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Teachers give a failing grade to working conditions

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The grades are in for Chapel Hill High School. And they're not good.

A recent job satisfaction survey conducted at the school—part of a statewide effort to gauge educators' morale—produced remarkably low approval numbers for the school's leadership.

According to the biennial survey, which was completed this spring and will be presented this week to the N.C. State Board of Education, less than a third of teachers at Chapel Hill High say they agree with the statement that faculty and staff have a "shared vision."

The survey received a 100 percent response rate, which is unusual. All of the school's teachers, who were allowed to remain anonymous, completed the survey, which included dozens of statements about the quality of the school on which teachers could either "agree" or "disagree."

Only 13 percent reported an "atmosphere of trust and respect" in the school, while just 19 percent say school leadership "consistently supports teachers."

The numbers lag far behind the averages statewide and in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, which tend to hover between 70 and 80 percent. And in many categories, they represent a double-digit drop from Chapel Hill High's results in 2012.

Many teachers contacted by the INDY declined to discuss the results publicly.

Other areas prompting low marks from teachers included a lack of access to educational materials, the cleanliness of the school and a lack of decision-making power for teachers. Just 16 percent of the respondents said they feel teachers have an "appropriate" level of influence on the school's decision-making.

Overall, barely half of the teachers said they believe the school is a "good place to work and learn." As a comparison, about 85 percent of teachers statewide and in the rest of the school system said they agree with that statement.

"We won't just ignore this," said Jamezetta Bedford, chairwoman of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education. Bedford said teachers across North Carolina are unhappy over state leadership, although she agreed the anger at Chapel Hill High is more of a local problem.

"It suggests that we need to support the school, both the faculty and their leaders as they go through this transition," Bedford said.

Chapel Hill High principal Sulura Jackson, who arrived at the school last summer, did not return a phone call or an email for comment on the survey.

Seven months ago, Jackson was accused by teachers of plagiarism in her educational notes and letters to parents, an allegation that brought no official response from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education.

And in the last two years, Superintendent Tom Forcella forced a handful of Chapel Hill High teachers to transfer to other schools because they were clashing with the school's administration prior to Jackson's arrival.

In a statement Tuesday, Forcella called the survey "excellent feedback." "We will be reviewing the data in the coming months with our principals and school teams to determine how we can improve working conditions at all of our schools."

Bedford said there has been no consideration of changing administration at the school, adding that it would be up to the School Improvement Team—a panel of teacher and parent representatives who guide school policy—to make the first assessment of the survey.

Team members Lynn Fox and Anne Tomalin, the chairwomen for the parent and staff representatives, respectively, declined to talk about the survey.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Chapel Hill high flunks out."

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