Liz Schlemmer

Education Policy Reporter

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Policy Reporter, a fellowship position supported by the A.J. Fletcher Foundation. She has an M.A. from the UNC Chapel Hill School of Media & Journalism and a B.A. in history and anthropology from Indiana University.

She has previously served as a temporary Morning Edition producer and intern at WUNC and as a news intern at St. Louis Public Radio. Liz is originally from Indiana, where she grew up with a large extended family of educators.
 

Nchole Yeo / Flickr

State Superintendent Mark Johnson and the Department of Public Instruction are taking steps to reduce the amount of time North Carolina students spend taking standardized tests. Johnson says the moves are meant to help relieve stress on students.

photo of an apple on top of books
Kate Ter Haar / Creative Commons

North Carolina's Read to Achieve program, enacted by the General Assembly in 2012, is continuing to get lackluster results. The program is a statewide intervention for third grade students who are not proficient in reading. Struggling students are placed in summer reading camps, receive other specialized instruction, and could be held back if they do not pass an alternative test.

canned food at food bank
Liz Schlemmer / WUNC

The partial federal government shutdown has food bank operators nervous that they could lose food distributions from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Meanwhile, the families they serve could also lose food benefits.

A North Carolina city has told the owner of a recently vandalized Confederate monument to remove it by Jan. 31 or face a possible lawsuit.

Four days a week, Micah Swimmer facilitates an all-day language session between young adults who are learning Eastern Band Cherokee and older, fluent speakers.

He points to the back of his classroom at the New Kituwah Academy in Cherokee, N.C. It's early September, and sheets of paper on a bulletin board display the names of 226 Eastern Band Cherokee members.

"That's all we have out of [about] 16,000 enrolled members," he says. "That's all we have left that are fluent speakers."

Photo of prescription bottle and pils
Eric Norriss / Flickr Creative Commons

A new study from Duke University shows that life expectancy is decreasing for Gen-Xers and older Millennials. The study comes after widely-publicized health research that shows life expectancy for white Americans has gone down for the first time in decades.

Kimberleigh Thomas is a student at Wake Tech Community College pursuing her associate's degree in social work. The college's program Fostering Bright Futures is helping her pursue a degree after aging out of the foster care system.
Liz Schlemmer / WUNC

Kimberleigh Thomas knows from experience how hard it is to move forward after aging out of foster care.

“I didn't know what I wanted to do at 18,” Thomas said. “At 18, I wanted to be free -- but how to support myself, I didn't know how to do that.”

Thomas was living in a group home then. She'd been in four foster homes since she was 16 years old. Now she's pursuing an associate’s degree in social work at Wake Tech Community College.

Pedro Hespanha / Flickr Creative Commons

A law that allows for town-run charter schools in four Charlotte suburbs has been criticized because it could lead to more racially segregated schools in that area. Now, a bill to offer state pensions to teachers at those proposed schools could make it easier for the model to spread to more cities.

That bill (S469) is on the governor’s desk awaiting veto or signature.

Courtesy of North Carolina Business Committee for Education

“New collar jobs” is a phrase that’s starting to get batted around a lot in career and technical education. These are high paying jobs that require specialized training, but not necessarily a four-year degree. And they include growing industries like cyber-security.

Derek Clark / Flickr

The Department of Public Instruction considers about 1 in 5 North Carolina teachers chronically absent, which it defines as taking 10 or more non-consecutive sick days in a school year. State education officials say chronic absenteeism is costing schools in student test scores and pay for substitute teachers.

Eric Hall is the Deputy Superintendent of Innovation at the Department of Public Instruction.
Liz Schlemmer / WUNC

The State Board of Education has voted to add Carver Heights Elementary in Goldsboro to the Innovative School District, but the state's school turn-around model could be changing.

Former high school business teacher and current teacher advisor to the governor LaTanya Pattillo seated next to students in her Innovation, Research and Development class who worked on a project with the manufacturer Ply Gem as part of Patillo's professio
Courtesy of LaTanya Pattillo

Just as doctors and engineers continue to seek training to keep up-to-date in their fields, teachers too look for ways to stay sharp -- and keep up with the industries their students will enter. However, the funding for professional development for North Carolina teachers is limited.

An artist's rendering of a light rail stop.
GoTriangle / Triangle Transit

Durham Mayor Steve Schewel says he's confident the Durham-Orange light rail project will move forward. That comes despite hesitation from Duke University President Vincent Price to commit land needed for the project. Price has voiced concerns this week about the potential impact the rail line’s construction could have on Duke’s campus.

Picture of gavel
Flickr.com

NAACP officials are calling on senators to vote against President Trump's nomination of Thomas Farr for a U.S. District Court seat serving eastern North Carolina, ahead of an expected Senate vote on the nomination.

Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools

Parents at Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools continue to voice concerns about their school board's September vote to convert an elementary school to a magnet school.

Students Kamora Foxworth, left, and Odyessi McDougald, center, smile while they eat lunch at Southside-Ashpole Elementary on the first week of school as the elementary becomes the first in the state's Innovative School District.
Liz Schlemmer / WUNC

The State Board of Education has delayed the vote on whether to include Carver Heights Elementary in Goldsboro in the Innovative School District, after discussion by board members that there is not enough community support for the state’s plan to take over the struggling school.

A young pregnant mother receives a shot in her left arm to prevent pertussis in future child.
James Morrison / WUNC

You may have have heard that last year's flu vaccine was a little less effective than usual, but state health officials say that's no excuse to skip the vaccine this year. Studies show getting vaccinated not only helps prevent the spread of the disease, it also reduces the severity of illness in people who are vaccinated but still get sick.

Kindergarten students TT Askew, Alicia Garcia Elvira, Haylen Lovelace and Mercy Nelms are students in Jakeli Swimmer's Cherokee language and culture class at Robbinsville Elementary.
Liz Schlemmer / WUNC

Jakeli Swimmer keeps a little black notebook nearby while he teaches. The worn pages of the spiral notebook are covered in his scrawled notes and doodles of legends he has heard since childhood. The notes are vocabulary he has written in English, his first language, and words he’s learned in Cherokee, his native language.

Greensboro city skyline
Mark Goebel / Flickr, Creative Commons, https://flic.kr/p/4UYDyX

The Human Rights Campaign recently ranked more than 500 U.S. cities for how inclusive they are to LGBTQ people, and Greensboro took the top ranking in North Carolina.

Islands Fresh Mex Grill in Wilmington hosted a fundraiser for Trask Middle School's PTA, which has been giving aid to families and teachers affected by Hurricane Florence. Staff and families at the event, just a week into school, already had the threat of
Liz Schlemmer / WUNC

New Hanover County Schools are just getting back to class, meanwhile the threat of Hurricane Michael has many feeling nervous.

Trask Middle School staff and their families gathered at Islands Fresh Mex Grill in Wilmington for an evening fundraiser this week. Proceeds from the burritos and taco salads sold will go to the school's Parent/Teachers’ Association.

Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment is located in the former Environment Hall, which will be renamed Grainger Hall in November 2018 in acknowledgement of a $20 million gift from the Grainger Family Descendants Fund.
Courtesy of Duke University

Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment has received a $20 million gift from the Grainger Family Descendants Fund at The Chicago Community Trust. The grant was recommended by an adviser to the fund who graduated from Duke University in 1979. It is one of the largest gifts ever received by the Nicholas School, or by any school of the environment, according to Duke University communications staff.

"These kinds of gifts don't come along all that often," said Toddi Steelman, the school's dean.

Jose Perez-Santiago, right, holds his daughter Jordalis, 2, as they return to their home for the first time since it was flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Spring Lake, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. "I didn't realize we would lose everyt
David Goldman / AP

Since the day Hurricane Florence began battering the North Carolina coast, WUNC’s education reporters have been following staff and families in New Hanover County Schools, as they first weathered the storm, and now work to put their classrooms and schools back together.

State education leaders are calling for donations to assist students and educators who lost belongings and school supplies during Hurricane Florence.

Principal Maggie Rollison of Trask Middle School in Wilmington, N.C. fights back tears while recalling her experience as a "shelter principal" during Hurricane Florence
Ben McKeown / For WUNC

Since the day Hurricane Florence began battering the North Carolina coast, WUNC’s education reporters have been following staff and families in New Hanover County Schools, as they first weathered the storm, and now work to put their classrooms and schools back together.

When storms roll into Wilmington, Trask Middle School usually serves as an emergency shelter. But the school’s principal Maggie Rollison knew Florence was different when shelter guests started arriving 10 hours before the shelter opened.

State education officials are still tallyint up the damage to schools. This photo shows flooding at Trask Middle School in New Hanover County.
Courtesy of Trask Middle School Principal Dr. Maggie Rollison

State education officials are still tallying up the damage to schools, but this week, the latest estimate had risen to $40 million in losses.

"That is a big number and a lot of claims, and it's very difficult to say where that number will end up,” said Chief Officer of the North Carolina Public School Insurance Fund Eileen Townsend in her report to the State Board of Education.

NC Legislature
W Edward Callis III

State lawmakers have passed a bill to address all the days some schools have missed in the wake of Hurricane Florence.

Scotland High School in Laurinburg, North Carolina flooded as rivers rose from Hurricane Florence's massive rainfall. A tributary to the Leith Creek runs across the school's property.
Courtesy of Scotland County Schools

State lawmakers say they are drafting a bill to help schools deal with all the missed days they are having due to Hurricane Florence. Some schools in the southeast part of the state plan to miss two weeks or more as they clean and repair buildings and grounds damaged by the storm and flooding.

Floodwaters from Hurricane Florence top a section of U.S. 421 near the Pender-New Hanover County line north of Wilmington.
NC Department of Transportation

State transportation officials are warning hurricane evacuees from Wilmington not to go back home this weekend. They say residents shouldn’t let the good weather fool them into thinking it is safe to return.

Scotland High School in Laurinburg, North Carolina flooded as rivers rose from Hurricane Florence's massive rainfall. A tributary to the Leith Creek runs across the school's property.
Courtesy of Scotland County Schools

Schools across the southeastern part of the state remained closed this week as administrators begin to assess the damage from Hurricane Florence.

Crews with the NYC Emergency Management perform water rescues in River Bend, N.C., after Hurricane Florence on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018.
Courtesy of NYC Emergency Management

Updated at 4:45 p.m.

Florence has been downgraded to a tropical storm, but surges and flooding are expected to continue as it lashes South Carolina, according to the National Weather Service.

Sand bags surround homes on North Topsail Beach, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, as Hurricane Florence threatens the coast.
Chuck Burton / AP

Updated 5 p.m. | Sept. 13, 2018

Hurricane Florence's leading edge battered the Carolina coast Thursday, bending trees and shooting frothy sea water over streets on the Outer Banks, as the hulking storm closed in with 105 mph (165 kph) winds for a drenching siege that could last all weekend.

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