About a month after beginning her tenure as the latest superintendent of Asheville City Schools, Maggie Fehrman outlined her promises to the Asheville City Board of Education on Aug. 14.
Amid meetings with principals, administrative staff, board members and various ACS stakeholders over her first month on the job, Fehrman developed a three-pronged promise to “help focus and bring people together” in the upcoming school year.
At the top of her list is to create a sense of belonging for students and staff.
“For me, it’s really important to honor the inherent dignity and the humanness of each person in our district,” she said. “When you feel like you belong, and you’re part of something, you really want to be invested. And that’s what we want to create here in our school system.”
Her second focus involves creating “challenging, meaningful and culturally relevant” grade-level curriculum for students every day.
“We have all the natural resources that we need to do amazing things as a school system; we just need that focus, we need that accountability piece. And we’ve got to focus on what’s most important, which is our students,” she said.
Finally, Fehrman stressed the need to “make every second count” by creating rituals so every student knows what to expect when they enter the classroom.
“We will provide each student a welcoming learning environment with clear and consistent procedures to maximize learning time,” she noted in her presentation.
She said she plans to stress these approaches in district communications, including on social media, highlighting examples of these promises playing out throughout the year.
Board Chair George Sieburg said the reception to Fehrman has been positive thus far.
“I’ve heard from plenty of folks within the community, in our schools and our staff. The energy that you brought in this first month that you’ve been with us is a breath of fresh air for us, and I’m really grateful for your immediate dedication to the health of our staff, our students and our well-being in this district,” he said.
Fehrman is the district’s first permanent superintendent since Gene Freeman abruptly retired in June 2022, five months before his previously announced November retirement. James Causby served as interim superintendent until ACS hired Rick Cruz in May after a four-month search. However, Cruz withdrew for personal reasons on June 6, leaving the board to ask its second choice, Fehrman. Fehrman has a four-year contract that pays $215,000 per year.
In other news
The Mountain Area Health Education Center’s School Health Program released its annual direction on when parents should keep their children home from school in case of any illness, from chickenpox to COVID-19.
April Dockery, ACS’ executive director of operations, outlined the updated guidance for positive COVID-19 tests.
Students and staff should stay home until it has been at least five days after the first day of symptoms and at least 24 hours since the person had a fever without using any fever-reducing medications. Students and staff should wear masks for 10 days after the first day of symptoms or until they take two consecutive negative tests at least 48 hours apart, according to MAHEC’s recommendation.
“Staying home when you’re sick is critical to everyone’s health in our school community,” Dockery said.
Board member James Carter asked Dockery to make the protocol easier to find on ACS’ website because he is concerned about increased COVID-19 transmissions in Buncombe County.
“Right now, we are seeing explosions of COVID all over the place. And we know that this is going to be a very interesting start to the school year,” he said.
The first day of school for students is Monday, Aug. 28.