PAYING TRIBUTE: "We are are asking for your donation to launch our Women Who Made Music History concert series," Peggy Ratusz, left, and Paula Hanke write online, "where we entertain and educate while we honor and pay emotional tribute to an array of influential divas, dames and darlings."

Faces in the crowd: WNC crowdfundi­ng initiative­s

Each week, Xpress highlights notable WNC crowdsourcing initiatives that may inspire readers to become new faces in the crowd. This week features a female duo’s traveling tribute to iconic songstresses before them; a parent’s efforts to end lunch debt shaming in local schools; and a team of Erwin High track athletes’ trip to compete at nationals.

"This was a personal satisfaction to know that you were the owner of your things," Guerra, a member of the Emma community said. Photo by Kari Barrows

Housing co-ops a potential affordable housing solution

The second in a three-part series on innovative models for promoting affordable homeownership sponsored by the city of Asheville focused on housing cooperatives. The May 4 education and information event provided perspectives from national experts as well as representatives of the Dulce Lomita Mobile Home Cooperative in Asheville.

SCHOOL DAZE: Shown here in a 2008 photo, Eben Heasley is a long-time educator at Evergreen Community Charter School. Though he says he loves the teaching profession, Heasley says he's planning to leave it for a second career that offers a better balance of schedule, stress and compensation. Photo courtesy of Evergreen Community Charter School

Burned out: Preserving Asheville’­s teacher corps

When seasoned teachers leave the classroom, everybody suffers. Students lose out on the benefits of the educators’ experience, school systems struggle to find and train replacements and the larger community often mourns the departure of a valued contributor with established relationships. While Asheville and Buncombe County public schools have lower teacher turnover than in other parts of the state, retaining and attracting the best teachers is increasingly challenging.

MAKING THE GRADE: Kathryn Medford, left, works with Tristan Cox at a recent Homework Diner at Enka Middle School. Tristan began attending the weekly dinners with his grandmother, Portia Simpson, in order to improve his grades.

Feed your brain: Homework Diner program offers families dinner, academic support

Homework isn’t something students or their parents necessarily look forward to tackling in those precious after-school hours of freedom — especially when there’s also dinner to worry about. But the new Homework Diner initiative spearheaded by the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County offers help with schoolwork while feeding families and the community in […]

TIDAL WAVE: Walter Vicente is a master stitcher, sample maker and worker-owner at the Valdese-based company Opportunity Threads. With nearly half of local businesses owned by baby-boomers, economic analysts are working to draw attention to the impending mass retirements of these owners, while others advocate alternative succession plans, like employee cooperatives. Photo courtesy of Opportunity Threads.

Passing the torch: What happens when local business owners retire?

With 45 percent of business owners in Buncombe County alone facing retirement in the next decade, local groups and service providers are encouraging them to start planning for their company’s next chapter, while simultaneously devising ways to turn an impending crisis into an opportunity for employees to shoulder new responsibilities.

HERE COMES THE SUN: Appalachian Offsets is offering an opportunity to offset your carbon footprint and support a solar array for Isaac Dickson Elementary at the same time. Rendering courtesy of Appalachian Offsets

Appalachia­n Offsets seeks donors to help Isaac Dickson school go solar

Appalachian Offsets is providing an opportunity for Asheville residents to both protect the environment and invest in environmental education, by helping fund Isaac Dickson Elementary School’s much-anticipated 600-kilowatt solar system. Donations can be made via Appalachian Offsets’ website, which calculates a person’s carbon footprint and then asks for a donation to offset that footprint. The […]

MARGINALIZED: Confronting the largest disparity between the performance of black and white students in the state, outgoing Asheville City Schools Superintendent Pam Baldwin says that shifting the system toward greater equity “is not ‘another thing’: It is the only thing.” Photo by Jack Sorokin

Asheville City Schools take aim at racial disparitie­s

State data show that the gap in academic achievement between white and black students in the Asheville City Schools is the largest in North Carolina. The district is launching a new initiative to address the persistent problem — but only time will tell whether this effort will succeed where so many have failed to show results.

OTTER-LY ENGAGING: The Nature Center’s otter inhabitants draw kids and adults alike to watch their antics, which can be playful, cuddly and athletic, all in the space of a few minutes. Photo courtesy of the WNC Nature Center

The incredible shrinking subsidy: WNC Nature Center achieves 3-year reduction goal in one year

When the WNC Nature Center learned the city of Asheville’s subsidy for the facility would shrink by more than half over three years, the environmental education attraction wasn’t immediately sure how it would make up the funding shortfall. But it didn’t take long to figure it out: the Nature Center met the three-year goal in only one year. The attraction is expanding to meet demand, and visitation is setting new records nearly every month.

UNION DAYS: Approximately 90 workers and organizers of the Amalgamated Association of Street and Electric Railway Employees of America, Local Div. No. 128 pose for a picture in April 1913. Despite North Carolina’s status as one of the least unionized states in the country, current-day local union chapters such as ATU 128, have a long history of organizing and advocating for workers’ rights in the Southern Highlands. Photo via the Norh Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Library, Asheville North Carolina

Labor pains: WNC unions at a crossroads

In Western North Carolina and across the country, labor unions seem to be a dying breed these days, and many local residents don’t seem overly concerned about it. Yet WNC’s complex history of unionization stretches back to the late 19th century. From high-profile labor disputes and the emergence of “right to work” laws to the […]