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Guilford commissioner wants HUD to prevent Greensboro's departure from homeless agency

GREENSBORO — The chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners has appealed to U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson to stop the city's plan to leave the countywide group that provides services to the homeless. 

Chairman Jeff Phillips wrote a letter earlier this month to Carson, saying the city's plan to leave the Guilford County Continuum of Care would hurt the homeless community. He suggested the group could be managed by Guilford County government.

City officials have said for several months that agencies of the continuum have not moved quickly enough to shift their focus to permanent housing for the homeless and, with an emphasis on using shelters instead, are not following HUD guidelines.

In some cases, the city has reduced its financial contribution to these agencies because they do not emphasize "rapid rehousing," a process that quickly finds permanent housing for the homeless in order to keep them out of shelters.

The city was the Continuum of Care's largest member and its major provider of funding. With the city's money and influence gone, it's unclear how much of an effect this will have on the Continuum of Care's efforts.

Meanwhile, the city plans to create a new group called the Greensboro Continuum of Care and seek HUD approval.

The move would leave Guilford County and High Point nonprofits under the Continuum of Care's auspices needing to regroup.

The Guilford County Continuum of Care is a HUD-approved coalition of more than 50 agencies and businesses that provide aid and housing to the homeless population of Greensboro, High Point and Guilford County. A High Point nonprofit, Partners Ending Homelessness, manages the Continuum of Care, which has an all-volunteer board.

It's unclear how the potential changes at the Continuum of Care would affect the role of Partners Ending Homelessness. 

Phillips wrote in his letter to HUD that the city's move, which was discussed by council on Sept. 1, "certainly comes as a shock to the county."

He said he is concerned with "the impact it will have on some of our most fragile residents through the addition of changes to an already complex system."

Phillips wrote that the county "has much experience over the years coordinating existing services into more cohesive and effective collaboratives." 

Mayor Nancy Vaughan said Monday she hadn't seen Phillips' letter, but was skeptical of the county's ability to manage an organization that provides housing and other services to the homeless. 

"The county doesn’t do housing — there are some counties that do," Vaughan said. "It would also be important for the county to be able to document ... what data they have over the last few years to show exactly what they have done for homelessness and people living in poverty."

One example of the difference in philosophy between the city and Continuum of Care in its approach to homelessness came during the pandemic.

When the state went under quarantine, the city stepped up to house more than 100 homeless people at the Greensboro Sportsplex. Later, those people and many more were moved to hotels paid for by the city, which received some federal reimbursement.

The Continuum of Care's plan to house the county's remaining homeless in shelters operated by more than a dozen nonprofits would have exposed those people to a higher risk of infection, some city officials argued.

Phillips said in his letter that maintaining the large countywide group is a more efficient way to deliver services to homeless people. 

Pamela Palmer, who chairs the Continuum of Care, said Monday that Phillips' letter reflects the close working relationship her group has enjoyed with county leaders.

She said the continuum "is exploring continued collaboration with the county and that’s as much as I can share at this point."

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'Trying to find some joy where we can.' Greensboro Day School celebrates 50th anniversary amid pandemic.

GREENSBORO — The Greenboro Day School students' tie-dyed shirts might have said 1970s, but the face coverings were unmistakably 2020.

Greensboro Day School through the years

As they celebrated the school's 50th anniversary on Monday, masked students lounged outside in the grass, keeping six feet apart from one another while they snacked on cupcakes and frozen treats. Some students dressed in '70s attire to honor the decade the private, independent K-12 school was formed. 

To start the day, kids and faculty sang happy birthday to the school, and in the evening, a virtual Zoom panel brought together some celebrated alumni and educators from the school's first 25 years.

With most area schools starting off the school year remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Greensboro Day School saw enrollment jump by 184  students — the largest number of new students in a single year since 1972, Head of School Tracie Catlett said. 

They were drawn by in-person classes, Catlett said. 

“We all know the social and emotional impact we can have when we’re in isolation,” Catlett said. “As much as possible, we have welcomed as many students as we can.”

Fifty years ago, GDS became the first independent school in Greensboro, with 95 students meeting at at Temple Emanuel on North Greene Street. Three months later, the school moved to its permanent, 65-acre location on Lawndale Drive, where today, 780 students from age 2 through 12th grade attend. The school has more than 2,800 alumni worldwide, according to GDS.

The unusual and unprecedented times brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic were mixed with “a lot of excitement around the 50th” on Monday, Catlett said. 

Celebrating social-distance style — outside and masked unless able to keep proper distance — Catlett said there were “a lot of great birthday vibes” on campus Monday. But it was also bittersweet celebration. 

“We can’t celebrate the way we want,” Catlett said. “We’re going to have a 50th birthday bash later when there’s no pandemic, but we’re just trying to be careful and find some joy where we can now.”

Those who don’t feel comfortable attending in-person instruction but who wanted to remain a part of GDS were given the option to attend GDS’ 50th year virtually. About 85% opted for in-person learning, but 15% of the school’s 780 students are taking the virtual path. 

Either way, it’s been an adjustment for teachers and students. 

Academic Dean Peter Williams, who oversees the curriculum for all grades and teaches upper school Latin, said he’s been impressed with the way students and teachers have adapted. 

“I think what we’ve asked them to do is not something that comes naturally to children,” Williams said. “Or adults, for that matter.”  

Teachers are tasked with teaching their in-class and online students simultaneously, using new Swivl technology, which involves students logging on via Zoom to participate in class. A camera on an iPad, which sits inside a device on a tripod, follows the teacher around the room, ensuring kids at home are seeing what kids in school are seeing.

Having to balance the school day and COVID-19 guidelines — daily temperature checks and wellness screenings — can be tiring and stressful, but Williams said he feels like the students and faculty are now a “much tighter team.” The unique circumstances forced everyone to “get creative,” including taking classes outside for instruction when the weather allows. 

As students snacked outside during the 50th celebration, most sat in their Crazy Creek camping chairs. The purchase of the lightweight and foldable chairs was funded through a donation to the school by Legette Interiors. The chairs, which can be carried over a student’s shoulder, make transitioning from indoor to outdoor class easy. 

Courtney Sutton, a GDS senior, wasn’t only celebrating her school’s 50th anniversary Monday. She was also celebrating her 17th birthday.

Sutton and her classmates have been able to maintain social distance while learning in the classroom, which is "a lot easier" than online instruction, she said. 

Though the school year has been different, she said, "It's definitely nice to be back in school and with the community, being able to see my friends every day."

Greensboro Day School through the years


Austin Dillon (3) runs during NASCAR's Cup Series race Sunday in Darlington, S.C. Dillon finished second to Kevin Harvick in the series' first of 10 races to determine the season champion.

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N.C. A&T's largest gift ever will help educate engineers and scientists


GREENSBORO — N.C. A&T will get $4 million over the next five years to help educate aspiring engineers and scientists — the largest single donation in university history.

The gift announced Monday is from Cree Inc., a Durham company that makes semiconductors and LED lighting.

"It's a tremendous investment in our university," Chancellor Harold Martin said Monday at a virtual news conference to announce the donation. "We're enthused about ... the long-term relationship and partnership we've created with Cree as well."

A&T will use the donation to create the Cree | Wolfspeed Endowed Scholars Program. (Wolfspeed is the name of Cree's power and radio frequency device business.) This program will award eight to 10 undergraduate scholarships that cover tuition, fees, room and board for four years. Cree | Wolfspeed scholars also will have summer internships with the company.

Scholars must be North Carolina residents and enrolled in either A&T's College of Engineering or College of Science and Technology, which houses the university's math, physics and other science departments. They also must have taken part in university programs that recruit minority students for STEM majors (science, technology, engineering and math) and prepare them for careers in those fields.

The first scholarships will be awarded next fall.

The new scholarship program connects the world's largest maker of silicon carbide devices with a Greensboro university with some No. 1 rankings of its own.

A&T is the largest four-year historically Black college and university in the United States and for years has been the nation's top producer of Black students with bachelor's degrees in engineering.

In Monday's U.S. News & World Report's annual college rankings, A&T was tied for first as America's best public HBCU. It also was the top-ranked HBCU on the U.S. News list of undergraduate engineering programs.

Gregg Lowe, Cree's president and chief executive officer, knows the university from hiring A&T students as interns and A&T graduates as full-time employees.

The idea for the scholarship program emerged after the controversy involving George Floyd, the Minneapolis man whose death during an arrest in May sparked worldwide protests against police brutality.

Lowe said Cree employees suggested several steps the company could take to improve social justice in the communities where it has offices and manufacturing plants. The scholarship program at A&T was one of them.

"What we're trying to do here is to really make a big difference," Lowe said. The A&T students awarded these scholarships, he added, "are going to get an opportunity that they otherwise probably wouldn't have."

The donation counts toward A&T's ongoing fundraising campaign, which originally aimed to raise $85 million by the end of 2020 for scholarships, faculty support, academic programs and facilities.

A&T recently crossed that threshold and revised its goal to $100 million. With three months left in the campaign, the university said Monday that the Cree donation pushes A&T's total of cash and pledges to a little more than $104 million.