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OCS Connections for May 2, 2023



OCS Connections

Newsletter for May 2, 2023


OCS Stands Against Discrimination, Harassment, and Bullying


“If we lack respect for one group, then there is a tendency for that attitude to spread. It becomes infectious and no one becomes safe from the ravages of prejudice." 
-Walter Annenberg

The mission of Orange County Schools is to educate students in a safe, inclusive environment where we engage, challenge, and inspire them to reach their maximum potential. 


Orange County Schools is committed to policies, procedures, processes, and practices that ensure the right and privilege of every student in Orange County Schools to attend school without threat of discrimination, harassment, or bullying in any form or for any reason. 


Learn more on the OCS website or download more information here.




1. Spelling Bee Winner, Mr. Henry Goes to Washington

2. First “Youth Poet Laureates” Named for Orange County Schools

3. Robotics Back-to-Back Champs, Top 100 at “Worlds”

4. OCS Announces 2023 Teachers of the Year

5. Theatre Students Take Center Stage

6. “Closing of a School” Viewed at former Central High

7. Learn About Redistricting May 9 or May 11

8. FY24 Budget Request Presented to Commissioners

9. Center for Safer Schools Visits School Safety Task Force

10. OCS Points of Pride







Special Note: Come back for Part 2 on Friday, May 5

for a CTE, Arts, and Athletics Round-up 









Spelling Bee Winner, Mr. Henry Goes to Washington

Congratulations to Grady A. Brown fifth grader Isaiah Henry, who has spelled his way to victory at the classroom, school, district, and regional level on the way to the national spelling bee! GAB Champs Twitter happily announced the news, and WRAL picked up the story.



When we recognized all our school winners this spring, apparently it was just the BEE-ginning… 🐝



On March 26, Isaiah won the Duke Regional Spelling Bee and qualified for the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee! While he is practicing spelling words (every day) and preparing for a trip to the national championship, Isaiah says his favorite subject is actually math, and he loves reading, video games, and just exploring in the woods. 



We are beyond proud of Isaiah for representing the “CHAMPS” of Grady A. Brown and Orange County Schools, and we wish him well on his trip to Washington, D.C. with his family courtesy of the Duke Office of Durham and Community Affairs!



First “Youth Poet Laureates” Named for Orange County Schools

Please join us in congratulating our newest, and first-ever, student ambassadors for the literary arts for Orange County Schools!



Guadalupe Luna Rojas (CRHS), Faith Litchfield (OHS), and Jaylan Sorrells (PAHS) were chosen to represent their schools as Youth Poet Laureates, and Faith Litchfield was named the "OCS Youth Poet Laureate" at the OCS Night of Poetry reading and ceremony on Wednesday, April 5 at Cedar Ridge High School.



Along with our program founder and North Carolina Poet Laureate, Ms. Jaki Shelton Green, attendees heard readings from all our student poets and local notable poets and authors. The students will all serve together as a cohort to teach younger students about the beauty and skill of creating poetry. We are so proud of these students for their dedication and courage!



See the names of all our student poets and other program details here in our Facebook post and the event program. Hear Jaki Shelton Green praise our young poets for their literary genius, and see the photos from our first-ever OCS Night of Poetry in this online album.



Robotics Back-to-Back Champs, Top 100 at “Worlds”

CHARGED UP! was the title for the worldwide 2023 FIRST Robotics Challenge around the world, and Team 587 Hedgehogs were electrifying to watch as they went BACK-TO-BACK for a second consecutive district (state) championship and a return trip to the World Competition in Houston!



Along the way, the Hedgehogs from Orange and Cedar Ridge High Schools won their first-ever event Impact Award for their community service efforts. Watch the video to learn more and celebrate their accomplishments.



They earned the rare repeat as District Champs and then won their FIRST SEVEN MATCHES at the World Competition in Houston, before finishing the double elimination playoffs as one of the top 100 teams in the world!



Follow Team 587 on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay informed and keep tabs on their progress in the community, in schools, and heading into next season.



OCS Announces 2023 Teachers of the Year

These devoted and talented educators have been chosen by their peers to represent their schools this year, and we could not be prouder of our OCS Teachers of the Year! Thank you for elevating teacher voice in the governance of our schools here in our community, across the state, and beyond. 



We are excited to learn more about you and your leadership journey as we also come to discover who will represent Orange County Schools as our next Teacher of the Year! (From back to front, L to R:)


  • Adam Canosa, HES, K - 5 Music

  • Joe Sharp, ALS, 8th Grade

  • Shannon Gaster, PES, Exceptional Children (EC) Resource Teacher

  • Cheri Thomas, ECGES, K - 5 Music

  • Katie Ray, GAB, 2nd Grade

  • Tami Vass, RPES, 4th Grade

  • Kate Ellis, CES, K - 5 Reading Interventionist

  • Wanda Rittenhouse, PAHS, 9 - 12 CTE/Business

  • Maria Atehortua, NHES, 1st Grade Dual Language

  • Savannah Patterson, CRHS, Science

  • Angie Stephens, OMS, 8th Grade Math & Math 1

  • David Gaddy, OHS, 9 - 12 Math

  • Jackie Mignosa, GHMS, 8th Grade EC Inclusion and Resource Math and ELA



Theatre Students Take Center Stage

OCS Theatre programs recently took center stage in more ways than one. In this newsletter story, we are celebrating three unique accomplishments.


Two student actors from Orange High School, Claire Lazarus and Gigi El Bitar, will represent OHS Theatre in the 2024 All-State Thespian Show. They will spend time preparing the show over the summer and at various times in the coming months and will perform at next year’s Festival. 



At Cedar Ridge, students wrote and performed “The Infinite Wrench,” an explosion of 30 plays in 60 minutes, driven by audience participation and engagement, with no two shows ever turning out the same. Students created gripping stories with bursting balloons and winged dancers, jarringly funny scenes of math and trivia (with cheese, and Spider-Man), and delivered convincing pantomime then dropped rhymes on the audience. Do not miss “The Infinite Wrench” if and when it returns! 



The 39 Steps” performed by Orange High School featured a small but mighty cast of Panther students, many of whom covered 2 or 3, and even 4 roles during all performances of this Hitchcock classic from April 27 to 29. 



Even more impressive, this troupe welcomed in guest actor Principal Jason Johnson who played the role of the Detective Chief Superintendent and police inspector… maybe not the most likely suspect for such a role, but he delivered on stage with style!



Finally, both groups brought their skills to the Board of Education on April 10 for board members and the public to see in 5 minutes or less just how talented, flexible, and confident these students are after preparing for the stage. 



Thank you OCS theatre teachers, students, and their many supporters who make such accomplishments possible!



“The Closing of a School” Screened at HES April 27

Hillsborough Elementary proudly helped to show a documentary film about the history of their school building on April 27, during a true community event! “The Closing of a School: The History and Legacy of Central High” was shown in the historic gymnasium at HES (formerly, Central High School). 



Central High was the only high school for Black students in Hillsborough from 1936-1968 (first school until 1958, then second school). 



Like many Black schools in the South, Central was closed after desegregation. The documentary highlights the African-American community, desegregation, and the closing of Central High, and efforts to preserve the school’s legacy. 



Thank you Dr. Iris Chapman and countless Central High alumni for your tireless efforts to bring this story to light and share this knowledge with the community!



Learn About Redistricting May 9 or May 11

In recent months, the district has presented information to the Board of Education on Redistricting and Reassignment. District staff will present the most current information to the public during upcoming webinars May 9 and May 11, featuring a slide presentation with question-and-answer period. 


These meetings are open to the public, and the same material will be presented at both webinars. Here are the topics that will be covered:

  • Why is redistricting needed?

  • What are the current and future capacity needs of our schools?

  • What is the timeline for redistricting, and how does it work?


All are invited to attend a webinar to learn more and offer public input. The same presentation will be offered on both dates, so you do not need to attend both.


Tuesday, May 9, 7:00 - 8:00 p.m.


Thursday, May 11, 5:00 - 6:00 p.m.


Links to join the webinars will be sent via email and text message to all staff and families the afternoon before each meeting, and will also be posted the same day to the OCS website and social media. 


FY24 Budget Request Presented to Commissioners

On April 27, the Orange County Board of Education attended a Joint Meeting with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Board of Education for budget presentations by the school boards to the Orange County Board of County Commissioners. 



Superintendent Dr. Monique Felder and Chief Finance Officer Rhonda Rath presented a budget request for the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 2024 (FY24) to the Orange County Board of Education to the county commissioners.



The budget will continue to be reviewed until county commissioners approve a per-pupil funding amount for Orange County Schools in June. Our Board of Education’s final budget will typically be approved in August or September, based on when the NC General Assembly approves a state budget.


Center for Safer Schools, School Safety Task Force April 13

Orange County Schools students, staff, and board members are participating in the Schools Safety Task Force created by county commissioners in response to calls for a greater sense of safety and security around school campuses. 



At the task force meeting on April 13, Director Karen Fairley of the NC DPI Center for Safer Schools presented information on how schools and communities design and operate schools to maximize safety. Safety planning focuses on prevention and mitigation of risks, to minimize the need for response and recovery from crisis. 



While systems are designed to build physical safety, emotional safety (mental health), and positive school climate, schools regularly practice and review safety plans to make every campus location safer and more welcoming for every student, employee, and member of the public.




OCS Points of Pride

We are growing together! Our students are growing toward proficiency, and our staff and schools are growing their capacity to support student learning. 


There are many ways we recognize growth in our learning community, and we celebrate them all! Review many accomplishments from the individual level up to the school and district in “OCS Points of Pride” here, or on the homepage of the OCS website. 


Many of our district’s stories and accomplishments have also been featured here in OCS Connections… from state and national competitors to presenting at prestigious conferences or being invited to Super Bowl Week!


At their meeting on June 26, the Board of Education will present a “Year in Review” slideshow looking back on some notable achievements of the 2022-2023 school year. Let us know: What do you think should be included? 


Attend in person or view school board meetings via the OCS YouTube channel.





National Principals’ Day May 1

College Decision Day May 1

Teacher Appreciation Day May 2

Teacher Workday May 5, No School

Disability Acceptance Week April 24-28

Earth Day April 22

National Library Month April 1-30

School Lunch Hero Day May 5

Teacher Appreciation Week May 8-12

Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month May 2023








Keep tabs on upcoming Board of Education meetings, and stay informed about presentations to the Board plus any actions taken.


Visit the Board of Education web page, and check the OCS website

Search the Board Policy Manual.

Watch upcoming meetings or review prior meetings on the OCS YouTube channel.






What’s in YOUR medicine cabinet? Drop off medicines you are no longer using.


Childcare Services Open House! Learn more at the Rec Center this Friday, May 5.


May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Safe Kids Orange County has details.


Want to Touch a Truck? Make it happen during Safe Kids Week!


What’s happening at the Orange County Public Library! Find out here.


NC Pandemic EBT 2023 Summer Benefit is worth $120. Learn all about it.


Home Internet might be more affordable than you think. Get connected here.


Featured Community Organization: HYAA, Hillsborough Youth Athletic Association



If you see something missing
from the Community Notes section,
let us know.






Enjoy inspiring posts at the accounts pictured below. Follow and share your favorite accounts, and help us connect with you. Let us know what we’re missing… and use hashtag #OCSInspires or tag Orange County Schools to join the conversation!






















































































































































Our mission at Orange County Schools is to educate students in a safe, inclusive environment where we engage, challenge, and inspire them to reach their maximum potential.