborough locations.
To make an appointment for a seasonal flu shot in Chapel Hill,
call 968-2022, ext 0. To make an appointment for a seasonal flu shot in
Hillsborough, call 245-2400. The clinic will be closed Friday, Nov. 27,
for the Thanksgiving holiday.

And, via the Chamber:
"Hillsborough Pediatrics, located in the Meadowlands, has both the H1N1 and the seasonal flu vaccines and can give them to anyone in the appropriate category (children 6 months to 24 years old, especially those under 5 and those with asthma or other illnesses; parents and caretakers of children less than 6 months old; health care workers).

You do not have to be a patient of Hillsborough Pediatrics and do not have to transfer to the practice, if you'd like to get the vaccination. Melissa Clepper-Faith, MD, and her staff believe that these are very important vaccines that can save lives in the community.
For more information, call Hillsborough Pediatrics at 919-245-3344."

This week

And a happy Veterans Day to you. We had plenty of material related to the holiday in this week's edition, from our interviews with local veterans to coverage in the schools of their celebrations. And, amazingly, we're only a few weeks from the holidays, though Christmas season apparently starts sometime in early October in grocery and department stores.

This week, I will be working on the following (not including anything newsy that happens in the next few days):

• I sat down with Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens to discuss the future of the town, being unopposed for the job and some of what residents can expect in the coming months. Portions of the interview will be in next week's issue.

• I will have updates from this week's town board meeting regarding the Colonial Inn, events fees and a potential cemetery arrangement that could be a good deal for town residents. (Hopefully not included in that story: A gratuitous use of the phrase "put this issue to rest" that was favored by some town board members.)

• I'll have some community news on an award-winning designer and other odds and ends.

• Look for an announcement on a new Web feature we'll be rolling out.

I will be working on another publication, the Woodcroft Gazette, this week, so I'll be in and out. As always, send an e-mail is you don't catch me here — josh.kastrinsky(at)

Monday, November 9, 2009

SIP: Partnership Academy

So, here's the next School Improvement Plan, for Partnership Academy, though for them the first option is not needs but the local ABC options:
1. (ABC option:) To improve students' grades.// (target:) Sixty-three percent of students enrolled will increase their percentage of passing grades at PA when compared with their percentage of passing grades while attending their most recent school, as evidenced in report card grades.// (strategies:) a) Using Mind Ladder Learning Guides, evaluate the intellective and non-intellective knowledge construction functions each child possesses, determining strengths and areas to be further developed. Mediate the learning gap using the adviser program and the dynamic assessment tool kit; b) All permanent full-time certified staff for core academic areas (English, math, science and social studies) will evaluate NovaNET and choose supplemental materials and lessons to enhance online instructions in the areas of the NCSCOS that are not covered; c) All permanent full-time certified staff for core academic areas (English, math, science and social studies) will provide direct instruction to students and will assist students in preparation for End of Court tests and the NC Writing Tests using printed and Internet resources, as well as materials provided on NovaNET.

2. (ABC option:) To increase parent involvement.// (target:) Eighty-five percent of PA families will take an active role in their children's education by participating in at least three planned school activities per semester in which their student is enrolled at PA during the 2009-10 school year, as evidenced in meeting minutes, sing in logs and STEP plans.// (strategies: a) Host two or more parent events that involved a parent networking opportunity and educational component; b) Assess family strengths and needs through the Mind Ladder Assessment and Family Interview and provide information and resource referrals as indicated; c) Publish a monthly student produced newsletter.

3. (ABC options:) To increase community involvement.// (target:) a) Collaborate with community members to facilitate two or more parent events that involve a parent networking opportunity and educational component; b) Invite community members to be guest speakers in the Personal Development Course; c) Update school Web site to include school activity information, school newsletter, and links to relevant resources for students and parents.

Budget info: Total of $7,298.11.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Finally, an update on Liz Brady Road

We received notification this morning that the Environmental Impact Statement draft on the Elizabeth Brady Road extension options will be available to the public, and a public hearing will be held locally on Monday, Dec. 7.

A "pre-hearing open house" will be held from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Dec. 7 at Cameron Park Elementary, and a public hearing on the corridor and design details will be held at 7 p.m.

These meetings are a sign that, after some changes to the project plans and environmental assessments, the project is lurching forward to the public comment stage. Public officials, both on the town and county levels, have essentially said they'd like to shelve the project in favor of smaller road improvements to fix traffic flow through downtown Hillsborough.

But the process is tricky — almost $30 million is already available for the project (which, could cost close to $50 million, depending on which route is chosen), and local officials don't want to see the earmarked money disappear into the ether.

I'll have more on what comes next in the coming weeks, with more on the public hearing in next week's paper. For more on what we've written in recent months, you can click here and here and here.

SIPs: high schools

Sorry for the delay in posting these, but I was off yesterday packing. I'll be getting the School Improvement Plans up as quickly as I can, starting with the high schools. Here's some background from information disseminated at the last Board of Education meeting:
North Carolina statutes require School Improvement Plans to be developed on a three-year cycle [VCS: soon to be two-year cycle due to recent legislative revisions] with annual updates. The School Improvement Plan Team must include administrators as well as elected representatives.


The comprehensive process includes regular monitoring of progress as the building level and district level. The plan is a result of careful examination of existing goals, data, strategies, programs, and resources with appropriate evaluations built into the cycle.

Cedar Ridge High School:

[The categories are as follows: Our school's three most significant needs are/ present status/ target status/ most promising strategy(ies) to address the needs)

1. (Needs:) Revisit our Professional Learning Community efforts in order to maintain high academic growth, implement "Closing the Gap" committee recommendations, and utilize common assessments to measure student mastery of the essential curriculum in a timely manner// (Present status:) Met 100 percent of AYP goals; 87.2 percent graduation cohort rate; Improved 5 EOC test areas; 78.7 percent Level III & IV; decreased achievement gap in five areas; 80 percent proficiency on state writing test.// (target:) 100 percent AYP; 80 percent ABC proficiency; 90 percent grad cohort rate; decreased achievement gap in all EOC areas.// (strategies:) a) Each PLC will utilize the strategies learned in Diversity Training to develop methods to decrease the achievement gap; b) Each PLC Team wil develop, analyze, and share outcomes of short-term Smart Goals; c) Each PLC will continue to revise common assessments and use assessment results as EVAAS Data Analysis to identify at-risk students.

2. (Needs:) Develop and implement SmartBoard lessons and utilize other 21st Century technology resources in the classroom.// (present:) SmartBoards installed in all classrooms.// (target:) Train all staff in additional technologies; Technology IGP Goals; each PLC will share SmartBoard activities.// (strategies:) a) All PLC members will participate in SmartBoard training, NC Wise Gradebook training, and share sessions to enhance the implementation of technology resources in the classroom; b) Staff share sessions will be conducted to demonstrate and exchange strategies and SmartBoard activities; c) Staff will utilize shared drive folders to post Smart Goals, Student Watch lists, Wolf Buck Incentives, and other data reports.

3. (Needs:) Realign Pyramid of Intervention strategies to address priorities identified through student, parent, and staff surveys, shared sessions, roundtable discussions, and monthly parent sessions.// (present:) Pyramid of Interventions.// (target:) Revise Pyramid; implement PLUS Period Bell Schedule; Monthly PLC roundtable and departmental meetings; review PEP guidelines.// (strategies:) a) Create PLUS Period in order to provide remediation and re-teaching during the day; b) Develop appropriate PEP intervention strategies for all designated students; c) Conduct monthly PLC sessions, parent share sessions, and Roundtable Discussions to improve student success.

Budget: Total budget $88,593.01

Orange High School:

1. (Needs:) Improve student achievement among all student populations; reduce the Achievement Gaps between White and Black and White and Hispanic students in all EOC courses.// (present:)OHS met 15 out of 19 AYP target goals (78.9 percent); 43.9 percent of Exceptional Children scored proficient on EOC exams; OHS had a composite score of 75.2 percent on EOC exams; The graduation cohort rate for students entering high school in 2005 was 77.9 percent; OHS performance on the SAT averaged 1039 in 2008, but dropped to 995 in 2009; OHS proficiency scores by ethnicity: white = 81.7 percent, Hispanic = 68.9 percent, black = 57.5 percent.// (target:) 100 percent of No Child Left Behind AYP target goals; percentage of EC students proficient on EOCs will increase by at least 20 percent; OHS will have a composite score of 80 percent proficient on EOC exams; OHS will increase the graduation cohort rate to 80 percent for students who entered high school in 2006; OHS student will meet or exceed the state average on the SAT; OHS will reduce the achievement gap of those students deemed proficient on all EOC exams between white and black and white and Hispanic students by at least 20 percent.// (strategies:) a) Panther Period will provide time to review NCSCOS concepts in all course; b) Key vocabulary words for each content area will be taught using various literacy strategies; c) The Panther Assistance Report (PAR) will be compiled and peer tutors will provide targeted instruction in individual areas of needs.

2. (needs:) Increase use of best practices by teacher participation in a minimum of three professional development activities and implementation of at least one new instructional strategy.// (present:) School-wide survey data indicated teacher need for staff development in PLCs and 21st Century Learning Skills. // (target:) 100 percent staff participation in at least three professional development activities with a minimum of 1.5 CEU credits; (strategies:) a) Staff will attend a variety of self-selected staff development activities to include High Five, SIOP, Whole-to-Part, EVAAS, Pyramid of Intervention, SmartBoard training, etc.; b) Teachers will implement at least one new instructional strategy as evidenced by lesson plans, classroom walkthroughs and observations, and PLC meeting minutes; c) Teachers will utilize 21st Century Skills in instructional practice as evidenced by lesson plans, PLC meeting minutes and classroom observations.

3. (needs:) Reduction in the number of students who fail English I and Algebra I.// (present:) We will establish a baseline for this data at the end of the first semester. Our graduation cohort is 77.9 percent. Many of the 20.1 percent who did not graduate with their cohort did not get promoted from ninth grade. The core courses for ninth grade include English I and Algebra I.// (target:) 20 percent reduction in the number of students who fail English I and/or Algebra I. In the three year SIP progress, an improved passing rate in English I and Algebra I will strategically reduce the number of students who do not graduate with their cohort.// (strategies:) a) Guidance counselors will participate in PAR, PEP, use EVAAS, and after school EOC tutorial processes for early identification of students who are having difficulty in these core courses. Guidance will make parental contacts and collaborate with teachers on various strategies to improve student performance in these gateway courses; b) OHS faculty will conduct full revision and adoption of the Pyramid of Interventions. Faculty and staff will use EVAAS and work through the various levels of interventions to ensure that students have a successful transition to high school; c) English I and Algebra I teachers will coordinate peer tutoring and review during Panther Period and provide, as required, after school EOC tutorials that begin no later than the sixth week of the semester. The EOC tutorials will also be content specific to help students perform well on the EOC and in the classroom setting as well. Teachers will use ClassScape to create common assessments.

Total budget: $110,499.67

Whew. Middle schools in a bit.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Web update

This morning, I am a solo act coming off an election night. So, the Web will be up somewhat slower than usual given those circumstances. Expect it by 11 a.m. Thanks for your patience.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Volleyball update; Fairview Park groundbreaking

From various sources:

• Orange's volleyball playoff run ended last night in a 3-0 loss at Cardinal Gibbons.

Cedar Ridge defeated Bunn 3-1 and will host another playoff game on Saturday, this time Sectionals. If they win, they will move on to Regionals next week and would be a step away from the state finals. We'll update as we know more.

• Also, if you're looking for something to do tonight or tomorrow, here's our compilation of Halloween-themed events around the area. There will be plenty of family-friendly events over the next few days, and supposedly it will dry up by this evening.

• One final note, also added to the Web site: A groundbreaking date has been set for Fairview Park's phase I expansion - 4:30 p.m. next Wednesday, Nov. 4. It's obviously a momentous day for the northern Hillsborough communities and for residents throughout the area to see this closer to a reality, and when built, the town's accessible greenspace count will have gone from small pocket parks to two major attractions in about two years.

Things are being built at a rapid pace around town. Look for more information in the next week or so about what has moved where.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

next week

As Josh mentioned, I voted yesterday at the Board of Elections. Being the 65th person to drop in a ballot was a little bit sad. I know Hillsborough's race may not necessarily be as exciting as a presidential election, but it's still important. Alright, I'll come down off my soapbox, but I do hope everyone goes out and votes.

It was nice having part of the Education Page be in colour this week; I don't think it's happened before in the year I've been here, so it was great to be able to show off some of the colourful photos I took and received. Big thanks to the Central PTSA for providing me with some really lovely photos of the fire safety presentation by Billy Nicholson, too. If you've got photos you'd like to see in the paper, by all means, e-mail them to me or drop them off at our office on King Street.

Anyway, this upcoming week is a bit up in the air for what I'll have, but here's what I'm working on:

• Halloween event photos from Friday;

• Maybe an Educator of the Week, if I can get a good enough backlog going. (On that note, if you know someone who's doing a great job in area schools, let me know!)

• A social-ish piece on a local water walking class;

• I'm going to next week's Board of Education meeting;

• And a few other things, like FEMMES, awards and a local company whose toy invention is taking off.

If you've got anything else, drop me a line at v(dot)shortley(at)newsoforange(dot)com or give me a shout at 732-2171.

Volleyball teams playing tonight

Orange and Cedar Ridge's volleyball teams will play in the third round of the state playoffs tonight, with each team on the road.

Orange faces familiar foe Cardinal Gibbons at 6 p.m. The admission cost is $5.

Cedar Ridge plays at Bunn at 7 p.m. The admission cost is $6.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A trickle ...

Vanessa told me she was the 65th voter at the Board of Elections office when she voted today. Not to confuse you — she wasn't the 65th person utilizing early or one-stop voting services at the Hillsborough location. She was 65th in the 13 days that location has been open.

Maybe folks are being traditional and holding back until election day (currently projected as temperatures of 62/42 and sunny). Maybe this is the post-Big Election Year malaise. In 2005, the last local election after a U.S. presidential race, 1,925 votes were cast (total, with each voter having the option of checking two names). In 2001, the number was 8,336, though it was a more contested race (more candidates) than in recent elections.

These are based off of a quick look at day-after numbers from our pages. Check your local Board of Elections for official numbers.

The big figure to watch, though, is that of 2007, the last town board race. That year, 1,482 votes were made, with voters choosing any three of four candidates. We can't assume everybody voted for three people here, but that's less than 500 voters from more than 4,000 registered. Does this year's election come close?

Three candidates are seeking two seats. Two are multiple-term incumbents and a third is a familiar face on local advisory boards and in local elections. The mayor is running unopposed. There are no local referendums. How do these factors contribute to the final turnout, and how does the turnout affect the result?

Needless to say, we'll have election coverage next week, some business news and some pictures from everybody's favorite holiday for crazy visuals.

Lastly, to prosthelytize from the Church of Civic Involvement: Early voting can be done through Saturday down on King Street at the Board of Elections. Polls open again Tuesday for Election Day. Look for results next week.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Check out Handmade Parade photos

All I could think about when I saw this was how curious I am to see the film adaptation of "Where the Wild Things Are."

This is pre-Handmade Parade on Saturday, Oct. 17. We have 200+ pictures, which are being uploaded to our MyNewsPhotos site in the next hour. Just go to and click on the large button asking you to see or buy photos or follow this link.

We were only able to place a few photos in the print edition, but the parade appeared to be a huge hit with participants and folks watching from the street. It culminated with a large gathering on the Burwell School lawn, something resembling, I imagine, a New Orleans-style parade Tinka Jordy and Mark Donley said they tried to recreate with Handmade.


h1n1 vaccine update

From the Orange County Health Department:
The Orange County Health Department will hold 2 H1N1 vaccination clinics on Friday, October 23, 2009. The walk-in clinics will begin at 1:30 pm, last until the vaccine supplies are exhausted and will be held at both health department locations:
• 300 West Tryon Street , Hillsborough
• 2501 Homestead Road, Chapel Hill
Injectable vaccine will be available and will be free. (Injectable vaccine is made with inactivated or 'killed' virus and is injected into the muscle, like the seasonal flu shot.)

These clinics are for persons identified as members of priority groups for vaccination due to being at increased risk for complications from flu. These groups are:
• Pregnant women
• Persons 6 months - 24 years of age
• Close contacts to and caregivers of children <6 months of age
• Persons 25-64 years of age with conditions placing them at increased risk for complications from flu
• Healthcare workers

Monitor H1N1 vaccine availability by calling the health department's Flu Line at 245-2479 or visiting the department's website at

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I saw this release this morning and thought it might interest some of you:
You are invited to attend the first chartered meeting of the
Orange County Special Education Parent Teacher Association

Date: Thursday, October 22
Time: 6:00 – 6:30 p.m.
Location: AL Stanback Middle School Media Center
3700 NC 86 South, Hillsborough

We’ll introduce our organization and discuss membership. If you cannot attend the meeting and wish to become a member, please contact one of the individuals listed on the bottom of this message. This meeting will be immediately followed by a Parent Information Session:

6:30 – 8:00 p.m. Public Health Funding Programs: Accessing Federal, State & Local Funding for Special Needs Children
Teach parents of severe and persistent special needs children how to access funding from public resources.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact:

Pam Scism, SEPTA President
Susan Wingate, SEPTA Vice President
Barbara Moto, SEPTA Treasurer
Ingrid Branigan, SEPTA Secretary

Here's an article I wrote about the group back at the end of March.

This week

You can read the basics of downtown parking caused by the Handmade Parade changes here. The town released official details today:
"Traffic will be rerouted around downtown Hillsborough on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 17, to allow for the Hillsborough Handmade Parade.
At 1 p.m., the Hillsborough Police Department will close South Cameron Street between East King Street and Burnside Drive as well as East Margaret Lane between South Cameron Street and the Orange County Courthouse. This will allow parade participants to line up.
Beginning at 2:20 p.m. until about 3:45 p.m., Churton Street from Margaret Lane to Union Street will be closed for the parade, which starts at 2:30 p.m.
The parade will head west on East Margaret Lane to Churton Street. It then will continue north on Churton Street to Union Street, where a grand finale will take place on the lawn of Burwell School Historic Site.
During the parade, southbound traffic on Churton Street should use U.S. 70 or Corbin Street as detours around the downtown. Northbound traffic should use U.S. 70-A or Eno Mountain Road as detours.
No on-street parking will be allowed along South or North Churton Street from noon until the parade is completed. Anyone wishing to park downtown should use the free parking that is available on King Street or in various lots, including two off King Street. Parking also is available in the Eno River Parking Deck, which charges a fee. The parking deck is located in the Gateway Center campus off Churton Street.
A map of public parking options in downtown Hillsborough is available on
the town’s Web site at under the “About Hillsborough” section.
Vehicles parked along shoulders of road or in places that are not properly marked and designated for parking may be ticketed.
For more information on the parade or to participate, contact the Arts Council at 643-2500 or visit its Web site at"
You can expect to see pictures from the event in next week's edition. You can also expect

• Candidate interview responses — I sat down with Frances Dancy, Michael Gering and Bryant Warren this month to ask general questions on five subjects of debate in town. We'll print their answers in next week's issue and put more from the interviews online.

• Two of the three candidates attended a Northern Orange Black Voters Alliance forum this week, and I'll have a report from there as well.

• I'll have a recap of this week's town board discussions on access to Gold Park and potential sidewalks along Margaret Lane.

• The Myers House story will run. Seriously this time.

Provided we have good weather, there will be pictures from football, volleyball and tennis games.

There are some other stories I am working on, but time will tell how much typing I have in me this week.

UPDATE: I received word from members of Orange County Voice, who said they were removed from county property last weekend while distributing a survey, that the county now has a legal waiver they will provide to anybody distributing materials at solid waste convenience centers to ensure their safety. I also received a copy of said waiver, if anyone wants me to post it.
OCV folks tell me they are getting hundreds of responses to their survey. We'll let you know the results once the survey is complete.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

FYI: OHS Fields of Faith postponed

I just got off the phone with Coach Bobby Shriner from Orange High who said the Fellowship of Christian Athlete's Fields of Faith, originally scheduled for 7:30 p.m. tonight, will be postponed to a date to be announced because of the inclement weather.

"I just don't want the kids to get rained on," he said.

I'll post it when it's rescheduled.

what's next?

Here's some stuff that's coming up for next week's paper:

• I talked with the directors of the Little School, who gave me a tour around their new campus.

• Middle schools are now engaging in clubs — one of them, with a literacy twist.

• The eco classroom is making some great progress.

• I'll be at the Board of Education meeting Monday.

• A local bus driver was nominated by a 5-year-old who rides his bus for an award.

• Something interesting from Durham Tech.

• And some photo ops from local elementary and middle schools.

That's what I've got for now. As always, let me know if anything interesting is going on in any area schools, not just the county schools.

Attn: Grammar dorks

"That word is misspelled," the General Manager said last night once we were proofing pages for this week's edition.

He was pointing to the plural of drive-thru in a headline on the front page which, admittedly, is an awkward word (it no longer appears in the headline). This led to a search for any rules governing the word, either in English or AP Style (which are not always the same thing).

The AP Stylebook was of little help. County documents refer to a "drive-thru," though the grammar dork in me really wants to write "drive-through."

Then there's the plural — "drive-thrus" is not a gem of a word, especially in a banner headline. A survey of regional media showed that most erred on "drive-thru," though the plural rarely surfaces.

In the end, it was "drive-thru," and I avoided using the plural like the Plague. My question is, what is the definitive spelling of this word? It will surface again, but the jury is out on which word we should use or whether the commonly-used word is actually a word.

If the above post was not clear, I have had a few late nights in a row, and these are the things I try to figure out. I welcome your thoughts.

The weekly look-ahead is forthcoming.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Communication issues

I have not been receiving e-mails since about noon yesterday, with the exception of 3-4 people with the word "Orange" in their e-mail address. Not even our friendly neighborhood spammers have sent anything; rather, I haven't been receiving 150 blank "letter to the editor" e-mails like I would on a typical Monday.

Needless to say, on a deadline day this is a problem.

If you have sent us an e-mail and haven't received a response, it might have been lost in cyberspace (we're working on recovery). If you are sending something for this week's issue, please call the editorial department at (919) 732-2171 and ask for Josh or Vanessa.

Friday, October 9, 2009

FYI: Stanford field day canceled

This just came across my e-mail:
C.W. Stanford Middle School - Field & Maintenance Workday – (which was originally scheduled for tomorrow, Sat., Oct. 10th) is CANCELLED for tomorrow, Due to the Treatment of the playing fields. We will reschedule at a later date!

coming up this week

Here's what I've got on my plate and what you can expect to see (more or less) in this week's paper from moi:
• The McKee CornField Maze is up and running. I'll have a feature on this perennial local favourite.
• An EcoEternity forest is opening up at Camp Chestnut Ridge. Don't know what that is? Find out next week.
• The middle schools have started organizing clubs this year, and A.L. Stanback's selection is literacy-based.
• I participated and photographer International Walk to School Day (as mentioned in a previous post).

There's a few other things I'm working on, but we'll see if they pan out for this week.

I'm also trying to resurrect the Educator of the Week feature, and I would love nominations from the public. Is there a teacher in your child's school that is especially talented? A media assistant or assistant principal that deserves recognition? What about a teacher assistant or custodian? Let me know! Drop me a line at v (dot) shortley (at) newsoforange (dot) com or give me a ring at 732-2171.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

This week

Here's what I am working on. Items will likely be added, subtracted or replaced, but here's where we sit on Thursday:
• I'll have a story on the county commissioners' discussion of drive-thrus and what they want to do about them. There's no true consensus on their views as a group, so this discussion will continue.

• Only certain people can view a masked man with a knife and a camera at their home as a normal development. I'll have a follow-up on the Myers House NC, the now-completed tourist attraction in the Buckhorn community that is modeled after Michael Myers' home from the "Halloween" film franchise.

• Orange's 1978 football team had an undefeated regular season and 30 years later, they'll be honored at Orange's homecoming game. We'll have some details.

• I spent a little bit of time at Project Homeless Connect today and will have some more information about the role of that event and the turnout.

• The town board meets Monday, and I will be there.

• Also, look for more on the upcoming election, endorsements and oodles (yes, oodles) of stuff from Vanessa.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

H1N1 nasal mist

From the county Health Department: (Remember, the nasal mist is not for pregnant women or those with underlying health issues)
HILLSBOROUGH--The Orange County Health Department will receive 700 doses of H1N1 nasal mist later today. The department will follow current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines and plans to distribute a portion of this first vaccine shipment to medical practices not receiving vaccine directly form the State and to Orange County Emergency Services for eligible first responders. The department will also vaccinate eligible health department clients and staff providing direct patient care.

The CDC's Vaccination Information Statement for live H1N1 explains that nasal mist is a live, attenuated intranasal vaccine (or LAIV). It is licensed for healthy, non-pregnant people from 2 through 49 years of age. The live vaccine virus is attenuated (weakened) so it will not cause illness. People should not get nasal mist if they have a severe (life-threatening) allergy to eggs. "To get the live H1N1 vaccine, a person must be healthy, 2 to 49 years of age and not pregnant. Persons in close contact to a severely immuno-compromised patient (hospitalized in a protected environment) should not receive the live vaccine formulation," says Judy Butler, RN Community Services Supervisor.

While certain groups should not get live virus vaccines – for example pregnant women, people with long-term health problems, and children from 6 months to 2 years of age – it is important that they be vaccinated. They should get the inactivated form of H1N1 (vaccine that has killed virus in it) when it becomes available. For more information on H1N1 vaccine restrictions and eligibility requirements visit the CDC's website to the review the latest H1N1 vaccination information statements at

County public health officials anticipate that local medical providers will begin receiving H1N1 vaccine shipments within the next two weeks. The health department expects future vaccine shipments, but has no delivery date. For local flu updates visit

Interim manager now new manager

Last night, Frank Clifton, the interim Orange County manager, formally removed "interim" from his job title. He's been serving in the interim since June, when Laura Blackmon left the post.

From a release from the county:
"As County Manager, Clifton will lead the day-to-day operations of Orange County government, interacting with the Board of County Commissioners, county departments and the general public. He will report directly to the Board of Commissioners.
Clifton has a long and successful career in local government, including County Manager – Onslow County, N.C., City Manager – Casselberry, Fla., County Manager – Cabarrus County, N.C. and City Manager – City of Bristol, Tenn.
His educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in management and finance from the University of South Florida and a master’s degree in city management from East Tennessee State University. He has also continued his education through the City-County Government Administration Program at the School of Government at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. "
He was tapped by a unanimous vote. His starting salary will be $161,200.

There's more from last night's meeting - commissioners talked about a change in the county's regulations on new drive-thrus (not sure on the plural) built in the county. Options ranged from an education campaign asking those with idling cars to curb their emissions to a complete ban on them. Commissioners voted to delay any action until the economic development commission weighs in on the options.

There was a lively discussion of the issue, which saw the emergence of some ideological differences between board members. I'll have details next week, and I'll be back either this afternoon or early tomorrow with a rundown on what else is coming for the Oct. 14 issue.

iwalk to school day

This morning myself and about 60 other people braved the drizzle to participate in the International Walk to School Day with Cameron Park Elementary School. It was a great event with some great turnout. In the picture, people are finishing the walk and heading over to the school on the crosswalk on St. Mary's Road. Look for more information about this event in next week's paper.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Web-only content

Just dropping a quick line to let our readers know there is content online not native to the print edition. They include a collection of news from local government bodies and organizations or news and events from the fringe of our coverage.

The latter could be described as something taking place outside our normal coverage area but still having some relevance. If I am holding on to something and haven't been able to find print space for it in two weeks, it will more than likely go online and might appear again in print.

A quick follow-up to the post about the Oct. 13 candidate forum - questions from the public are welcome and encouraged, we've learned. Adjust accordingly, residents of in-town voter precincts.

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

what's new?

As always, there's lots to do and not enough time to do it in, especially since I'm the latest in the office to succumb to some kind of cold/flu-like illness.

This week I'll (hopefully!) have:
• A story about Monday's Board of Education meeting
• Something on the work Central's PTSA is doing (they're awfully busy!)
• A local boy got a story published in a magazine
• The McKees cornfield maze is back up and running.

And other odds and ends as I hear about them.

So let me know! Give me a ring at 732-2171 or drop me a line at v (dot) shortley (at) newsoforange (dot) com.

This week

With three candidates vying for two seats on the Hillsborough town board and the mayor running unopposed, Hillsborough's races don't seem to pack as much of a punch as the ... let's call it "activity" ... to the south. But, local races are still important, so don't forget these key election dates.

I am sitting down with town board hopefuls over the next few days to ask some broad questions about their views on hot topics and ongoing concerns I have heard from residents over the time I've been at The News of Orange. Look for those Q&A sessions to appear in either the Oct. 14 or Oct. 21 paper, depending on what else is in the paper on Oct. 14.

The Northern Orange Black Voters Alliance will hold a candidate forum on Tuesday, Oct. 13. I plan on covering the event, but if you want to be there in person, it is a the Fairview police substation at 7 p.m.

For this week, early returns (already with the election language?) are as follows:
• Project Homeless Connect is next week, and I plan on having some information about local students who are helping with northern Orange County's homeless services.
• I am working on a story about class reunions, looking back at Hillsborough when these classes graduated.
• Seasonal flu shots are being offered soon in the schools. We'll have more as we learn it.
• Updates on the hospital proposal, waste transfer station and other issues.
• Plenty of photos, and Vanessa's stories, too.

I am in and out of the office this week, so feel free to drop me an e-mail at josh(dot)kastrinsky(at) if you can't catch me here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Parking Deck redux

For this week's paper, I spoke with a member of Hillsborough's planning department about the town's impending study of downtown parking, a much-commented-upon situation from those visiting the town and, as evidenced by the fact there is a study, an issue for those living and working here as well.

In the article, there was a statement about spots in the Eno River Parking Deck, 228 S. Churton St., being opened up to customers visiting county offices. Offices soon to be located adjacent to the deck are all of those above the Gateway Center, the new four-story county campus building and the new public library, the latter two set to open this year, as far as we have been told.

There are a few points to clarify/correct: The county has already been renting 200 spots in the parking deck for government and employee use, and they do not know whether any will be available to the public.

For several months, people have asked us and, I presume, county officials whether there will be free parking spaces available for customers at the library. After several phone calls and e-mails today, it's been clarified that none of the spaces have been designated as "customer parking." However, being a public parking deck, paid spots are available for anybody parking downtown.

That's the latest. Hopefully that clears up any confusion. Have a good weekend.

moving forward

Gail Hughes, soil conservationist with the Orange Soil and Water Conservation District, uses a twig to point out features on a map of the potential eco classroom site at C.W. Stanford Middle School on Thursday, Sept. 24.

Many of those involved with the project went out yesterday — braving the hot, humid weather — to try and narrow down potential sites for the eco classroom, located in a wooded area between Orange High and Stanford Middle schools. I'll have more information on how that went this week.

Also this week:

• Central has a ton going on! I'll have photos from a couple of the events on the Education Page.

• Dogs took over a local assisted living facility for an afternoon.

• The two Boards of Education in the county met with county commissioners to discuss the impact of their budgets, SAPFO and other things, to interesting results

• Watch out for those "Bands on the Run"!

• There will be a Community Health Gala in the Fairview community Saturday.

• And much, much more!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What's this? and this week

Since I really don't know how to categorize this photo, let me put it this way: On the left is an old water pipe taken from in front of the courthouse during construction this month. On the right, despite looking like a log with a hole, is an even older water pipe from near the same location.

At last week's town board meeting, board member Evelyn Lloyd said she wanted to display these items in her store after town engineer Kenny Keel showed the board what they had unearthed downtown. Maybe it's not the most exciting artifact a downtown project has uncovered, but if you ever wondered what a 100-year-old water pipe looks like, today is your day.

Back to the paper, the town board has a few "hot topics" to discuss next Monday, including whether the town should explore an event policy and what Hillsborough should do to help the county's waste stream. Look for coverage of that. I'll have a few features — women in the Walnut Grove United Methodist Church community will be walking 60 miles in three days to benefit breast cancer research, and the folks behind the Handmade Parade event you've seen so many notices about in the paper and on the street talk about what the event means for the arts council.

We'll have plenty of photos and some updates from the school board and other school happenings.

UPDATE: This weekend's productions of "Murder in the Library" (in the parking deck) have been canceled. Ticket-purchasers will receive a refund. If they haven't reached you, call the library at 245-2525.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

joint meeting

At the joint Orange County Schools/Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools/Board of County Commissioners meeting, county Planning Director Craig Benedict played the following video of the famous chocolate factory sketch from "I Love Lucy" while explaining the Schools Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance:

The Home Builders' Association was the factory lady, trying to squeeze as much work (or as many developments) into one day (town, area) as possible. Lucy and Ethel were Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, trying to wrap children up into little packages and send them out into the world. See what happens when factory lady has her way? Catastrophe.

(The purpose of SAPFO is to coordinate the building of new developments with capacity in the schools.)

More on this meeting in next Wednesday's paper.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Rain, rain go away. No, seriously, go away.

Rain can cause a lot of problems with our coverage. It can ruin a big rivalry football game tonight, leaving us devoid of images of the action for next week's paper. It can cancel schools events, leaving gaps in coverage. It can knock out our Internet connection for a few hours, which is sort of like the end of the world when you spend your day constantly checking e-mails, confirming information and trying to send pages to the press. So here's hoping we have a few dry days ahead.

Each week I do the Athlete of the Week feature at each high school, and the students give thoughtful answers our questions. Occasionally, there is the standout answer that you remember for awhile. I got one of my favorites this week about a favorite sports memory, one that involves a mechanical chicken. It's right up there with a Cedar Ridge athlete who looks up to Batman. Be on the lookout for that.

There's still plenty going on despite the weather, though I would check ahead to ensure some of these don't get rained out:

• Cedar Ridge hosts Orange in football tonight at 7:30 p.m. One thing I have noticed from athlete interviews is Cedar Ridge athletes of mention their goals as the following: Have a good season, make the playoffs, make all-conference, beat Orange in anything they can. I don't hear as much from Orange athletes about beating Cedar Ridge. Is the rivalry not mutual?

• Handmade Parade puppet workshop, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 200 Spring Valley Road in Carrboro. This out-of-town event is tied into the Arts Council's annual parade. In a few issues, I'll have a story about how they've scrapped and clawed to get this event together, even though organizers have no idea what puppets people will bring until the day of the event. For more about upcoming workshops, see

• Auditions for "Smoke on the Mountain," Saturday and Sunday. The Orange Community Players are looking especially for those with musical talent for this November production. Auditions will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19, and from 3 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 20, at First Baptist Church, 201 W. King St. There are roles for four men ages 17 to 50 years old and three women ages 17 to 50 years old, as well as openings for the tech crew and for a stage manager. For more information, call director Wayne Leonard at 383-7589 or visit

Stay dry.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

This week

So, last night I walked across the street to the Hillsborough town board candidate forum, put together by the Orange-Chatham Group of the Sierra Club, only to find 20 people huddled in front of the Old Courthouse as a light rain fell.

Apparently, the courthouse was booked for the night, but nobody in attendance — town or county officials included — had a key. They discussed new locations, including our office, but as anyone who has been here can tell you, we can't fit 20 people comfortably in our conference area. Eventually we all moved to the Town Barn, but it was an odd scene to begin a candidate forum.

The three candidates — Frances Dancy, Michael Gering and Bryant Warren, running for two seats — answered a variety of questions on sustainable development, walkability and the rural buffer, among others. It appeared they were well-prepared for the questions, and their answers indicated they pretty much agreed with one another on most major points. I'll have something small recapping it next week. I've saved my questions for one-on-one interviews in the coming weeks. Your questions are welcome as well. Comment on the blog or send me an e-mail at josh(dot)kastrinsky(at)newsoforange(dot)com.

Also coming from me this week:

• An 11th-hour vote will keep the Bradshaw Quarry Solid Waste Convenience Center open through at least December. It will cost the county $5,000 per month in non-budgeted expenses. Read more about what it means next week.

• From last week's loaded town board agenda (the density of which, in paper form, is somewhere between sheet rock and a concrete block) are several items — town employee awards, the annual citizen survey and a discussion of the town's event policy (which has been discussed before).

• I'll have something about the downtown parking study, an art program feeding supplies to the schools and county buildings on the block.

• We'll have sports coverage, most prominently of the Orange/Cedar Ridge football game (we can no longer use some variation of "Schock-er" in the headline).

• Also, find out what's in store for the final Last Fridays of the season. Hopefully, it stops raining by then.

As always, contact me at the above-listed e-mail with what's going on in the county.

what's next?

So, I've got a few things coming up this week, and this paper is shaping up to be a good one.

• I talked to a local reverend who has a prison ministry.
• The "eco" classroom group at C.W. Stanford has another meeting (hopefully, indoors!).
• A teacher at one of our elementary schools plants a garden each year; now, it's ready for harvest.
• The Board of Education meets this Monday.

And a few other odds and ends.

As always, send me your events, pictures and anything else you've got that has to do with the schools to v (dot) shortley (at) newsoforange (dot) com.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Composting class this weekend

These are a bit outside our coverage area, but there are two composting workshops taking place within the next few weeks. From Orange County Solid Waste:

"This Saturday, September 19 from 10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. at the Community Center Learning Garden on Estes Drive in Chapel Hill, Orange County Solid Waste Management in cooperation with the Town of Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation Department will be providing a compost demonstration, featuring outdoor composting using homemade and manufactured recycling containers and indoor composting with worms. Attendees will learn composting fundamentals, chemistry, biology/ecosystems, benefits and long term maintenance. No registration is necessary, and participation is free. Contact Muriel Williman at (919) 968-2788 or email for more info on Saturday's workshop.

Make your own worm bin at the Scrap Exchange Make and Take indoor composting (aka worm bin) workshop on Wednesday, Oct. 7 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Cost is $40 (includes supplies), at The Scrap Exchange, 548 Foster St., Durham, NC 27701
Make your own tidy and efficient indoor composting bin specially designed for composting in apartments or tight spaces. This informative workshop includes supplies to construct your own bin, instruction from seasoned composting experts Bianca Howard (City of Raleigh Solid Waste
Management) and Muriel Williman (Orange County Solid Waste Management), and of course, worms!
Composting creates humus, the organic component of healthy soil and a natural fertilizer, from your kitchen vegetable and fruit scraps. Learn all you need to know to recycle your food waste, care for your worms, harvest the compost and feed your plants. Want pets but can't afford a
puppy? Worms don't bite, bark, or need to be walked, you can have thousands at a time, and they eat your garbage. What could be better? Worm bins also make great gifts, so make and take two bins for only $12 more!
To register for the 'Make and Take' wormbin workshop, email: or call the Scrap Exchange at (919) 682-2751."

OK, I'm not so sure about worms as "pets," but to each their own.

Monday, September 14, 2009

hands for habitat

It was a beautiful (albeit warm) day Saturday for the Hands for Habitat kickoff in the Fairview community. Lots of people stood up and spoke, including several students. Adam Foster, the student who designed the home, was also in attendance, which was really lovely, as were the cousins who will be the eventual owner of the home.

The lovely lady speaking on the foundation of the home is Habitat for Humanity of Orange County Executive Director Susan Levy.

For more info, see this week's paper. And by Wednesday afternoon, I should also have a photo gallery up of the pictures I took at the event. So there's that, too.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Today's image

I noticed this outside Cedar Ridge High School this morning when doing my Athlete O' the Week rounds. I hadn't noticed it before, so I can assume it is a new monument. The text reads:
"In Memory and Honor of the Victims and Heroes of September 11, 2001." It was placed by the Cedar Ridge history club.

More (minor) changes coming to solid waste services

Some small changes are coming to county solid waste customers, and it only affects those in Carrboro and Chapel Hill town limits, meaning Hillsborough is not affected. Which is why it's on the blog but not in the paper. From Solid Waste:
Beginning Monday September 14 about 10,500 households within town limits of Carrboro and Chapel Hill will have a new curbside recycling day.
There will be no change in service for 7,700 homes, including all households within the Town of Hillsborough. Affected households are being mailed a postcard alerting them to the change. Signs will be posted at key intersection of impacted areas.
Route information will be posted on the County's web page
"Over the past ten years the differential growth in our communities has resulted in a significant imbalance in the number of households serviced each day," explained Gayle Wilson, Solid Waste Management Director. "As a result of the current uneven geographic distribution of the units serviced on any one day, present routes are inefficient and have become operationally impractical. The expansion of collection programs to include mixed paper in 2006 and now corrugated cardboard in 2008 has resulted in each household generating more recyclable material. This has put pressure on the current collection system and has exposed the need to perform this reroute to increase efficiency."
Rerouting the urban curbside program will help make collection more efficient, rebalance the work-load, and help to ensure the best service for our citizens. A comprehensive outreach effort to publicize the reroute will make the transition relatively smooth. The majority of the costs for this outreach campaign will be paid for by curbside contractor Waste Industries.
Impacted households are evenly distributed throughout Carrboro and Chapel Hill while the service day for households in the Town of Hillsborough will not be effected. This reroute will end the informal practice of having recycling collection and trash collection take place on the same day for residents of Carrboro. There has been no effort, past or present, to coordinate the trash collection day and recycling day in the two other municipalities, and the need to maintain this routing practice for Carrboro is no longer practical as it has become counter productive to the creating the most efficient routing.

As many might have noticed, this is not the only change coming to Solid Waste services in the county. A week from Sunday, the Bradshaw Quarry Solid Waste Convenience Center (or BQSWCC, as the kids call it) will be closing permanently. Residents are still urging commissioners to reconsider the "permanently" part.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

911 services fixed

UPDATE: The county has reportedly fixed the 911 issue. Carry on.

From the county at 10 a.m. this morning:

"This is an alert from Orange County Emergency Services. 9-1-1 telephone
service is down across Orange County.
The workaround phone number for 9-1-1 emergency calls in Orange County
is 919 732-5856.
A CodeRED message has also been sent to impacted residents."

Hillsborough candidate forum held next Wednesday

It may lack the intrigue of the 2010 races (U.S. Senate, county commissioners, school board), but there is a municipal election this fall in Hillsborough, and we're entering the campaign season.

The Orange-Chatham Group of the Sierra Club will hold a Hillsborough candidate forum from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16 at the old Orange County Courthouse, 100 E. King St. Invited are town board candidates Frances Dancy, Michael Gering and Bryant Warren, as well as unopposed mayoral candidate and incumbent Tom Stevens. Questions from the audience can be submitted.

For more information, call 489-3046.

Monday, September 7, 2009

emerson waldorf school movement class

Here's something that came across the e-mail that will likely not make it in this weeks paper, since the education page will likely be cut this week.

Movement and learning class at Emerson Waldorf

Emerson Waldorf School announced that educational consultant and remedial teacher Connie Helms will give a lecture and workshop entitled “Movement and Learning,” from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 9, at the school, 6211 New Jericho Road in Chapel Hill.

Parents and educators have noticed that today’s children are different, exhibiting both extraordinary gifts and disturbing behaviors such as anxiety, attention difficulties, learning challenges and behavioral problems. This lecture will explore the unique needs of today’s children, focusing on the deep connection between physical movement and learning. The presentation will examine practical daily activities that support children's neurodevelopment, including eye/hand coordination, fine motor skills and auditory processing skills. Through discussing the ways childhood play, playground activities and rough house play support child development from birth through age 12, parents and teachers will gain more understanding of how simple movement activities can provide a healthy foundation for learning.

This lecture is the first of a series of lectures on “Parenting in Complex Times” commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Emerson Waldorf School, founded in 1984. Other talks and workshops will be held throughout September, October and November, and will include a workshop by author, Kim John Payne, in conjunction with the publication of his new book, Simplicity Parenting.

Established in 1919, Waldorf education is the world’s fastest-growing independent school movement. As North Carolina’s only Waldorf School, Emerson has offered an atmosphere of creative, intellectual, and practical excellence since 1984. Nestled on a 54-acre wooded campus, EWS is a full member of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America.

For more information about the school or the workshop, visit

Thursday, September 3, 2009

what's next

Well, despite the four-day workweek, I've still got a bunch of stories coming in for the 9 Sept. edition.

Here's a look at some of what I've got so far:

•I got my hands on the district-level numbers for SAT scores, and there's some interesting stuff in there.

• The state teacher turnover report was released today, and the district's rate is a bit higher than the state's, though not nearly as high as Jones County, which has the highest turnover rate of more than 25 percent.

• I'll be heading over to Central Elementary School for two stories, but you'll have to wait and see what they are!

• Durham Tech is having a JobsNOW orientation tonight at the Orange County Campus. I'll have some information about that.

As Josh said, I'll be off tomorrow, so I hope everyone has a great Labour Day weekend!

Just in case ...

I couldn't let this week pass without showing this photo (which would have been great in print if we had more space). This is the Orange County Sheriff's Office's urban assault vehicle, which I have only seen at public events and have never seen self-propelled.

(Before you wonder why the county government needed this, it reportedly was purchased from a federal equipment surplus for very,very cheap – as in a few dollars.)

I guess this might be used on Franklin Street or at a really rowdy Hog Day. Or, in its "community watch" function, to slow speeders in Hillsborough's historic district. (Photo by David Hunt)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Last night and the week ahead

Ah, Monday holidays. When you produce a paper on Tuesdays, Monday holidays can't really happen for us writing types. So, there has been a little confusion about office hours I wanted to try and clear up.

We're not closed this week or next, though there are exceptions: Vanessa and I will be taking our holiday Friday. We will be here Monday. Some of our advertising folks will be here Friday, and others Monday. Deadlines have not changed. If you want to submit something for editorial or buy an ad, someone will be at the office Friday and Monday. If you want to talk about something with the editorial department (the fancy phrase for the two of us), we'll pick up the phones Monday.

Now that I have tried to clear that up, a request: I will be contacting each of Hillsborough's town board candidates and the incumbent mayor (running unopposed) for a pre-election Q&A in the next week or so. I have a short list of questions, mostly straightforward and open-ended, but I'm open to question suggestions. There might be some issues for town residents that don't get a lot of attention, and you want to know what town officials will be doing to address them. Send your questions to me at and I'll see if I can get them to the candidates.

NEXT WEEK: Last night, commissioners decided to keep four options open for the county's waste – three of them are transfer stations and the fourth would be an agreement with Durham to accept Orange's waste, meaning the county would pay tipping fees and hauling costs but would not have to build a new structure for now. I'll have a rundown on what these options entail and how each commissioner said he or she is leaning.

I'll also have more on county recreation options and how the public can get involved; a recap of some town development still in the court system; and potentially a few other items.