Gene Freeman will begin working at Asheville City Schools on Monday, April 20, earlier than the July 1 start date previously announced, said Shaunda Sandford, chair of the Asheville City Board of Education, at the board’s meeting on April 2.
Freeman and Bobbie Short — who has served three stints as interim superintendent for the district, most recently since the sudden departure in June 2019 of previous Superintendent Denise Patterson — will “co-lead” the district until Short’s final day on May 31, Sandford said.
“This exciting news about Dr. Freeman’s early start dates means the transition between our district will be seamless. Additionally, if all goes well with our anticipated return date [following the lifting of N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper‘s statewide closure of public schools] of May 18, Dr. Freeman will have the opportunity to greet students, visit classrooms and meet with staff and faculty this school year,” Sandford said.
Freeman attended the board’s work session and meeting, though members of the media and public were not allowed to attend in person. An Xpress reporter attempted to enter the Asheville City Schools’ boardroom for the work session but was escorted to an overflow room by a police officer who cited a limitation of 10 attendees. Various school system staffers entered and exited the boardroom for different agenda items. Asheville City Council closed its March 24 regular meeting to in-person attendance by members of the public but made an exception for media.
During the work session, board members discussed a resolution to give emergency powers to Short. Board attorney Chris Campbell said via videoconference that most of the school districts his firm works with have not adopted similar resolutions drafted by the N.C. School Board Association. Although some of Campbell’s remarks were inaudible in the Facebook Live streaming format, he could be heard to say that many superintendents “did not want the broad powers that were … in the original resolution.”
During the board’s regular meeting, the emergency power resolution passed unanimously without discussion. Short told Xpress in a phone conversation after the meeting that those powers would transfer to Freeman on June 1.
“It’s an insurance policy sitting in the drawer so that, if the superintendent couldn’t get [the board] together under the open meetings law and something had to get bid, there’s no question that that authority is there,” Campbell said.
In an announcement sent to school families and the media after the April 2 meeting, Short also noted that the board had selected Derek Edwards as Asheville High School principal.
“Since moving to the high school this past January, Mr. Edwards has done a tremendous job leading the campus as interim principal,” Short said.
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