Decades of local efforts to overcome large and persistent gaps in the preparedness of white and Black students have produced a lot of initiatives, a lot of plans — but not much in the way of reducing shocking disparities.
At its meeting of Tuesday, April 20, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will consider a request to participate in the latest such initiative, the United for Youth Network. Made up of 18 community partners, the network would be convened and coordinated by the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County.
According to a presentation by county Strategic Partnerships Director Rachael Nygaard available before the meeting, fewer than 50% of Black, hispanic, multiracial and/or economically disadvantaged students graduate from the Asheville City or Buncombe County schools ready to pursue college or enter careers. The gap between the percentage of white and Black city schools students who demonstrate academic proficiency is 62 points; the gap in Buncombe County Schools is 33 points between those two groups.
The partnership would pool resources to address social determinants of health such as safety, nutrition, food security and housing stability, as well as provide mentoring and other resources to students.
The goal of the partnership is for all county students to graduate from high school prepared to enter college or the workforce by 2035.
In other news
The county board will also vote on an ordinance that will ban discrimination based on 16 characteristics in housing, public accommodations and employment. The board reviewed the ordinance during its April 6 meeting, during which some members of the public voiced concern over the law. Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara held a “Community Conversation” virtual event on April 15 to discuss the ordinance with community members. If the commissioners approve the measure, it would go into effect on Thursday, July 1.
Consent agenda and public comment
The board’s consent agenda for the meeting contains five items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following:
- A resolution approving a fireworks display to commemorate July 4 at 540 Dillingham Road in Barnardsville; social distancing and mass gathering guidelines will be enforced.
- A budget amendment for $32,333 in unused federal Help America Vote Act funding from the State Board of Elections. The money was originally allocated to the Buncombe County Board of Elections for the general election in November, but now the board is seeking to use the leftover dollars for building security enhancements.
- Whoops! Commissioners will consider an update to the Other Post Employment Benefit Trustees to remove former Board of Commissioners Chair David Gantt, former County Manager Wanda Greene and former county Finance Director Donna Clark. Greene is serving a seven-year sentence for fraud and corruption charges. Those three individuals currently make up the entirety of the board; after 90 days from the date of the county providing notice of their removal, new trustees can be appointed.
The commissioners will also hold a briefing at 3 p.m. to discuss the county’s COVID-19 response and other topics. The full agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link.
Public comment will only be permitted through live telephone calls at the start of the meeting; no in-person comments, emails or voicemails will be accepted. Those planning to comment must sign up online or call 828-250-4001 by Monday, April 19, at 3 p.m. All commenters will receive three minutes to address the board.