Huge spreadsheets containing academic testing results for each public school district and individual school for the 2018-19 school year became available online in the first week of October. But when Xpress tried to use that information to assess Asheville City Schools’ recent progress in addressing huge disparities in the academic performance of white and black students, things got … complicated.
“As a community, we have the opportunity to change the direction and priorities of City Council by electing representatives who more closely reflect our values and vision for Asheville going forward.”
“Are there educators who think that kids can learn despite their backgrounds and the effects of outside-the-school influences? If so, let’s hire them, starting at the superintendent level.”
“It does not escape me the amount of money that the city of Asheville funnels into the tourism industry here in Asheville, yet we do not have the money or funding to make the communities where these children live safe or enriching.”
Interim Asheville City Schools Superintendent Bobbie Short is taking over — for the third time in six years — as the district struggles with extreme disparities in the academic performance of its white and black students, which are the largest of any district in the state. The district is once again searching for a permanent leader. In the best-case scenario, a new superintendent will start work in January.
Students participating in the Middle School Magic program at Asheville Middle School presented the results of their three-week exploration of the city’s African American history on July 25.
Local political campaign manager and prior state Senate candidate Veronika Gunter will “create and lead the implementation of a public relations strategy that takes into account the public perception and community dynamics, leverages existing resources and is remarkable for being clearly and consistently communicated,” according to an independent contractor agreement approved by the Asheville City Board of Education on June 27.
“Talking to the kids themselves, it’s clear that, in many cases, one problem is that when they ask for help at home, they only get an embarrassed giggle and a shrug — and the older generation’s ‘I was never any good at math’ gets passed on.”
“Hopefully, Mountain Xpress readers will not just see the problem but ask the question, ‘What can I do?’”
“Where is the evidence that this wholesale testing of children once a year enhances a child’s educational progress or improves our schooling system?”
“If the district is truly committed to fixing this alarming achievement gap between black and white students, it must work to make specific changes in its own treatment of black students.”
Asheville VeganFest returns under new leadership. Also: French Broad Chocolate’s Cookies & Creamery celebrates its grand opening; The Block Off Biltmore hosts a hemp food challenge; the 8th annual International Honey Tasting Competition returns; and more.
While awareness of Asheville’s worst-in-state racial academic achievement and discipline disparities seems to be on the rise, agreement on specific goals for reducing the gap, the strategies and resources needed, and how long it could take to make progress remain elusive.
Activists with the Health Equity Coalition are organizing a Friday, May 24, community forum to explore how the $1.5 billion Dogwood Health Trust, created from the sale of Mission Health, offers the prospect of “life-changing” investments in the wellbeing of residents in 18 Western North Carolina counties. Also, it’s time to strive to drive less in the runup to the Strive Beyond Summit at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Mills River on Friday, May 31, from 3-5 p.m.
While Buncombe County’s current proposed budget includes nearly $3.6 million in new education funding, total requests from local systems on May 7 came to roughly $8.16 million. That figure includes $1.06 million more for A-B Tech, $2.09 million for Asheville City Schools and $5.01 million in increased funding for Buncombe County Schools.
Speaking at the board’s April 30 budget work session, Chair Brownie Newman emphasized that education officials shouldn’t count on “automatic” growth of county support. “I think they should have to justify all of it,” he said.
“It would be appreciated if our community leaders will publicly commit to donating to our public schools as well. The local elite can make the most significant push in raising educational supplements.”
Incumbent Asheville City Board of Education members Shaunda Sandford and Martha Geitner faced tough questions from Asheville City Council at an interview session on March 26. But at Council’s regular meeting that same evening, the two were unanimously reappointed to four-year terms on the board. James Carter was selected to fill a two-year vacancy created by the resignation of board member James Lee.
A group representing government, education, business and nonprofit organizations is coalescing to form a community response to a severe racial achievement gap in Asheville City Schools. But it’s not yet clear how the initiative will define its goals and approach — and what resources it can attract to fund the effort.