By many estimates Chapel Hill/Carrboro is the best public school system in the state. I know several kids (and their parents) who go to Carrboro Elementary and are happy there. It is not actually one of the higher performing elementary schools in the district, but they have a large Hispanic population, some of whom probably have difficulty with English. They do have a dual language (Spanish/English) program for any student (not just ESL students) and that has been very popular with a lot of folks. Here's an article about the NCLB scores http://www.chapelhillnews.com/commun...ory/15831.html
. Overall Chapel Hill/Carrboro schools have an excellent reputation. It's not at all unusual for kids in the high schools to have perfect SAT scores. The SAT scores in the high schools are consistently the highest in the state (http://www.newsobserver.com/978/story/1200007.html
) . The general population in CH/C is highly educated (university and high tech jobs) and the high schools are actually pretty academically competitive from what I hear. I've heard of average students, however, sort of falling through the cracks because there are so many very smart, high achieving kids. I think that special needs kids are served fairly well (although someone with more experience in that could speak better to that), but occasionally the average student is not as well served as either end of the curve.
CH/C is a great area for schools/education, though, not just public. There are some great private schools (Waldorf, Friends, etc) and there is a huge and vibrant homeschooling community with lots of organized activities and classes and plenty of playdates.
My kids are in a private schools. My younger daughter is in preschool and my older daughter is in a kinda loose hippiesh private school mainly because we didn't think she could fit her square peg self into public school at this point, maybe in the future, though. We strongly considered homeschooling, though, and I was involved in some activites with my younger daughter, but the private school has worked out really well for us. In fact one of dd1's teachers is a homeschooling dad!
ETA: Woods Charter in North Chatham (near Chapel Hill/Carrboro) also is well loved by lots of folks. And the NC School of Science and Math (boarding high school) is nearby in Durham.