Liz Schlemmer

Education Reporter

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. She has previously served as the Fletcher Fellow for Education Policy Reporting at WUNC and as the education reporter at Louisville Public Media. She holds an M.A. from the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at UNC Chapel Hill and a B.A. in history and anthropology from Indiana University. Liz is originally from rural Indiana, where she grew up with a large extended family of educators.
 

Gerry Broome AP Photo

The UNC System Racial Equity Task Force has submitted its final report recommending changes across North Carolina's public universities. 

Annmarie Brown sits at a desk and computer to attend school virtually.
Courtesy of Emily Brown

When the Durham Public Schools' board of education voted to remain in virtual learning for the rest of the school year, Rhiannon Giles' reaction was complicated.

"I think they made the right decision, but also I cried," Giles said.

She's the mother of two students at Club Boulevard Elementary, with a daughter in fifth grade and a son in kindergarten.

Eleanor holds the new book she received from Dr. David Tayloe during her one year check up. Tayloe's New Bern clinic gives books to kids at each of their well visits from six months to five years of age, as part of the Reach Out And Read program.
Lisa Philip / WUNC

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has announced it's expanding a successful early literacy program to all North Carolina counties.

Nick Youngson | Alpha Stock Images

 


Maverick Whitley is a junior at Brevard College majoring in music education. He's been playing instruments since he was three years old and dreams of being a high school music teacher.

The Old Well on the UNC- Chapel Hill campus.
Brian Batista / For WUNC

UNC Chapel Hill has announced it will delay the start of in-person classes for all undergraduate students by three weeks for the spring semester.

At 37, Philip Rogers is ECU's youngest chancellor. He will start in March 2021.
Cliff Hollis / East Carolina University

East Carolina University has its newest chancellor.

The UNC System Board of Governors has hired Philip Rogers, a Greenville native, as the next leader of ECU. He will be the 12th chancellor in the school's history.

Emma Wikstrom begins the first day of in-person teaching of second grade on Monday at Davis Drive Elementary in Cary, NC.
Kate Medley / For WUNC

Southeast of Raleigh, two neighboring counties – Wayne and Johnston – both saw recent rises in COVID-19 cases. Both school districts had been operating in Plan B, with students rotating into schools for in-person class. Then last week, the Wayne County school board voted to move its youngest students to in-school Plan A in January, while the Johnston County school board opted to move all its students to all-online Plan C until January.

Two neighboring school boards, in two days, went in completely different directions.

An image of UNC's Old Well
yeungb / Wikipedia Creative Commons

Dozens of UNC-Chapel Hill faculty have signed an open letter urging the university to reverse course and offer only remote classes this spring. The university's top spokesperson says the reopening plans could be subject to change until early January.

South Building and the Old Well, UNC Chapel Hill
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Attorneys for UNC Chapel Hill have been in court for the past two weeks to defend the university's race-conscious admissions practices. The plaintiff suing UNC is the advocacy group Students for Fair Admissions. The group has pursued several lawsuits opposing affirmative action at selective universities across the country. The court trial has concluded and U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Biggs will issue her opinion sometime in the coming months.

The famous well at UNC-Chapel Hill, with a larger building in the background.
Courtesy of UNC-Chapel Hill

The trial for a lawsuit challenging UNC Chapel Hill's race conscious admissions process is expected to conclude today.

Courtesy of UNC Greensboro

UNC system schools are growing more diverse with each new freshmen class, but the system's highest level of leadership doesn't reflect its student body or the state's population. 

The famous well at UNC-Chapel Hill, with a larger building in the background.
Courtesy of UNC-Chapel Hill

Do UNC-Chapel Hill’s admissions policies disproportionately favor underrepresented minorities? That question is at the center of a federal court case on trial in Winston-Salem.

South Building and the Old Well, UNC Chapel Hill
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

UNC-Chapel Hill now stands trial in federal district court to defend its race-conscious admissions practices. The trial, which began today in Winston-Salem, could potentially play a role in propelling the issue of affirmative action to the US Supreme Court. 

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., celebrates with his wife Susan, at a election night rally Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Mooresville, N.C.
Chris Carlson / AP

Updated at 2:40 a.m. on 11/4/2020

It was too soon to call North Carolina's U.S. Senate race between Republican incumbent Thom Tillis and Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham early Wednesday, with many votes yet to be counted.

Tillis, a first-term senator, led Cunningham by nearly 97,000 votes from among more than 5.4 million votes counted in the unofficial tally. There were still up to 117,000 outstanding mail-in absentee ballots and an unknown number of provisional ballots cast.

Lakewood Elementary's Community Schools Coordinator Anna Grant greets families and offers voting information at the school's drive thru Fall Fest event on Oct. 31, 2020.
Liz Schlemmer / WUNC

Early voting has concluded – and more than 4.5 million people have already cast ballots in North Carolina.

Carolyn Griffin begins the first day of in-person teaching of second grade on Monday at Davis Drive Elementary in Cary, NC.
Kate Medley / for WUNC

 

At the back of a high school auditorium, past the last row of seats, is a sound booth. Normally, this is where teenage techies run lights for the high school play. Now, this is where Shellie, a teacher, leads classes from behind layers of personal protective equipment and a plexiglass window.

woman on phone with a mask on
Liz Schlemmer

With no students in the building due to the coronavirus pandemic, notes sent home by a teacher in a student's backpack are no longer an option. Emails and automated voice messages can get lost in the chaos. So to reach families with vital information, staff and volunteers at Lakewood Elementary in Durham are picking up their phones.

Duke University Chapel
Bill Snead / Duke University

Duke University has managed to avoid major COVID-19 outbreaks by enforcing standard precautions, robust testing and contact tracing.

North Carolina A&T State University student body president Brenda Caldwell says she wanted to attend an HBCU because of the "familial culture" and she thinks that culture is helping her university weather the pandemic.
Liz Schlemmer / WUNC

North Carolina A&T State University is the largest historically Black college or university, or HBCU, in the country. With 12,000 students, it's about average for the UNC System, yet it has one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 spread among public universities in the state.

Students there have some ideas about why the school is, so far, managing the pandemic well.

Charles Jacocks, rear, along with his wife Carrie and incoming freshman Ann Grace, right, carry their belongings as college students begin moving in for the fall semester at N.C. State University in Raleigh, N.C., Friday, July 31, 2020.
Gerry Broome / AP

A new study links college reopenings to spikes in COVID-19 cases across the country. The study is co-authored by UNC Greensboro economics professor Martin Andersen, Davidson College education professor Chris Marsicano and others. Marsicano is also the Director of the College Crisis Initiative.

Liz Schlemmer

Despite the pandemic, the UNC System reached record-high enrollment this fall for the third year in a row —  and that's good news for the university system's bottom line.

Overall, the UNC System saw a 1% increase from last year's enrollment.

"In any other year, that might be a completely ordinary bit of news," said UNC System President Peter Hans, "And yet, in this year of unprecedent disruption across our state — across our world — I think that's an extraordinary achievement."

Side photo of a North Carolina Public Schools bus.
NCDOT Communications

North Carolina elementary schools will soon be allowed to return to daily, in-person classes, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Thursday.

School districts will be allowed to welcome back kindergarten through fifth grade students at full capacity, if they choose.

Courtesy of UNC System

The UNC System president will now have more say in choosing new chancellors when vacancies arise at the system's 17 campuses.

On Wednesday, UNC Board of Governors approved a major change to its policy on chancellor searches, at the request of Peter Hans, the UNC System's new president.

Liz Schlemmer / WUNC

 

Walking through the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s campus, some things feel like a normal fall semester, with familiar sights like student volunteers running a voter registration drive.

Other things look very different.

Liz Schlemmer

 

 

The gym at Lakewood Elementary in Durham was buzzing earlier this week with families coming to pick up math workbooks, hotspots and laptops on the school’s final day of device distribution.

This is the second week of virtual learning at Durham Public Schools, but distribution was delayed after shipments of Chromebooks were held up at U.S. Customs — one of many unforeseen events in a school year marked by a pandemic.

photo of drive-thru coronavirus testing in Chatham County
Staff Sgt. Mary Junell / U.S. Army Photo

While UNC-Chapel Hill moves all of its undergraduate classes online this week due to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases among its students, several other universities in the UNC System are facing smaller outbreaks.

Fifth grade teacher Kelly Shearon teaches students online from her empty classroom at Lakewood Elementary in Durham on the first day of school, August 17, 2020.
Liz Schlemmer / WUNC

As part of WUNC's Series "Unprecedented," Liz Schlemmer will report throughout this semester from Lakewood Elementary in Durham.

Courtesy Jon Gardiner / UNC-Chapel Hill

A group of university staff and faculty have filed a lawsuit against the UNC System to seek safer working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic. The plaintiffs are asking for a Wake County Superior Court judge to grant them class action status, and to step in on behalf of all UNC System employees.

Liz Schlemmer / WUNC

Amanni King sits at the front desk of a residence hall at Fayetteville State University, killing time while she waits for students. She's a resident assistant and her first move-in day of the pandemic feels slow compared to the usual welcoming.

The Old Well on the UNC- Chapel Hill campus.
Brian Batista / For WUNC

The UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees has voted to remove the names from four campus buildings that honored men who supported White supremacy in their careers and political lives.

The Board voted 11-to-2 to rename buildings named for Charles Aycock, Julian Carr, Josephus Daniels and Thomas Ruffin, Sr.

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