News in brief: Legislative wrap-up, teachers honored

TOP TEACHER: J.B. Halpin of Pisgah Elementary was named the 2019 Buncombe County Schools Teacher of the Year at the district's annual Teacher of the Year Banquet on Sept. 12. Photo courtesy of the Buncombe County Schools

That’s a wrap

State legislators representing Western North Carolina will share their thoughts on the recently concluded session of the 2017-18 session of the N.C. General Assembly at a breakfast gathering hosted by the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce from 8:30-10 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 27, at Celine and Co., 49 Broadway, Asheville. Register at

Take it outside

Have you ever wondered about how city government works and how you might become more involved? Reading Xpress‘ coverage of local government is one way to learn; attending Democracy in the Park noon-6 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 30, at Carrier Park Pavilion, is another.

Described by organizers as “a convergence space for community members to engage with local activists and organizers about city government, how it works, how it could be improved and to discuss with each other ways to expand public participation in the process,” the event seeks to increase engagement in our democracy on the local level.

“Democracy in the Park is a safe, inclusive container for local citizens to engage in dialogue around local government, understand how it works and vision how we’d like to see it change,” says organizer Kat Houghton.

More information at

Local teachers honored

J.B. Halpin of Pisgah Elementary was named the 2019 Buncombe County Schools Teacher of the Year at the district’s annual Teacher of the Year Banquet on Sept. 12.

Other finalists for Buncombe’s top teacher honors included Kylie Peek of Barnardsville Elementary, Sarah Camby of Haw Creek Elementary, E. Lissa Pedersen of Leicester Elementary, Paul Irvin of Nesbitt Discovery Academy, Krista Langlois of Owen Middle School and Katrina Fox of Valley Springs Middle School. Karren Herrick of North Buncombe High School received this year’s Ruth Henderson Award, which recognizes an altruistic teacher who unselfishly gives back to students and fellow staff members.

Jason Carter of Evergreen Community Charter School in Asheville was offered a Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms grant. Carter is one of fewer than 80 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad through the Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms Program in 2018-19. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential.

Warren Wilson enrolls largest-ever freshman class

Warren Wilson College placed a big bet on its new North Carolina Free Tuition Plan, which guarantees a tuition-free college education to every eligible incoming North Carolina undergraduate student.

That bet seems to have paid off in the form of an incoming freshman class of 250, the largest in the college’s history and a 71 percent increase over last year’s freshman class. Of the new freshmen, 104 were from North Carolina, a 246 percent increase over last year’s first-year North Carolina freshman numbers.

The initiative, called NC Free, “has definitely made me more interested in staying closer to home for college,” says freshman Hazel Freeman, who hails from Brevard. “With NC Free, I am able to enjoy my college experience without having to worry about a tremendous amount of student debt.”


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About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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