The Buncombe County Board of Education’s Nov. 3 meeting was full of warm welcomes and heartfelt goodbyes as school leaders embraced newly appointed Buncombe County Schools Superintendent Rob Jackson and paid tribute to outgoing board members Cindy McMahon and Pat Bryant.
Jackson’s selection had been announced in September, but his oath of office during the meeting marked the official start of his tenure as superintendent. Jackson follows former Superintendent Tony Baldwin, who retired Nov. 1 after serving over 13 years in the position and almost 40 years as an educator in North Carolina.
As outlined in a Sept. 23 press release, Jackson is a Buncombe County native and grew up in Swannanoa. He graduated with a teaching degree from Western Carolina University and worked in Buncombe County Schools for nine years, then moved into leadership positions in Gaston and Union county schools. His most recent role was superintendent of Carteret County Public Schools, near Morehead City.
“As a former student, as a former employee of this great school system, I know the caliber of teachers, administrators and staff that the school system has brought together to serve the children of Buncombe County. I’m looking forward to getting to know each one of them, to get to know our school system,” Jackson said during the meeting. “Even though this is a year of change, even though there are challenges before us, still I am confident that this will be our finest year ever.”
Acknowledging some of those changes, the board then recognized the departing Bryant, who has represented the Erwin District for the last 16 years, and McMahon, who has represented the Reynolds District for the last eight years. Both board members told Xpress in September that the board was ready for fresh voices.
“It has been a pleasure to serve with both Pat and Cindy,” said board Chair Ann Franklin. “And I will say at the beginning that we haven’t always agreed. But we have always worked for the good of the students in this county and for Buncombe County Schools in general.”
This year’s election features contested races to fill both vacancies. Vying to represent the Erwin District are Kim Plemmons and Kenneth Greg Parks; in the Reynolds District, Rob Elliot faces off against Sara Disher Ratliff. (Judy Lewis, the only incumbent to seek reelection this year, is running against Kim Poteat to represent the Enka District.)
All candidates were invited to a forum held by Xpress and Black Wall Street last month, but only Parks and Ratliff participated — Plemmons and Elliot pulled out the day before the event, citing potential “public safety issues” spurred by Parks’ social media presence. Coverage of that event is available at avl.mx/c5h, and candidate responses to the Xpress voter guide are available at avl.mx/c4n.
BCS adopts 2022-23 budget
The school board also unanimously approved its $405.5 million 2022-23 operating budget, with no comment from board members. The budget includes an $81.6 million allotment from Buncombe County, representing an $8.7 million increase over the county’s fiscal year 2021-22 allocation.
That increase will be used to raise average wages for teachers and other certified staff by 2.5%. Pay for noncertified staff, such as custodians, will be bumped by 2.5% or to at least $15 per hour to help attract and retain those employees.
Unfunded this year are nearly $8.1 million in cost-of-living pay increases that had been recommended in a salary study by Hickory-based HIL Consultants. Baldwin had requested money to support those raises from the Buncombe Board of Commissioners, but the county instead plans to fund the increases gradually through fiscal year 2024-25.