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
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.