Buzzworm news briefs

Summer: sun, fun — and voting?

When I think about late July, my mind usually turns to hiking, picnicking and the like. But this year, I’ll have to add “voting” to my list of hot-weather pursuits.

Last week, the State Board of Elections unanimously voted to delay the North Carolina primary from May 4 until July 20. The Feb. 9 decision will give federal officials time to review the new legislative districts proposed by the N.C. General Assembly, according to The News & Observer of Raleigh.

Meanwhile, Republicans (including both current and former legislators) are challenging those district lines in court — which, the Raleigh newspaper noted, could delay the primary even further.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s probably because a similar lawsuit and subsequent court appeals delayed the 2002 primaries until September of that year. A state Superior Court judge ended up drawing temporary voting districts, which were good for only a year.

The primary delay also means that North Carolina’s Democrats will use caucuses — rather than a primary — to choose their presidential nominee.

Here’s the latest election schedule, according to the N.C. Democratic Party and the State Board of Elections:

• April 17 — statewide Democratic presidential caucuses;

• April 26 — candidate filing opens;

• May 7 — candidate filing closes;

• May 31 — absentee voting begins for the primary;

• July 20 — primary election;

• Aug. 17 — primary runoffs;

• Sept. 13 — absentee voting begins for the general election;

• Nov. 2 — general election.

So if it all goes off as planned, the more civic-minded style hounds among us will be sporting a new summertime accessory: an “I voted” sticker.

For more info, check out the State Board of Elections Web site (www.app.sboe.state.nc.us).

— Tracy Rose

Across the cultural divide

What happens when different cultures suddenly find themselves face to face? What extra challenges do cross-cultural barriers pose for students — and what can teachers do to help?

These questions loom particularly large in North Carolina, whose Latino/Hispanic population has grown dramatically in recent years. Between 1990 and 2000, the state’s foreign-born Hispanic population leaped from 19,760 to 227, 318 — a 1,050 percent increase — according to census figures.

“A lot of us, when we went through teacher-preparation programs, weren’t trained to necessarily deal with students who were culturally and linguistically diverse,” notes Angela Foss, visiting assistant professor in the department of educational leadership at East Carolina University. “It’s a big issue — all of us need to be trained in that area.”

To that end, ECU’s College of Education and the University of North Carolina’s Center for International Understanding are sponsoring the Latino/Hispanic Education Conference 2004. The all-day event, a first in this state, happens Thursday, Feb. 26 at the Greenville Hilton in Greenville, N.C. The registration fee is $39.

The theme of the conference is “Improving Education for Latino/Hispanic Students: Practices That are Working in North Carolina.” That last part is crucial, stresses Foss. “We’re talking about practices that are working specifically in North Carolina. A lot of times, things that look great in other states across the nation and are wonderful practices just do not work in our state because our culture and demographics are different. You really have to consider the specific area, and that’s what we’re doing with this conference.”

We’re not talking ivory-tower academic theories here, either. Most of the techniques to be discussed grew out of field work done in Mexico. For the last five years, teams of educators (including teachers, administrators and community leaders) from assorted North Carolina school districts have taken part in a study program in Mexico through the University of North Carolina’s Center for International Understanding. These experiences have helped educators learn about the culture and educational system from which most of the state’s Latino/Hispanic students come and how to use students’ cultural background to facilitate their learning in N.C. schools.

Upon returning, Foss explains, each team developed and implemented an action plan for their individual school or school system. The experiences they’ll be sharing could benefit all N.C. educators, she notes.

These teams represent systems all over North Carolina, including the Asheville City Schools, the Durham Public Schools, the Hickory City Schools, the Chatham County Schools, the Newton-Conover City Schools, the Wake County Schools, the Cumberland County Schools and the Green County Schools (home to one of only a few dual-language-immersion programs in the state).

The conference will address such topics as: parent outreach/community collaboration; improving language instruction/ESL strategies for non-ESL teachers; professional development; and newcomer services. “A lot of students coming in,” notes Foss, “need to get accustomed not only to a new culture and a new language but a new school, new everything.”

The day after the conference, she explains, the teams will stay behind and pull together all the pertinent information. “Our goal is to come out with a publication [that] we’ll distribute across the state.”

Foss especially credits these key players for helpng make the project happen: Marilyn Sheerer, the dean of ECU’s College of Education, for her support of both the partnership and the conference; the college’s department of educational leadership, for providing the initial funding; and Dr. Bryan Latham, the benefactor of the College of Education’s Latham Clinical Schools Network, for covering the conference registration fee for all the teachers in the network and all College of Education faculty members.

For more information or to register, call the ECU division of continuing studies at (800) 767-9111, or visit their Web site (www.options.ecu.edu/conferences/latino/lhec.htm).

— Lisa Watters

Nearly free seedlings

Organizers call the Buncombe County Soil and Water Conservation District’s annual event a seedling “sale.”

But it might as well be labeled a giveaway, since they’re letting white-pine seedlings go for only — get this — 20 cents apiece! (At that price, you could buy your own personal forest for the cost of a deli sandwich.)

The sale will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (or until all the seedlings have been sold) on Friday, Feb. 27, and Saturday, Feb. 28 at the Tunnel Road Wal-Mart in Asheville.

Organizers describe the seedlings as 2-year-old “improved” white pines that can be used for erosion control, beautification, borders or windbreaks. Seedlings can be bought in any quantity.

Nine species of hardwood seedlings will also be available for 50 cents apiece. These, however, must be reserved ahead of time.

The proceeds from the sale will support the district’s conservation projects (particularly environmental-education efforts).

For more info or to place an order for hardwood seedlings, call the district office at (828) 250-4786.

— Tracy Rose

For whom the Bele tolls

The 26th annual Bele Chere festival has issued a call to arts-and-crafts exhibitors. Applications for booth space at the annual street bash must be postmarked by Friday, March 12.

More than 150 arts-and-crafts exhibitors will be included in this year’s event and will vie for $6,000 in awards.

Bele Chere, in case you’ve somehow lost sight of it, is the region’s biggest street festival, with an annual attendance of more than 300,000. The three-day public party, which takes downtown Asheville by storm each July, is famous in equal measure for its thunderstorms and funnel cakes. (While this writer had often experienced the former during the past two decades, he’d managed to avoid the latter until last year. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience — and I am so over it.)

The 2004 hoedown will erupt July 23-25.

For more information and an application, call Asheville Parks and Recreation at 259-5800, or visit www.belechere.com.

— Cecil Bothwell

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