Your letters, Dec. 8: Mandarin, Civitas and Thanksgiving

December 6, 2013 

Expansion irresponsible

I love this diverse community that values teaching foreign languages. However, in these financially pressured times, it is irresponsible for the CHCCS Board to continue funding the Mandarin Dual Language Program (MDLP) considering:

• The MDLP serves only 2 percent of our elementary school population – 158 students at Glenwood, now overcrowded as a result of the program

• MDLP track costs (approximately) $1,000 more per student than the traditional track. Unique expenses stem from recruitment and hiring teachers, supplies and curriculum materials

• Recommendations to phase out the MDLP in 2012 were ignored when the Board opted to expand it – in an effort to decrease the cost per student

• The emphasis on Mandarin does not improve our district’s “academic achievement gap”.

• Redistricting to accommodate the MDLP program could affect hundreds of students and staff across all schools.

Best intentions aside, we cannot continue funding a non-core program when teacher and specialist roles are cut, traditional class sizes increase, our school infrastructure decays, and our “achievement gap” worsens. I ask that the board focus on the core and suspend the MDLP until we no longer have an achievement gap in our district.

Dawna Hawley

Carrboro

Hmmm ...

Hmmm ... I wonder if the Civitas Institute had to pay the “special service charge” for its public records request for Gene Nichol's emails, phone records and calendars. (CHN, Dec. 1, bit.ly/IrkGww)

Lois Boynton

Chapel Hill

Rousing comments

Tammy Grubb’s accurate report on the Central West Plan (CHN Nov. 27) approval by Chapel Hill Council rouses these comments:

Chapel Hill Town Council meeting hours and consultants’ hours run high, despite community-wide goals established by Chapel Hill 2020, because the council still micro-manages. Lengthy discussion on council concerning Transportation Impact Analysis (TIA) for every proposed project produces some questions.

Why should our town do a town-wide TIA? Use Carolina North’s TIA that includes the Central West area. Each Central West building will require a TIA. Why double work for staff to review, double costs, double delaying time?

A town-wide traffic analysis will be obsolete as downtown Durham forges ahead with new construction. Chatham County’s new projects will bring more vehicles into Chapel Hill, if we allow interesting multi-purpose venues to be constructed before all interest has gone elsewhere. Our own Ephesus Church-Fordham Boulevard Small Area Plan is likely to get underway before Central West finishes satisfying the Planning Board’s demands.

Town Council member Lee Storrow made a telling, astute statement during Nov. 26 council meeting: The new road parallel to Estes Drive in the committee-proposed Central West Plan finally accepted will be part of the “stronger grid system” of roads that is needed almost all over Chapel Hill. New roads, new connectivity siphon traffic onto more than just the few East-West roads that exist today. That way Estes Drive and other roads will not increase total traffic that neighborhoods usually predict, IF Town Council allows new connected roads included in focus areas.

Lynne Kane

Chapel Hill

Missing Thanksgiving

As I grow older, looking back upon Thanksgivings past has become increasingly an occasion of considerable nostalgia. I have many memories of it as a unique day in American culture, a day that became a kind of sacred civic holiday and included all who live in our country.

When I came to Chapel Hill over a half century ago, the Ministerial Association sponsored a Community Thanksgiving Service which was well attended, filling some of the largest sanctuaries in our Town. It was held at ten in the morning so that cooking chores could have plenty of time later to be completed before the feast. I think this tradition lasted until the mid-Seventies.

It was more than an ecumenical event. It was an interfaith service with combined leadership from most major religious groups in Chapel Hill; Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and others. It reminded us that the bonds of belief transcend our separate faiths. A proclamation from the President calling citizens to give thanks was always read.

I feel nostalgic because we have lost something that may never be replaced. Our nation has become increasingly secular, and respect for the Day is rapidly eroding. It was wonderful to have one national day when virtually every business was closed, and few employees were required to work anywhere. I wonder what Thanksgiving will look like fifty years from now.

Robert Seymour

Chapel Hill

Mother’s bad eye

My mother is a one-eyed frog. I always thought she was pretty. Like Judy Garland. What I mean is that she has Duane syndrome, named perhaps after Dwayne Hickman or Duane Allman or Duane Eddy. Its a congenital isolated 6th Cranial Nerve Palsy. It means she cant move her left eye to the left. The brain doesn’t like it when your two eyes see the world differently, so what it does is shut down the nerves of the bad eye, so that it never learns how to see. Its called amblyopia. Its amazing what the brain does in order to get by.

The frog part is from my father. He often called her Szaba, which is a Polish term of endearment meaning, my little frog. They were married in 1949 in Berlin. They’d met at a displaced persons camp where they lived after the war. Her mother, my grandmother, ran the soup kitchen. My father wanted to emigrate to Israel, but my grandmother told my mother she couldn’t go unless they were married. So my mother and father were married, for 60 years. . My mother said she was lucky. Who would marry a girl with a bad eye? Its amazing what people think sometimes.

And so my mother became a lab technician, and she worked for scientists who were studying axolotls, which are foot long swimming salamanders that have fantastically colored spike shaped gills sticking out of their neck. There was one axolotl that had only one eye. They called it Sarah, after my mother. She worked for the scientists for 35 years. One graduate student named his daughter after her. Hes the Chairman now, and he helped my daughter find a job last summer, studying the brain cells of people with Schizophrenia. Its funny how the world is connected.

At Thanksgiving this year, we had lots of dishes to clean. My mother washed and washed. She also made a pear cake. She likes to be useful. This is what mothers and grandmothers do. And so we have much to be thankful for. And this is how we get by.

John Wurzelmann

Chapel Hill

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