“Now ACS is proposing a turn away from integration without offering any tangible reason for the change.”
“The school nutrition director was prohibited from implementing, completing and/or fulfilling various compliance requirements in the non-school programs,” notes a report compiled by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction regarding Asheville City Schools.
The potential closure and sale of the APS campus had drawn intense community pushback since being initially recommended as a cost-saving measure by Superintendent Gene Freeman on Dec. 7.
Specifics on how the Asheville City Schools system spends its local allocation (at over $5,800 per student, the second-highest in North Carolina) and its plans to reduce costs have been hard to come by — and may have been concealed in violation of state open meetings law during a May 18 special closed session of the Asheville City Board of Education.
“The last three superintendents we’ve had here, including you, have not brought anything but mayhem to the school system,” declared Buncombe Commissioner Al Whitesides to Asheville City Schools Superintendent Gene Freeman.
Under current projections, even if the system taps into the entirety of its available reserves to cover expenses for fiscal year 2021-22, it would still face $865,000 in cuts to balance its budget. And if expenses and revenue trends continue on the same path, the necessary cuts for fiscal year 2022-23 could exceed $2 million.
At its first meeting since the March 23 appointments of James Carter, Jacquelyn Carr McHargue and Peyton O’Conner by Asheville City Council, the Asheville City Board of Education’s members chose Carter as chair and McHargue as vice chair in a pair of split decisions.
Asheville City Schools Superintendent Gene Freeman disputed the account of a parent who said administrators failed to respond to repeated requests for information about what the closure of Asheville Primary School would mean to her daughter. After being provided with details by Xpress, Freeman spoke with Sara Shea on March 18.
“The path we’re on right now is a collision that puts us backwards and actually takes classrooms offline,” said Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, regarding the Asheville City Schools plan to relocate preschool classrooms from Asheville Primary School to other elementary schools and Asheville Housing Authority developments.
“Families of color have unfairly limited elementary school options for their children because the district is mandated to maintain antiquated racial quotas that were put into place 30 years ago,” writes Asheville City Schools Superintendent Gene Freeman.
Signed by Asheville City Schools Superintendent Gene Freeman on Feb. 5, the agreement with Raleigh-based Forthright Advising drew the concern of Asheville City Board of Education member Joyce Brown during a Feb. 15 meeting of the board.
Gene Freeman, Asheville City Schools superintendent, gave contradictory statements regarding the potential sale of Asheville Primary School at several meetings over recent months. Xpress has also experienced delays in obtaining basic records of the school system’s discussions.
“You can’t keep doing that year in and year out. You need to keep an eye on that,” external auditor Michael Wike told the Asheville City Board of Education about the school system’s spending at a Dec. 7 work session. “What happens when you don’t have a fund balance is almost like an individual living paycheck to paycheck: You can’t plan for the future whatsoever.”
NC schools struggle with options, as teachers oppose in-person learning. Some districts embrace virtual instruction contracts with for-profit company.
Instead of bringing students back to the classroom under the Plan B model outlined by Gov. Roy Cooper, as had been announced on July 14, the Asheville City Board of Education voted unanimously to follow the remote-only Plan C for at least nine weeks at a July 23 special called meeting.
Teachers fear for their health under some NC school district plans, with other districts moving toward online-only instruction to begin school year.
As Buncombe County Schools Superintendent Tony Baldwin explained to the county Board of Commissioners during a May 19 meeting, the system’s pandemic response has completely exhausted its $4.6 million rainy day fund — and the schools now project a $2.1 million deficit by the end of the fiscal year.
During Asheville City Board of Education’s work session and regular meeting on April 2, board Chair Shaunda Sandford announced that Gene Freeman will begin work with the school system on Monday, April 20. He will formally take over from interim Superintendent Bobbie Short as of Monday, June 1. The board also selected Derek Edwards as Asheville High School principal.