Letter: School staffer doesn’t deserve ‘Best Of’ vilification

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Hello, my name is Keynon Lake, and I am writing in reaction to citizens using your “Best Of”contest to vilify and slander a current Asheville City Schools staff person and Mountain Xpress’ choice to participate and publish her name in the category. These actions contribute to what Van Dempsey, dean of Watson College of Education at UNC Wilmington, describes as “the most toxic, abusive, corrosive, hostile, exploitative time for public education, particularly K-12 education.”

Let me start by saying I am not nor have I ever been employed with the city school system. I work every day on the front lines of youth development as the founder and director of My Daddy Taught Me That. MDTMT teaches young men how to be positive and productive citizens by focusing on good decision making, accepting responsibility and being accountable for their actions.

During the 2021-22 school year, MDTMT was invited into Asheville Middle and High School to support school staff and students. Melissa Hedt was instrumental in making this happen. I know from personal experience that she strives to create positive, inclusive and quality education for all Asheville City Schools students. After being in the schools daily and seeing firsthand what is happening in our school buildings, I have a new respect for the school system, our educators and our youths.

So, I ask our community, “Is publishing articles like the one previously mentioned how we support folks who have dedicated their lives to public education? Is this the example we want to set as adults for our children and students?”

I am asking us to do better as a community because our students, teachers and school administrators deserve better.

— Keynon Lake
Executive director

Editor’s response: We appreciate your concerns about singling out educators. And yet, school boards, school systems and public education are a growing part of the ongoing civic dialogue. Mountain Xpress’ mission is to build community and strengthen democracy by serving an active, thoughtful readership at the local level — where the impact of citizen action is greatest.

The Best Of WNC annual survey has asked WNC residents and Mountain Xpress readers every year since 1995 to vote for the local people, businesses and nonprofits they consider the best — including the Local Villain category. We tally the votes, meticulously following a set of policies and then publish the findings. We do not run individual articles about winners as you suggest in your letter. Rather, Best Local Villain is one of about 600 categories listed in our Best Of series.

Winners of the villain category have mostly been silent or taken it in stride. To our knowledge, we’ve never withheld a qualifying winner’s name in any category, although we have had a few requests. The community’s voice and vote matter.

We have been in communication with Melissa Hedt about the results and encouraged her to write a letter to the editor about the work she has done for our community’s schoolchildren.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

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9 thoughts on “Letter: School staffer doesn’t deserve ‘Best Of’ vilification

  1. Curious

    The category of Local Villain is hardly “a winner.” Do the editors of Mountain Xpress do any research to find out why a person is being nominated in that category? How do they know that a community group is not organizing votes in that category to diminish someone they dislike?

  2. Better Ways

    “Local Villian” category should be removed. How does it positively affect our community? To me it reflects today’s name-calling atmosphere which is a childish way of interacting with our fellow humans. Surely there are better ways to engage dialogue and move dials.

    • James Cassara

      I agree that the entire villain category should be dropped. I see it as serving no good purpose.

  3. gene freeman

    Why would you publish something like this? Shows how the left will eat the left or right on any occasion. Melissa has done as much as any person in the district to make Asheville City Schools a better place. The Mountain Xcrement can’t wait until ACS closes down.

  4. Enlightened Enigma

    OH, until ACS and BCS are consolidated, all of the resistors are total RACISTS !

  5. Voirdire

    Jeff Fobes is ultimately responsible for this…everyone should keep this in mind when this type of foolishness is passed along as unbiased and fair local journalism. It’s not…. nor is there any conceivable excuse for it.

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