ON THE HOT SEAT: Asheville City Schools Superintendent Denise Patterson has come under fire for what some parents say is inadequate communication with students' families in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla. on Feb. 14. Patterson has released a series of videos on the subject of school safety. Image from YouTube

Parents criticize Asheville City Schools response to Parkland tragedy

Parents of students in Asheville City Schools pushed back against what they saw as a tepid response from district leaders after the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., saying local administrators were slow to acknowledge families’ fears and provide concrete information. At a March 6 parent forum, some additional details about the district’s safety planning were made available.

A SEAT AT THE TABLE: Asheville High School Principal Jesse Dingle discusses the listening project with student Ana Lechman, who has volunteered to conduct some of the interviews. Photo by Leslie Boyd

City schools listen as pupils speak up

While it makes logical sense that students who’ve spent years attending Asheville City Schools would know better than anyone what is and isn’t working to promote their educational success, asking those students for input is nonetheless a radical proposition. That’s not stopping the system and the Asheville City Schools Foundation from carrying out The Listening Project to allow educators to learn from students’ experiences and insights.

GET UP AND DANCE: Asheville City School's director of human resources Mark Dickerson, aka "Dr. DJ Mark," dances with students during this year's anti-bullying rally. Photo courtesy of Asheville City Schools

Buncombe County schools teach strategies­, raise awareness about cyberbully­ing

Cyberbullying is an issue that comes up all too often. It can include any type of intimidation with electronics or internet use, from texting to posting on social media. Research shows that it has doubled among middle and high schoolers in the U.S. from 2007 to 2016 — from 18 to 34 percent. But research also shows that North Carolina has the second lowest rate of cyberbullying — 30 percent, higher only than Massachusetts at 23 percent. Since October is National Bullying Prevention Month, Asheville City Schools held a rally to create awareness of the issue.

SCHOOL DAZE: Shown here in a 2008 photo, Eben Heasley is a long-time educator at Evergreen Community Charter School. Though he says he loves the teaching profession, Heasley says he's planning to leave it for a second career that offers a better balance of schedule, stress and compensation. Photo courtesy of Evergreen Community Charter School

Burned out: Preserving Asheville’­s teacher corps

When seasoned teachers leave the classroom, everybody suffers. Students lose out on the benefits of the educators’ experience, school systems struggle to find and train replacements and the larger community often mourns the departure of a valued contributor with established relationships. While Asheville and Buncombe County public schools have lower teacher turnover than in other parts of the state, retaining and attracting the best teachers is increasingly challenging.

MARGINALIZED: Confronting the largest disparity between the performance of black and white students in the state, outgoing Asheville City Schools Superintendent Pam Baldwin says that shifting the system toward greater equity “is not ‘another thing’: It is the only thing.” Photo by Jack Sorokin

Asheville City Schools take aim at racial disparitie­s

State data show that the gap in academic achievement between white and black students in the Asheville City Schools is the largest in North Carolina. The district is launching a new initiative to address the persistent problem — but only time will tell whether this effort will succeed where so many have failed to show results.