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.

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.

CHEERS TO THAT: "Ms. Earle coaches cheerleading [for the Asheville Youth Football and Cheerleading League], but she is also really a life coach and mentor for these girls," says Asheville City Schools Foundation executive director Kate Pett. "She tutors many of them, visits their teachers and communicates with their families regularly. She is really a life mentor and cheerleading is just the vehicle that engages these girls who really need someone just like her."

Faces in the crowd: WNC crowdfundi­ng initiative­s

Each week, Xpress highlights notable WNC crowdsourcing initiatives that may inspire readers to become new faces in the crowd. This week features a project to equip a youth cheerleading team with uniforms and other supplies; a local film collective’s contribution to a global project; plus one parent’s quest to improve Oakley Elementary School’s playground.

Advocates see threats to public education in current legislatio­n

They had to keep rolling out chairs Tuesday night for what was billed as a “Conversation about Public Education in North Carolina,” held at the Asheville City Schools board room on Mountain Street. A larger-than-anticipated audience of 60 people — educators, elected officials, parents, advocates — came to talk about the status of public education, and to offer some opinions. And in a nutshell, the program message was that the status of public education in the state — which has been quantifiably climbing for years — is about to take a drastic plunge. (photos by Max Cooper)