The Asheville City Board of Education named Maggie Fehrman district superintendent during a special meeting June 8.
“I am thrilled to be joining the Asheville City Schools community. I can’t think of a better place to serve,” Fehrman said during the meeting.
The move comes after Rick Cruz withdrew from the job due to a “family medical emergency” just three weeks after he was selected as incoming superintendent. Fehrman was one of three finalists previously interviewed by the board.
“We are so excited for what she brings to this district — her commitment to our children, her commitment to staff, her long dedication as a public servant and public schools as a teacher, a principal, a superintendent,” board Chair George Sieburg said during the meeting. “From the first moment when we met her on paper and then on Zoom, how she spoke so passionately about equity in a school system and what that means for our children, is why she has risen to the top.”
According to a June 8 press release from ACS, Fehrman served as superintendent in Decatur, Ga., from 2021-22. Under her leadership, the district achieved a high school graduation rate of 96.73% and secured the top spot in the state for SAT and ACT performance. Before becoming superintendent, Fehrman served in public education for 23 years as assistant superintendent, executive director of schools, principal, assistant principal and social studies teacher.
“I’m very passionate about public education. I firmly believe that public education is the foundation of our democracy,” Fehrman said. “Everyone deserves that equal chance. And I believe that we will only achieve this when we are steadfast in ensuring that we remove barriers and provide equitable opportunities for every student to meet their full potential.”
But Ferhman’s focus on equity may receive pushback from some in the community. Meetings of the Asheville school board have played host to battles over cultural issues in recent months, including critical race theory and sexuality education.
In November, local pastor Ronald Gates, representing an out-of-state conservative activist group, made inflammatory statements regarding then-school board member Peyton O’Conner, who is transgender. O’Conner later resigned her position. In May, a preacher from Wake Forest spoke during public comments to the board about a book that he found sexually inappropriate for children. And on June 12, two speakers criticized the school board for promoting critical race theory and “gender confusion” within the district.
“[Critical race theory] advocates that American culture is a conspiracy to perpetuate white supremacy. What it does is divide all Americans along lines of race and gender and between oppressors and victims,” said speaker Courtney Blossman during the meeting. “You do not have free rein over our children. Yet you’re taking the responsibility for teaching programs of racism, gender confusion, and are causing emotional instability and vulnerable students.”
Previous reporting from Xpress revealed that officials at both the county and Asheville City school systems say they do not explicitly teach CRT.
Fehrman’s tenure, which will begin Monday, July 17, is likely to see a continuation of those tensions, along with other issues, such as the residual anger from parents and teachers over the closing of Asheville Primary School and calls for increases in teacher pay. She replaces James Causby, who has served as interim superintendent since former Superintendent Gene Freeman abruptly left the district last summer.
The Asheville school district has had five superintendents over the last 10 years. The district paid Summit Search Solutions $30,000 to conduct a superintendent search that yielded 49 applications. Summit guaranteed that it would repeat the search process for free if the superintendent left for any reason during the first year of employment or was terminated or resigned based on performance-related issues within two years on the job, as part of its contract.
This post was updated at 10:25 a.m. on June 14 to include information about the June 12 Asheville City Board of Education meeting.