• As part of Asheville City Schools’ continued effort to create open lines of communication, our goal is to make it easier and more efficient for students, staff, families and community members to request public information.

    The district responds to requests for public records in accordance with North Carolina’s Open Government Guide. Our Executive Director of Communications, Ashley-Michelle Thublin, handles all requests, making sure the right person is contacted and that a response is made as promptly as possible.

    If you are a member of our Cougar Family or media outlet wishing to request an interview or gather additional information, please email ashley.thublin@acsgmail.net. Please allow us adequate time to review and facilitate this request, and please be aware that the public records law does not require Asheville City Schools to do research, analyze data, or create a record that does not currently exist.

    Below you will find recent media requests as well as Asheville City Schools’ responses.


  • May 25, 2022 - The Citizen-Times
     
    REQUEST: 
    In the wake of the tragic event that occurred yesterday in Uvalde, Texas, we know that parents and guardians of school children across the country are concerned for the safety of their kids while at school.
     
    The Asheville Citizen-Times wants to know whether Asheville City Schools will be releasing a statement on security measures taken to keep students safe while in the classroom. 
     
    Also, have there be an abnormal number of absences or an increase in calls from parents in response to yesterday's tragedy?
     
    RESPONSE: 
    Good Morning Briana, 
     
    Asheville City Schools' Superintendent Dr. Gene Freeman shared the following statement with staff and families earlier today: 

    Good Morning Students, Staff and Families.  This is Superintendent Gene Freeman.  

    Yesterday, I watched the news unfold about the heartbreaking mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.  It was the second mass shooting in less than two weeks.  As I read the headlines and processed the information, I felt a lot of things; grief, loss, disbelief, deep sadness and anger.   I can’t imagine dropping my child off for school and never picking them up or walking into a school building for work and never coming home.  

    Events like yesterday are not only tragic and painful but create an environment of uncertainty and fear within our schools and community.  While this event was more than 1,000 miles away from our community, the media coverage brought it into our homes and lives.

    We understand that our students and staff may need added assistance during this time. Please know that we have support services in place and our school counselors will be available for students and staff who need to process their thoughts and feelings following yesterday’s tragedy.  

    In addition to offering mental health resources in each of our schools and the Employee Assistance Network for staff, we’ve also gathered some resources that might be helpful during this time:  

    As your superintendent, it is my responsibility to ensure safe, supportive, and high-quality educational experiences for our students.  As a human, it is my responsibility to care for others.  I will continue to do everything within my power to ensure our schools are safe and welcoming places to learn and grow.

    Parents, I ask that you please take this opportunity to talk with your child about school safety as well as remind them to report any rumors about an unsafe situation or behavior to a trusted adult.  Students can also utilize the See Something, Say Something app or click here to access See Something, Say Something on our website.  All information shared to the app or posted through the website is completely confidential.  And, of course, all students and parents can always directly reach out to any school administrator.  

    This is an issue larger than just the school system.  Therefore, I also encourage you to  reach out to our state and US legislators (Senator Richard Burr and Senator Thom Tillis). 

    Thank you for your support.  Over the next few days, we will continue to keep a close watch on our students, staff and families.  However, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if there is anything we can do. 


     May 25, 2022 - Press Release to Local Media Partners 
    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 

    During today’s Special Called Meeting, the Asheville City Board of Education announced the selection of Dr. Jim Causby as the district’s next interim superintendent.  Dr. Gene Freeman will continue to serve as superintendent through his previously announced retirement date of November 30, 2022, with Dr. Causby taking office on December 1.  Dr. Causby is expected to serve as interim until the Board finds a permanent replacement. 

    Attached you will find additional information about Dr. Causby as well as his photo.


    May 25, 2022 - Mix 96.5 
     
    REQUEST:
    Does Asheville City Schools have a statement regarding yesterday's tragedy in Texas? 
     
    RESPONSE:
    Here is a copy of the communications Superintendent Dr. Gene Freeman sent to staff and families. 

    Good Morning Students, Staff and Families.  This is Superintendent Gene Freeman.  

    Yesterday, I watched the news unfold about the heartbreaking mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.  It was the second mass shooting in less than two weeks.  As I read the headlines and processed the information, I felt a lot of things; grief, loss, disbelief, deep sadness and anger.   I can’t imagine dropping my child off for school and never picking them up or walking into a school building for work and never coming home.  

    Events like yesterday are not only tragic and painful but create an environment of uncertainty and fear within our schools and community.  While this event was more than 1,000 miles away from our community, the media coverage brought it into our homes and lives.

    We understand that our students and staff may need added assistance during this time. Please know that we have support services in place and our school counselors will be available for students and staff who need to process their thoughts and feelings following yesterday’s tragedy.  

    In addition to offering mental health resources in each of our schools and the Employee Assistance Network for staff, we’ve also gathered some resources that might be helpful during this time:  

    As your superintendent, it is my responsibility to ensure safe, supportive, and high-quality educational experiences for our students.  As a human, it is my responsibility to care for others.  I will continue to do everything within my power to ensure our schools are safe and welcoming places to learn and grow.

    Parents, I ask that you please take this opportunity to talk with your child about school safety as well as remind them to report any rumors about an unsafe situation or behavior to a trusted adult.  Students can also utilize the See Something, Say Something app or click here to access See Something, Say Something on our website.  All information shared to the app or posted through the website is completely confidential.  And, of course, all students and parents can always directly reach out to any school administrator.  

    This is an issue larger than just the school system.  Therefore, I also encourage you to reach out to our state and US legislators (Senator Richard Burr and Senator Thom Tillis). 

    Thank you for your support.  Over the next few days, we will continue to keep a close watch on our students, staff and families.  However, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if there is anything we can do. 


    May 23, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 
    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    On behalf of Mr. James Carter, Chair of the Asheville City Board of Education, please see below for an update regarding today's meeting  The following information has been shared with ACS staff and families. 
    ----------

    Good Afternoon Students, Staff and Families.  This is James Carter, Chair of the Asheville City Board of Education. 

    Since last week’s announcement, it has come to our attention that today’s Special Called Meeting was set to occur at the same time as the Community Reparations Commission’s Meeting.  We don’t want to conflict with this very important discussion.  Therefore, tonight’s Closed Session and Special Called Meeting has been postponed until Wednesday, May 25th.  

    Per previous meeting announcements, the Board has a Closed Session at 12:00 PM on that day.  Around 1:15 PM, we anticipate going into Open Session and approving who will be the district’s interim superintendent upon Dr. Freeman’s retirement on November 30, 2022. 

    Thank you for your continued support. 


    May 20, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 
    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    On behalf of Mr. James Carter, Chair of the Asheville City Board of Education, please see below for an update regarding our interim superintendent.  The following information has been shared with ACS staff and families. 
    ----------

    Good Afternoon Students, Staff and Families.  This is James Carter, Chair of the Asheville City Board of Education. 

    I wanted to let you know that the Board will be having a Special Called Meeting on Monday, May 23rd.  It will begin with a Closed Session at 5:00 PM to discuss personnel matters.  Around 5:30 PM, we anticipate going into Open Session and approving who will be the district’s interim superintendent upon Dr. Freeman’s retirement on November 30, 2022.  

    Per previous communications, the Board’s criteria for selecting its interim leader included looking for an individual outside the district with significant experience as a superintendent.  

    The interim superintendent will lead the district while the new, majority-elected Board of Education carries out its search process for our next permanent Superintendent.  At the earliest, this national search process will begin in December 2022 after the elected members take their seats on the Board.  

    The interim superintendent will begin their tenure on December 1st.  Ideally, the new, permanent superintendent will be leading our district by the start of the 2023-2024 school year. 


    May 19, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Morning Local Media Partners, 

    I wanted to let you know that - for the first time since 2019 - Asheville High School and SILSA’s almost alumni will be returning to their elementary and middle school alma maters for our 2022 Senior Walk!  It’s happening TOMORROW, Friday, May 20th starting at 12:45 PM.  

    In addition to giving our Seniors the chance to celebrate how far they’ve come with former teachers, tomorrow also gives ALL Asheville City Schools students, Pre-K thru 8th Grade, the chance to see what it looks like to graduate from high school, motivating them to continue their hard work so they can one day be the person wearing the caps and gowns!

    To join in on the celebration, we invite you to meet us at Claxton Elementary School no later than 12:40 PM before we head to Ira B. Jones Elementary School.  

    Thanks, and, as always, if you have any questions, please let me know! 


    May 11, 2022 - The Citizen-Times 
     
    REQUEST:
    I'm writing something up this morning about the board's budget request to county commissioners. There were a few things I wanted to confirm/ask about! Call if that's easier, but I'll copy some questions below. 
     
    The release mentions state budget's staff pay increases. Do you know yet what those increases will be? Which staff it will impact? And how much did you all budget as a local supplement? 
     
    Are any other additional staff raises being considered? 
     
    And this is my ignorance because this isn't my coverage area, but what are the implications of the special local options sales tax increase? How much additional revenue is that estimated to generate? How much of that goes to the schools? 
     
    Can you speak to the Pre-K funding request as well? 
     
    RESPONSE:
    The release mentions state budget's staff pay increases. Do you know yet what those increases will be? Which staff it will impact? And how much did you all budget as a local supplement? 

    As part of the state’s biennium budget bill, non-certified staff will receive a 2.5% raise or have their base salary moved to $15, whichever is higher.  Similarly, the teacher salary schedule reflect a 1.3% increase, and both the principal and central office/administrative salary schedule reflect a 2.5% increase.

    For employees 100% paid out of local funds, this increase will cost an added $690,000 from local funds. 

    Are any other additional staff raises being considered? 

    We are still conducting an analysis of the pay schedules as requested by some of the Asheville City Board of Education members.  

    And this is my ignorance because this isn't my coverage area, but what are the implications of the special local options sales tax increase? How much additional revenue is that estimated to generate? How much of that goes to the schools? 

    If the supplemental tax rate is increased from 10.62¢ to 12¢, Asheville City Schools is expected to receive a total amount of $12,903,758.  


    May 11, 2022 - Carolina Public Press 

    REQUEST: 

    I’m working on a story about Buncombe County dedicating American Rescue Plan Act funding to expand NC PreK in local preschools. I was told that Asheville City Schools is one of the programs that will receive the ARPA funding. 
     
    I’d love to talk to someone about what this will mean for the preschool program at ACS. My deadline is the end of the day Wednesday. If that’s too much of a time crunch, but you’re able to send a statement regarding what this funding will do for the program, that would be appreciated.
     
    Let me know. Thanks! 

    RESPONSE:

    In response to your request, the following quote can be attributed to Susanna Smith, Preschool Program Director. 

    “Currently, Asheville City Schools receive $5,300 per year per child that is enrolled in our program through NC Pre-K, which is a no-cost program for 4 years old to provide them Pre-K education in preparation for Kindergarten.  At this time, 73 of our students receive support through NC Pre-K. 

    With this new model approved by the County Commissioners, the funding will now go through Buncombe County Partnership for Children, and our annual rate per child will increase to $7,227 per year per child.  

    For our district, the additional funds will go towards personnel.” 


    May 9, 2022 - WLOS 
     
    REQUEST:
    I’m working on an update to the bus situation from Friday.  Has the driver shortage been resolved for this week, any route impacts today or moving forward?  We’ve heard from some parents that their students were not picked up this morning.
     
    RESPONSE:
    As of this afternoon, this driver shortage has been resolved.  Below you will find the information Amanda shared with families yesterday afternoon.  Also, to clarify, students were picked up this morning; however, as Amanda shared, there could have been a delay.    
     
    ------

    Good afternoon.

    The following bus will have route adjustments for Monday, May 9th.

    Bus 629, serves APS/HFE/LSH/MNSA/AMS/AHS and SILSA. (Elementary and secondary)

    Bus 629 will operate on its regular schedule for elementary students at APS/HFE/LSH. 

    Bus 644 will transport Bus 629 Secondary Students from MNSA/AMS/AHS/SILSA. There will be a 20-minute delay in a pickup from the normal stop times for these secondary students. 

    This information, along with the anticipated time adjustments, is subject to change based on weather, traffic, driver availability, and more. This is the most current information available at the time of notice. 

    We will send out additional notifications should they become necessary.

    If you have questions about a bus stop or other bus-related questions please call 828-350-6155 or 828-350-6913 between 7:00 am-5:00 pm Monday-Friday.


    May 4, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    Please see below for an update from James Carter, Chair of the Asheville City Board of Education. 
    ------

    Good Afternoon Students and Staff.  This is James Carter, Chair of the Asheville City Board of Education.  

    During its May 2nd meeting, the Board approved the district’s Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) Budget Request to Buncombe County Commissioners.  In addition to asking the County for the projected revenue provided to the district, the Board approved two additional requests.  These include increasing the Special Local Options Sales Tax up to 12¢ as well as adding an additional $600,000 to district funding specifically earmarked for Pre-K.  In total, the district will be asking the Buncombe County Commissioners for $33,215,172 during its May 10th Budget Work Session. 

    If approved by the County Commissioners, this request will be used to meet local expenses as well as increases in the projected retirement rate from 22.89% to 24.19% and rise in employer hospitalization costs from $7,019 to $7,397 per employee as set by the North Carolina General Assembly.  It would also cover the direct rise in local supplements occurring as a result of the State budget’s staff pay increases.  

    During the 2021-2022 school year, the district allocated $3.5 million from its local general fund, which has been steadily dwindling for years.  A responsible general fund balance for a district of our size from year to year is around $5 million.  Asheville City Schools began FY22 with a fund balance of $5,664,366.  After allocating $3.5 million to pay for this year’s expenses, we anticipate only being left with $2.1 million for carryover.  This means we would not be able to cover the same continuing expenses for the 2022-2023 school year.

    Knowing this, Asheville City Schools’ initial request to the County Commissioners does not include utilizing any of our remaining fund balance for FY23.  Instead, it calls upon strictly using funds from County General Fund 2, City Tax Fund 2, Sales Tax Fund 8 as well as includes an estimated collection of Fines & Forfeitures.

    Additionally, it was determined that the County has asked the Board to come up with a three-year plan that ensures the district lives within the budget it receives.  As shared during the April 4th Board Meeting, potential savings include reducing staff through attrition, reducing supplies and materials and reducing the number of Pre-K classes provided.  

    Unlike most school districts across Western North Carolina, for over 20 years, Asheville City Schools has NOT solely relied on tuition, grants and state/federal dollars.  Past superintendents and school boards have voted to use dollars intended to support K-12 students for Pre-K students.  In fact, since the 2016-2017 school year, we’ve spent $7,100,834.02 in local funds for the Preschool Program.  That amount does NOT include what’s been spent for the current, 2021-2022, school year.  However, as we’ve been delving deeper into our budget, it’s becoming clearer that continuing to allocate so much money, money that’s intended to go to our K-12 students, to expand Pre-K is no longer fiscally responsible.  

    Asheville City Schools is proud to partner with Buncombe County Commissioners and appreciates their continued support in educating our students.  As we make our requests, please understand that, in order to continue to provide services that have set our district apart, this is the budget we need to operate.  And, if it is not received, we’ll be forced to make added cuts.


    May 3, 2022 - WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    One quick follow-up, as of now no decision has been made correct?  Is there an expected timeline for when this will be decided?

    RESPONSE: 

    Yes, that is correct.  As of now, no decision has been made.  An expected timeline has not been determined, but I'm happy to provide you with additional details once they've been solidified. 


    May 3, 2022 - WLOS 

    Good Afternoon Andrew,
     
    As a follow-up to your request, Dr. Freeman was not available for an interview today; however, he's provided the following comment: 
     
    This is not about considerable cost savings.  It’s about cleaning up our books to ensure people are paid for their actual hours worked.  It’s a problem when some staff work 40 hours and are paid for 40 hours while others work 30 and are paid for 40. Again, this discussion came about because there continue to be discrepancies.  Moving forward, our recommendation is that the district follows the North Carolina Public Schools:  Employee Salary and Benefits Manual.

    May 3, 2022 - Press Release to Local Media Partners

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    Please see below for an important announcement from Asheville City Schools, as Mr. Brian Bilich was named the district's Teacher of the Year during a surprise announcement earlier today.  I've attached a few photos to this email; however, if you need more or have any questions, pleases don't hesitate to reach out. 
     

    Brian Bilich Named Asheville City Schools’ Teacher of the Year

    The teachers of Asheville City Schools go home with more on their minds than just lesson plans; their tenacity, compassion and care for students is unending!    

         Therefore, it is with great pleasure that Asheville City Schools announces its 2023 District Teacher of the Year, Mr. Brian Bilich. 

        Currently an Asheville High School Exceptional Children Inclusion Math and Science teacher, he was named the ACS’ Teacher of the Year during a surprise announcement surrounded by his students and colleagues this morning. The reveal’s timing is extra special, as it coincides with Asheville City Schools’ Staff Appreciation Week. 

         Upon seeing his “prize patrol,” complete with balloons and flowers, Bilich says he was in absolute shock. 

         “It was really awesome to look out and see all these people, but more importantly, to see all my kids who were out here.” 

         The 2021-2022 school year marks Bilich’s twelfth year in the classroom, seventh with Asheville City Schools and fifth at Asheville High School.  

         Bilich said he didn’t have the best high school experience, which is partially why he wanted to go into the teaching profession.  

         “One of the most important things I try to do with [my students] is let them know…I appreciate who they are independent of grades. I try to see them as people first rather than students.” 

         Bilich began his career as a Math tutor at Aycock Middle School before becoming an EC Inclusion teacher at Andrews High School.  While there, he provided differentiated instruction and support to students in Math, English and Science as well as managed Individualized Educational Plans for nearly 30 students.  

        He moved to Asheville City Schools in 2015, becoming an Asheville Middle EC Inclusion Math teacher.  In fact, this year’s cohort of Seniors were 6th Graders during his time at AMS. 

         “I suppose the main reason that I teach is because of the relationships I’m lucky enough to form with a lot of my kids…I have had students that I was close to graduate over the years, but these are my babies! I feel so fortunate to be able to get to work with some of them because they are caring, resilient and incredible.  More importantly - they challenge me to be a better person,” he said. 

         In 2017, Bilich began his current role at Asheville High School.  Through collaboration with general education teachers, he applies data-based instruction with direct support.  His goal is to increase equity and reduce the achievement gap.  However, above and beyond just teaching standards, Bilich believes his role is to support students by ensuring they feel safe, secure and trusted. 

         “My commitment has always been to my students first and foremost,” he said.  “I make it a point to show up to support my kids at their athletic events, theater performances, art shows, birthday parties, quinceaneras, bake sales as well as less happy events such as memorials and funerals.  I’ve always found that engaging with students and their families out in the actual community, rather than the high-stakes microcosm that school can be, forges the kinds of connections that enable long-term relationships.” 

      Bilich earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a minor in Environmental Science from the University of Alabama in Huntsville as well as a Class A Certification/Early Childhood Special Education Master’s Degree from the University of Alabama.  He also holds teaching licenses in Special Education, Pre-K thru Kindergarten General Education and High School Science. 

         Despite his many achievements, Bilich believes his greatest accomplishments would be the opportunities he had to form meaningful, authentic and lasting relationships throughout this teaching career.  

         “I don’t have any children that I’m aware of, biologically, but my students very much mean the world to me,” he said.  “Without a doubt, the love that I have for my students has not only made me a better teacher; it’s made me a better person.” 

         As Asheville City Schools’ Teacher of the Year, Bilich will now be invited to participate in a regional interview process.  

         Nine regional finalists will be selected amongst North Carolina’s 94,000 classroom teachers.  

         From the nine, the state’s Teacher of the Year will be chosen by a committee of professional educators as well as business and community leaders.  The final announcement will be made in April 2023. 

         If selected as the state Teacher of the Year, Bilich will spend the 2023-2024 school year traveling across North Carolina as an ambassador for the teaching profession. 

         In addition to honoring Bilich, we would like to congratulate all of our Teachers of the Year across Asheville City Schools:  

    • Dan Coleman - SILSA 

    • Amy Sheeler - Asheville Middle School 

    • Craig Shimer - Montford North Star Academy

    • Mary Aldridge - Asheville Primary School 

    • Michelle Burge - Claxton Elementary School  

    • Stephen Hitcho - Hall Fletcher Elementary School 

    • Jodi Antinori - Ira B. Jones Elementary School 

    • Kaitlyn Peeples - Isaac Dickson Elementary School 

    • Susan Hale - Lucy S. Herring Elementary School 


    May 2, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Media Partners, 

    Asheville City Schools will be announcing its 2023 District Teacher of the Year, Brian Bilich, with a surprise celebration tomorrow, Tuesday, May 3rd.

    Please join us at Asheville High School, which is located at 419 McDowell Street, at 8:45 AM for the SURPRISE/TOP SECRET announcement.

    Media should park in the back, along the pick up line and then walk down the steps to the cafeteria. Someone will be there to help you find it.

    We will all gather in the cafeteria, and then at 9:00 AM, school and district leaders, as well as ACS Board Members, will make our way to announce the 2023 ACS TOY with flowers and balloons.

    Please let me know ahead of time if you or one of your reporters will be coming so we can be on the lookout for you as well as let our SROs know to expect the media.

    As I mentioned, our announcement is a surprise to our teacher! We are looking forward to honoring Mr. Bilich and hope you'll be able to be there to help us celebrate.

    The timing of the announcement is extra special, as it coincides with ACS's Staff Appreciation Week.

    Following our celebration, we will be sending photos and a press release with detailed information about Mr. Bilich. 

    Thank you so much for your continued dedication to Asheville City Schools. If you have any questions, please let me know. 


    April 28, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners

    Good Morning Local Media Partners,

    Asheville Middle School, located at 211 South French Broad Avenue, will be hosting a workshop Deadly Medicine: Nazi and American Eugenics this Friday, April 29th from 8:00 AM - 3:30 PM in its media center for teachers from around the state. This workshop is part of NC Council on the Holocaust education program and will feature discussions from Dr. Patricia Heberer Rice, the senior historian for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, as well as Dr. Sheena Eagan, an Assistant Professor with East Carolina University’s Department of Bioethics and Interdisciplinary Studies.  Additionally, Holocaust survivor Dr Walter Ziffer will be sharing his first-hand experiences. 

    Tomorrow’s agenda can be found below if you would like to stop in: 

    8:00-Introductions & Logistics

    8:05-"The Two Deaths"

    8:15-The World Cafe Discussion Method

    8:45-“Race: The Power of an Illusion,” Episode #1

    9:00-Dr. Patricia Heberer-Rice, USHMM Senior Historian, presents Deadly Medicine: The Complicity of Physicians followed by a brief Q&A. 

    Dr. Patricia Heberer-Rice Bio

    10:00-Break

    10:15-Dr. Sheena Eagan, Assistant Professor, Bioethics and Interdisciplinary Studies, Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina Univ. presents an Introduction to Eugenics

    Dr. Sheena Eagan Bio

    11:00-Holocaust Survivor, Dr. Walter Ziffer, shares his Holocaust exeriences.

    Dr. Walter Ziffer Bio

    12:00-Lunch

    12:45-Dr. Sheena Eagan, continues with Nazi Deadly Medicine

    2:00-Break

    2:15-Best Practices and Resources:

    • Lesson I: Facing History: "Eye of the Beholder"
    • Lesson II: USHMM Nazi Racism Lessons
    • Lesson III: Facing History:The Psychology of Perpetrators
    • Lesson IV: Facing History: Exploring Justice after the Holocaust

    Unfortunately, I will not be in the district tomorrow; however, ACS’s Communications Liaison Mr. Dillon Huffman will be available to support you in filming B-Roll or setting up an interview.  He can be reached at (828) 273-8391 or via email at dillon.huffman@acsgmail.net

    Thanks, and please let me know if you have any questions! 


    April 27, 2022 - Press Release to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    Please see below for a press release announcing that, on Saturday, Montford North Star Academy 8th Graders Liam Burton and Cole Owings earned top honors in the state as part of the North Carolina Science Olympiad’s Electric Wright Stuff competition.  Overall, MNSA's Science Olympiad Team finished 22nd. 
     
    I've also attached a few images; however, if you'd like the opportunity to interview students/staff or see their designs in person, please let me know, and we can set up a time that's most convenient for you. 
     
    Montford North Star Academy Students Win Top Honors in Electric Wright Stuff at North Carolina Science Olympiad
     

    On Saturday, Montford North Star Academy 8th Graders Liam Burton and Cole Owings earned top honors in the state as part of the North Carolina Science Olympiad’s Electric Wright Stuff competition. 

    Science Olympiad is one of the nation’s most prestigious STEM competitions.  Events cover a wide range of scientific disciplines such as Anatomy & Physiology, Code Busters, Disease Detectives, Meteorology, Ornithology, Ping Pong Parachute and Rocks & Minerals.

    For their event, Burton and Owings built a model plane out of balsa wood, customizing and optimizing its design through trial and error.  Ultimately, their plane stayed in the air for 1 minute and 4 seconds -  longer than any other team’s.

    “It was nerve-racking,” said Burton.  “During the test flight, we snapped one of the wing spars and had to quickly repair it for our real flight.  So, we were really surprised to find out we won.”

    The pair competed as part of Montford’s Varsity Science Olympiad Team, who previously won first place in the Region, and finished 22nd in all of North Carolina. 

    The Varsity Team is comprised of Ava Claire Baggett, Liam Burton, Lainie Cipriano, Andrew Engels, Everett Foo, Chloe Jackson, Eliza Jackson, Allison Kirshner, Harrison Kirshner, Meghan Leahy, Maddie Lewis, Cole Owings, Cru Petersen, William Nunan and Noah Senzon.  In addition to Ms. Ross  who served as Team Advisor,  Alison Gooding, Thomas House, Kris Moore and Steven Sarnie volunteered their support as coaches. 

    This year, MNSA had three teams and took top honors in both Varsity and Junior Varsity competitions for all of Western North Carolina.

    “It’s nice to have trophies, but really it’s an experience that these students will remember forever,” said Gretchen Ross, the team’s advisor and MNSA’s 6th Grade Science Teacher.

    The 2021-2022 school year marks the team’s fifth year competing and the first time making it to states.  Ross said it was especially meaningful for our 8th Grades because of all they’ve experienced as part of the pandemic.

    “I can’t wait to see what this experience inspires in them because that’s really what Science Olympiad is about,” said Ross.  “There’s going to be so many opportunities in the future, and I’m excited to see where they take this.”

    Applications for Montford’s Science Olympiad teams first came out in September, with tryouts occurring in October.  Ultimately, 45 students received spots.  To compete at such a high level, they spent months practicing, researching, creating study guides, delving into data, building vehicles and bridges, testing production and having them fail before ultimately succeeding.

    “It’s stressful but also really fun to see who built the best thing or enjoys the most about a subject during competition,” added Owings.

    As for what’s next, Montford 8th Graders are hoping to create a Science Olympiad Team once they get to Asheville High School and SILSA.

    “Everyone in middle school wants to continue what we’re doing.  We want to have an opportunity to compete once we get to high school, so we’re hoping to find an advisor,” said Owings.


    April 26, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners

    Good Morning Local Media Partners, 

    Hall Fletcher Elementary School, located at 60 Ridgelawn Road, is hosting a Family STEAM Night this Thursday, April 28th from 5:00 - 7:00 PM.  

    The evening will provide hands-on activities and demonstrations set up by local businesses, organizations, educational institutions and student groups in the areas of science, technology, engineering, art and math.

    The HFE “STEAM Zone” will also be open and feature STEAM tools and robotics platforms that students have access to while at school.  Plus, art projects that our students have worked on throughout the year will be on display. 

    Additional information about who will be presenting can be found in the attachment.  However, if you have any questions, please let me know. 


    April 22, 2022 - WLOS 

    REQUEST:

    Just following up on the budgets. Wondering if I could request the audits for each year's budget (I think those are finalized each November). I'm also wondering if it's possible to get a copy of the complete report from HIL Consultants last fall. I know we reported on their budget recommendations, but didn't know if there was a more complete breakdown on their findings that we could request. 
     
    We are just trying to get a better understanding of how ACS ended up in this current financial situation. No major rush, but just let me know whenever possible. 

    RESPONSE: 

    Our comprehensive annual financial reports, which includes audit findings, from 2006 to the fiscal year that ended on July 1, 2021 (which is our most current) can be found on the Asheville City Schools webpage.  Additionally, as shared as part of the October 4th Board Brief, HIL Consultants' full report can be found here.  


    April 22, 2022 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    Thank you so much for this info and for your email this morning. 
     
    I had a few follow-up questions. 
     
    Can you speak to why the board decided to look outside the district for an interim superintendent? Why will the selection process be confidential? Will there be input from the community and other stakeholders throughout the process?
     
    Also, is there an anticipated timeline for this search and do you know who will be leading the effort? 

    RESPONSE: 

    In response to this media request and well as the one sent to Mr. Carter, please see below:  
     
    The Asheville City Board of Education leads the Interim Superintendent search.  
     
    It has been a longstanding practice that the Interim Superintendent is chosen from outside the school district.  The current Asheville City Board of Education has elected to continue this practice because it wants the person serving as Interim to have significant experience as a Superintendent.   
     
    The selection process for the Interim Superintendent will be confidential because it is a personnel matter.  However, the vote to approve the Interim Superintendent will occur in a future Board Meeting during Open Session.  That date is to be determined.  But, the timeline stands that the Interim Superintendent will be named prior to Dr. Freeman's retirement on November 30th.  
     
    As shared in previous communications, the majority-elected Board will be seeking community input when carrying out its search process to find our district's next permanent Superintendent.
     

    April 22, 2022 - WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    We're hearing about a school bus accident at the intersection of Riverside Dr. and Jonestown Rd.
     
    Can you provide us with any information on this accident?

    RESPONSE:

    According to my Transportation Department, that is outside the Asheville City Schools limits; therefore, I have no additional information to share about a bus accident. 


    April 21, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    During today’s Closed Session, the Asheville City Board of Education reviewed possible candidates for Interim Superintendent.  
     
    The Board has decided to look for an individual outside the district with significant experience as a Superintendent to serve as the interim upon Dr. Gene Freeman's retirement on November 30, 2022.  The selection process for an Interim Superintendent will be confidential.  However, the vote to approve an Interim Superintendent will occur in a future Board Meeting during Open Session.  That date is to be determined.
     
    The Interim Superintendent will lead the district while the new, majority-elected Board of Education carries out its search process for our next permanent Superintendent.  At the earliest, this national search process will begin in December 2022 after the elected members take their seats on the Board.  
     
    As always, please let me know if you have any questions. 

    April 21, 2022 - WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    Thank you for your quick response.  I see in the contract that Dr. Freeman had a four-year contract that includes an annual salary of $150,000.

    I’m curious and it doesn’t spell it out in the contract, with the announcement of his pending retirement, is Asheville City Schools still obligated to pay Dr. Freeman the balance of the remaining time on the contract?

    RESPONSE:

    Dr. Freeman's contract permits him to resign from his position provided that he provides the Board with a minimum of 120 days' notice.  Dr. Freeman has exceeded this requirement by providing them with over six months' notice of his retirement.  Dr. Freeman will be paid for the time up until his retirement date.  He will remain Asheville City Schools' superintendent through November 30th and will be paid through November 30th. There will be no buyout of the remaining months of his contract. 


    April 21, 2022 - The Citizen-Times

    REQUEST: 

    Hey -- one more: Joel passed along his contract, so I have that information, but there wasn't a clause that I saw related to retirement before the contract expires. Will Freeman be paid out for the rest of his contract? 
     
    Will it be ended early? What is his severance package? 

    RESPONSE:

    Dr. Freeman's contract permits him to resign from his position provided that he gives the Board a minimum of 120 days' notice.  Dr. Freeman has exceeded this requirement by providing them with over six months' notice of his retirement.  Dr. Freeman will be paid for the time up until his retirement date.  He will remain Asheville City Schools' superintendent through November 30th and will be paid through November 30th. There will be no buyout of the remaining months of his contract. 


    April 20, 2022 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    I’m trying to track something down from a thread on Asheville Politics that someone asked me to check into. It appears that a longtime ACS crossing guard named Robin Steele was let go from her role after 20-plus years. I think she worked at Oakley Elementary but I’m not sure.

    I’m trying to get up with her, but it looks like maybe ACS is shifting to paid guards at these locations. My understanding is that Steele may have been an APD worker, so that’s why I’ve included you, Bill.

    I’m hoping y’all can shed some light on what happened here, if crossing guards are being replaced, what the reasoning for that is, etc.

    RESPONSE: 

    As explained by Bill, Robin Steele is an Asheville Police Department employee.  She does not work for Asheville City Schools; therefore, I am not able to provide you with further clarification about her current assignment. 

    As an added layer of our safety plan, we’ve hired two additional contract employees to support our Asheville High School/SILSA School Resource Officer.  Crossing guard is part of their daily routine, but they also have other duties such as monitoring the perimeter, parking lots and other areas at the request of school administration.  


    April 20, 2022 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    Hey, Ashley - can you please send me Dr. Freeman’s personnel file, including pay, date hired, raises, disciplinary actions, etc. - thanks!

    RESPONSE: 

    Below you will find information open to your public records request pursuant to North Carolina General Statute 115C-319. 
     
    (1) Name. Robert Eugene Freeman, Jr.  
    (2) Age. 61 
    (3) Date of original employment or appointment. July 1, 2020 
    (4) The terms of any contract by which the employee is employed whether written or oral, past and current, to the extent that the board has the written contract or a record of the oral contract in its possession. July 1, 2020 - July 1, 2024 
    (5) Current position. Superintendent of Asheville City Schools 
    (6) Title. Superintendent of Asheville City Schools 
    (7) Current salary. $12,812.51/monthly 
    (8) Date and amount of each increase or decrease in salary with that local board of education. Does not apply. 
    (9) Date and type of each promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, separation, or other change in position classification with that local board of education. Does not apply. 
    (10) Date and general description of the reasons for each promotion with that local board of education. Does not apply. 
    (11) Date and type of each dismissal, suspension, or demotion for disciplinary reasons taken by the local board of education. If the disciplinary action was a dismissal, a copy of the written notice of the final decision of the local board education setting forth the specific acts or omissions that are the basis of the dismissal. Does not apply. 
    (12) The office or station to which the employee is currently assigned. Central Office located at 85 Mountain Street 

    April 20, 2022 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    Could you provide me Dr. Freeman's current salary? And is there anyone currently under consideration for the interim superintendent position, at this point? 

    RESPONSE:

    I was following up with our media availability and planned to share that with you just as soon as we finished up.  But, I'm glad Joel was able to beat me to the punch and provide you with that information as well.  
     
    At this time, an interim superintendent has not been selected.  However, the current Asheville City Board of Education will announce who will be leading the district upon Dr. Freeman's retirement prior to November 30th.  This information will be shared with staff, families, the greater school community and our local media partners once a decision has been made.

    April 20, 2022 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    We saw the announcement about Dr. Freeman's retirement. I saw James Carter's comments in the email, but does ACS have any further comments about his departure?

    RESPONSE: 

    Yes, as shared with our local media partners, please see below:  
     
    After a career that includes nearly 30 years of educational experience, Dr. Gene Freeman will be retiring from Asheville City Schools effective November 30, 2022. 

    “He has served as the superintendent since July 2020 and has led our district through, arguably, the most challenging time in public education,” said James Carter, Chair of the Asheville City Board of Education.  “We are saddened to see him leave our district but excited that he will be able to devote more time to his most important role, Grandpa.”  

    “I’ve been fortunate to serve in five great school districts.  Thank you for allowing me to end my career by leading Asheville City Schools,” said Dr. Gene Freeman.  “I’ve enjoyed my time here, but I have family all over the country, and I’ve been away from them for too long.” 

    A native of Fairmont, North Carolina, Dr. Freeman began his career as a teacher in the Public Schools of Roberson County before being promoted as the Initially Licensed Teacher Coordinator then Executive Director for Curriculum and Support Programs. In August 2006, Dr. Freeman started his first superintendency at Weatherly Area School District in Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the Cougar Family, he was also superintendent of Manheim Township School District and Fox Chapel Area School District.

    “Through my last day, I am committed to continuing our focus on school improvement and leaving the district in as good a shape as we, the Cougar Family, can before turning over the baton,” said Freeman. 

    Closer to his retirement, the current Board of Education will appoint an Interim Superintendent. 

    Once the elected School Board is sworn into office, it will begin its national search for Asheville City Schools’ next leader. Ideally, the new superintendent will be leading our district in time to start the 2023-2024 school year. 

    If you would like to speak with Mr. James Carter, Chair of the Asheville City Board of Education, about Dr. Freeman's retirement, he will be available for interviews today, Wednesday, April 20th at 5:30 PM here at the Central Office located at 85 Mountain Street.  Please let me know ahead of time if you would like to take advantage of this media availability.

    April 20, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    Please see below for an important update from Asheville City Schools. 

    After a career that includes nearly 30 years of educational experience, Dr. Gene Freeman will be retiring from Asheville City Schools effective November 30, 2022. 

    “He has served as the superintendent since July 2020 and has led our district through, arguably, the most challenging time in public education,” said James Carter, Chair of the Asheville City Board of Education.  “We are saddened to see him leave our district but excited that he will be able to devote more time to his most important role, Grandpa.”  

    “I’ve been fortunate to serve in five great school districts.  Thank you for allowing me to end my career by leading Asheville City Schools,” said Dr. Gene Freeman.  “I’ve enjoyed my time here, but I have family all over the country, and I’ve been away from them for too long.” 

    A native of Fairmont, North Carolina, Dr. Freeman began his career as a teacher in the Public Schools of Roberson County before being promoted as the Initially Licensed Teacher Coordinator then Executive Director for Curriculum and Support Programs. In August 2006, Dr. Freeman started his first superintendency at Weatherly Area School District in Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the Cougar Family, he was also superintendent of Manheim Township School District and Fox Chapel Area School District.

    “Through my last day, I am committed to continuing our focus on school improvement and leaving the district in as good a shape as we, the Cougar Family, can before turning over the baton,” said Freeman. 

    Closer to his retirement, the current Board of Education will appoint an Interim Superintendent. 

    Once the elected School Board is sworn into office, it will begin its national search for Asheville City Schools’ next leader. Ideally, the new superintendent will be leading our district in time to start the 2023-2024 school year. 

    If you would like to speak with Mr. James Carter, Chair of the Asheville City Board of Education, about Dr. Freeman's retirement, he will be available for interviews today, Wednesday, April 20th at 5:30 PM here at the Central Office located at 85 Mountain Street.  Please let me know ahead of time if you would like to take advantage of this media availability.

    April 20, 2022 - Mountain Xpress 

    REQUEST:

    Pursuant to North Carolina public records law, I'd like to request the publicly available personnel file for Freeman at your earliest convenience. Among other details, that information should include "date and type of each promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, separation, or other change in position classification," as well as "Date  and  type  of  each  dismissal,  suspension,  or  demotion  for disciplinary reasons."
     
    RESPONSE: 
    Below you will find information open to your public records request pursuant to North Carolina General Statute 115C-319. 
     
    (1) Name. Robert Eugene Freeman, Jr.  
    (2) Age. 61 
    (3) Date of original employment or appointment. July 1, 2020 
    (4) The terms of any contract by which the employee is employed whether written or oral, past and current, to the extent that the board has the written contract or a record of the oral contract in its possession. July 1, 2020 - July 1, 2024 
    (5) Current position. Superintendent of Asheville City Schools 
    (6) Title. Superintendent of Asheville City Schools 
    (7) Current salary. $12,812.51/monthly 
    (8) Date and amount of each increase or decrease in salary with that local board of education. Does not apply. 
    (9) Date and type of each promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, separation, or other change in position classification with that local board of education. Does not apply. 
    (10) Date and general description of the reasons for each promotion with that local board of education. Does not apply. 
    (11) Date and type of each dismissal, suspension, or demotion for disciplinary reasons taken by the local board of education. If the disciplinary action was a dismissal, a copy of the written notice of the final decision of the local board education setting forth the specific acts or omissions that are the basis of the dismissal. Does not apply. 
    (12) The office or station to which the employee is currently assigned. Central Office located at 85 Mountain Street 

    April 19, 2022 - Mountain Xpress

    REQUEST:

    According to some members of the community, Superintendent Freeman is no longer employed with Asheville City Schools. Can you please provide Freeman's most recent public personnel record?

    RESPONSE: 

    Dr. Freeman is employed with Asheville City Schools.


    April 4, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Evening Local Media Partners, 
     
    Please see below for tonight's Board Brief.  As always, should you have any questions or need further support, please let me know. 
    --------

    Good Evening Students, Staff and Families.  This is Ashley-Michelle Thublin, Executive Director of Communications, with tonight’s Board Brief.


    Jones Park Options 

    During tonight’s Special Called Meeting of the Asheville City Board of Education, Attorney Chris Campbell presented Board Members with options about Jones Park Playground.  He explained the Board can:  

    1. Do Nothing:  The area would remain as a green space, with the district’s Maintenance Department providing routine upkeep.  

    2. Transfer the Land to the City:  However, due to recent parks with The City of Asheville’s Parks and Recreation Department, transferring the land is NOT a viable option at this moment because the City has declined adding Jones Park as a public park.  

    3. Construct a New Park Open to the Public With or Without Donations:  Since Ira B. Jones Elementary School already has playground facilities, this option involves the operation of a public park space separate and apart from the required operations of a school.  An important item of note is that existing statutes, policies and case law currently utilized by the district all involve school facilities, not public parks.  Therefore, rebuilding a community playground on school property opens the district up for practical, financial and legal liability.

    4. Lease the Park to a Separate Entity:   Should the district utilize this option, a lease agreement between ACS and an entity that’s secured legal status through incorporation such as a state non-for-profit and/or federal 501(c)(3) would be required.  Such an agreement would require annual proof from the entity that they have funding to not only build the park but also operate and replace the park’s structure if/when the time comes.  It would also require proof of liability insurance and posted notice that Jones Park is operated under the entity’s jurisdiction, not Asheville City Schools.  The agreement would also give the district the right to terminate the lease if such terms were not met. 

    Additionally, he reminded Board Members that the wooden structure was removed following a safety inspection from a third-party consultant that ranked the structure’s safety at 14.7 out of 100. Essentially, the park was not safe and uninsurable. 

    He also explained that Jones Park was a community playground on school property, NOT the primary playground Ira B. Jones students utilized during recess.  Although the district can permit our community access to school properties for general recreation, Jones Park was NOT considered a school recreational facility but one for community use.  Furthermore, state and county governments do not provide funding to Asheville City Schools for community use of schools. 

    Unless the Board decides to add Jones Park to one of its future meetings, it will remain as a green space.   

    Calendar Updates 

    Laura Parks, Director of Secondary Education, gave an update on both the 2021-2022 Calendar and the 2022-2023 Calendar. 

    • At this time, the district has 12.5 banked hours and two Inclement Weather Remote Learning Days.  Therefore, per the feedback and recommendation of school administrators, the board approved changing Tuesday, June 7, 2022 - the last day of school for this school year - to an Early Release Day for all students.  This means that elementary students will be released at 12:00 NOON, while middle and high school students will go home at 1:00 PM on Tuesday, June 7th.  The calendar has been updated to reflect these changes.  

    • Additionally, she explained that, due to LETRS Training, we will switch the October Required Work Day and the Fall Parent-Teacher Conference Day for the 2022-2023 school year.  Thursday, October 13, 2022 will now be a Required Work Day and, Friday, October 14, 2022 will now be the Fall-Parent Teacher Conference Day.  The calendar has been updated to reflect these changes.  

    Summer Testing Plan 

    Ian Nelson, Director of Testing, presented the Board with the Summer Testing Plan.  He explained that the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction gives students the opportunity to retake End of Course and End of Grade exams following additional instruction.  Our elementary principals have opted to utilize this experience.  Students will be invited to participate in the summer testing program based on their previous testing record and overall academic performance.  If your child is eligible, additional information will come from their principals.  Please know the retesting program is occurring the week of June 13th.  Monday and Tuesday will be added instruction days, while retesting will occur on Wednesday and Thursday.  

    Career Fair Update 

    Dr. Kimberly Dechant, Director of Recruitment and Induction, provided Board Members with an update about the 2022 Career Fair. She explained that, because of the teacher shortage, the global hiring crisis, the Great Resignation and the loss of over a million people in the workforce due to COVID-19, the Human Resources Department decided to try something new to recruit top talent.  Therefore, following extensive promotional efforts, a two-day hiring event was held on March 25th and 26th. 

    In total, over 100 people registered with 90 people in attendance.  And, through the Career Fair, 21 staff members and two custodians were offered employment and the chance to join the Cougar Family!  Additionally, six people applied to be substitute teachers. 

    Summer Schedule for ACS Staff 

    Dr. Freeman made a recommendation about the summer schedule for ACS staff.  Similar to years past, he recommended the approval to work four, 10 hour days each week with Fridays being off.  The schedule will begin the week of June 13th and conclude the week of July 29th.  Therefore, staff will be off on:  June 17th, June 24th, July 1st, July 8th, July 15th, July 22nd and July 29th.  

    Budget Update 

    Per the Board’s request, Dr. Freeman and Georgia Harvey, Executive Director of Finance, presented several cost-saving suggestions.  These are just potential savings options; at this time, no final decision has been made by the Board.  They simply reflect the Board’s request to present them with all available ways the district can save money.  It will ultimately be up to the Board should they choose to act on one or more of these suggestions.  Ideas presented include: 

    • Reducing the number of ACS employees through attrition (ie. as people retire or leave the district); layoffs are NOT being proposed as part of this option

    • Paying dual role employees through just Asheville City Schools vs. two school systems to prevent an overlap of hours 

    • Paying all classified, non-exempt employees hourly vs. with a salary to reflect actual hours worked; if this option is selected, the changeover would NOT begin during the 2021-2022 school year 

    • Reducing duplication of services/staff 

    • Changing when the local supplement is paid (ie. from once a year to twice per year or monthly) 

    • Reducing temporary contracts 

    • Consolidating facilities/reducing the costs of utilities 

    Additional information about the potential cost-saving options presented to the Board per their request can be found here.  Once again, at this time, nothing has been decided.  Questions pertaining to tonight’s budget update should be directed to Board Chair James Carter, Vice-Chair Martha Geitner, Mrs. Harvey or Dr. Freeman

    As a reminder, the Board of Education will be hosting its next Regular Meeting on Monday, April 18th in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street.  The meeting can also be streamed on the district’s YouTube page.


    April 4, 2022 - WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    Hope you are well! I wanted to see the easiest way to request the ACS budget for the past 5 years. I didn't see it on the website anywhere but could have missed it. I just wanted to look back at the recent budgets, especially how our local school districts have fared through the pandemic.  Just let me know the easiest way to request/receive those.

    RESPONSE:

    Information about our adopted budgets can be found on our website under the School Finance Page linked here.


    March 29, 2022 - Press Release to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    Dr. Kimberly Dechant Selected as a 2022 Aspiring Superintendent Program Leadership Award Winner
     
    Asheville City Schools is pleased to announce that our Director of Induction and Recruitment, Dr. Kimberly Dechant, was recently selected as a recipient of the Dr. Samuel Houston Leadership Award. This annual award is presented to a graduate of the Aspiring Superintendent Program by the North Carolina School Superintendents' Association (NCSSA) and the North Carolina Alliance for School Leadership Development (NCASLD).
     
    “I was honored to have been selected to participate in Cohort VI of the Aspiring Superintendent Program,” said Dr. Dechant. “The program provided me with an opportunity to work collaboratively with outstanding superintendents from across the state while developing my leadership skills.”
     
    The award is named in honor of Dr. Samuel Houston who is President and Chief Executive Officer of the North Carolina Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center. Dr. Houston served as superintendent of the Mooresville Graded School District for ten years where he opened the first year round school in North Carolina.
     
    On receiving the award, Dechant added, “I am humbled, and I will strive to mirror Dr. Houston's outstanding leadership characteristics.”
     
    Jack Hoke, Executive Director of the North Carolina School Superintendents' Association, said that Dr. Dechant does just that.
     
    “She has a commitment to continuous improvement, high standards of ethical conduct, strategic planning, improving student performance and meeting the needs of the 21st century workforce.”
     
    With over 24 years of experience, Dr. Dechant has been a high school English teacher, assistant principal, principal, director and mentor in Asheville City Schools. A compassionate and student-focused educator, she was named as Asheville City Schools’ Principal of the Year in 2014.
     
    Dr. Dechant moved into the Director of Recruitment and Induction position in 2020.
     
    In addition to her dedication to Asheville City Schools, she also serves on the Buncombe County Land Conservation Advisory Board and the Children's Welfare League Board. She enjoys backpack camping, gardening and traveling abroad. Dr. Dechant values her family, friendships and faith.
    ------
    Thank you, and please let me know if you have any questions!

    March 23, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    I wanted to let you know that Asheville City Schools’ 2022 Art Show begins TOMORROW, Thursday, March 24th and is running until Monday, April 18th at UNCA’s Sherrill Center located at 227 Campus Drive.

    Art will be on display from all schools, featuring Pre-K thru 12th Grade creations. 

    To kickstart this year’s celebration, staff, families and the media are invited to tomorrow’s opening reception, which is being held from 4:00 - 6:00 PM.
     
    Thanks for your support, and if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to let me know! 
     

    March 16, 2022 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    It is a reasonable expectation that a director of communications would include names with pictures.  You should strive to be a better PIO. 

    It is noted, however, that 8:10 p.m. isn’t a good time to reach out for communications input from you or the school.  

    RESPONSE:

    Dr. Rigas' work day ends at 4:00 PM.  I do not make it a habit to contact my hardworking teachers after hours unless it's an emergency.  To me, this does not constitute an emergency; however, I'd be happy to stop by his classroom in the morning to identify the students pictured. 


    March 16, 2022 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    Can you ID the kids in these three attached photos, please?

    We’re using them in Ryan’s story tomorrow.

    RESPONSE:

    I spoke with Ryan a few minutes ago. Across the district, we have about 4,400 students, and, despite being in schools as much as possible,  I do not know them all by name. Therefore, unfortunately, I am not able to ID these students this evening & want to respect Dr. Rigas’ time after hours. 


    March 16, 2022 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    Hey, Ashley-Michelle. Can you tell me how many school board seats are on the ballot?

    RESPONSE:

    There will be four open seats on the Asheville City Board of Education ballot this fall.  


    March 15, 2022 - Press Release to Local Media Partners 

    Good Morning Local Media Partners, 

    Shoot for the moon, and you may just design an experiment that goes to space.  At least that’s the case for a group of Asheville City Schools students.  Last semester, SILSA and Asheville High Schoolers entered into NASA’s Tech Rise Student Challenge, a national competition where students of all ages would have the opportunity to place an experiment they built onto a high-altitude balloon that will launch into space next year. The team of Ella Murphy, Graham Hunter, John Nuss, Dylan Black and Burlton Sober from Dr. Nick Rigas’ Advanced Engineering Class is one of just 57 groups from across the nation to have their proposal selected by NASA. 

    The students are designing an experiment that will go up into the upper atmosphere. They are working with NASA engineers to design, build and execute a unique experiment designed to support them in answering the question laid out in their proposal:  With the increase of wildfires in the Upper Midwest from Idaho to the Dakotas coupled with pollutants caused by fracking, are these toxins interacting to generate other, more hazardous compounds in our atmosphere?

    Additional information can be found in the attached press release. You can also find a few photos here. However, if you need additional information or would like to set up a time to see our engineering students in action, please let me know.


    March 10, 2022 - WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    Could you please send a few photos of the Robotics team practicing and/or competing, so we can put up a story on our website about this?

    RESPONSE: 

    Here are photos of our Hall Fletcher Robotics Team in action.  Also, if you need any copy to accompany the images, below is the information we shared on our website and social media. 
     
    Students from across the state recently put their robotic skills to the test for North Carolina’s VEX Robotics State Championship. After finishing in the top 10 at qualifying events, all four Hall Fletcher Elementary Robotics Teams were invited to compete. And, for the second year in a row, our STEAM students came home as State Champions as well as winners of both the Excellence Award and the Build Award.
     
    “It’s really exciting because there are only seven teams from North Carolina that get to go to Worlds,” said HFE 5th Grader Monroe Duginske. In fact of the seven spots, Hall Fletcher took three of them.
     
    As students prepare to compete against the best robotics teams from across the country and around the globe, Hall Fletcher’s PTO is raising money and is actively seeking grants and sponsors to send students to the World Championship, which is taking place this May in Dallas, Texas.
     
    The trip is about $15,000 and is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete with the best teams not only from this country but also from around the world.
     
    “We’ll get to have our pit areas next to teams from different states and countries [and may even] get to play with teams who don’t even speak our same language,” explained Ryan Osweiler, HFES’s STEAM teacher and the teams’ coach. “It’s going to be a really great experience for these kids to go outside of Asheville and meet students from around the world.”
     
    To prepare for both state competitions and now Worlds, students have been perfecting their designs for the past five months.
    “Not many people know how much time it takes to be successful here,” added Osweiler. “These kids come in 3 nights a week. Some come in during their lunch period or before school, really every little minute they can squeeze time in.”
     
    Congratulations are most certainly due to our athletes: Tess Bartholic, Isaac Borom-Lail, Finn Cahill, Monroe Duginske, Cai Garris, Sawyer Gray, Breon Ireland, Tyler Osweiler, Zavion Pope, Molly Steele and Nels Vankat.
     
    If you would like to support our teams, which are named Happily Ever Disaster, The Pringles and The 4.5 Musketeers, please consider donating through the PTO’s page here.
    Thanks for your support, and if you have any questions, please let me know. 

    March 9, 2022 - WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    Is the tornado drill taking place today for ACS? If so, can we be at a school to get some video and an interview as it’s happening?

    RESPONSE: 

    Because of today’s late starts, our schools have opted to carry out their tornado drills later this week instead of today. 


    March 8, 2022 - Press Release to Local Media Partners 

    Today, Asheville City Schools announced its new partnership with Landed, a personal finance company aimed at bringing new homeownership opportunities to our staff. 

    “As the cost of housing continues to rise, we know it's becoming more and more challenging for staff to live in the community they serve,” explained Dr. Gene Freeman, Superintendent of  Asheville City Schools. “We believe Landed will be a valuable solution to support our staff and make homeownership more accessible.” 

    Landed's down payment program invests alongside employees working in education, government and healthcare to support them in reaching a 20% down payment. Landed funds up to $120,000 per home.  This comes in the form of an equity investment, meaning that homebuyers share in a portion of the gain – or loss, if any – of the value of the home once the partnership is ended — typically by sale or refinance. 

    “We are thrilled to bring Landed to Asheville, and we look forward to connecting directly with the area’s educators, staff and their families,” said Claire Goebel, who is based in North Carolina and leads Landed’s growth in the Southeast. “We are honored to help uphold those who uphold this community on a daily basis.”

    Over the coming weeks, a series of informational sessions will be hosted for Asheville City Schools employees interested in learning more about Landed’s programs. Details for these events can be found at www.landed.com/asheville.

    Landed’s partnership with Asheville City Schools is the company’s first expansion in North Carolina. Since its founding in 2015, Landed has supported 1,000 essential employees access homeownership through down payment assistance and other home buying services in the San Francisco, Denver, Los Angeles, San Diego, Honolulu, Seattle, Portland (Ore.), Washington DC, Boston, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, New York City and Charlotte metro areas. 


    March 7, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Evening Local Media Partners, 
     
    As shared with staff and families, tonight's Board Brief can be found below.  Should you have any questions or need additional information, please don't hesitate to let me know. 

    Landed 

    During tonight’s Special Called Meeting of the Asheville City Board of Education, Dr. Kimberly Dechant, Director of Recruitment and Induction, presented an update on the district’s new partnership with Landed, a personal finance company aimed at bringing new homeownership opportunities to our staff. 

    Landed’s down payment program is open to ALL Asheville City Schools employees working 20+ hours/week — teachers, staff, and administrators — and is available immediately.  Participants do not need to be first time homebuyers, and there are no income or asset limits needed to qualify.  

    As the cost of Asheville housing continues to increase, Landed will be a valuable solution in supporting staff hoping to live in the communities they serve.  

    Essentially, Landed's down payment program invests alongside employees working in education, government and healthcare to support them in reaching a 20% down payment. Landed funds up to $120,000 per home.  This comes in the form of an equity investment, meaning that homebuyers share in a portion of the gain – or loss, if any – of the value of the home once the partnership is ended — typically by sale or refinance. 

    Staff, please be on the lookout for additional details from Dr. Dechant. 

    COVID-19 Update 

    April Dockery, Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations, gave an update on COVID Health & Safety Protocols.  She explained that key updates to the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit, which was last revised on Friday, March 4th include: 

    • In areas with medium or low community rates, it is no longer recommended that Pre-K thru 12th Graders or district faculty and staff wear face coverings.  However, face coverings continue to be recommended in areas with high community rates.  

    *** At this time, Buncombe County is considered to have medium community rates. ***

    • Schools are encouraged to continue to participate in testing programs.

    • Schools are encouraged to allow for optional face-coverings.

    • Districts are asked to promote the importance of vaccinations and boosters.   

    Based on these updates, and following continued collaboration with our local health department and school nurses,  she recommended making face coverings optional for all staff and students when Buncombe County has a low or medium community level of COVID-19.  Additionally, she asked for the ability to require universal face coverings for staff and students when deemed necessary by our public health officials in circumstances of high community levels that impact our students and staff.  She also shared that despite these updates, it remains the district's recommendation that staff and students who are immunocompromised and/or have an underlying health condition should continue to wear face coverings. 

    Face Coverings

    Following these recommendations, the Asheville City Board of Education voted to remove its universal face covering requirements, making masks optional for all students, staff, visitors and volunteers for the foreseeable future.  The motion goes into effect on Monday, March 14th, 2022 and includes all educational settings, including school buses.  

    In collaboration with public health officials, Asheville City Schools will continue to monitor COVID-19’s impact on our school community.  Should our metrics trend upward, the Board may revise its face covering policy.  This could be done at either a whole district or individual school level based on community positivity rates and their impacting our district.  Per the motion, Superintendent Gene Freeman and administration would have the option to make this decision without a Special Called Board Meeting.    

    “Universal face coverings have proven an effective mitigation strategy to limiting COVID-19 cases among our students and staff,” said  Superintendent Dr. Gene Freeman.  “But, upon the advice of Buncombe County Health and Human Services, we feel this move best reflects the data and science we currently have.  We will be ready to adjust accordingly should this information change.” 

    As the district transitions into its next phase of response, we fully recognize that some students and staff will feel most comfortable continuing to wear face coverings.  We support each individual’s decision.  And, bullying of any kind, including taunting an individual’s choice to continue or discontinue wearing face coverings, will not be tolerated.  

    Over the next few days, Asheville City Schools will revise its training for our COVID Coordinators, as notifications will be slightly different in a mask optional setting.  

    Asheville City Schools will continue to evaluate and modify Covid-19 policies and procedures as needed per local, state, and federal guidelines and recommendations.  Additionally, per North Carolina General Assembly requirements, the Board will maintain its monthly votes to continue or modify this updated face covering decisions.  

    Additional information about our revised protocols will be shared as part of Thursday’s Community Update. 

    School-Based Health Clinic: 

    Mrs. Dockery and Tammy Greenwell, Chief Operations Officer at Blue Ridge Public Health, also presented an update on Asheville Middle’s School Based Health Center (SBHC).  Opening this April, AMS will be the first of two schools within Buncombe County to implement a School-Based Health Center.  Housed on the AMS campus, the SBHC  will be a fully functioning health clinic that provides a variety of mental and physical health care services. 

    Upon its opening, there will be a full-time registered nurse and a part-time physician assistant.  A part-time behavioral health counselor is currently in the process of being hired to support our students. 

    With an emphasis on risk reduction,  Asheville Middle’s SBHC will: 

    • Counsel students on healthy habits 

    • Provide early identification and treatment  injury and disease 

    • Support behavioral health 

    • Treat students on-site and quickly so that they can spend more time in class 

    Primarily, the SBHC will serve Asheville Middle Schools students and families.  AMS faculty and staff (as well as other ACS staff who wish to be seen at the clinic) can also utilize its services.  Community members unaffiliated with Asheville Middle School or the district will NOT be able to utilize the SBHC. 

    This project was born out of a partnership between Asheville City Schools, Buncombe County Health and Human Services, Buncombe County Schools, Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) and United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County.  After a thorough search process, Blue Ridge Health was chosen to serve as the primary medical provider. 

    At this time, we anticipate that Blue Ridge Public Health will begin serving students and families on April 11th.  Once open, the SBHC will be seeing patients from 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM each day school is in session. 

    Answers to frequently asked questions about the SBHC can be found here.

    As a reminder, the Board of Education will be hosting its next Regular Meeting on Monday, March 14th in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street.  The meeting can also be streamed on the district’s YouTube page.

    March 7, 2022 - WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    Just following up on this; will the board vote on masks tonight?

    RESPONSE:

    Yes, the Asheville City Schools Board of Education will revisit face coverings as part of tonight's Special Called Meeting. 


    March 3, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    As shared with staff and families, please know that Asheville Fire Department will be carrying out the controlled burn on the high school’s campus tomorrow Friday, March 4th.  The original date was canceled due to weather.

    As previously shared, the controlled burn will take place on the banks behind the high school's baseball field and is part of AFD’s wildland training.  In addition to training firefighters in wildland operations, the controlled burn will also remove invasive species from the area. 

    All proper safety procedures will be followed, including but not limited to: 

    • Knowing what the fire is doing at all times 

    • Ensuring no students or staff members are near the burn zone 

    • Identifying  escape routes and safety zones 

    • Maintaining prompt communications 

    • Staying informed of fire weather conditions and forecasts 

    Additionally, if the smoke affects our buildings in any way, all operations will be immediately stopped.

    Thank you for your continued support. I just wanted to ensure you were all informed prior to the controlled burn taking place in cases you received phone calls citing smoke near the historic high school.

    Additionally, if you would like to get B-Roll to accompany the story, Asheville Fire Department will be available at noon. However, please reach out to me before coming to campus.

    As always, please​ don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. ​


    March 3, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Morning Local Media Partners, 

    Asheville Primary Schoolers will be participating in a Cherokee Legend Pottery Integration on Friday, March 4th.  Thanks to an Asheville City Schools Foundation TAPASS Grant, students will have the chance to learn more about traditional Cherokee stories and different methods of pottery.  In fact, after hearing from artist Ona Armstrong, students will even have the chance to make their own pinch pots. 

    The local artists will be visiting the school at 10:00 AM.  Asheville Primary School is located at 441 Haywood Road. 

    We hope you will be able to join us.  Please know that, in accordance with district procedures, all guests are required to wear masks and sign in at the school’s front office. 

    Thanks for your support, and if you have any questions, please let me know. 


    March 2, 2022 - Press Release to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    Please see below for our latest press release.  As always, if you have any questions or would like to schedule a time to meet with Xander and Nick, please let me know. 

    ASHEVILLE HIGH SCHOOL'S NICK MUELLER AND XANDER WHITE NAMED NATIONAL MERIT SCHOLARSHIP FINALISTS

    Asheville High School's Nick Mueller and Xander White have been selected as finalists in the 67th annual National Merit Scholarship Program!
     
         Students first compete for college scholarships and recognition by qualifying with a high score on the PSAT; approximately 1.5 million entrants qualified this year. The highest scorers across the nation are then categorized as a commended scholar, semi-finalist or finalist.
     
         Mueller and White are among just 15,000 finalists nationwide.  This distinction now puts them in the running to receive scholarships worth nearly $30 million.
     
         Nick Mueller is the son of Nathan and Tina Mueller.  He plays trombone, was part of the Marching Band all four years and cites band as “the biggest family [he’s] had in school.”  This year, he was part of the All-Region Jazz Band, third chair for All-District Band and is now eligible to audition for the All-State Band.  Additionally, he’s a four-year student-athlete on the Varsity Golf Team and part of Dr. Nick Rigas’ 4th Level Engineering Class.  Throughout high school, he’s taken 10 Advanced Placement courses.  He is also an active member of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and has participated in several service projects with their youth group.  In fact, in 2018, he traveled to Houston to support their community cleanup efforts following Hurricane Harvey.  Although Mueller’s college plans are currently undecided, he knows he wants to major in aerospace engineering.  His ultimate goal is to work for NASA.
     
         Xander White is the son of Craig White and Sasha Vrtunski.  He too plays trombone and has been part of the Marching Band and Wind Symphony.  This year, he was even the Drum Major, a role he juggled with being the Football Team’s starting kicker.  In fact, he made the all-conference team for his work on the football field.  Additionally, he is part of the Math Honors Society and a member of the Asheville High School Robotics Team.  He is also actively involved in the International Thespian Society and will be the Acting Technical Director for this year’s Quixotica.  Throughout high school, he has taken nine Advanced Placement classes as well as many honors classes.  Outside of school, he has also completed conservation work in Maine.  Although White is currently undecided on a major or school for next year, he says he’s “definitely attending a four-year college.”
     

    March 1, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Students from across the state put their robotic skills to the test on Saturday for North Carolina’s VEX IQ State Championship.  After finishing in the top 10 at qualifying events, all four Hall Fletcher Robotics Teams were invited to compete.

    And, for the second year in a row, Hall Fletcher came home as State Champions!  Students also earned both the Excellence Award and the Build Award.

    Plus, THREE teams qualified for the World Championship, which is taking place this summer in Dallas, Texas.

    This is especially exciting as 2021-2022 marks only the second year Hall Fletcher has competed.

    VEX Competitions bring STEM skills to life by tasking teams with designing and building a robot to play against other teams in a game-based engineering challenge.  Essentially, classroom Science, Technology, Engineering and Math concepts are put to the test as students learn lifelong skills in teamwork, leadership and communication.

    Congratulations are most certainly due to our athletes:  Tess Bartholic, Isaac Borom-Lail, Finn Cahill, Monroe Duginske, Cai Garris, Sawyer Gray, Breon Ireland, Tyler Osweiler, Zavion Pope, Molly Steele, Nels Vankat as well as to their coach (and Hall Fletcher STEAM Teacher) Ryan Osweiler.  

    After months of practice, the team is taking this week off, but they invite local media partners to see them in action next Wednesday, March 9th from 2:30 - 4:00 PM.  They practice in Hall Fletcher's STEAM Lab, which is located at 60 Ridgelawn Road. 
     
    Thanks, and should you have any questions, please let me know. 

    February 28, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Asheville City Schools is excited to announce that Asheville High School’s Trina Jackson has been named  as the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching’s Western Region Career and Technical Education Teacher of the Year.  

    NCCAT’s CTE Teacher of the Year process was developed to honor and retain excellent teachers in North Carolina public schools.  Jackson is our region’s inaugural award recipient.  As the region winner, she will attend a celebration and week of Teacher Leadership at NCCAT’s Cullowhee campus this October.  As part of the conference, the  state CTE Teacher of the Year will be announced. 

    To celebrate this exciting accomplishment, please join us at Asheville High School, which is located at 419 McDowell Street, at 8:45 AM on Tuesday, March  1st for the SURPRISE/TOP SECRET announcement. 

    We hope you will be able to join us.  Please know that, in accordance with district procedures, all guests are required to wear masks and sign in at the school’s front office.  I will meet you in the school’s front office and, from there, take you to Mrs. Jackson’s classroom.  

    Thanks for your support, and if you have any questions, please let me know. 


    February 28, 2022 - WLOS 

    REQUEST:

    I just heard that Asheville High School, for the first time in history has a black student body president. Confirming this is true and I would love to set up a story possibly Wednesday with the student and some faculty on why this is such an important moment for the school.

    RESPONSE:

    Thanks so much for reaching out!  I had to dig through the archives for this one... it looks like Liana Murray (a Black female) was Student Body President in 2014, so Anthony is not the first Black Student Body President, but he is pretty spectacular in his own right.  Funny enough, I have a meeting with him and our SILSA Study Body President tomorrow at 2:30 to discuss all things Class of 2022.  So, if you would like to set up an interview for later this week, I'd be happy to find out about his schedule then. 
     

    February 28, 2022 - WLOS 

    REQUEST:

    I would love to write up a story about this. Do you have any photos from the event Thursday that we could have permission to sue across all platforms?

    Also, anymore information that could be included in the story, like a quote or two, would be great.

    RESPONSE: 

    Thanks so much for reaching out!  Photos from Thursday's performance can be found here.  Regarding quotes and additional information, your more than welcome to use what I put together as part of our coverage: 
     
    What a day to be at Hall Fletcher Elementary! Our STEAM School was selected to receive $2,500 worth of musical equipment as part of the Can'd Aid Foundation's TUNES program. The initiative strives to fuel musical passion and promote the arts and culture. Xylophones, a class set of recorders and a class set of ukeleles will immediately be put to great use, jumpstarting Hall Fletcher’s budding music program.
    "Kids really love being hands-on. They love to touch things as they learn,” said Prince Jackson, Hall Fletcher’s Music Teacher. “So, for all students to be able to play these instruments, especially ones that they might not have access to at home, is exciting.”
    To mark the occasion, Graham Sharp and Barrett Smith from Steep Canyon Rangers not only surprised students with the new instruments but also performed several songs and answered questions like, “is it fun to be in a band.”
    “Hopefully, we’re leaving you with a memory of what [bluegrass] music is,” announced Sharp. “And, the best part of it is that when we’re gone, we’re donating, through the CAN’d Aid Foundation, a lot of instruments for y’all to learn on and play here at school, so you all can keep on playing as long as you’re here at Hall Fletcher.”
     
    Thanks, and if you need anything else, please let me know!
     

    February 28, 2022 - WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    I am reaching out to see if ACS has any plans to relax mask policy before the next meeting next week? (since most schools are now mask optional?) Thanks for any info!

    RESPONSE: 

    Thanks so much for reaching out!  At this time, face coverings continue to be universally required for all students, staff, and visitors while in our school buildings and on our buses per the Asheville City Board of Education's February 14th decision.  We are reviewing guidance from the StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit and are working closely with local health department officials.  I have no additional information to share other than that we expect the Board will revisit face coverings as part of its next meeting on March 7th. 

    February 28, 2022 - Press Release to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    As a follow-up to Friday's alert, you can find added information from today's surprise announcement below as well as access to the photos taken here
     
    Shannon Hunt Receives North Carolina Association for the Gifted and Talented's Outstanding Teacher Award 
     
    Asheville City Schools is excited to announce that Claxton Elementary School’s Shannon Hunt has been awarded the North Carolina Association for the Gifted and Talented's Outstanding Teacher Award.  

    Hunt discovered she’d received the award during a surprise announcement with her students, family and building administrators earlier today.  Jo Landreth, Ira B. Jones’ Assistant Principal and a NCAGT Board Member, presented her with the award.
     
    “I was shocked, surprised, honored and thrilled,” said Hunt.  “It makes you reflect back on your career.  I’ve been in Asheville City since 2003.  It was really emotional because half of the fun of education is all the relationships you make along the way.  So, to see people that have been with me when the job’s hard and when the job’s fun, it was very emotional because I couldn’t be the teacher I am without those people.”
     
    This year marks Hunt’s 25th in the classroom.  For her, teaching is a calling and a career that fulfills her even when it’s hard.
     
    “My students mean everything to me,” said Hunt.  “There the reason why I get up each morning.  And, my mission is to challenge kids and continue to inspire them to learn so that we can solve some of our world’s problems.”

    According to Hunt’s students, that’s exactly what her teaching does.  

    “I think that Mrs. Hunt is very deserving of this award for the reason that she is one of the best teachers I have come across,” said Estrella Monreno-Maldonado, a current SILSA 9th Grader and former Claxton student.  “She was always there if I ever needed someone to talk to [and] always encouraged me to try my best when I felt like I could not complete an assignment…I am very thankful to have had Mrs. Hunt during such an important time in my academic and personal development.”
     
    The NCAGT Outstanding Teacher of the Gifted Award is presented annually to a North Carolina teacher of gifted children/youth who exhibits a strong commitment to gifted education through professional experience, professional organizations, and/or services in the area of education for the gifted.  As this year’s recipient, Hunt will receive an award valued at $250 and complimentary conference registration for the following year.  
    ----
    Thanks for your support.  As always, if you have any follow-up questions, please let me know.

    February 25, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 

    Asheville City Schools is excited to announce that Claxton Elementary School’s Shannon Hunt has been awarded the North Carolina Association for the Gifted and Talented’s Outstanding Teacher of the Gifted Award.  

    The NCAGT Outstanding Teacher of the Gifted Award is presented annually to a North Carolina teacher of gifted children/youth who exhibits a strong commitment to gifted education through professional experience, professional organizations, and/or services in the area of education for the gifted.  As this year’s recipient, Hunt will receive an award valued at $250 and complimentary conference registration for the following year.  

    Please join us at Claxton, which is located at 241 Merrimon Avenue, at 8:25 AM on Monday, February 28th for the SURPRISE/TOP SECRET announcement. 

    We hope you will be able to join us.  Please know that, in accordance with district procedures, all guests are required to wear masks and sign in at the school’s front office. 

    Thanks for your support, and if you have any questions, please let me know. 


    February 23, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Hall Fletcher Elementary School has been selected to receive $2,500 worth of equipment as part of the CAN'd Aid Foundation's TUNES program.  The initiative strives to fuel musical passion and promote the arts and culture.  The equipment will immediately be put to great use, jumpstarting Hall Fletcher’s budding music program. 

    To mark the occasion, two musicians from Steep Canyon Rangers are coming to the school to not only surprise students with the new xylophone and ukuleles but to also perform.

    The performance and presentation will be held TOMORROW, Thursday, February 24th at 1:30 PM in Hall Fletcher’s gym.  The school’s address is 60 Ridgelawn Road.  

    We hope you will be able to join us.  Please know that, in accordance with district procedures, all guests are required to wear masks and sign in at the school’s front office. 

    Thanks for your support, and if you have any questions, please let me know. 


    February 22, 2022 - The Mountain Xpress 

    REQUEST:

    Is my information correct? Marta has been with ACS since 2013? 

    RESPONSE:

    Ms. Alcalá-Williams has been an Asheville City Schools staff member for eight years; however, she’s been part of the district for 21 as a parent-volunteer.


    February 22, 2022 - The Mountain Xpress 

    REQUEST:

    I hope you’re doing well. We have an upcoming Q&A with Marta Alcala-Williams coming out and I’m hoping you can clarify the following: 

     
    1. When did Alcala-Williams launch the local Motheread chapter in the Hillcrest community? 
    2. According to Tanya Williams, Hillcrest site manager, the program ended at the start of COVID with no plans to relaunch. Is this true?
    3. When did Alcala-Williams launch the Marvelous Math Club? 
    4. Is the math club associated with ASC or UNCA? 
    5. What is Alcala-Williams official title with ASC and how long has she held the position? 
     

    RESPONSE:

    Thank you for reaching out.  In response to your questions, I had the chance to speak with Ms. Alcala-Williams.  Her responses can be found below:  
     
    1. When did Alcala-Williams launch the local Motheread chapter in the Hillcrest community?  The original Motheread was created in Hillcrest in 2001.  It was relaunched seven years ago.  
    2. According to Tanya Williams, Hillcrest site manager, the program ended at the start of COVID with no plans to relaunch. Is this true?  Mothread never stopped.  Due to the pandemic, it now meets virtually every Tuesday from 10:00 AM to about noon. 
    3. When did Alcala-Williams launch the Marvelous Math Club? 2016 
    4. Is the math club associated with ASC or UNCA? Marvelous Math Club is a partnership between Asheville City Schools, UNCA and the Asheville Housing Authority. 
    5. What is Alcala-Williams official title with ASC and how long has she held the position? Her official title is the Executive Director of Equity and Community Engagement.  She has held it since Summer 2020. 
     
    If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to reach out. 

    February 22, 2022 - WSPA

    REQUEST:

    Do you know what time this will begin? Though would make a great visual story for the news! 
     
    RESPONSE:
     
    I received word from the Asheville Fire Department that, because of last night's rain, we will not be able to carry out today's burn.  However, once it's new date has been confirmed, I can certainly let you know. 
     

    February 21, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners,

    I wanted to let you know that the Asheville Fire Department will be carrying out a controlled burn on the Asheville High School/SILSA campus.  The controlled burn will take place on the banks behind the high school's baseball field and is part of AFD’s wildland training.  In addition to training firefighters in wildland operations, the controlled burn will also remove invasive species from the area. 

    All proper safety procedures will be followed, including but not limited to: 

    • Knowing what the fire is doing at all times 

    • Ensuring no students or staff members are near the burn zone 

    • Identifying  escape routes and safety zones 

    • Maintaining prompt communications 

    • Staying informed of fire weather conditions and forecasts 

    Additionally, if the smoke affects our buildings in any way, all operations will be immediately stopped. 

    Weather permitting, the controlled burn is tentatively scheduled to be tomorrow, Tuesday, February 22nd. 

    Therefore, please be aware that you may receive reports of smoke near the high school campus; however, it is not a cause for alarm.

    Thanks, and should you have any questions, please let me know.


    February 17, 2022 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    I’m looking for any district policies regarding hazing, sexual assault and sex education. Additionally, are there any curriculum or instruction requirements regarding those topics, for students or for district employees?

    RESPONSE:

    Like all public school districts across the state, Asheville City Schools carries out the North Carolina Essential Standards Health Education curriculum, which is divided up based on the student's grade. 
     
    Regarding Policy Requests:  

    Policy 4331:  Assaults, Threats and Harassment 

    Policy 3540:  Comprehensive Health Education Program 

    Also, I'm still gathering information regarding such professional development for our staff.  

    -----

    As a follow-up to my initial response, I've been able to gather additional information about professional development.  As part of New Employee Orientation, every Asheville City Schools staff member discusses Policies 1710/4020/7230 - Prohibition Against Discrimation, Harassment and Bullying.  
     
    Additionally each year, all ACS employees complete Public Works training, which includes: 
    • Title IX Training (annually for all staff) 
    • Discriminatory Harassment – Identification and Response (new hires + every three years for current staff) 
    • North Carolina’s SAFE Child Act, Module 1 Child Sexual Abuse (new hires + every two years for current staff) 
    • North Carolina’s SAFE Child Act, Module 2 Human Trafficking (new hires + every two years for current staff) 
    • North Carolina’s SAFE Child Act, Module 3 Mandated Reporting Requirements (new hires + every two years for current staff) 
    • Sexual Harassment (new hires + every three years for current staff) 
    •  Workplace Bullying (new hires + every three years for current staff) 
    School administrators and certified staff also complete training on: 
    • Adult Sexual Misconduct (new hires + every four years) 
    • Online Bullying: Sexting, Cyberbullying, Predators and Explicit Content (new hires + every four years) 
    • Teen Dating Violence (new hires + every four years) 
    • Violence Prevention in Schools (new hires + every four years) 
    Thanks, and if you have any additional questions, please let me know! 

    February 16, 2022 - WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    I am following up on the Buncombe County Commission decision to allow the mask requirement to expire today at noon.  I wanted to reach out and see how/if this impacts Asheville City Schools.  I believe the board just voted to continue the mask requirement in schools earlier this week?  Does this change anything moving forward?

    RESPONSE: 

    Thank you for reaching out!  As explained in the County's press release from last night, "Determinations about face coverings for schools will [continue] to be made by the local Boards of Education."  The Asheville City Board of Education voted on February 14th to continue with universal face coverings at this time.  This decision is revisited by the Board each month, and their next Work Session will be Monday, March 7th. 


    February 15, 2022 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:  

    Question: Many of our kids in North Asheville spent their childhood playing at the Jones Park playground. It was also a gathering spot for parents to socialize and compare notes. As the park aged it no longer met safety standards and was demolished last year. Now we have a mud pit that is of no use to anyone. Could you please look into the status of the park and give us hope for a playground for the new generation of kids needing a safe place to play?

    RESPONSE: 

    At this time, district leadership continues to meet with the City and our community.  As additional information is available it will be promptly communicated. 


    February 14, 2022 - Local Media Partners 

    Good Evening Local Media Partners, 

    As shared with staff and families: 

    During tonight’s Regular Meeting, the Asheville City Board of Education approved a calendar for the 2022-2023 school year, under the condition that the Board revisits the school calendar should State Legislatures grant us greater flexibility.  The calendar was created by a committee that included representatives from all schools and multiple stakeholder groups including teachers, classified staff, parents as well as school and district administrators.  
    The current 2022 - 2023 school year includes 215 calendar days, 176 school days and exceeds the state’s requirement of 1,025 hours by 19.5 hours. 

    Unfortunately, Asheville City Schools does not meet the state requirements for a calendar waiver for the 2022-2023 school year.  Based on the state’s current calendar law, this means our start date can be no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26th.  

    Additional, items of interest about the 2022-2023 calendar include: 

    • The first day of school is August 29, 2022.
    • The school day for elementary students will be extended by five minutes.  This means students in Pre-K thru 5th Grade will end school at 2:35 PM beginning this August.   
    • All students will have nine two-hour delays.  By having a set dedicated time, staff will be able to meet in Professional Learning Communities for core problem solving and planning, professional development, and ongoing data analysis to strengthen instructional practices and increase learning outcomes for all students.  The first districtwide late start will be Wednesday, September 21st.
    • The calendar has built-in workdays to support Pre-K thru 5th Grade teachers, who are required by the state to complete LETRS Training.
    • For students, Winter Break will begin on Monday, December 19, 2022 and end on Friday, December 30, 2022. 
    • First semester exams will be administered after Winter Break beginning January 18, 2023.
    • For students, Spring Break will be Monday, April 3 - Friday, April 7, 2023.
    • Friday, June 9, 2023 will be the last day of classes. 

    Have a great evening, and should you have any questions, please let me know.


    February 9, 2022 - Asheville Watchdog 

    REQUEST: 

    This is a formal request for public records under the North Carolina Public Records Law.
    I request copies of all expense reports submitted by Superintendent Gene Freeman to the Asheville City Schools requesting reimbursement in the period July 1, 2020, to the current date.

    I am a journalist affiliated with the not-for-profit Asheville Watchdog news organization (www.avlwatchdog.org). This request is made as part of news gathering and is not for a commercial use. We are willing to pay reasonable expenses for this request. If you estimate that the fees will exceed $300, please inform me first. We will eagerly accept the information in any form but prefer to get it digitally.

    If my request is denied in whole or part, I ask that you explain all denials, deletions, and redactions by reference to specific exemptions in the state open records act. Please also indicate whether this request was reviewed by counsel.

    Thank you for considering this request. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at the telephone number or email addresses below.

    RESPONSE: 

    Since becoming Asheville City Schools' Superintendent, Dr. Freeman has not traveled on the district's dollar or submitted expense reports for reimbursement. 
     
    However, since July 1, 2022 he has contributed $10,000 through the Asheville City Schools Foundation and directly to the district. 
    • ACSF:  $6,500 
      • $2,500 to support PODS 
      • $1,000 to the Mrs. Patricia Griffin Memorial Scholarship
      • $3,000 as part of the annual campaign 
    • Directly to Asheville City Schools:  $3,500 
      • Purchased a new staff refrigerator for Ira B. Jones Elementary School 
      • Contributions to buy Christmas gifts for ACS students 
      • Contributions to support staff members in need 

    February 9, 2022 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    I wanted to follow-up on the documents Karen had requested last week. Also, I saw updates to the weapons and explosives policy on the BOE Agenda Feb. 7, and was curious if there were any substantive changes. 

    On a different topic, I wanted to request salary data for all Asheville City School staff. I haven't done a public records request through the school before...who should I send that request to? 

    RESPONSE: 

    I responded to Karen's request earlier today.  Regarding Policy 5027/7275, because it will not be adopted by the Board until their February 14th Meeting, the policy as it currently stands is available on our website.  

    Additionally, all public records requests should be sent to me. 


    February 9, 2022 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    Excuse the late response – it has been a very busy week.

    I assure you we will always correct any factual errors brought to our attention.

    Thank you for your opinion, but the privacy of the student who brought the BB gun to school has not been violated.

    Ms. Perez Holloway said she was told the child had been suspended. If she was not told that, please let us know – that is a story that should also be told. Can you confirm this?

    The parent asked that the child who communicated the threat be removed from that class because her son was in fear of that child.

    We also are aware that Superintendent Freeman did not know the incident involved a threat until he spoke with the parent. Can you confirm this, Mr. Freeman?

    You have a parent who requested to have her child’s bully removed, and the administration declined. Would you tell us why?

    Would you like to clarify these issues for our follow-up story? That way, to your point, it doesn’t feel to you that we are only giving one side.

    Please send me the following information:

    • Documentation showing when you informed Ms. Perez Holloway that the BB gun was broken. She told the Citizen Times that the first time she learned this was when Sarah Honosky spoke with her on Monday, Jan. 31.
    • Number of weapons violations at Asheville City schools during the 2021 calendar year, broken down by type of weapon (including broken weapons) and by school.
    • Asheville City Schools bullying policy, including definitions and consequences.

    RESPONSE: 

    When I spoke with Sarah last week, she asked that I prioritize her request pertaining to Asheville Middle School above the one you sent, which is the reason behind my delay.  However, you will find our responses below: 

    As shared in previous communications, all students are entitled to confidentiality per federal law.  Therefore, information about another child’s discipline records would not be shared. 

    As the leader of our district, Dr. Freeman is always informed of any incident involving one of our schools.  

    Per internal investigation documents, which are not open to public inspection as they are part of a child’s discipline record, dated the morning of 11/12, “Mrs. Nichols called each students’ parents to let them know that their child potentially saw a gun at school.  She let parents know it was a bb gun, not loaded, and broken.” 

    Per North Carolina General Statute 115C-288, there are 16 offenses that must be reported.  At the conclusion of this school year, Asheville City Schools will submit any reportable offenses to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.  You are welcome to this data once DPI has shared its findings.  

    Policy: https://www.boardpolicyonline.com/bl/?b=asheville_city#&&hs=917970 


    February 8, 2022 - Local Media Partners

    Please see below for the February 7th Board Brief.  And, as always, if you have any questions, please let me know. 

    EQUITY: 

    During last night’s  Work Session of the Asheville City Board of Education, Marta Alcala-Williams presented an Equity Update.  She explained that, for the 2021-2022 school year, the District Equity Team will be grounded in:  

    ACHIEVEMENT GAP UPDATE: 

    Melissa Hedt, Deputy Superintendent, and Ian Nelson, Director of Testing and Accountability, gave an update on student data and the achievement gap. 

    They began by explaining the difference between proficiency and growth. Proficiency is measured by a single end-of-course or end-of-year test and focuses on how well content was mastered. Growth focuses on learning over time based on a student’s previous performance.

    Looking at 2020-2021 EVAAS Growth, Black students in Asheville City Schools met growth in 13 of the 14 tested areas.  This is a significant increase from the 2018-2019 school year in which Black students met growth in eight of the 14 tested areas. 

    Similarly, a review of Kindergarten mClass data, which assesses students’ reading skills, shows that students are showing growth since the beginning of the school year.  

    • Beginning of year data shows that a gap exists between our white students and Black upon entering Kindergarten. 

    • However, the mClass data from the middle of the year shows that all student subgroups increased in the percentage performing at or above grade level. 

    Elementary principals explained what Asheville City Schools are prioritizing this year to continue to address the achievement gap including: 

    • Several curricular shifts in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math

    • Districtwide professional development

    • Intentional focus on social and emotional learning (SEL) and reducing exclusionary discipline practices

    • Focus on core instruction within professional learning communities (PLCs) and its effectiveness for all students, but especially Black students

    The Board and Leadership recognized the hard work of our staff and the gains our students have made. Moving forward the following areas were identified as priorities:   

    • Student data, specifically that of our Black students, will be assessed and analyzed, and instructional shifts will continue to occur based on these results 

    • Providing staff with time to do the hard work

    • Supporting consistent and effective district-wide curriculum

    • Incorporating social and emotional learning (SEL) into the school day

    HUMAN RESOURCES: 

    Dr. Mark Dickerson, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, presented an update about his department. He explained that: 

    • Currently, the district has 44 vacancies for full-time employees. 

    • 128 staff members resigned during the 2019-2020 school year, and 129 resigned during the 2020-2021 school year.  To date, we’ve only had 65 staff members resign; therefore, we’re in alignment with typical numbers.  

    • Asheville City Schools has hired about 100 staff members since July 1, 2021.  

    • As of January 26, 2022, Asheville City Schools has 702 full-time staff members.  This includes 39 Beginning Teachers. 


    Additionally, Dr. Dickerson provided an overview of the Black Educator Excellence cohort. The cohort began in the fall of 2021 and is part of a larger Asheville City Schools commitment, in partnership with the Asheville City Schools Foundation, to create an inclusive and supportive culture for BIPOC staff.  Through the program, staff participate in monthly academic scholar sessions and social gatherings.  Additionally, the Foundation is able to provide tuition for current ACS faculty and staff to complete their degrees.  

    Dr. Dickerson also gave an overview of our upcoming recruitment events. 

    ASHEVILLE CITY SCHOOLS FOUNDATIONS:

    Copland Rudolph, ACSF Executive Director, provided Board Members with an update.  She explained that ACSF is investing $762,000 this school year to support program expenses: 

    COMMUNICATIONS UPDATE: 

    Additionally, I presented Board Members with a look at our Communications Plan for the Strategic Plan  To clarify, this is NOT the strategic plan but an overview of how the Communications Department will be providing support during this process. 

    Our strategic plan guiding principles will include: 

    • Simplicity of Communication:   All materials will be intentionally created with an equity lens for language and literacy, keeping in mind that education  jargon can feel isolating to our families and community partners. Acronyms and jargon will be kept to a minimum whenever possible, and videos will be created whenever possible to provide greater access to all families.

    •  Importance of the Individual:  Our hope is that every individual will know and understand their role in ensuring its success.

    • Necessity for Transparency:  Our stakeholders are valued members in this process and must be well informed. 

    • Consistency of Visual Identity:  The plan will have its own look and feel that will make it clear when materials being created and shared are part of the ongoing plan communication and accomplishment. It will align with the look of other district communications but also have unique components.

    I explained that, at this time, we need to determine specific and measurable objectives for the Communications Plan.  I also shared suggested overall communications methods and provided Board Members with tactics that could be used to gather input.  This includes but would not be limited to: 

    • Staff Survey 

    • Parent/Family Survey 

    • Coinciding with the release of Community Survey release, share press release announcing the opening and closing dates 

    • Public engagement sessions for families/community members

    • Discuss Strategic Plan/gather feedback with district leaders, principals and assistant principals during monthly meeting

    • Discuss Strategic Plan/gather feedback with the newly established Educators Council  

    As additional details surrounding the Strategic Plan are finalized, they will be promptly communicated.  

    As a reminder, the Board of Education will be hosting its next Regular Meeting on Monday, February 14th in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street.  The meeting can also be streamed on the district’s YouTube page.


    February 4, 2022 - Spectrum News 

    REQUEST: 

    Sorry for emailing so late. Could we possibly request details or a statement about three Tasers found at Asheville Middle School on Thursday? Any info you could share would be greatly appreciated!

    RESPONSE: 

    Below you will find Principal Collins' message, which was shared with Asheville Middle School families yesterday afternoon. 

    Good Afternoon Asheville Middle School Families.  This is Principal April Collins. 

    Earlier today, administrators received a report about there possibly being an item of concern on the Asheville Middle School campus. 

    School administrators and our School Resource Officer immediately responded, and three tasers have been found.  One was inoperable and in a student’s backpack inside their locker.  The second was found in a reset room, and the third was turned over to staff. 

    None of the tasers were used, and at no time was our school, any student or any staff member directly threatened.   

    In accordance with our Board Policy, proper disciplinary actions have been issued.  I cannot go into more details, as it is a student matter and all students are entitled to confidentiality per federal law. 

    Families, we ask that you take this opportunity to talk with your child about school safety.  Remind them there are serious disciplinary, and sometimes criminal, consequences for bringing any weapon or weapon-like item, including a taser, to school.  Simply put, such behavior cannot be tolerated at Asheville Middle School.  

    Please use this as a reminder to check your child’s backpack before they leave for school.  And, please know that our school policy remains that backpacks should stay in a student’s locker throughout the school day.   Additionally, I ask that you continue to encourage your child to let a trusted adult know anytime they have safety concerns.  

    I also wanted to let you know there was a separate incident on campus today that required attention from medical professionals.  Therefore, your child may have seen emergency personnel vehicles in the parking lot.  Again, this incident was completely unrelated to the found tasers, but I wanted to make sure you were aware of it. 

    I appreciate your support.  By working together, we can keep Asheville Middle School safe for students and staff. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at (828) 350-6208.


    February 4, 2022 - WLOS

    REQUEST:

    Thank you for the information. Just checking on the wording “reset room.” That is correct? Just wondering if that might be “restroom.” 

    RESPONSE: 

    Reset room is correct, but I appreciate you checking. When I was speaking with our principal I had to double & triple check myself to make sure I wasn’t mixing up the two. 


    February 4, 2022 - WLOS 

    REQUEST:

    I am reaching out to confirm the incident where three tasers were found at Asheville Middle.  Can you provide information about how the tasers were found, when they were found and also share with us the principal’s message that was sent to parents?

    RESPONSE:

    Below you will find Principal Collins' message, which was shared with Asheville Middle School families yesterday afternoon.  I believe it answers all your questions; however, if you need further support, let me know.  

    Good Afternoon Asheville Middle School Families.  This is Principal April Collins. 

    Earlier today, administrators received a report about there possibly being an item of concern on the Asheville Middle School campus. 

    School administrators and our School Resource Officer immediately responded, and three tasers have been found.  One was inoperable and in a student’s backpack inside their locker.  The second was found in a reset room, and the third was turned over to staff. 

    None of the tasers were used, and at no time was our school, any student or any staff member directly threatened.   

    In accordance with our Board Policy, proper disciplinary actions have been issued.  I cannot go into more details, as it is a student matter and all students are entitled to confidentiality per federal law. 

    Families, we ask that you take this opportunity to talk with your child about school safety.  Remind them there are serious disciplinary, and sometimes criminal, consequences for bringing any weapon or weapon-like item, including a taser, to school.  Simply put, such behavior cannot be tolerated at Asheville Middle School.  

    Please use this as a reminder to check your child’s backpack before they leave for school.  And, please know that our school policy remains that backpacks should stay in a student’s locker throughout the school day.   Additionally, I ask that you continue to encourage your child to let a trusted adult know anytime they have safety concerns.  

    I also wanted to let you know there was a separate incident on campus today that required attention from medical professionals.  Therefore, your child may have seen emergency personnel vehicles in the parking lot.  Again, this incident was completely unrelated to the found tasers, but I wanted to make sure you were aware of it. 

    I appreciate your support.  By working together, we can keep Asheville Middle School safe for students and staff. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at (828) 350-6208.


    February 4, 2022 - WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    I'm working on a story today about a petition ACAE is circulating that is calling on the school board & county commissioners to address several issues.  I'm reaching out to you to fact-check some of the claims in that petition --
     
    ACAE claims ACS is seeing record vacancies and has seen record mid-year departures. They claim over 70 positions are vacant right now.
     
    ACAE also insinuates that cafeteria workers are not being paid on the same schedule as other employees, and that outsourcing may be happening for cafeteria & custodial staff, as well as other staff members?
     
    Additionally -- do you know what base pay is currently for ACS staff? They are asking leaders to make it at least $17.70 an hour.
     
    I know these are a lot of things for you to look into, but any clarity/confirmation you are able to provide will certainly help with my story today!
     
    RESPONSE: 

    When responding to your questions, I spoke with our Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, Dr. Mark Dickerson, and our Chief Finance Officer, Mrs. Georgia Harvey.  Their answers can be found below: 

    ACAE claims ACS is seeing record vacancies and has seen record mid-year departures. They claim over 70 positions are vacant right now.

    • At this time, we have 35 - 40 full-time vacancies.  This includes several ESSER-funded positions, which will only be available as long as there is grant funding.
    • 128 staff members resigned during the 2019-2020 school year, and 129 resigned during the 2020-2021 school year.  At this time, we’ve only had 70 staff members resign; therefore, we’re in alignment with typical numbers.  
      Additionally, please know that Asheville City Schools has hired about 100 staff members since July 1, 2021.

    ACAE also insinuates that cafeteria workers are not being paid on the same schedule as other employees and that outsourcing may be happening for cafeteria & custodial staff, as well as other staff members?

    • School Nutrition Staff are paid on an hourly basis; therefore, their schedule is different than the rest of our employees.  This has been our practice for, at least, the past 10 years and is in alignment with what several of our neighboring counties do.
    • Yes, we currently supplement our custodial, maintenance grounds crew and substitute teaching staff through outside organizations.
    • With the constantly increasing cost of food, supplies, salaries and benefits, it is becoming more difficult for School Nutrition Programs to be financially sustainable.  To combat this issue, one option is to obtain the services of a Food Service Management Company.  At this time, we are in the process of preparing a Request For Proposal; most importantly, no School Nutrition employee would lose their job. However, at this time, the Board has not made a formal vote regarding the use of a Food Service Management Company.  We anticipate that such a vote could only occur after several months.

    Additionally -- do you know what base pay is currently for ACS staff? They are asking leaders to make it at least $17.70 an hour.

    • We meet the state guidelines of $13 an hour.  All classified and certified staff saw an increase in their January 2022 paychecks based on legislative guidance.  Additionally, the state has scheduled for the minimum wage of school district employees to rise to $15 next year.  Included in this is Asheville City Schools’ local supplement, which starts at 9% and increases up to 16.5% based on years of service.  Asheville City Schools’ local supplement is one of the highest in the state. 

    February 4, 2022 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 
    We were sent reports about tasers found at Asheville Middle School yesterday. I wanted to reach out for comment and ask a few questions.  Could you share any more information about the incident? Was anyone threatened? How common is this kind of incident, and was this three separate students, or did one student bring in three weapons?  How was this brought to the attention of staff? What are the consequences of bringing weapons into the school and were these Tasers, or stun guns? 
     
    RESPONSE:
     
    Per communications shared with Asheville Middle School families yesterday afternoon...  
     
    On Thursday, administrators received a report about there possibly being an item of concern on the Asheville Middle School campus. 

    School administrators and our School Resource Officer immediately responded, and three tasers were found.  One was inoperable and in a student’s backpack inside their locker.  The second was found in a reset room, and the third was turned over to staff. 

    None of the tasers were used, and at no time was our school, any student or any staff member directly threatened.   

    In accordance with our Board Policy, proper disciplinary actions have been issued.  I cannot go into more details, as it is a student matter and all students are entitled to confidentiality per federal law. 

    Families, we ask that you take this opportunity to talk with your child about school safety.  Remind them there are serious disciplinary, and sometimes criminal, consequences for bringing any weapon or weapon-like item, including a taser, to school.  Simply put, such behavior cannot be tolerated at Asheville Middle School.  

    Please use this as a reminder to check your child’s backpack before they leave for school.  And, please know that our school policy remains that backpacks should stay in a student’s locker throughout the school day.   Additionally, I ask that you continue to encourage your child to let a trusted adult know anytime they have safety concerns.  

    Again, at no time was our school, any student or any staff member directly threatened.  And, the items were tasers, NOT stun guns.  


    February 3, 2022 - WLOS 

    I had the chance to watch your piece from last night, and in neither my response or the police record does it identify the other student as a female. The fact that you went off the mother’s hearsay to identify the gender of the other student is, in my opinion, a violation of that student’s right to privacy.  The same is true for the student’s consequences.  In neither my response to your inquiry or the police report did it say the student was suspended for three days.  Per federal law, all students are entitled to confidentiality. 

    Therefore, I would like to request that you remove both from your online piece immediately and that in all future airings those portions of your interview with Ms. Holloway be removed. 

    Please know that I fully respect our local media partners and their right to tell stories about our district, both good and bad.  However, I ask that you in the future you please be mindful of sources when covering such important topics as the safety and well-being of our children.

    Thanks, and please let me know if you have any questions. 


    February 2, 2022 - Fox Carolina 

    REQUEST: 

    To follow up, after talking to my boss, before I move forward with this story, I need two things confirmed. Please let me know by end of business day on Thursday (2/3).
    1. Was Mrs. Karina's appeal denied?
    2. Did this investigation confirm the student pointed the "broken BB gun" at her son? i.e. (Did he just brandish it? Did he just take it to school and someone saw it? Did he just get caught and nobody saw?)

    RESPONSE: 

    Above and beyond our original statement, I am unable to provide you with additional information from our investigation except to confirm that the BB gun was both broken, unloaded and confiscated by school administrators prior to the start of the school day.  However, you're welcome to reach out to the Asheville Police Department for their report to see if it can provide you with further details. 

    February 1, 2022 - The Citizen Times

    First and foremost, thank you for responding to me so quickly this morning.  I’m sure you weren’t “on the clock” when I first reached out just past 6:30 AM.  However, with The Citizen-Times having a publish time of 5:00 AM, checking our local media outlets for articles pertaining to Asheville City Schools is one of the first things I do when I wake up. And, I just didn’t feel like some of the things included in your piece could wait. 

    That being said, I would like it explicitly known that I was disappointed in how today’s story was handled.  

    • In my opinion, the fact that you chose to wait until paragraph six (instead of the title or opening paragraph) to mention that the BB gun was broken seems like you were intentionally trying to create salacious clickbait.  Because the story is “For Subscribers Only” leads me to believe this even more. 
    • As shared this morning, the fact that you went off the mother’s hearsay to identify the gender of the other student is, in my opinion, a violation of that student’s right to privacy. 
    • The same is true for the student’s consequences.  In neither my response to your inquiry or the police report did it say the student was suspended for three days.  Per federal law, all students are entitled to confidentiality. 

    I fully respect our local media partners and their right to tell stories about our district, both good and bad. 

    However, taking one parent's recollection of events as fact is not true journalism but instead storytelling. 

    As we continue to provide honest communication among our stakeholders and serve our community, please be mindful of sources when covering such important topics as the safety and well-being of our children.


    February 1, 2022 - Skyline News 

    REQUEST:

    We are inquiring about an alledged incident that happened at Claxton Elementary in November 2021. 
    According to a parent that contacted Skyline, a nine year old brought a gun to Claxton Elementary. The parent said a teacher confirmed to her it was a gun. The parent said the the nine year old student aimed the gun at her child and told the child they would "shoot the child in the eye."
    We understand these are juveniles and there is only so much you can comment on but we have a few questions that you should be able to comment on. 
    1. Can you confirm that in November of 2021 a child brought a gun to Claxton Elementary?
    2. Can you tell us school board policy as to what what happens to students when a gun and weapons are brought to school?
    3. If a student did bring a gun to Claxton was the student disciplined as per school board policy or is the student still at Claxton?
    4. If the student was not disciplined, why?
    5. Can you tell us school board policy as to what happens to students that make threats of violence toward other students?
    RESPONSE:

    On November 12, 2021, a broken BB gun was brought to the campus of Claxton Elementary by a student.  The broken BB gun was NOT loaded and was confiscated by school administrators at 7:55 AM; families were supported and appropriate measures were immediately taken.  At this time, the investigation has concluded, and applicable actions have been carried out.  We cannot go into more details, as it is a student matter.  And, all students are entitled to confidentiality per federal law. This includes sharing further details about a student's discipline records.

    However, please know that if there was ever a situation and school administrators believed students were in danger or there was a threat made to one of our schools, it would be promptly communicated to families.  Student safety is our top priority, and all allegations are taken seriously. 

    When a threat or other serious misconduct is proven that impacts overall school safety, Asheville City Schools will remove students from school and/or take other appropriate measures and precautions consistent with state and federal laws.  

    We appreciate our partnership with families and value the trust they place in us to keep our students and school communities safe.

    Asheville City Schools' Policy Manual can be found here

    February 1, 2022 - WLOS

    REQUEST: 

    Can at least you confirm if the student was suspended or what the punishment was? We are not interested in reporting names, etc.  Just curious what the action was so we can at least respond to the parents when they reach out to us?

    RESPONSE: 

    That's part of the student's discipline file and information I'm unable to share, as all students are entitled to confidentiality per federal law.


    February 1, 2022 - Fox Carolina 

    REQUEST:

    I'll be covering this story tomorrow. I won't be going on campus, but I may be live, shoot b-roll or look lives somewhere across the street from the school. I will not film students.

    RESPONSE:

    Please ensure you are not on school property and that your position on the public sidewalk does not show students as part of either your b-roll or liveshots.  Again, please be extra mindful of this, as students utilize our playground, outside classrooms and picnic tables throughout the day. 


    February 1, 2022 - The Citizen Times 

    REQUEST: 

    Can you confirm whether or not the BB gun was loaded?  I understand it was broken and did not work, but want to to clarify?  And, would you please send me a copy of the final report of your investigation. 

    RESPONSE: 

    I can confirm that the gun was not loaded.  The final report is not open to public inspection, as it's part of a student's disciplinary file. 


    January 31, 2022 - WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    I am reaching out because several parents have contacted our newsroom upset at how ACS handled a situation on November 12th where a student reportedly brought a gun to school at Claxton Elementary and threatened another student.

    1. Can you confirm  this incident?
    2. Was the student punished?  What action was taken?
    3. Are the two students still in the same classroom?

    RESPONSE: 

    On November 12, 2021, a broken BB gun was brought to the campus of Claxton Elementary by a student.  The broken BB gun was confiscated by school administrators at 7:55 AM; families were supported and appropriate measures were immediately taken.  At this time, the investigation has concluded, and applicable actions have been taken.  We cannot go into more details, as it is a student matter.  And, all students are entitled to confidentiality per federal law.

    However, please know that if there was ever a situation and school administrators believed students were in danger or there was a threat made to one of our schools, it would be promptly communicated to families.  Student safety is our top priority, and all allegations are taken seriously. 

    When a threat or other serious misconduct is proven that impacts overall school safety, Asheville City Schools will remove students from school and/or take other appropriate measures and precautions consistent with state and federal laws.  

    We appreciate our partnership with families and value the trust they place in us to keep our students and school communities safe.


    At this time, I have no additional information to share. 

    January 31, 2022 - Fox Carolina 

    REQUEST:

    Karina Perez Holloway's posts have been shared around the internet about a student allegedly pulling a gun on her 6-year-old son at Claxton Elementary on November 12, 2021. She claims to have spoken to the superintendent and claims the Asheville City Board has denied her appeal for a hearing.
     
    Do you have any information on this? Is there any truth to this? Was a gun found on Claxton Elementary's campus? Are there any investigations going on? Was her appeal denied, and why? Was this student possibly with a gun reprimanded? 
     
    She is willing to speak to us. Would someone from the school district be willing to do an interview with me?

    RESPONSE: 

    On November 12, 2021, a broken BB gun was brought to the campus of Claxton Elementary by a student.  The broken BB gun was confiscated by school administrators at 7:55 AM; families were supported and appropriate measures were immediately taken.  At this time, the investigation has concluded, and applicable actions have been taken.  We cannot go into more details, as it is a student matter.  And, all students are entitled to confidentiality per federal law.

    However, please know that if there was ever a situation and school administrators believed students were in danger or there was a threat made to one of our schools, it would be promptly communicated to families.  Student safety is our top priority, and all allegations are taken seriously. 

    When a threat or other serious misconduct is proven that impacts overall school safety, Asheville City Schools will remove students from school and/or take other appropriate measures and precautions consistent with state and federal laws.  

    We appreciate our partnership with families and value the trust they place in us to keep our students and school communities safe.

    At this time, I have no additional information to share. 


    January 31, 2022 - The Citizen Times 

    REQUEST: 

    I just spoke with Karina Perez Holloway, a mom at Claxton Elementary. She is sharing concerns about a Nov. 12 incident involving a gun being brought to school by a student. She says her son was threatened.  I want to get the school perspective. Would you or anyone on staff be able to speak more about this incident? 
     
    RESPONSE: 

    On November 12, 2021, a broken BB gun was brought to the campus of Claxton Elementary by a student.  The broken BB gun was confiscated by school administrators at 7:55 AM; families were supported and appropriate measures were immediately taken.  At this time, the investigation has concluded, and applicable actions have been taken.  We cannot go into more details, as it is a student matter.  And, all students are entitled to confidentiality per federal law.

    However, please know that if there was ever a situation and school administrators believed students were in danger or there was a threat made to one of our schools, it would be promptly communicated to families.  Student safety is our top priority, and all allegations are taken seriously. 

    When a threat or other serious misconduct is proven that impacts overall school safety, Asheville City Schools will remove students from school and/or take other appropriate measures and precautions consistent with state and federal laws.  

    We appreciate our partnership with families and value the trust they place in us to keep our students and school communities safe.

    At this time, I have no additional information to share. 


    January 28, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners

    ue to the anticipated winter weather and advisory beginning at 1:00 PM, Asheville City Schools will be dismissing students and staff early today, Friday, January 28th.  Elementary students, including Pre-K students, will be dismissed at 11:30 AM, while our middle and high schools will be released at 12:30 PM. 

    Custodians and maintenance staff can go home at 2:00 PM after safely making sure buses are back on campus.  All other staff will be dismissed at 1:00 PM. 

    Parents, please know our school nutrition staff will follow our early dismissal procedures, and student will receive lunch before leaving. 

    Because of the early dismissal, all afterschool programs, activities and meetings scheduled to occur this afternoon have been canceled.  And, all after-care, including school-based programs like IRL and 21st Century as well as Asheville Parks and Rec, YTL and YMCA, will be canceled. 

    If your child normally rides the bus to an afterschool program that’s been canceled for today, please make alternative arrangements to pick them up from school.  Please do not place students on an afternoon bus that they are not normally assigned to.  Just because they ride a certain bus to school in the morning does not mean there is room for them in the afternoon or that the bus is making its same stops. 

    All other bus routes will be the same. 

    Additionally, please know specific information about games and practices will be coming directly from your child's principal. 

    Thank you for your support, and if there are any further updates, they will be promptly communicated. 


    January 26, 2022 - The Citizen Times 

    REQUEST:

    Would Dr. Freeman be available to speak or comment about how ACS is exploring changes to the desegregation order? Specifically where the school system is in the process; the reasons why changes are being explored; and what potential effect changes to the desegregation order could have for ACS, its students and families?  Would it be possible for him to speak/comment before 11 a.m. tomorrow?

    RESPONSE:

    During Friday’s Board Retreat, our attorney, Chris Campbell, will be discussing the Desegregation Order with Board Members and administrators.  Because that conversation has not taken place yet; I am unable to provide additional information at this time.  However, if you have questions following the meeting, please reach out. 


    January 24, 2022 - The Citizen Times 

    Good Afternoon Jacob, 

    Thanks for meeting with Dr. Dickerson and I today.  In response to your questions: 

    RESIGNATIONS: 

    • 128 staff members resigned during the 2019-2022 school year, and 129 resigned during the 2020-2021 school year.
    • Since July 1st, we’ve had 57 staff resignations.  30 were classified employees, and 27 were certified employees.
    • Since the ESSER Incentives were approved by the Asheville City Board of Education on November 8th, 18 staff members have resigned.  11 were certified, and 7 were classified employees.  

    NEW HIRES: 

    • Since July 1, Asheville City Schools has hired 96 staff members.  52 are certified employees, and 44 are classified employees.
    • At this time, there are between 35 - 40 full-time, permanent staff vacancies. 

    Thanks, and please let me know if you have any further questions! 


    January 21, 2022 - The Citizen Times 

    I was able to pull our resignations number.  Since July 1st, we've had 57 employees total leave our district. 


    January 20, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    As shared with staff and families...

    Due to continued ice issues, tonight’s freezing rain and tomorrow’s low temperatures, Friday, January 21st will be a Remote Learning Day for all ACS students.  All afterschool games, practices, programs, activities and meetings scheduled to occur tomorrow afternoon have also been canceled.  Information about Saturday will be coming directly from each school's administrator. 

    Tomorrow’s Remote Learning Day means that students will learn from home.  

    Custodians and maintenance staff should report to work at their regular times as road conditions permit.  Other essential staff should report to work on a two-hour delay.  Please contact your direct supervisor if you have any questions or need additional support.  Staff who are not considered essential workers should work from home and complete sign-in procedures as communicated by your principal and/or supervisor. 

    Regarding instruction during tomorrow’s Remote Learning Days: 

    • Pre-Kindergarten - 5th Grade:  Pre-K through 5th Grade students district-wide will complete their Cougar Weather Packet.  Students should only complete DAY THREE.  If an additional packet is needed, please click here or check with your child’s teacher upon our return to school. 

    • 6th - 12 Grade: You will be assigned work through Canvas.  Assignments will be posted by tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM.  This does include our MNSA 6th and 7th Graders.  

    • Assigned work must be completed to be counted present for the day.  However, due to the possibility of power outages, students will have through Friday, January 28th to complete their assignments. 

    In the event of further changes, please know I’ll send another email, make a second phone call, alert local media outlets as well as post delay and cancellation notifications on our district website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

    Once again, Asheville City Schools will be utilizing a Remote Learning Day for all students on Friday, January 21st.  Only essential staff should report to school; all others should work from home.  

    Thanks, and please let me know if you have any questions!


    January 20, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    As shared with staff and families...
     
    Due to dropping temperatures and the potential for additional light ice, all afterschool games, practices, programs, activities and meetings scheduled to occur today, Thursday, January 20th have been canceled.  This does include all school-based programs like IRL and 21st Century Afterschool.  And, as a reminder, tonight’s Elementary Tours/Open Houses for all campuses have been canceled.  

    If your child is a bus rider, please know that our driver will be running their regular routes.  And, if your child is in the Preschool Program, please know it will end at its regular time.  

    We’ve made this decision with the safety of our students, staff and families in mind. 

    Thank you for your support, and if there are any further updates, they will be promptly communicated.


    January 19, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    In order to give our buses, high school drivers, staff and families extra time to travel on potentially icy roads, Asheville City Schools will be operating on a two-hour delay for students and staff members tomorrow, Thursday, January 20th.  We appreciate our custodians and maintenance staff who spent today salting sidewalks and treating parking lots.  Because of their support, we’re excited to see our students and staff members for in-person learning tomorrow. 

    As always, safety is our primary concern.

    Besides our typical “No Buses on Icy Roads” list, yellow buses will be running their regular routes, just two hours later.

    A grab-and-go breakfast will also be available for students upon their arrival.  And, as a reminder, for Asheville High School and SILSA students, the final day of End of Course testing will occur tomorrow once the school day begins. 

    We will continue to monitor both local and national weather reports tonight and early tomorrow morning. 

    In the event of further changes, ACS will send another email and phone call, alert local media outlets as well as post delay and cancellation notifications on our district website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

    Please let me know if you have any questions! 


    January 18, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    Because of icy secondary roads and the potential for overnight refreezing, Wednesday, January 19th will be a Remote Learning Day for all ACS students.  

    This means that students will learn from home.  Only essential staff should report to work on a two-hour delay as road conditions permit.  Please contact your direct supervisor if you have any questions or need additional support.  Staff who are not considered essential workers should work from home and complete sign-in procedures as communicated by your principal and/or supervisor. 

    Regarding instruction during tomorrow’s Remote Learning Days: 

    • Pre-Kindergarten - 5th Grader:  Pre-K through 5th Grade students district-wide will complete their Cougar Weather Packet.  Students should only complete DAY TWO.  If an additional packet is needed, please click here or check with your child’s teacher upon our return to school. 

    • 6th - 12 Grade: You will be assigned work through Canvas.  Assignments will be posted by tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM.  This does include our MNSA 6th and 7th Graders.  

    • Assigned work must be completed to be counted present for the day.  However, due to the possibility of power outages, students will have through Wednesday, January 26th to complete their assignments. 

    Please know that the second semester for all middle and high school students will still begin tomorrow, Wednesday, January 19th.  And, for Asheville High School and SILSA students, the final day of End of Course testing will occur on the day students return to campus.

    Additionally, if a student or staff member has tested positive for COVID, is waiting on a lab-confirmed test, or has been exposed to an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 over the long weekend, please use Asheville City Schools’ COVID Reporting Form and your school’s COVID Coordinator will contact you.  

    In the event of further changes, please know I’ll send another email, make a second phone call, alert local media outlets as well as post delay and cancellation notifications on our district website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

    Once again, Asheville City Schools will be utilizing a Remote Learning Day for all students on Wednesday, January 19th.  Only essential staff should report to school; all others should work from home.  

    Thanks, and please let me know if you have any questions! 

    January 13, 2022 - The Citizen Times 

    REQUEST: 

    Also: how many staff members does the school system have and how many are out?

    RESPONSE:

    The numbers you provided were current as of November 1, 2021. The 825 included full-time, part-time and temporary staff members. And, the 694 was just full-time.

    Unfortunately, my Personnel Specialist is currently in a meeting and unable to provide me with up-to-date numbers; however, I believe that they are still accurate estimates.


    January 13, 2022 - The Citizen Times 

    REQUEST: 

    I’m going to say this is because of the rising number of COVID-19 infections. Let me know if that’s wrong.

    Is the problem that staff is getting infected – or that they are having to quarantine – or both? 

    Also, what’s the vaccination rate among staff?

    RESPONSE:

    School and district administrators are monitoring student and staff attendance at all schools each day. Please understand that transitioning a school (or in today’s instance the district at large) to at-home instruction is never a decision we take lightly; however, when staff absences dictate we are unable to maintain facilities operations, school has to be canceled.

    At this time, Asheville City Schools is not maintaining data on our staff’s vaccination status. 


    January 13, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    As shared with staff and families, please see below for an important update about Asheville City Schools. 
    -----

    School and district administrators are monitoring student and staff attendance at all schools each day.  Due to the high number of staff absences, Asheville City Schools is unable to maintain facilities operations or hold classes.

    Therefore, all schools in our district will be closed tomorrow, Friday, January 14th. 

    On Friday, students will participate in at-home learning.  For Asheville High School and SILSA students, End of Course testing that was scheduled to occur on Friday, January 14th will occur on the day students return to campus. Only essential staff should report to work.  Please contact your direct supervisor if you have any questions or need additional support.  Staff who are not considered essential workers should work from home and complete sign-in procedures as communicated by your principal. 

    The first day back for students will be Wednesday, January 19th, as Monday is a holiday, and Tuesday is an Optional Teacher Workday.  The second semester for all middle and high school students will still begin on Wednesday, January 19th. 

    On Tuesday, January 18th, buildings will be open only to essential staff; all other staff who choose to work should do so remotely.  

    While At Home:

    • Students will be participating in remote instruction. 

      • Pre-K Students:  Specific information about remote instruction for Pre-K students will be coming directly from your child’s teacher. 

      • Kindergarten - 5th Grade:  Every child that is on campus today will take home instructional materials.  If your child is currently at home, their teacher will be emailing instructions.  

      • 6th - 12th Grades:  All middle and high school students will be assigned work through Canvas.  Assignments will be posted by 9:00 AM.  Montford North Star 6th and 7th Graders will be taking home laptops today.  

      • Assigned work must be completed to be counted present for the day.  However, students will have through Monday, January 24th to complete their assignments. 

    • At this time, the School Nutrition Department is NOT able to provide meals.  

    Transitioning to at-home learning is never a decision we take lightly. During this time, the district will be able to sanitize each campus as well as allow adequate time for our students and staff to recover. 

    During this long weekend, parents, staff and students are reminded to monitor their health and wellbeing each day. If you are feeling sick and/or exhibiting any COVID-19 symptoms, please do not send your child to school on Wednesday. 

    As a reminder, if you think your child needs to be tested for COVID-19, please contact your child’s healthcare provider or review options for community testing.  You can also request a free at-home COVID-19 test to be mailed to your home from NCDHHS and Labcorp through https://www.ondemand.labcorp.com/nc.

    In the event of further changes, please know I’ll send another email, make a second phone call, alert local media outlets as well as post delay and cancellation notifications on our district website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

    Once again, all schools across the district will be closed tomorrow, Friday, January 14th.  Students will participate in at-home learning.  Only essential staff should report to school; all others should work from home. 


    January 12, 2022 - WLOS 

    REQUEST:

    I'm hearing about some COVID-19 issues at Asheville Primary right now, can you provide additional details about related closures at Asheville Primary and any other ACS schools?

    RESPONSE:

    At this time, 40% of Asheville Primary students and 36% of APS staff are absent. 

    Therefore, we will be closing Asheville Primary School for in-person instruction on Thursday, January 13th and Friday, January 14th.  APS students will participate in at-home instruction, and APS staff will work from home on Thursday and Friday.  

    At this time, Asheville Primary School is the only campus impacted by this closure; all other schools will be open for in-person instruction this Thursday and Friday.  

    Please know school and district administrators will continue to monitor student and staff attendance at all schools each day.


    January 12, 2022 - Fox Carolina 

    REQUEST:

    Do you have any information about a reported large number of teacher and student absences at Asheville Primary School? Thank you. 

    RESPONSE:

    At this time, 40% of Asheville Primary students and 36% of APS staff are absent. 

    Therefore, we will be closing Asheville Primary School for in-person instruction on Thursday, January 13th and Friday, January 14th.  APS students will participate in at-home instruction, and APS staff will work from home on Thursday and Friday.  

    At this time, Asheville Primary School is the only campus impacted by this closure; all other schools will be open for in-person instruction this Thursday and Friday.  

    Please know school and district administrators will continue to monitor student and staff attendance at all schools each day.


    January 11, 2022 - WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    My story today is coincidentally on teacher staffing getting impacted by covid. We’d like to know: how many teachers are out and if it’s due to covid, how the district is filling the absences, and if this is the biggest hit to staffing ACS has seen since start of pandemic. 
     
    Could we interview someone about this today? We can do zoom if that would be easier. 

    RESPONSE:

    We are not available for an on-camera interview.  However, you are more than welcome to use the statement below. 

    Asheville City Schools' stance continues to be, if you are sick or believe you may be sick, it’s important to stay home to support us in stopping the spread.  To be successful in the classroom, our staff and students must first feel safe and be healthy.

    Therefore, yes; Asheville City Schools staff absences are higher than normal.  We are filling these gaps with school-based staff and push-in support from Central Office.  Additionally, with community spread at a high, school and district leaders are routinely meeting and monitoring staff attendance.  


    January 11, 2022 - The Mountain Xpress 

    REQUEST: 

    For our upcoming Wellness issue, I am hoping to talk to a few school nurses about their roles and responsibilities and the challenges they face in light of the ongoing pandemic. 
    To that end, I was wondering if I could arrange an interview with a school nurse or two who works in the district. I can do the interviews via phone, Zoom or email, whatever is most convenient.  Please let me know what you think at your earliest convenience. Thanks for your consideration.

    RESPONSE:

    Thank you for reaching out.  However, at this time, our school nurses and COVID Coordinators are pulling their time and resources to best support our district through the current surge in community spread.  Therefore, at this time, they are not available for an interview. 
     

    January 10, 2022 - News Alert to Local Media Outlets 

    Good Evening Local Media Partners, 

    Please see below for tonight's Board Brief.

    Meeting Times:

    During tonight’s Special Called Meeting of the Asheville City Board of Education, Chairman James Carter proposed an update about Board Meeting Times.  Peyton O’Conner explained she wished to push back the start time until 5:15.  However, the Board decided to keep their meeting times as is.  Work Sessions and Regular Meeting will continue to begin at 5:00 PM for the remainder of the 2021-2022 school year. 

    Finance Updates: 

    Georgia Harvey, Chief Finance Officer, gave an update on staff salaries, bonuses & other pay.  Mrs. Harvey’s overview is broken down by date, and each entry lists which staff members are impacted and how much the bonus is for. As shared with all Asheville City Schools staff members on December 15th: 

    Bus Driver Proposal: 

    Superintendent Dr. Gene Freeman and Amanda Rigsby, Transportation Operations Coordinator, presented Board Members with an additional Bus Driver and TSA Incentives/Retention Proposal for the remainder of the 2021-2022 school year.  

    The presentation is rooted in ways to retain our current yellow school bus drivers and TSAs during this statewide and national school bus driver shortage as well as to support recruiting efforts and the hiring of new school bus drivers and TSAs with monetary incentives.  

    They proposed: 

    • A $1,000 sign-on bonus for new drivers.  

      • To be eligible, new drivers must earn their bus driver’s license and drive 60 consecutive days by the last day of the 2021-2022 school year. 

    • Perfect Attendance Incentive for ACS permanent drivers & TSAs, paid out once every quarter.  Permanent drivers and TSAs can earn $800 each quarter, collectively having the ability to earn an additional $1,600 this school year. 

      • To be eligible to receive this perfect attendance incentive, a permanent driver/TSA can only miss a total of 3 days in each of the remaining 2 quarter periods to qualify for the perfect attendance incentive. 

      • The first day can be sick leave time; the remaining two require a doctor's note to remain eligible. 

      • COVID considerations would apply. 

    • A $25.00 incentive for every additional run a driver assists the Transportation Department with outside of their assigned route.    The $25.00 incentive includes TSAs on buses supporting students that use exceptional services.   

      • This incentive would be in addition to a driver/sub driver or TSA/sub TSA base pay.

      • This is required for additional coverage due to driver shortages and absences.  

    The Board of Education unanimously approved the proposal, with the caveat of removing the doctor’s note requirement for the 3rd Quarter under the Perfect Attendance Incentive.  

    The Transportation Department will start these added incentives once the 3rd Quarter begins on Wednesday, January 19th. 

    Face Coverings: 

    Per Senate Bill 654, the Asheville City Board of Education was required to vote on whether they would like to continue to require face coverings for all students and staff.  The Board unanimously voted to continue requiring masks. 

    School Improvement Plans: 

    Additionally, several principals shared their School Improvement Plans.  Each year, administrators and their School Improvement Team refine their School Improvement Plan, identifying their academic and priority goals.  As part of their presentation, each school shared two indicators, action steps needed to meet these indicators and how their action steps have been implemented. 

    Hall Fletcher Elementary School and Isaac Dickson Elementary School will be sharing their School Improvement Plans during the January 21st Board Retreat.  

    The Board will wait to vote on the acceptance of each School Improvement Plan until all 10 have all been presented. 

    Additional Items

    Mr. Carter also reminded community members that Asheville City Schools will be hosting its next Pop-Up Job Fair on Wednesday, January 12th from 3:00 - 6:00 PM in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street.  We are hiring essential positions like teacher assistants, bus drivers, custodians, substitute drivers and substitute teachers.  Potential employees do not need to register, as this is a drop-in event.  And if you are not currently looking for a new job opportunity, we ask for your support in sharing this event with your friends and family! 

    Additionally, please know the Board of Education will be hosting its Annual Retreat on Friday, January 21st beginning at 9:00 AM in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street.  The meeting can also be streamed on the district’s YouTube page.

    As always, if you have any questions or need additional support, please let me know.


    January 10, 2022 - WLOS 

    REQUEST:  

    Looking ahead to next week, I'm working on a story about ACS achievement gap numbers and how they could be affected by the closing of Asheville Primary. Studies have shown that a robust pre-school as well as Montessori school have boosted achievement gap numbers. 
     
    Could we speak with a school official about this next week either on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday? Sometime in the morning would be preferable. 

    RESPONSE:

    Thank you so much for reaching out.  At this time, we're unable to assist you with an on-camera interview, as district leaders are currently pushing into our campuses to cover staff absences.  However, if you have any specific questions and would like to email them to me, I'd be happy to share them with our Leadership Team. 


    January 10, 2022 - WLOS 

    REQUEST:  

    I’m monitoring a few meetings tonight, have you all gotten to the face-covering requirement yet?  If so, what decision was made?

    RESPONSE:

    No worries!  That happened just before Policies and Procedures.  The Board unanimously voted to continue requiring masks. 


    January 3, 2022 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:  

    Just kind of thinking out loud here. Is there is any talk about returning to virtual learning amid the spread of omicron? Is a vote on this expected or are we planning to stay as is?

    RESPONSE: 

    As shared with staff and families as part of our latest COVID update, "school and district leaders continue to review staff and student COVID numbers each day.  As a district, our goal remains to continue with in-person instruction.  At this time, we have no plans in place to transition to district-wide remote or virtual instruction. 

    However, as you are aware, both students and staff are impacted by COVID, both directly and indirectly. Adequate staffing is an important factor we’re considering to ensure we can continue to have school safely in-person. 

    In order to minimize the spread of COVID-19, please continue to follow the 3 Ws.  Additionally, as shared in the updated StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit, vaccination, including getting a booster if eligible, is currently the leading public health prevention strategy to end the pandemic."


    January 2, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Outlets 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    As shared with staff and families, please see below for an important update about tomorrow's schedule: 

    Good Afternoon Students, Staff, and Families.  This is Ashley-Michelle Thublin, Executive Director of Communications. 

    By now, you’ve probably seen the forecast for tomorrow.  Because of the overnight Winter Storm Warning and predicted snow accumulations, Monday, January 3rd will be a Remote Learning Day for all ACS students.  This means that students will learn from home.  

    Only essential staff should report to work at their regular time as road conditions permit.  Please contact your direct supervisor if you have any questions or need additional support.  Staff who are not considered essential workers should work from home and complete sign-in procedures as communicated by your principal. 

    Regarding instruction during tomorrow’s Remote Learning Days: 

    • Pre-K thru 5th Graders district-wide as well as Montford North Star Academy 6th and 7th Graders will complete their Cougar Weather Packet, which was sent home prior to Winter Break.  Students should only complete DAY ONE.  If an additional packet is needed, please click here or check with your child’s teacher upon our return to school. 
    • All other students will be assigned work through Canvas.  Assignments will be posted by 9:00 AM.  
    • Assigned work must be completed to be counted present for the day.  However, due to the possibility of power outages, students will have through Monday, January 10th to complete their assignments. 

    In the event of further changes, please know I’ll send another email, make a second phone call, alert local media outlets as well as post delay and cancellation notifications on our district website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

    Once again, Asheville City Schools will be utilizing a Remote Learning Day for all students on Monday, January 3rd.  Only essential staff should report to school; all others should work from home. 


    December 17, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    I’m reading about precautions schools are taking across the country for National Shoot Up Your School Day — such a horrible thing to have to type out. I’m so disturbed it exists.  Is ACS aware of this and taking any precautions? Are a lot of children expected to stay home from school today?

    RESPONSE: 

    Thank you so much for reaching out.  The nationwide trend is something Asheville City Schools is aware of.  In fact, we shared the following with staff and families earlier this morning: 

    Our district is aware of the latest TikTok “challenge” that is circulating on social media. There have been several viral trends this school year that have caught the attention of our students, and as a district we have tried to be on top of these issues as they arise.

    The latest posts appear to threaten school safety. These posts did not originate in our school district; however, a few local schools have been specifically targeted.   

    Along with the Asheville Police Department, school administrators and district safety support have been working together to understand these details

    Out of an abundance of precaution, we will have an increased police presence across our campuses today, Friday, December 17th.  They have been patrolling in marked and unmarked patrol vehicles as well as through our front and back parking lots. Other officers will be on campuses inside our school buildings throughout the day.

    We value our partnership with our families.  Thank you to the individuals who reported these threats to the administration and the APD.  Please continue to let us know if there are concerns about our campuses.  

    And, please take this opportunity to talk with your student about school safety, as well as remind them to report any rumors or information about an unsafe situation or behavior to a trusted adult. Remember, if you see or hear something, say something! 

    • Directly contact your student’s teacher, counselor or administrator when a school-related concern arises that requires intervention or assistance.

    • If there is a safety concern after school hours, on the weekend, or when school is not in session, another option is to utilize the See Something, Say Something app or click here to access See Something, Say Something through our website.

    • You can also share information by calling APD’s non-emergency number 828-252-1110.

    • And, if it is an immediate concern, please call 911.

    We look forward to a safe, productive day across Asheville City Schools. 

    December 14, 2021 - Fox Carolina 

    REQUEST: 

    Can someone from the school board do a quick interview this afternoon with me about the closure of Asheville Primary? Can I also get permission to go on campus to get footage of the school? Even if it’s just outside.

    RESPONSE:

    I'm waiting to hear back from our Board Chair to find out if he's available for an interview this afternoon.  I will get back to you either way.  
     
    However, in the meantime, please know that we are not allowing local media outlets onto our campus today.  You're welcome to be across the street on the public sidewalk.  But, I am not giving permission for any reporter to come into the school.  

    December 14, 2021 - WLOS 

    REQUEST:

    Just wanted to check back on Dr. Freeman’s interview availability today, would a 3:30 or 4 o’clock interview work?

    RESPONSE

    Dr. Gene is not available for an interview today. 

    However, I just spoke with Mr. Carter, and he's available at 5:00 PM if you'd like to interview him?  That being said, Mr. Carter's wondering if you have a general idea of the questions you're going to ask?  Because the Board is still deciding what will happen with the building, his knowledge on certain topics may be a bit limited, so he wants to be prepared if possible. 


    December 13, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Outlets 

    Good Evening Local Media Partners, 
     
    On behalf of Superintendent Dr. Gene Freeman and James Carter, Chair of the Asheville City Board of Education, please see below for an important update.  As always, if you have any questions, please let me know. 

    During tonight’s Regular Meeting, important updates were made concerning our school community.  

    In a 4 -1 vote, the Asheville City Board of Education accepted the Asheville Primary School Study.  And, in a 3-2 vote, the Board voted to close the school beginning in the 2022-2023 school year.

    This means that all students that currently attend Asheville Primary School will have the opportunity to attend another ACS elementary school starting next school year.  The four Preschool classrooms currently housed on the Asheville Primary School campus will also be relocated.  

    Asheville Primary School families will have the chance to select another ACS elementary school before open enrollment begins for the district in February.  As much as possible, current Asheville Primary School students will receive their first choice school selection.  Additional information about this process will come from Tanya Presha, Academic and Program Support Coordinator, who is over enrollment.  

    What makes Asheville City Schools great, isn’t a building.  It’s the staff, teachers and what we’re able to offer our students.  Regardless of which elementary school your family selects, I’m confident your child will receive a warm welcome in a loving, supportive, academically-rich environment.  We’re fortunate that all our elementary schools offer art, music, physical education, enrichment opportunities and outstanding student support staff.

    The Board also announced that all staff members of Asheville Primary are maintaining their employment within Asheville City Schools.  

    Please know that extra staff will be on the Asheville Primary School campus tomorrow, Tuesday, December 14th to support our students and staff as they are processing tonight’s decision.

    Anticipating this news will spark many questions, we will be meeting and plan to send out follow-up communications.

    December 9, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Outlets 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    On behalf of James Carter, Chair of the Asheville City Board of Education, please see below. 
     
    On December 7th, 2021 the Asheville City Board of Education convened a public hearing to listen to community input about Asheville Primary School.  At the conclusion of the public comments, I recessed the public hearing to allow for additional public input.

    The Board will hold the Public Hearing continuation on December 13th, 2021 beginning at 5:00 PM in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street.  The Regular Meeting of the Board will begin immediately following the conclusion of the Public Hearing.  The agenda for both meetings can be found here.

    The purpose of the Public Hearing is for the Board to continue to receive input related to the following Asheville Primary School options:

    1. Keep Asheville Primary School at its current physical location for the 2022-23 school year

    2. Relocate Asheville Primary School to the campus of either Hall Fletcher Elementary School or Montford North Star Academy effective beginning with the 2022-23 school year

    3. Close Asheville Primary School as early as the 2022-23 school year, and enroll the students impacted at existing ACS schools using existing enrollment policies

    No action will be taken at the public hearing.  However, action regarding the three options listed above WILL be on the agenda of the Regular Meeting.

    During the Public Hearing, all remarks must be limited to the three options listed above.  Any topic may be discussed during the Public Comment portion of the Regular Meeting.  At both, public speakers will have three minutes to speak.

    VIRTUAL PUBLIC COMMENTS:

    The Board will permit virtual comments for anyone who is unable to attend the meetings in-person and who also did not provide in-person comments on December 7th.  Individuals who provided in-person comments on December 7th may not provide virtual comments; however, they may speak in-person to provide new or additional information only.  

    To sign-up to provide virtual comments during the Public Hearing, please click here.  Or, if you would like to sign-up to provide virtual comments during the Regular Meeting, please click here.  

    Both virtual comment forms will close at NOON on Monday, December 13th.  And, once the virtual public comment sign-up forms have closed, staff will send those wishing to speak an email which will include a Zoom Meeting Link, a copy of the meeting’s agenda and the Public Comment Guidelines. 

    IN-PERSON PUBLIC COMMENTS:

    Sign up for in-person public comment will be set up outside the Board Room starting at 4:30 PM.  Speakers will receive detailed instructions on public hearing protocols upon their arrival.

    WRITTEN COMMENTS:

    The School Board is also accepting written comments on this topic. Any such written comments should be emailed to ashley.thublin@acsgmail.net by 5:00 PM on Friday, December 10th. Written comments will be public records and will be forwarded to School Board members but will not be read aloud at any meeting. 

    The public can view both the Public Hearing and Regular Meeting on YouTube

    Thanks, and if you have any questions, please let me know! 

    December 6, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Outlets 

    Good Evening Local Media Partners,

    Please see below for tonight's Board Brief. And, as always, if you have questions or need further clarification, please let me know.

    House Bill 400 

    During tonight’s Work Session of the Asheville City Board of Education, Chris Campbell, Attorney for the Board, shared more about House Bill 400.  He explained that, last week, the General Assembly passed House Bill 400, converting the Board from an appointed to elected body as well as expanding its membership from five to seven.  Four of the seats will be elected in 2022.  The three members appointed in 2021 - James Carter, Peyton O’Conner and George Sieburg - will complete their current terms, and their seats will move from appointed to elected beginning in 2024. 

    If you would like to serve our community by joining the Asheville City Board of Education, the filing period to run is December 6th thru NOON on Friday, December 17th.  The filing fee is $5, and candidate filing will be held in the conference room on the first floor at Election Services’ new location, 59 Woodfin Place.  To learn more information, click here

    PFA Architects Presentation 

    PFA Architects’ Chip Howell presented an analysis of space utilization against current standards used by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction needed to build a new school.  

    Additionally, he gave a detailed presentation on each facility’s critical and high-priority needs as well as a breakdown of the cost and estimated escalation if the project was delayed three or five years.  He recommended that critical needs be addressed as soon as possible because they could disrupt operations if they were to fail, and high-priority projects should be completed within 3 to 5 years.  

    At this time, the in-progress combined costs of all Asheville City Schools’ critical and high priority needs equal $38,257,876.65. The three-year escalation is $49,735,239.65, and the five-year escalation is $57,386,814.97.  

    PFA is currently finalizing costs for a few more remaining items and will be submitting a completed report on Thursday, December 9th.  Therefore, districtwide totals based on combined project costs may increase.

    PFA Graphic -1

    PFA Graphic - 2

    Pre-K Information 

    Additionally, Susanna Smith, Director of the Preschool Program, gave a presentation.  

    She broke down each classroom by site, explaining: 

    • the total number of students it serves
    • its costs
    • its revenue sources (ie. development day, Head Start, NC Pre-K, scholarships, subsidy, tuition)
    • its projected income based on 10 months of service from the revenue sources
    • the difference, which is currently paid out of local funds  

    Including personnel, the classrooms cost $2,697,042.88.  The overall projected income of these classrooms is $1,127,572.00.  This means the difference currently paid out of local funds (which is money also used to support Kindergarten - 12th Grade), totals $1,569,470.88

    Additionally, Georgia Harvey, Chief Finance Office, shared two key points driven by the budget related to the Preschool Program: 

    • It will be necessary to reduce Pre-K classrooms if ACS does not receive sufficient funding from Buncombe County ECE Grant equal to or more than $1.5 million. 
    • ACS’s budget will determine the number of Pre-K classrooms that should continue based on state, grant and tuition funding. 

    Asheville Primary School/Executive Summary of the DRAFT APS Study 

    April Dockery, Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations, provided the Board with an executive summary of the Drafted APS Study.  The study is divided into the following sections: 

    • Reasons to consider the “closure” of AshevillePrimary School in its current location effective in the 2022-2023 School Year 
    • Possible hardships resulting from closing Asheville Primary School
    • Public Hearing Summaries 
    • Exhibits 

    The drafted study as presented to the Board this evening is currently available on the district website

    Additionally, I presented the Board with a brief analysis of the “ACS Staff and Families are Invited to Share YOUR Feedback with the Board” form.  The redacted results in their entirety can be found here

    Update to the December 7th Public Hearing 

    As part of tonight’s meeting, the Board discussed options regarding Asheville Primary School.  Per previous communication, the proposals under consideration included leaving the school at its current location or relocating the school to share a campus and facilities with either Hall Fletcher Elementary School or Montford North Star Academy. 

    After receiving presentations regarding school facility needs, the status of the Asheville City Schools Preschool Program, a draft study regarding APS as well as parent input, the Board is requesting additional information and public input on three options for APS:  

    1. Leave the school in place
    2. Relocate the School 
    3. Close APS with students enrolling in other ACS elementary schools as early as the 2022-23 school year. 

    Therefore, during the December 7th Public Hearing, the Board will hear public input on all three options.  The meeting will be held in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street beginning at 5:00 PM.  

    Additionally, public input on this issue will be permitted both in-person and virtually during the public comment portion of the Board’s December 13th Regular Meeting.  Public comment will take place prior to the Board taking any final action regarding Asheville Primary School.  


    Stakeholders are also invited to email comments to ashley.thublin@acsgmail.net.  

    Budget Update 

    Georgia Harvey presented Board Members with an ESSER Funding Review.

    Additionally, she explained that the state legislature can adjust which education programs receive money raised by the lottery  However, as of November 23, 2021, Asheville City Schools’ lottery funding can only be spent on capital needs.  The district has $926,519.38 available in lottery funding specific to the Public School Building Capital Fund.  

    Based on PFA’s Draft Report, she also provided the Board with a facilities capital cost based on school enrollment. 

    Volunteer/Substitute Update 

    Dr. Kim Dechant, Director of Recruitment and Induction, also provided an update about our partnership with ESS.  

    • To apply to be a sub, visit ESS.com and click apply.  
    • Then, enter the District or County you’re interested in working in. 

    Dr. Dechant also shared that the pay has increased for substitute teachers. NC Licenced substitutes make $125 a day while non-licensed substitute teachers make $100 daily. Teacher Assistant Substitutes make $80 per day. 

    Substitute teachers are paid weekly. 

    When it comes to volunteers, Dr. Dechant shared that they can visit our website for more information.  A background check is required and volunteers must go through the mandatory training.  Furthermore, in-person volunteers are at the discretion of each school’s principal. 

    And, as a reminder, the Board of Education will be hosting its Public Hearing tomorrow, Tuesday, December 7th.  Following that, the Board will be holding its next Regular Meeting on Monday, December 13th.  Both meetings will be held at 5:00 PM in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street.  The meetings can also be streamed on the district’s YouTube page.


    December 6, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Outlets 

    Good Evening Local Media Partners,  

    On behalf of James Carter, Chairman of the Asheville City Board of Education, please see below for an important update.

    I wanted to remind you that the Board of Education will be hosting a Public Hearing tomorrow, Tuesday, December 7th at 5:00 PM in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street.  

    Per previous communications, the proposals under consideration included leaving Asheville Primary School at its current location or relocating the school to share a campus and facilities with either Hall Fletcher Elementary School or Montford North Star Academy. 

    After receiving presentations regarding school facility needs, the status of the Asheville City Schools Preschool Program, a draft study regarding APS as well as parent input, the Board is requesting additional information and public input on three options for APS:  

    1. Leave the school in place

    2. Relocate the School 

    3. Close APS with students enrolling in other ACS elementary schools as early as the 2022-23 school year.  

    During the public meeting tomorrow evening, the Board will only hear public input on all three options.  

    The special called meeting to conduct a public hearing regarding APS has already been noticed.  

    During tomorrow’s Public Hearing, speakers will have three minutes, and all remarks must be limited to the three options regarding APS.  Sign up for in-person public comment will be set up outside the Board Room starting at 4:30 PM. Speakers will receive detailed instructions on public hearing protocols upon their arrival.

    The School Board will also accept written comments on this topic. Any such written comments must be emailed to ashley.thublin@acsgmail.net by 5:00 PM on December 7th. Written comments will be public records and will be forwarded to School Board members but will not be read aloud at any meeting. 

    Any written comments received after 5:00 PM will be shared with the Board but will not be considered as part of the Public Hearing.  

    Following tomorrow’s Public Hearing, input on this issue will be permitted both in-person and virtually during the public comment portion of the Board’s December 13th Regular Meeting.  Public comment will take place prior to the Board taking any final action about Asheville Primary School.  

    Both meetings can be viewed on YouTube.  


    December 3, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Outlets 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners,  

    On behalf of James Carter, Chairman of the Asheville City Board of Education, please see below for an important update.

    I wanted to personally reach out to let you know that the Board will be hosting a Special Called Meeting on Tuesday, December 7th at 5:00 PM in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street.  

    The purpose of this meeting will be to hold a public hearing related to the possible relocation of Asheville Primary School to the campus of either Hall Fletcher Elementary School or Montford North Star Academy starting in the 2022-23 school year.  

    Relocation means that staff and students would be moved to a new location.  If the Board votes to use this model, Asheville Primary would continue to be a separate school, with a separate principal, co-located with another school on a single campus.  This model is currently used by Asheville High School and SILSA, which are separate schools sharing a single campus. 

    The School Board will receive information about the possible move during its December 6th Work Session and looks forward to hearing YOUR comments during its December 7th Public Hearing.  Sign up for in-person public comment will be set up outside the Board Room starting at 4:30 PM.  Speakers will receive detailed instructions on public hearing protocols upon their arrival.  However, please know that in-person speakers will have three minutes.  All remarks must be limited to the issue of the possible transfer of Asheville Primary students and staff.  The School Board will also accept written comments on this topic.  Any such written comments must be emailed to ashley.thublin@acsgmail.net by 5:00 PM on December 7, 2021.  Written comments will be public records and will be forwarded to School Board members but will not be read aloud at any meeting.  

    Comments can be made in person or by email.  There will NOT be an option to make public comments virtually on Tuesday.   

    Please understand that no action will be taken on December 6th or December 7th.  The School Board will be making a decision about the possible move during its Regular Meeting on December 13th.  


    November 29, 2021 - WLOS, The Citizen-Times, Spectrum News 

    As a follow-up to previous requests, I shared that I would send you additional parent communication as it became availalbe.  Our COVID tests from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services have now arrived.  Therefore, April Dockery, Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations, shared the following with staff and families around 4:00 PM. 

    Good Afternoon Students, Staff and Families.  This is April Dockery, Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations. 

    I wanted to let you know that our new shipment of COVID tests from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has just arrived.  Tests are currently being delivered to schools, which means each school site is able to provide testing. Please contact your school coordinator if you need additional support: 

    To clarify, the supplies we received just before Thanksgiving Break expired on November 28th.  Upon receiving our last shipment of tests, we realized they were set to expire and immediately ordered new tests.  Unfortunately, we did not receive our new shipment in time for school this morning. 

    Throughout the day, we have been in contact with the state’s COVID-19 Response Team.  They’ve assured us that now that we’ve received our new supplies, there should be no further shortages this school term.  

    Our message this morning was to let families and staff know that we were unable to test on-site if an individual started experiencing symptoms while at school today. However, we also want to remind our ACS community that, in addition to our district tests, anyone with a need for COVID testing can go to a community testing site, which can be located by visiting https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/about-covid-19/testing/find-my-testing-place. We also learned about this amazing resource this morning that provides free Drive-up Testing in Arden, Community Lab.

    We appreciate your patience and support as we all work together to keep our Cougar Family healthy and safe. As always, thank you for all you do to make our community stronger. Cougar Pride! 


    November 29, 2021 - WLOS

    REQUEST:

    Is the rapid antigen test NCDHHS shipped called Binax by Abbott? If not please give us the name and manufacturer of the tests you were shipped.
     
    How many tests total shipped to ACS are expired?
     
    Did anyone at NCDHHS call or email April or ACS staff to warn about the expiration date.
     
    Does NCDHHS overnight the shipment and how many tests has ACS ordered?

    RESPONSE:

    In response to your questions, please see below: 
     
    Is the rapid antigen test NCDHHS shipped called Binax by Abbott? If not please give us the name and manufacturer of the tests you were shipped.
    I’m unable to comment on each test variation shipped by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.  However, Asheville City Schools receives BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Tests. 

    How many tests total shipped to ACS are expired?

    At this time, I’m unsure of how many expired tests we have as they were previously distributed across campuses. 

    Did anyone at NCDHHS call or email April or ACS staff to warn about the expiration date.

    Yes, Asheville City Schools received an email from the DHHS COVID-19 Team that the state’s current BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Tests were set to expire between November 21 - December 21, 2021, which is why we ordered more.  

    Does NCDHHS overnight the shipment and how many tests has ACS ordered?

    There’s no set number each week or month; we order based on need, as students and staff come to one of our COVID Coordinators after experiencing symptoms.  This is the first time we’ve ever been low or without in-date, valid tests. 


    November 29, 2021 - Spectrum News  

    REQUEST:

    Could you possibly confirm the Citizen Times report that ACS ordered COVID-19 tests to be available the day students returned from break, but they didn’t arrive on time? (Or that they might arrive later today?) Could we possibly also request the message that was sent out to parents?

    RESPONSE: 

    Unfortunately, at this time, we do not have in-date, valid COVID tests.  The supplies we received just before Thanksgiving Break expired on November 28th.  We ordered new tests, and they did not arrive in time for school this morning.  According to our school nurse team, the entire state is currently low.  We apologize for this lapse in materials; we are doing everything we can to receive new tests and hope they will arrive later today.  We will keep families informed once our School COVID Coordinators are once again able to conduct testing. 

    Additionally, per your request, I've attached the communication sent by April Dockery, our Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations.  I'm also happy to share any further updates that go out to families


    November 29, 2021 - WLOS 

    REQUEST:

    Is there someone available who can interview today. We understand ACS is telling parents the district‘s
    covid test kits are expired.  They’re posting what ACS sent and asking for more transparency and basic info. Can you help us make that happen?

    RESPONSE:

    We are unable to conduct an on-camera interview today.  However, I'm happy to share the statement I sent to The Citizen-Times as well as send any further updates that go out to families.  Additionally, as requested, attached you will find the communication sent by April Dockery, Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations, earlier today. 
     
    Statement: 

    Unfortunately, at this time, we do not have in-date, valid COVID tests.  The supplies we received just before Thanksgiving Break expired on November 28th.  We ordered new tests, and they did not arrive in time for school this morning.  According to our school nurse team, the entire state is currently low.  We apologize for this lapse in materials; we are doing everything we can to receive new tests and hope they will arrive later today.  We will keep families informed once our School COVID Coordinators are once again able to conduct testing. 

    What’s the normal protocol for testing students?

    If the student is on-campus when they begin to experience symptoms, they go to the office of their school’s COVID Coordinator, who conducts a test.  If they begin to experience symptoms away from school, students or their parents contact their school’s COVID Coordinator, who conducts a drive-thru test.  

    Who is the supplier for the COVID tests?

    The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ COVID Command Sender supplies our COVID tests. 

    Is this the first time ACS has not had tests this year?

    Yes.  This is the first time Asheville City Schools has been unable to receive valid COVID tests this school year.  


    November 29, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    Is this the first time ACS has not had tests this year?

    RESPONSE:

    Yes.  This is the first time Asheville City Schools has been unable to receive valid COVID tests this school year. 


    November 29, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    I heard that ACS is currently out of COVID tests. Could I please get a statement on this?

    What’s the normal protocol for testing students?

    Who is the supplier for the COVID tests?

    RESPONSE:

    I heard that ACS is currently out of COVID tests. Could I please get a statement on this?

    Unfortunately, at this time, we do not have in-date, valid COVID tests.   The supplies we received just before Thanksgiving Break expired on November 28th.  We ordered new tests, and they did not arrive in time for school this morning.  According to our school nurse team, the entire state is currently low.  We apologize for this lapse in materials; we are doing everything we can to receive new tests and hope they will arrive later today.  We will keep families informed once our School COVID Coordinators are once again able to conduct testing. 

    What’s the normal protocol for testing students?

    If the student is on-campus when they begin to experience symptoms, they go to the office of their school’s COVID Coordinator, who conducts a test.  If they begin to experience symptoms away from school, students or their parents contact their school’s COVID Coordinator, who conducts a drive-thru test. 

    Who is the supplier for the COVID tests?

    The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ COVID Command Sender supplies our COVID tests. 


    November 10, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 

    WHAT:  Asheville Primary School students sharing 2043 Comprehensive Plan Postcard Project 

    WHEN: Friday, November 12th at 12:00 NOON 

    WHERE:  Asheville Primary School, 441 Haywood Road 

    Asheville Primary Schoolers are making sure they have a voice as Buncombe County Government creates its 2043 Comprehensive Plan.  In fact, APS Media Coordinator/Digital Lead Teacher Baily Griffith asked students to create postcards, explaining to the Planning Department what they want the next 20 years to look like.  

    With throughs ranging from more parks and sidewalks to public pools and a neighborhood library, APS students shared what they love about their community as well as what’s currently missing.  

    According to Buncombe County Government, the Comprehensive Plan Postcard Project is “a chance for young people to vote for their future and say what they want County government to address in the next 20 years. These postcards will give the County valuable input and may be featured in the final comprehensive plan!” 

    If you’d like to hear our students’ thoughts and see their postcards for yourself, a class will be available on Friday, November 12th at NOON.  Asheville Primary School is located at 441 Haywood Road. 

    Thanks, and please let me know if you have any questions!

    November 9, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    I read your piece this morning regarding last night’s Board Meeting.

    Two things, the updated figure was included in last night’s Board Brief. It’s $3.5 million. It also includes the information for part-time employees @ $1750 for classified part-time employees & $1500 for certified part-time employees.

    Can you update the story to reflect the additional information provided?


    November 9, 2021 - WLOS 

    I had a chance to review your piece from last night’s Board Meeting, & I’m wondering if the web version can be updated to include our part-time staff numbers? It was included in last night’s Board Brief. It’s $1750 for classified employees & $1500 for certified employees.


    November 8, 2021 - WLOS 

    REQUEST:

    Can you tell me how the Board voted tonight in reference to the face coverings policy?

    RESPONSE:

    It was part of our consent agenda, which was unanimously approved. The Board will continue to require masks.


    November 8, 2021 - Press Release to Local Media Partners

    Good Evening Local Media Partners, 
     
    Please see below for tonight's Board Brief.  And, as always, if you have questions or need further clarification, please let me know. 

    ESSER Retention Incentive Proposal:

    During tonight’s Regular Meeting, Sarah Cain, Director of Elementary Education and Federal Programs presented the Board with an ESSER Retention Incentive Proposal.  As a follow-up to last week’s discussion, she explained that the Board can request to use ESSER funds to provide incentives to address staff recruitment and retention based on the “Other ESSA Eligible Activities” area.  Tonight’s discussion specifically addressed retention incentives. 

    Results from a recent survey show that, of those who responded, nearly 100% of Asheville City Schools staff members believe the pandemic has impacted the recruitment and retention of staff AND that we should use ESSER funding for retention incentives for current staff. 

    Recognizing this statistic, three proposals were brought before the Board: 

    • A $3,000 incentive paid to all employees over the course of one year

    • A multi-year payment in which all staff receive $1,000 each year for the next three years to further promote retention into future school years 

    • A differentiated payment in recognition of the work of our classified employees who are on a lower pay scale where classified employees receive $3,000 and certified employees receive $2,000 both to be paid over the course of one year 

    All three options are proposed to be paid using one-time ESSER funds intended to address the impacts of COVID-19.  Therefore, any approved retention incentives will NOT be permanent.  Additionally, please know these revenues are NOT available to address ongoing operational expenses in the current or future fiscal years.

    Overall, 66% of polled staff preferred all employees receive the same incentive paid over the course of one year.  For the purposes of incentives, an employee is a permanent position that receives a W-2 as defined by the school district payroll. 

    As part of tonight’s action agenda, the Board voted to take Option 3 forward with an amendment.  They voted to make differentiated payments in recognition of the work of our classified employees who are on a lower pay scale where full-time classified employees receive $3,500 and full-time certified employees receive $3,000 both to be paid over the course of one year.  

    Chairman Carter also specifically noted that this incentive is NOT intended to replace ongoing discussions around cost-of-living salary increases for Asheville City Schools staff.  These proposed incentives are in place to acknowledge and thank our staff for their work and commitment during the pandemic. 

    Now that the Board has selected $3,5000 for full-time classified employees and $3,000 for full-time certified employees paid over the course of the year as the best option for our district, Cain will submit an addendum to Asheville City Schools’ ESSERS application.  The addendum must be approved by the state before staff incentives are provided. 

    COVID-19 Update: 

    April Dockery, Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations, also reminded Board Members about tomorrow’s Let’s Talk Town Hall and Saturday’s COVID vaccine clinic. 

    • Let’s Talk:  Medical providers, public health experts and parents will be hosting a Let’s Talk Town Hall about COVID-19 vaccines for 5 - 11 year olds on Tuesday, November 9th @ 5:30 PM.  This timely discussion is geared towards families and caregivers who have questions about the vaccine.  The panel will be live-streamed in English on the Buncombe County Government Facebook page (Buncombe County Government) and in Spanish on the Buncombe County Health and Human Services Facebook page (Buncombe County Health & Human Services). This event will also be interpreted into American Sign Language.

    • Vaccine Clinic:  In partnership with Buncombe County Health & Human Services, a vaccination clinic with Pfizer pediatric doses for 5-11 year olds will be held at Asheville Middle School on Saturday, November 13th.  In addition to pediatric doses, all three vaccines will be available if other family members need a first dose, second dose or booster.  Similar to previous COVID-19 clinics, the November 13th clinic will take place in Asheville Middle’s gym from 9:00 AM until 4:00 PM.  The no-cost clinic is open to all North Carolinians ages 5 and up, and no appointment will be necessary.  However, if you need your second dose or booster, please bring your vaccination card so it can be documented appropriately.

    Winter Weather Remote Learning Days:

    Additionally, I presented information about what would occur if the district called a Remote Learning Day due to inclement weather.  Pursuant to Senate Bill 654, all districts in North Carolina have the ability to utilize up to five days of virtual learning if a school is unable to open because of severe weather conditions, energy shortages, power failure or other emergency situations.  

    The district WOULD be able to count the day’s instructional hours if a Remote Learning Day was called.  This means, students could learn from home, and our total number of instructional hours would not decrease. 

    • According to School Calendar Legislation, each district must have a minimum of 1,025 instruction hours for students.

    • Any additional time is considered “banked hours” that can be used for late starts, early dismissals and snow days.  At this time, Asheville City Schools has 16.5 hours. 

    • Essentially, we will use Remote Learning Days to keep students and the calendar from going off target when bad weather closes schools.  Plus, an added benefit of this alternative is that we won’t have to make up the missed day, take away a Staff Work Day, decrease the number of days we have off for Spring Break or extend the school year. 

    If Dr. Gene decided to call for a Remote Learning Day, I would share this information as part of my winter weather message. 

    Regarding instruction on Remote Learning Days: 

    • Kindergarten - 5th Graders district-wide as well as Montford North Star Academy 6th and 7th Graders will complete a work packet.  This packet will be distributed to students before they leave for Thanksgiving Break. 

    • All other students will be assigned work through Canvas. 

    • Assigned work must be completed to be counted present for the day.  However, due to the possibility of power outages, students will have five school days after the Remote Learning Day is called to complete their assignments. 

    More information about the district’s Inclement Weather procedures can be found here.  Additionally, click here to see whether your neighborhood falls on our current list of “No Buses on Icy Roads,” which means it wouldn’t be traveled on should that call be made by our superintendent.  

    ADDITIONAL ITEMS: 

    The Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution in support of LGBTQIA+ students and their families stating “the Board affirms that every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.  Furthermore, the Board asserts that inflammatory and bigoted language is dehumanizing toward all of our faculty, staff, students and families.  And, as a Board, we respectfully ask our public officials to consider the harms created by divisive and vitriolic language and its impact on our students.” 

    Sarah Cain also presented a Title I Eligibility Update.   She explained that, at this time, the number of families completing Free and Reduced Lunch Applications is less than normal.  Even though breakfast and lunch is provided at no-cost to ALL students this school year, it is still important for families to complete their child's Free/Reduced Lunch Form, as the amount of families participating in this program impacts the amount of Title 1 funds your child's school receives.  If you still haven't filled out your child's Free/Reduced Lunch Form, click here.  Or, if you'd prefer a paper copy, one can be picked up at your child's school.

    Per Senate Bill 654, the Asheville City Board of Education was required to vote on whether they would like to continue to require face coverings for all students and staff.  The Board unanimously voted to continue requiring masks. 

    Mr. Carter also reminded community members that Asheville City Schools will be hosting its next Pop-Up Job Fair TOMORROW, Tuesday, November 9th from 3:00 - 6:00 PM in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street. 

    And, as a reminder, the Board of Education will be hosting its next Work Session on Monday, December 6th in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street.  The meeting can also be streamed on the district’s YouTube page.


    November 8, 2021 - The Mountain Xpress 

    REQUEST:

    I’m hoping to interview Laura Beatty, a phys ed teacher at TC Roberson, for an article I’m writing in the Xpress. The piece is going to be about the domestic violence nonprofit Helpmate and how they do a program in some of the high schools and middle schools. The youth liaison for the program said that Ms. Beatty has been super-supportive of the program in the past, so I’m hoping she’ll be available to chat with me as to why.
     
    Feel free to give me a call if you have any questions! 

    RESPONSE:

    Thank you so much for reaching out.  However, TC Roberson is not a school within my district.  I believe Buncombe County Schools' Communications Director, Stacia Harris, would be the person you'd need to reach out to. 

    November 8, 2021 - Press Release to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners,

    Superintendent Dr. Gene Freeman is the newest member to join the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville Board of Directors. Mayor Manheimer appointed him to the seven-person board last week.

    Dr. Freeman’s appointment symbolizes the close partnership between Asheville City Schools and the Asheville Housing Authority.

    In fact, under his leadership, the district spearheaded a community-wide initiative to provide free, wireless infrastructure and four years’ worth of ongoing services at no cost to the residents for all 1,039 apartments across the Southside Community, Deaverview Apartments, Hillcrest Apartments, Klondyke Homes and Pisgah View Apartments. At least 300 and up to 700 students who currently live across the five family development have been impacted by this joint community project, as its ultimate goal is to close the chasm between those who can easily access broadband internet and those who cannot. Especially in a time when traditional textbooks have been traded in for online resources, reliable internet is no longer a luxury but a necessity for equitable education. 

    “Over the course of the pandemic, it’s become even more critical for us to connect the dots between safe, affordable housing and finding creative ways to support our students,” said Freeman. “With this appointment, I’ll be able to not only work toward closing inequities within our district but across our community. Together, we’ll work hand in hand to ensure ALL Asheville City Schools families have their basic needs met, which is the first step needed for our students to be successful in the classroom and ultimately earn their high school diplomas.”

    Additional information is included in the press release; however, if you have any questions, please let me know.


    November 5, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    I heard something distressing today that I’d be interested in your exploring. Is it true that teachers at Asheville Middle School were recently required to attend training on how to treat gunshot wounds in their classrooms? Not having kids in school here I hadn’t really thought about active shooter situations, but it was jarring to think this would be a required in-service. And are APS and Buncombe County schools prepared for this kind of situation? Does Buncombe County require this kind of training, too?

    RESPONSE: 

    Stop the Bleed is a national initiative that began in 2011 as a way to heighten the public’s awareness of, and ability to respond to, immediate life threats posed by major arterial bleeding. Stop the Bleed is intended to encourage bystanders to become trained, equipped and empowered to support a situation before emergency professionals arrive. Staff at all of our schools are being trained to increase their preparedness. Thanks to Mission Health’s donation, every classroom, auditorium, media center and front office in the district, as well as all 29 school buses, including all 11 Activity buses, have been equipped with the trauma kits.


    November 4, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    Another quick question: funding for several capital projects were approved by Buncombe County Commissioners last night. Will any of the $7.5 million approved go toward fixing the groundhog problem at Asheville High? It’s not specifically listed on the expenditures, but I wanted to see if maybe groundhog control is a part of one of the larger projects listed?

    RESPONSE: 

    No, it is not part of one of the larger projects. 


    November 4, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    Asheville City Schools has 825 employees, correct? How many of those are classified and how many are certified?

    RESPONSE: 

    As of Monday, November 1st, Asheville City Schools employs 694 full-time staff members.  
     
    At this time, I don't have a breakdown as to how many are classified and how many are certified.  If you'd like that information, the earliest I'll be able to provide it is Monday.  

    November 4, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:  

    Since July, 39 Asheville City Schools staff members have resigned. Is that more or less than usual?

    How many resigned during the 2020-21 school year? The 2019-20 school year?

    If you have the number of how many resigned from July 1-Nov. 1, 2019 And July 1-Nov. 1, 2020, that would be great!

    Could I please get a statement from Dr. Dickerson about this year’s resignations? Why does he think people are leaving ACS? 

    RESPONSE:

    Since July, 39 Asheville City Schools staff members have resigned. Is that more or less than usual? More than usual at this time of the school year. 

    How many resigned during the 2020-21 school year? 129 resigned The 2019-20 school year? 128 resigned

    If you have the number of how many resigned from 

    July 1-Nov. 1, 2019 26 resigned

    July 1-Nov. 1, 2020 16 resigned 

    Could I please get a statement from Dr. Dickerson about this year’s resignations? Why does he think people are leaving ACS? There are several reasons why people are leaving the district. From exit interviews, I know that, during the pandemic, staff started thinking about moving closer to family and becoming caretakers, which required some of our employees to leave the area.  Additionally, some employees have been offered better paying opportunities in other school districts outside of North Carolina and in other careers. There are also a number of employees who have decided to retire.  We continue to place a strong emphasis on recruiting and retaining highly qualified staff and invite those interested in learning more about the Cougar Family to attend one of our upcoming career fairs, visit our website or call my office at (828) 350-6137. 


    November 2, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:  

    Last month the state informed us Asheville had several Afghan refugees relocate here. We’re interested in telling their stories. Do any of the refugees have children in ACS? If so, would you be able to connect me with the families?

    RESPONSE:

    At this time, Asheville City Schools has not had any Afghan refugees enroll in our district. 


    November 1, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Evening Local Media Partners, 
     
    As shared with staff and families, please see below for tonight's Work Session Board Brief. 

    Good Evening Students, Staff and Families.  This is Ashley-Michelle Thublin, Executive Director of Communications, with tonight’s Board Brief.  

    FEEDBACK FROM BUDGET QUESTIONNAIRE

    During tonight’s Special Called Meeting, I presented the Board with a look at the Budget Questionnaire, which closed at 11:59 PM on October 31st.  In total, 382 stakeholders ensured their voices were heard, with the largest group representing current parents at 294.  Additional responders included 8 students, 19 community members that live with the Asheville City Schools district and 63 current or former Asheville City Schools staff members. 

    A brief analysis can be found here

    In short, common thoughts and feelings shared with the Board of Education include: 

    • The Central Office is overfunded considering its staff vs. the number of students within the district. 

    • The budget crisis is being seen and felt by everyone in the district. 

    • I suggest raising salaries for teachers and all staff. 

    • We cannot let a small population of parents and students dictate the financial direction of this school system. 

    • ACS should not close or merge any existing schools. 

    • Whatever decisions are made should be fully vetted and completely transparent. 

    • Please make a decision before December regarding the collapsing of school(s).  We need time to prepare for the 22-23 school year and cannot proceed without knowing what schools will remain open. 

    • I think the consolidation with BCS is inevitable. 

    • I believe a hiring freeze is the last thing that should happen considering many schools are short-staffed to begin with. 

    • How do we compare with other districts within our region and similarly sized districts across the state?  

    Additionally, when asked “do you have questions about our current financial situation,” 269 stakeholders responded.  Common questions include: 

    • When are you going to reduce the Central Office? 

    • Why haven’t you addressed this sooner? 

    • How can this be resolved? 

    • Who is reviewing the budget and determining where cost-cutting measures are made? 

    • How do we get more funding, especially from the state? 

    • Why haven’t school repair needs been monitored regularly and addressed so we aren’t facing these huge repair bills? 

    Although the budget questionnaire has closed, the Board continues to encourage students, staff and families to share their feedback by email and/or by participating in public comment either in-person or virtually during the November 8th Regular Meeting.  

    PRESCHOOL 

    In response to Board Member requests, a presentation was also made about the Preschool Program. 

    Susanna Smith, Director of the Preschool Program, gave a brief history of the program as well as examined its student demographic breakdown and staffing needs since the 2018-2019 school year.  

    She also showed its revenue vs. expenditures from 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021 -22 school years, pointing out that Asheville City Schools has continued to allocate local funds to support the program.  She anticipates that, above and beyond revenues and grants, the district will spend approximately $1.1 million in local money for 2021-22. 

    Smith’s presentation too looked at surrounding counties and how they fund their preschool program. 

    ESSER FUNDS 

    Sarah Cain, Elementary Education and Federal Programs Director, also gave an ESSERS Update

    She explained that ESSER funds are about preventing, preparing, and responding to the COVID-19 emergency. Some reminders about ESSER Funds include: 

    • We are required to follow Uniform Guidance, specifically Federal and State regulations around spending ESSER Funds. 

    • The original application can be adjusted through an amendment process. 

    • Projected salaries, supplies, and services may not show as currently encumbered funds. 

    • Information and guidance from the Federal & State level changes.  

    • Sustainability is a critical part of our budgeting process. 

    ESSER 1 (expires 9/30/22) 

    • As of October 31, 2021, Asheville City Schools has spent 83% of its ESSERS 1 fund totaling $855,948.78.  This means we have $145,185 that remains and must be spent by September 30, 2022.  Much of the remaining ESSER 1 funds have been allocated to salaries for staff members paid out of this funding code. 

    • Areas of ESSER 1 spending include: 

      • Replacement of Materials 

      • Operations and Sanitation 

      • Technology Replacement 

      • Mental Health Supports, Health Monitors, Safety Monitor

      • Professional Development around remote learning and learning loss

    ESSER 2 (expires 9/30/23) 

    • As of October 31, 2021, Asheville City Schools has spent 44% of its ESSERS 2 fund totaling $3,120,445  This means we have $1,762,735 that remains and must be spent by September 30, 2023. 

    • Areas of ESSER 2 spending include: 

      • Summer School Programs

      • Addressing learning loss through high-quality materials

      • Professional Development

      • Air Quality

      • Sanitation/Virus Transmission

      • Mental Health

      • Educational Technology

    ESSER 3 (expires 9/30/24) 

    • As of October 31, 2021, Asheville City Schools has spent 2% of its ESSER 3 fund totaling $6,990,164.  This means we have $6,831,873 that remains and must be spent by September 30, 2024.  However, an important point of note is that most projected salaries fall under ESSER 3.  If you take into consideration all projected salaries paid from ESSER 3, it accounts for between 55 - 60% of the total amount granted to the district. 

    • Areas of ESSER 3 Spending include: 

      • At least 20% of ESSER 3 funding must be spent on Learning Loss

      • Continuity of Academic and Social Emotional Services

      • Educational Technology

      • Mental Health

      • Addressing the Unique Needs of Special Populations; ie students experiencing homelessness, student utilizing exceptional children services, students learning English as a second language 

      • Preparation and Coordination of COVID Response

    Cain also shared that ESSER funds have very specific guidelines and can only be used in 14 allowable areas.  Based on the “Other ESSA Eligible Activities” area, she will be bringing Board Members additional information about potentially using ESSER 3 funds to provide bonuses to address staff recruitment and retention during the November 8th Regular Meeting.  Additionally, she reiterated that this funding is intended to not only support students now but next semester, next school year and through 2024. 

    FINANCE AUDIT 

    The Board of Education also heard from auditors at Anderson Smith & Wike PLLC.  They gave a broad overview of the district’s fiscal year ending June 30, 2021, explaining there were no significant findings.  At this time, the district has not received an electronic copy of the report shared; however, the auditor anticipates that this will occur this week.  Once it’s been received, the report in its entirety will be added to this section of the Board Brief as shared on the website. 

    STAFFING & SUBSTITUE UPDATE 

    At the request of the Board, Dr. Dickerson gave a staffing and substitute update.  He explained that since July 1, 2021, Asheville City Schools has received 20 certified staff member resignations and 19 classified staff member resignations. 

    He also shared more about the district’s new partnership with ESS, a K-12 education staffing and management solution, that specializes in placing qualified staff in daily and/or long-term substitute positions  At this time, there are a total of 44 substitute teachers within the district, nine of which have been hired within the last two weeks.  If you would like to support us in developing our substitute pool, please click here.   

    ADDITIONAL ITEMS: 

    The Board of Education presented a resolution in support of LGBTQIA+ students and their families stating “the Board affirms that every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.  Furthermore, the Board asserts that inflammatory and bigoted language is dehumanizing toward all of our faculty, staff, students and families.  And, as a Board, we respectfully ask our public officials to consider the harms created by divisive and vitriolic language and its impact on our students.”  They will vote on the resolution as part of their November 8th Regular Board Meeting. 

    Kidada Wynn, Executive Director of Student Services, presented a Counseling/Support Services report, sharing the names of each staff member, their assigned school(s) as well as their roles and responsibilities.  

    April Dockery, Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations, also gave a presentation about Discipline Data. Her presentation examined our current major referrals from the first quarter of this school year compared to the major referrals from quarter one of the 2018-2019 school year, as that was the last year without COVID19.  Our current first quarter major referrals total 188, which is a 78% reduction and 646 less than this time in 2018.  During the 2018-2019 school year, there were 834 major referrals during the first quarter.  She said, as a group, we’re working on what’s best for each child and conversations are had about each major referral to see if it truly warrants a suspension or expulsion.  It was also determined that, as we’re moving toward eliminating exclusionary practices, there’s been some misconceptions.  At this time, Asheville City Schools does not have a “Zero Suspension Policy.”  The Board has not instituted any such policy.   To maintain a safe learning environment, staff are fully empowered to write referrals, and if a staff member has a question about this practice, they’re encouraged to speak with their school leader.  

    And, as a reminder, the Board of Education will be hosting its next Regular Meeting on Monday, November 8th in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street.  The meeting can also be streamed on the district’s YouTube page.
     
    Thanks, and if you have any questions, please let me know!

    October 27, 2021 - WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    I’ve seen some posts on social media about a possible circulating threat at Asheville High School, are you able to provide any information about this?

    RESPONSE: 

    Our high school principals shared the following message with staff and families: 

    This evening a rumor began circulating through text messages and social media about a threat to the Asheville High School/SILSA campus.  Along with the Asheville Police Department, school administrators and district safety support have been working together to understand its details.

    This type of message has been occurring in multiple districts across the country.  These messages have been running rampant through social media.   However, out of an abundance of precaution and due to safety concerns in our broader community, we will have an increased police presence on our campus for the remainder of this week.

    Please take this opportunity to talk with your student about school safety, as well as remind them to report any rumors or information about an unsafe situation or behavior to an adult.  And, please do NOT use social media (ex: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.) as a forum to share these concerns. Individual privacy settings may inhibit emergency responders and school administrators from seeing these messages and make them unable to assist. 

    We value our partnership with our families.  Thank you to the individuals who reported the threat to the administration and the APD.  Please continue to partner with us, and please continue to let us know if there are concerns about the safety of our students and campus. 

    At this time, I have no additional information to share. 

    October 27, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    Does ACS have a comment about ACAE’s survey and budget recommendations?  Looking to publish tomorrow if possible. Let me know. Thanks!

    RESPONSE: 

    On behalf on Mr. James Carter, Chair of the Asheville City Board of Education, please see below for his comments: 

    "We appreciate hearing the thoughts and feelings of Asheville City Association of Educators members, and we're grateful that ACAE wants to work alongside the Board through this process.  All our Board Members have received a copy of the association’s release.  We’re glad so many staff members responded to ACAE’s survey. 

    However, we also realize that about 45% of staff did not yet share their feedback through ACAE's survey.  Therefore, to ensure we're uplifting as many voices as possible, Asheville City Schools has also created a feedback form and encourages all students, staff and families to share their insights and questions with us.   

    The Board appreciates all this valuable feedback and will take it into account when we’re making our decisions." 


    October 27, 2021 - WLOS 

    As a follow-up to today's phone call, I appreciate you giving Mr. James Carter, Chair of the Asheville City Board of Education, an opportunity to respond.  Please see below for his comments: 

    "We appreciate hearing the thoughts and feelings of Asheville City Association of Educators members, and we're grateful that ACAE wants to work alongside the Board through this process.  All our Board Members have received a copy of the association’s release.  We’re glad so many staff members responded to ACAE’s survey. 

    However, we also realize that about 45% of staff did not yet share their feedback through ACAE's survey.  Therefore, to ensure we're uplifting as many voices as possible, Asheville City Schools has also created a feedback form and encourages all students, staff and families to share their insights and questions with us.   

    The Board appreciates all this valuable feedback and will take it into account when we’re making our decisions." 


    October 25, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Evening Students, Staff and Families.  This is Ashley-Michelle Thublin, Executive Director of Communications, with a few updates. 

    VACANCY UPDATES

    During tonight’s Special Called Meeting, the Asheville City Board of Education heard from Dr. Mark Dickerson, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, about current job openings across the district.  

    He explained that Asheville City Schools began the 2021-2022 school year with staff shortages for bus drivers, school nutrition employees, instructional assistants, custodians and some teaching positions. 

    At this time, there are 60 vacancies across the district, not including bus drivers.  Bus drivers are not included because, although not ideal, our current staff is able to safely transport our students to and from school by driving double routes.  Ideally, each school needs a substitute driver for each bus to support if a staff member is out.  

    As we look to fill these key roles, the district has created several recruitment videos that have been shared on social media, hosted three pop-up career fairs and attended two regional career fairs.  

    We invite interested candidates to review our webpage for current job postings or visit us during an upcoming career fair.  Asheville City Schools will be recruiting during the November 4th Western Carolina University Career Fair as well as during its next Pop-Up Career Fair, which is scheduled for November 9th from 3:00 - 6:00 PM in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street. 

    Dr. Dickerson also reiterated that Asheville City Schools is NOT in a hiring freeze.  

    “We’re actively recruiting individuals looking to contribute to our community,” he said.  

    He reshared that none of the budget reductions brought before the Board include letting go of current employees

    CAPITAL NEEDS

    In response to Board Member requests, a presentation was also made about each school’s current maintenance and facility needs. 

    Kristy Coats, Facilities Liaison to the Superintendent, explained that, at this time, our nine campuses need an estimated $50,507,261.46 in capital projects.  A breakdown of each school’s estimated capital needs compared to current capacity based on staffing and actual student enrollment can be found below: 

    Additionally, she shared each school’s in-progress maintenance projects as well as its critical and high-priority needs.  She explained that critical needs should be completed within one to two years, and high-priority needs should be completed within no more than five.  

    • Using revenue from both our Local Capital Fund and those from the School Capital Fund Commission, maintenance projects are currently being carried out at each of our nine campuses 
    • Besides Asheville Middle School, all campuses across Asheville City Schools include both critical and high priority maintenance needs.  Asheville Middle School’s high priority needs should be carried out within the next three to five years and total $1,215,000. 

    For each school, Coats also included photos of current capital needs; the images included were taken this school year between August and October. 

    She also gave a breakdown of each school’s utility cost.  She pulled data from the 2018-2019 school year because it was the last full year with all students and staff on campus. 

    ADDITIONAL ITEMS

    April Dockery, Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations, also gave a presentation about updated COVID-19 protocols.  Sonita Warren-Dixon, Asheville High School’s Athletic Director, also explained that student-athletes and Cougar Fans will continue to follow the district’s mask mandates once Winter Sports begin on November 1st.  More information about these presentations will be included as part of the Thursday, October 28th Community Update.  Or, we invite you to watch tonight’s meeting here

    During tonight’s Special Called Meeting, the Board of Education also selected its new Vice-Chair.  Martha Geitner was chosen for this important role.  

    On behalf of Chairman James Carter and members of the Asheville City Board of Education, I also wanted to remind you that, if you have not already done so, all ACS students, staff and families are encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings on the budget by completing this form.  Creating one centralized location to collect feedback ensures all thoughts will be heard by all Board Members.  


    All feedback collected through this form will be shared with the Board of Education during its November 1st Work Session.  The meeting will be held at 5:00 PM in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street and can also be streamed on the district’s YouTube page


    October 20, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    Could I please get an emailed copy of Ian Nelson’s testing presentation last night? The meeting showed slides that were cut off, and I’d like to see all the data if possible.

    RESPONSE: 

    Sure; as part of last night's Board Brief, I included a link to his presentation but am happy to add it here as well.  If you click on each image, you'll see the data in its entirety.  You can also see results from districts across the State here.  


    October 19, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Evening Local Media Partners, 
     
    As shared with staff and families, please see below for updates following tonight's Special Called Meeting of the Asheville City Board of Education. 
    ----

    CHANGE TO THE CALENDAR: 

    During tonight’s Special Called Meeting, the Asheville City Board of Education unanimously approved a change to the 2021-2022 calendar.  Monday, November 22nd and Tuesday, November 23rd will now become Required Teacher Workdays for all ACS staff. 

    Staff and students should use these two days to rest, reflect and reset as we prepare for the remainder of the 1st semester.  Asynchronous instruction will NOT be given, and all our buildings will be closed. 

    As it is a Required Teacher Workday, all staff will be paid by Asheville City Schools.  However, because our dual employees will not be driving a bus, they will not receive pay from Buncombe County Schools on Monday or Tuesday. 

    An updated calendar can be found here

    BUDGET: 

    Georgia Harvey, Chief Finance Officer, also gave a presentation about the district’s budget process. 

    She explained that Asheville City Schools’ funding sources include:   

    • Revenue directly from the federal government 

    • Federal revenues that are passed through the State 

    • Per pupil revenue provided by the State 

    • Asheville City Schools’ Local Option Sales Tax, which can be used for both local current expenses or capital improvements 

    • The School Capital Fund Commission’s Article 39 Sales Tax, which can only be used for capital improvements based on approval by the Commission

    • The School Capital Fund Article 40/42 Sales Tax, which can only be used for capital improvements and/or fixed assets

    • Additional tax allotments based on our county’s population size 

    • Lottery proceeds, which can only be used on capital improvements with approval from the County Commission and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction 

    And, since Spring 2021, the district has saved over $500,000 in unreplaced Central Office Administrative positions, approximately $200,000 in operational service contracts and, to date, approximately  $250,000 as departments have reviewed their budgets, eliminating unnecessary expenses.  

    Harvey also laid out a typical Board Review of budget reductions, which could include: 

    • Baseline budgeting from the prior year’s actual expenditures

    • Identifying non-essential programs/services that can be eliminated or reduced without reducing staff

    • A “hiring freeze,” which is a process to closely examine all new positions and vacancies and only fill essential positions that directly impact student instruction 

    • Separating recurring expenses from one-time or temporarily funded positions based on their source 

    • Analyzing facilities and their potential student capacity, with the possibility of the consolidation of facilities 

    However, she explained that it will ultimately be up to the Board to determine next steps based on their established district priorities. 

    The Asheville City Schools Budget Resolution was also unanimously approved by the Board of Education during tonight's meeting. 

    ENROLLMENT: 

    In response to Board Member requests, a presentation was also made regarding each school’s historical & current enrollment, the current student capacity at each school based on staffing and the current percentage of white students & students of color at each school. 

    • As of Tuesday, October 19th, Asheville City Schools has 4,143 students enrolled in Kindergarten - 12th Grade.  

    • The district’s potential student capacity across all schools is 4,652.  This means we currently have 509 available spots. 

      • Currently, the General Assembly has created a maximum number of students that should be in each classroom for Kindergarten - 3rd Grade, and Asheville City Schools has set a local cap for 4th - 12th Grade.  To support an increase in student capacity, the local classroom cap for core instruction could be raised to 25 students in Grades 4 - 8. 

      • This number has been determined based on the amount of staff we could potentially have in each building as well as by adjusting our local caps.

      • At this time, Asheville City Schools is currently accepting out-of-district applications for students in 1st - 8th Grade.  We are not accepting applications for out-of-district students in Grades 9 - 12 due to staff availability.  For more information about our enrollment process, click here

    • A racial breakdown of our current student population can be found below: 

    TEST RESULTS:

    Ian Nelson, Director of Testing, also gave a presentation about ACS’s 2020-2021 test results. 

    “I believe these results give us data to support just how difficult last year was with school closures, class quarantines and remote learning,” said Superintendent Dr. Gene Freeman. “Our results mirror those of many districts across the county, and as the leader of our district, I’m proud of the work our students and staff were able to accomplish during one of the most unprecedented times in our country’s history.” 

    The Board of Education will be hosting its next Special Called Work Session on October 25th at 5:15 PM in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street.  The meeting can also be streamed on the district’s YouTube page.

    ----
    Thank you, and please let me know how I can be of further support! 

    October 18, 2021 - WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    We're doing a story about the demolition of Jones Playground.  Who can I speak with at Asheville City Schools about the chronology of how this unfolded? 

    RESPONSE: 

    Dr. Gene is unavailable for an on-camera interview.  However, you’re welcome to use the following statement in your report. 

    "On August 24th, we shared with staff, families and community members that Jones Park Playground would immediately close following an unsatisfactory safety inspection from a third-party consultant.  Simply put, as it stood, the playground was a safety hazard. 

    Furthermore, the initial playground safety audit showed that the cost to make improvements to the structure would be more than 50% of the replacement cost and exceeded “the added useful life of this play equipment.”  Therefore, fixing the playground as it stood was neither fiscally responsible nor an option Asheville City Schools wanted pursue. 

    Our Maintenance Team began disassembling the wooden structure on Monday, September 20th. 

    Now that the playground has been removed, we are in the process of creating a  green space for families and community members to enjoy."

    Additionally, please know that our Jones Park Playground updates and  a copy of the safety inspection can be found here:  https://www.ashevillecityschools.net/Page/5591


    October 8, 2021 - CBS17 

    REQUEST: 

    Whether in the classroon or in a library can you tell me if the book entitled "Gender Queer” is being used in your school district?  This is an inquiry that we are making to school districts across the state.

    RESPONSE: 

    According to our Director of Instructional Technology and Media Services, Gender Queer is not a book that's been purchased by the district.  


    October 8, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners,

    On behalf of Mr. James Carter, Chair of the Asheville City Board of Education, and Superintendent Dr. Gene Freeman, please see below for an important update about our district. The following has been shared with our staff and families.

    As a follow-up to Monday’s communication that addressed HIL Consultant’s Financial Analysis, we would like to provide additional information about the complex budget issues we’re facing. 

    1) Has the Board taken action on any of the recommendations from HIL Consultants?  

    • Monday’s Work Session was the first time Board Members heard HIL Consultants’ recommendations.  At this time, no action has been taken.

    • Staff and the Board of Education will be reviewing this information and accepting public input before any decisions are made.  

    • The district is also waiting on a final State budget from the General Assembly. 

    • Again, at this time, Asheville City Schools has not begun a hiring freeze or begun the consolidation of schools and programs.  

    • However, the district is reviewing all outside service contracts and all departments have begun reviewing their respective budgets to eliminate all non-essential expenditures.  This began in Summer 2021 and is a practice the district is continuing. 

    2) Based on the recommendations, will staff members lose their jobs? 

    • If the Board of Education chooses to accept the recommendation of implementing a hiring freeze, all current staff members will keep their positions.  Their recommendation is to not rehire positions as employees leave the district or retire unless absolutely essential.  According to Dr. Mark Dickerson, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, essential positions are those that directly impact student instruction.  

    3) Why can’t Asheville City Schools just ask Buncombe County Government for additional funding? 

    • Per General Statute 115C-430, the County is required to fund both Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools in proportion to their number of students that attend school on a daily basis, sometimes referred to as Average Daily Membership.  Based on our enrollment numbers, Asheville City Schools typically receives about 15% of Buncombe County Schools’ ask.  If Buncombe County Government gave Asheville City Schools additional funding they would proportionally have to also give Buncombe County Schools funding based on their ADM percentage.  

    4) How much lottery funding does Asheville City Schools currently have access to? 

    • Lottery proceeds for public schools in Buncombe County are split by State law between Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools.  Currently, Asheville City Schools’ available lottery funding totals approximately $1.2 million for capital use only.  Only the State can designate lottery funds for non-capital uses. 

    • In short, lottery funds are NOT a source of discretionary funds.  Neither Asheville City Schools nor Buncombe County Government can budget lottery funds to cover specific operational costs.  At this time (and in alignment with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Annual Report) Asheville City Schools’ lottery funding can only be used for the following types of projects:

      • Purchase of land for public school buildings

      • Planning/Design fees for public school buildings

      • Construction of public school buildings

      • Renovation of public school buildings

      • Enlargement of / additions to public school buildings

      • Repair of public school buildings (beyond general maintenance)

      • School technology [from corporate tax fund (ADM Fund) allocations only].

    • And, before Asheville City Schools is able to use their allotted lottery funding on capital improvements, the district must submit an application and receive approval from the County Commissioners. 

    5) Is Asheville City Schools currently accepting out-of-district students? 

    • At this time, Asheville City Schools is unable to accommodate requests for out-of-district students in Kindergarten and 1st Grade due to State class size restrictions and available staff. 

    • We are also unable to accommodate out-of-district 9th - 12th Graders due to staff availability. 

    • However, we are accepting out-of-district applications for students in Grades 2 - 8.  If you would like to learn more about the enrollment process, please click here.  

    6) Why does Asheville City Schools charge a tuition fee for out-of-district students? 

    • Each family that lives within the district pays an additional supplemental tax which goes to Asheville City Schools.  The district’s tuition rate was put in place to help offset the revenue lost by not receiving the supplemental tax proceeds.  The tuition rate does NOT match the tax rate and is in fact lower.  In short, out-of-district students bring fewer dollars to the district than in-district students. 

    • Asheville City Schools’ tuition rate is $300 each year for Buncombe County residents, with an additional fee of $100 per sibling, and $1,200 each year for residents that live outside of Buncombe County, with an additional fee of $100 per sibling.

    7) Does Asheville City Schools know where families are going that leave the district? 

    • Yes.  As shared by Deputy Superintendent Melissa Hedt during the October 4th Work Session, over the past three months, 466 students have withdrawn from the district.  The three most common reasons include transferring to Buncombe County Schools, transferring to a North Carolina private school and transferring to a North Carolina charter school.  We invite you to read the full report here

    • Currently, 634 students that live in the Buncombe County School district attend Asheville City Schools. 

    8) Can Asheville City Schools add properties to the school district? 

    • In order to add a property to the Asheville City Schools district, Buncombe County Schools must agree to the transfer.  If a property is transferred, Buncombe County Schools would lose all State and local funding associated with students living at that property moving forward because the money would move with the child. 

    9) Has the Central Office done anything to cut its expenses? 

    • As part of the 2021-2022 budget, all departments have begun reviewing their respective budgets to eliminate all non-essential expenditures. 

    • Through attrition, the Central Office staffing budget has been cut by more than $500,000 over the past year.  And, two Central Office employees have plans to retire within the next two months; neither position will be refilled, with their roles and responsibilities shifting to current Central Office employees. 

    To learn more, we invite you to attend the Board’s next Regular Meeting on Monday, October 11th at 5:00 PM in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street.  We will also be holding Special Called Budget Workshops on October 19th and 25th at 5:15 PM in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street.  All meetings can also be streamed on the district’s YouTube page

    Thank you, and please let me know how I can be of further support!


    October 7, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    We’re doing a story today about Pfizer applying for covid vaccine approval for kids 5-11. Once this is approved, does ACS have any plans in place for vaccine events for younger kids/will the school system promote the vaccine for the younger kids?

    RESPONSE: 

    Asheville City Schools, in partnership with Buncombe County Health and Human Services, MAHEC & Buncombe County Schools, is developing an immediate action plan for community pop-up vaccination clinics as soon as there is FDA approval. We’re excited for this opportunity and look forward to offering this resource to our families, especially our youngest learners! We will share more information with our staff, family and local media partners once we know more.


    October 7, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    My understanding is that in Asheville City Schools, if a teacher takes a sick day off they have to pay $50, probably to help cover the cost of a substitute. Is this correct? If so, why is this system in place? It seems it would discourage genuinely sick teachers from taking a sick day when they need it. Also, what does Buncombe County do in this regard?

    RESPONSE: 

    Thanks so much for reaching out and for giving us the opportunity to clarify things!  

    Especially in light of COVID-19, the district’s stance is that if a student or staff is sick or believes they may be sick, it’s important to stay home to support us in stopping the spread.  Before they can be successful in the classroom, they must first feel safe and be healthy.  

    And, in response to your question, if an Asheville City Schools teacher takes sick leave, they are NOT charged $50.  

    However, like all districts across the state, if one of our teachers uses a personal day when students are on campus, they are currently deducted $50.  Though, if House Bill 362 passes, teachers will receive their full salary on any day they take personal leave if they provide a reason for the leave request.
     
    Thanks, and please let me know if you have any other questions! 

    October 6, 2021 - WLOS

    RESPONSE: 

    We're sorry you weren't able to make it for today's interview. However, you will find the requested quote below. It can be attributed to April Dockery, Asheville City Schools' Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations.

    "We’re excited for this opportunity and look forward to collaborating with Buncombe County Health and Human Services to offer this resource for our families, especially our youngest learners!"


    October 6, 2021 - WLOS

    REQUEST:

    Hope you’re doing well. I wanted to see if we could interview someone at the district. Yesterday Fletch Tove said he has been meeting with school district staff. Within a few weeks he believes that pfizer vaccines will be approved for kids aged 5 to 11. I wanted to see if someone could talk with us about what if anything you were planning with regard to the district as far as outreach or potentially setting up clinics on Saturdays at school sites.

    Feel free to give me a call back. It is for today.

    RESPONSE: 

    Our Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations, April Dockery, is available today between 1:00 - 2:00 PM.  Her office is located at 85 Mountain Street.  

     

    October 5, 2021 - WLOS

    REQUEST:

    Could we set up interviews with Georgia Harvey and the school board chair tomorrow to talk about this report?

    RESPONSE: 

    At this time, neither the Asheville City Schools’ Board Chair nor district leadership will be making on-camera comments, as we have no additional information to share beyond the release.  Last night was the first time Board Members heard HIL Consultants’ recommendations.  The Board will be discussing next steps after they receive the final report from independent auditors this November. 


    October 5, 2021 - WYFF

    REQUEST:

    I wanted to reach out to see if Superintendent Freeman or someone from the district would be available for an interview today sometime before 2 p.m. to talk about this presentation from consultants last night, what was discussed and some of the concerns the district/consultants have?

    RESPONSE: 

    At this time, neither the Asheville City Schools’ Board Chair nor district leadership will be making on-camera comments, as we have no additional information to share beyond the release.  Last night was the first time Board Members heard HIL Consultants’ recommendations.  The Board will be discussing next steps after they receive the final report from independent auditors this November. 


    October 4, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Evening Local Media Partners, 
     
    As shared with staff and families, please see below for an update following tonight's Asheville City Board of Education Work Session. 
    -----

    Good Evening Students, Staff and Families.  This is Ashley-Michelle Thublin, Executive Director of Communications, with an important update. 

    “As a follow-up to our May Budget Presentation, I asked Mrs. Harvey to contact HIL Consultants to complete a financial analysis of the district,” said Asheville City Board of Education Chair James Carter. 

    In response to this request, HIL Consultants presented on the district’s current budget and the projected Fund Balance, which is the amount we have in reserve in case of an emergency, for both the 2021-2022 school year and moving forward during tonight’s Work Session

    In their findings, HIL Consultants shared the underlying issues with our declining revenues, specifically noting: 

    • Anticipated State increases for both staff salaries and benefits, 

    • The rise in local charter schools and 

    • A decreased number of students that attend our school on a daily basis, sometimes referred to as Average Daily Membership, since the 2018-2019 school year. 

    HIL Consultants believe Asheville City Schools is heading in an unsustainable direction if measures are not taken.  They’ve come to this conclusion based on projected decreases in the money we received both locally and from the State.  Knowing this will have a significant impact on our budget moving forward, they made four recommendations: 

    • The Board of Education should begin an immediate hiring freeze.  As attrition occurs, the district should not rehire unless the position is essential. 

    • The district should consider the consolidation of schools and programs when it’s feasible to do so.  Buildings and the number of support staff it takes to successfully maintain a campus are expensive, especially when the district is continuing to lose students. 

    • Review all outside service contracts, including maintenance and facility contracts that are not safety-related or essential.  

    • All departments should review their respective budgets and eliminate all non-essential expenditures.  

    We invite you to read their full report here. 

    Tonight was the first time Board Members heard HIL Consultants’ recommendations. 

    According to Superintendent Dr. Gene Freeman, “District leadership will continue to present recommendations to the Board.  It will ultimately be up to them to make these hard decisions.” 

    In addition to this report from HIL Consultants, independent auditors plan to give their final report to the Board of Education in November.

    -----

    Thanks, and, as always, please let me know if you have any questions. 


    October 4, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    So, the AMS cluster was the district's first ever? 

    RESPONSE: 

    That is correct.  The confirmed cluster at Asheville Middle School (which we communicated to staff, families and the media about on September 24th) was the district's first cluster.  


    October 4, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    ACS had no COVID clusters during the 2020-2021 school year, correct? 

    RESPONSE: 

    That is correct. 


    October 4, 2021 - The Mountain Xpress 

    REQUEST: 

    I am writing an article for the Mountain Xpress about local schools measures to control the spread of Covid 19.

    Is there any way that Asheville City School’s policies to control the spread of Covid 19 differ from the recommendations laid out in the NC Strong School’s Toolkit, such as mandating universal masking, encouraging eligible students and families receive a Covid 19 vaccine, quarantining students who are symptomatic or have been exposed to Covid 19, and so on?

    RESPONSE: 

    We believe public health is a shared responsibility, and it’s one our district is taking seriously.  Our campuses continue to take all precautions consistent with the CDC and Buncombe County Health and Human Services, including but not limited to:

    • Universal face coverings are required for all students and staff members. 

    • Staff and students are maintaining physical distance as much as possible. 

    • Students should stay home when they have symptoms of COVID-19 and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care.  COVID-19 symptoms include: 

      • Fever or chills 

      • Cough 

      • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing 

      • Fatigue 

      • Muscle or body aches 

      • Headache 

      • New loss of taste or smell 

      • Sore throat 

      • Congestion or runny nose 

      • Nausea or vomiting 

      • Diarrhea

    • Asheville City Schools supports our health department in sharing vaccine appointment information.  
      • Vaccination is currently the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. (Toolkit Page 2
      • People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are at low risk of symptomatic or severe illness, including hospitalization or death. (Toolkit Page 7) 
      • A growing body of evidence suggests that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are also less likely to have an asymptomatic infection or transmit COVID-19 to others than people who are not fully vaccinated. (Toolkit Page 7) 
      • And, as a resource for our students, staff and families, the district has hosted two vaccine clinics, in which all North Carolinians ages 12+ were invited to attend.  At this time, Asheville City Schools is NOT requiring our students or staff to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.  Additional information about the vaccines that are required can be found in Board Policy 4110.   
    • Asheville City Schools is requiring a full 14-day exclusion from in-person learning for unvaccinated individuals who are deemed as close contacts to someone that has tested positive for COVID-19.  

      • Per the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit, an individual can only discontinue quarantine before the 14 days of last exposure if they wear their face coverings and maintain physical distancing of six feet or more at all times.  
      • With all our students and staff learning in person, it is difficult to ensure that we can carry out such protocols for every student every minute of the day; therefore, in order to be consistent, we have made this our procedure for all grade levels at this time.  
      • We will continue with this procedure while our countywide transmissions rates are high and will reconsider other options once countywide transmission rates decline.
    • If a child is waiting for COVID-19 test results or in quarantine (regardless of whether their close contact was at school or within the community), they should NOT come to school.  The district’s stance is that if you are sick or believe you may be sick, it’s important to stay home to support us in stopping the spread.  In order for our students to be successful scholars, they must first feel safe and be healthy.

    I also invite you to review our Back to School Safety Updates Webpage for additional information. And, if you have any further questions, please let me know.

    October 1, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    In our ongoing effort to be as transparent as possible, please see below an important COVID-19 update.  The following has been shared with our Ira B. Jones Elementary School staff and families as well as posted to the district's website under our Back to Schoo Safety Updates page. 
    --------

    Good Afternoon Ira B. Jones Staff and Families.  This is Principal Ruafika Cobb with an important update about our school community.  

    Buncombe County Health and Human Services have notified us that, at this time, there are five individuals at Ira B. Jones who have lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 that are epidemiologically linked, meeting the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services definition of a “cluster.”  

    The cluster had NOT been confirmed on Wednesday, September 29th as I  stated in our message to our Jones Families. As we have in the past, and will continue to do, we strive to keep you updated as we all navigate through this pandemic. 

    Due to privacy requirements, we cannot release the names of these individuals or additional details that may identify them; however, Buncombe County Health and Human Services are currently monitoring the status of this cluster.  And, those who have tested positive are self-isolating at home per the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit and current CDC guidelines.  I know you join me in wishing them a speedy recovery.  Each of these individuals is a valuable member of the Cougar Family, and we’re looking forward to having them safely return to our campus once their isolation has ended.  

    Please know close contacts to the confirmed positive cases have been identified, and school administrators and nurses have already called families personally impacted by the cluster.  Again, unless a contact tracer or school official called you, your child has NOT been in close contact with the confirmed cases. 

    As part of Asheville City Schools’ protocols, the school has undergone a systematic cleaning, and operations at Ira B. Jones will continue as usual.  We will keep families informed if there are additional positive cases connected to the cluster.  

    At Ira B. Jones, we believe public health is a shared responsibility, and it’s one we’re taking seriously.  Our campus continues to take all precautions consistent with the CDC and Buncombe County Health and Human Services.  

    • Universal face coverings are required for all students and staff members. 

    • Staff and students are maintaining physical distance as much as possible. 

    • Students should stay home when they have symptoms of COVID-19 and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care.  COVID-19 symptoms include: 

      • Fever or chills 

      • Cough 

      • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing 

      • Fatigue 

      • Muscle or body aches 

      • Headache 

      • New loss of taste or smell 

      • Sore throat 

      • Congestion or runny nose 

      • Nausea or vomiting 

      • Diarrhea

    • And, please be reminded that if your child is waiting for COVID-19 test results or in quarantine (regardless of whether their close contact was at school or within the community), they should NOT come to school.  The district’s stance is that if you are sick or believe you may be sick, it’s important to stay home to support us in stopping the spread.  In order for your child to be a successful scholar, they must first feel safe and be healthy.

    If you have any questions about our school’s health protocols, please email the district’s Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations at april.dockery@acsgmail.net.  

    Additionally, please know that the NCDHHS currently updates its “Child Care or School Setting with an Ongoing Cluster” dashboard each Tuesday at 4:00 PM. Ira B. Jones Elementary School will be listed on their October 5th update. 

    Thank you for your continued support of our students and staff.  


    September 30, 2021 - Press Release to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    As a follow-up to Tuesday's News Alert, attached you will find our press release and photos from today's Beginning Teacher of the Year announcement. In addition to the attached photos, you can find more images here.
     

    Nicole Scavotto was in the middle of teaching her class about simplifying rational expressions when Principal Derek Edwards asked if he could speak with her in the hallway for just a moment. The Asheville High School Math 3 and Advanced Placement Statistics educator was in for quite a surprise when she was greeted by school and district leaders as well as her friends.  Together, they were all there to honor Scavotto as Asheville City Schools’ Beginning Teacher of the Year!

         The NCCAT Beginning Teacher of the Year process was developed to honor and retain new teaching professionals who show promise as an excellent educational leader.

         “I’m glad that I can represent the people that started their first year in the middle of COVID,” said Scavotto.  “It was definitely a hard year, and now we’re all prepared for literally anything because we did online teaching. Nothing can stop us at this point.”  

         As Asheville City Schools’ finalist, Scavotto and 26 other regional finalists will attend a celebration and week of teacher leadership and professional development at NCCAT’s Cullowhee campus on February 14-18.  

         The NCCAT Beginning Teacher of the Year Selection Committee will review portfolios and interview all of the finalists before selecting our state winner. If selected as the state’s Beginning Teacher of the Year, Scavotto will receive a $5,000 cash prize and the opportunity to participate in a GoGlobal NC trip. 

         Scavotto is in her second year of teaching, but she’s been part of the Cougar Family since 2018.  While in college, she was an AVID Tutor Lead at Asheville High School.  This role allowed her to work closely with AVID teachers, AVID tutors and AVID students to create and ensure a safe and effective learning environment.  She also did her student-teaching at the high school.  

         “A lot of the students I have now are the same ones I had with AVID in middle school or when I student-taught,” she explained.  Scavotto says she “loves being part of the community in the sense that [she’s] been able to see a lot of [her] students grow.” 

         She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mathematics as well as a Teaching Licensure from the University of North Carolina at Asheville.  She’s also a 2016 International Baccalaureate graduate from East Mecklenburg High School. 


    September 28, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Media Partners, 

    Asheville City Schools will be revealing our district’s 2022 NCCAT Beginning Teacher of the Year on Thursday, September 30th.

    Please join us in Asheville High School’s main entrance rotunda, located at 419 McDowell Street, by 9:25 AM to surprise Nicole Scavotto who is a Math 3 and Advanced Placement Statistics teacher currently in her second year. At 9:30 AM, we will all go to the hallway closest to her classroom to make the official announcement with flowers and balloons.

    The NCCAT Beginning Teacher of the Year process was developed to honor and retain new teaching professionals who show promise as excellent educational leaders. 

    As Asheville City Schools’ finalist, Scavotto and 26 other regional finalists will attend a celebration and week of teacher leadership and professional development at NCCAT’s Cullowhee campus on February 14-18. 

    The NCCAT Beginning Teacher of the Year Selection Committee will review portfolios and interview all of the finalists before selecting our state winner. If selected as the state’s Beginning Teacher of the Year, Scavotto will receive a $5,000 cash prize and the opportunity to participate in a GoGlobal NC trip.

    Hopefully, your schedule will permit you to join us for this exciting announcement. However, if you are unable to make it but would like photos, please let me know and I would be more than happy to share them with you on Thursday following the celebration.

    As always, should you have any questions or need additional information, please let me know.


    September 24, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners,

    Asheville City Schools is pleased to announce that the School of Inquiry and Life Sciences at Asheville (SILSA) is one of just 1,838 schools nationwide to receive a College Success Award from GreatSchools.org. The annual recognition celebrates public high schools that excel at preparing students to enroll in and succeed at college, which is something Principal Nicole Cush says is her top priority and “reflects all the hard work SILSA has been doing.”

    “My number one focus is making sure each and every student graduates,” said Cush “Supporting our seniors and our teachers is my passion because it takes a village.”

    In addition, SILSA is among 81 North Carolina public high schools to win the inaugural College Success Award - Gold. The elevated level of distinction recognizes SILSA’s multi-year track record of college success.

    During the 2020-2021 school year, 92% of SILSA students took at least one AP exam. And the Class of 2020’s graduation rate, which is the last to be officially released from the state, was 98%.

    To learn more about the College Success Award, click here.

    And, if you have any questions or would like to set up an interview with Principal Cush, please let me know.


    September 24, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    I'm working to follow up on the new cluster at AMS announced today, and had a few quick follow up questions if you had a minute. I'm mainly wondering if they're all students, if they passed the virus to each other, if they were vaccinated or eligible for the vaccine, and how many close contacts have been identified that are in quarantine. 

    RESPONSE:

    Below you will find our responses to your media request.  To make things simple, I've broken them down based on each comment you provided: 

    I'm mainly wondering if they're all students

    • Due to privacy requirements, we cannot release the names of these individuals or additional details that may identify them. 

    If they passed the virus to each other

    • Per the CDC, the definition of a cluster in a child care or school setting is a minimum of five positive cases identified through a positive molecular (PCR) or positive antigen test result with illness onsets or initial positive results within a 14-day period and plausible epidemiologic linkage between cases.

    If they were vaccinated or eligible for the vaccine

    • At this time, Asheville City Schools does not maintain data on the COVID-19 vaccine status of students or staff members. 

    How many close contacts have been identified that are in quarantine? 

    • We do not communicate close contact numbers per each confirmed positive case.  Instead, each week, our COVID-19 data snapshot includes the total number of students in quarantine per campus.  This past week 149 of our Cougars across all of Asheville City Schools were excluded from school because they either: 
      • Were deemed a close contact to someone (either within a school building or from our community) that’s tested positive for COVID-19 
      • Tested positive for COVID-19 
      • Experienced COVID-19 symptoms, OR  
      • Were waiting on test results.

    September 24, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Morning Local Media Partners, 
     
    In our ongoing effort to be as transparent as possible, please see below an important COVID-19 update.  The following has been shared with our Asheville Middle School staff and families as well as posted to the district's website under our Back to Schoo Safety Updates page. 
     
    --------

    Good Morning Asheville Middle Students, Staff and Families.  This is Principal April Collins with an important update about our school community. 

    Buncombe County Health and Human Services have notified us that, to date, six individuals at Asheville Middle School have lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 that are epidemiologically linked, meeting the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services definition of a “cluster.” 

    Due to privacy requirements, we cannot release the names of these individuals or additional details that may identify them; however, Buncombe County Health and Human Services are currently monitoring the status of this cluster.  And, those who have tested positive are self-isolating at home per the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit and current CDC guidelines.  I know you join me in wishing them a speedy recovery.  Each of these individuals is a valuable member of the Cougar Family, and we’re looking forward to having them safely return to our campus once their isolation has ended.  

    Please know close contacts to the confirmed positive cases have been identified, and school administrators and nurses have already called families personally impacted by the cluster.  Again, unless a contact tracer or school official called you, your child has NOT been in close contact with the confirmed cases. 

    As part of Asheville City Schools’ protocols, the school has undergone a systematic cleaning, and operations at Asheville Middle School will continue as usual.  We will keep families informed if there are additional positive cases connected to the cluster.  

    At Asheville Middle School, we believe public health is a shared responsibility, and it’s one we’re taking seriously.  Our campus continues to take all precautions consistent with the CDC and Buncombe County Health and Human Services.  

    • Universal face coverings are required for all students and staff members. 

    • Staff and students are maintaining physical distance as much as possible. 

    • Students should stay home when they have symptoms of COVID-19 and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care.  COVID-19 symptoms include: 

      • Fever or chills 

      • Cough 

      • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing 

      • Fatigue 

      • Muscle or body aches 

      • Headache 

      • New loss of taste or smell 

      • Sore throat 

      • Congestion or runny nose 

      • Nausea or vomiting 

      • Diarrhea

    • And, please be reminded that if your child is waiting for COVID-19 test results or in quarantine (regardless of whether their close contact was at school or within the community), they should NOT come to school.  The district’s stance is that if you are sick or believe you may be sick, it’s important to stay home to support us in stopping the spread.  In order for your child to be a successful scholar, they must first feel safe and be healthy.

    If you have any questions about our school’s health protocols, please email the district’s Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations at april.dockery@acsgmail.net.  

    Additionally, please know that the NCDHHS currently updates its “Child Care or School Setting with an Ongoing Cluster” dashboard each Tuesday at 4:00 PM.  Asheville Middle School will be listed on their September 28th update. 

    Thank you for your continued support of our students and staff.


    September 23, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 

    Isaac Dickson Elementary School and Sundance Power Systems are pleased to announce the completed installation of the school’s new community-funded solar panel system.  

    A ceremony will be held tomorrow, Friday, September 23rd to mark the completion of this project. Remarks will be made by community members, as well as local business and nonprofit leaders who helped organize fundraising campaigns, and elected officials. Additionally, our IDES Ukulele Club will be performing.

    Sundance Power says this project “fits into our region’s broader goals to shift to 100% renewable energy in the next two decades.” 

    When: Friday, September 24th at 10:00 AM 

    Where:  Isaac Dickson Elementary School located at 125 Hill Street, Asheville, NC 28801

    In accordance with COVID-19 physical distancing protocols, the ceremony will be out front, near the main entrance.

    Thanks, and please let me know if you have any questions! 

    September 23, 2021 - CBS17 

    REQUEST:

    We just spoke on the phone, thank you for taking my call.

     
    Below is a link to a user generated content form for Nexstar, the company who owns CBS 17/WNCN. In order for us to use the video we just need permission from the poster.
     
    Thank you for agreeing to quickly fill this out for us. Let me know if you have any questions or issues doing so.
     
    RESPONSE: 
    Good Afternoon Kayla,

    I just looked over the document you sent. Asheville City Schools is not the owner of the video; we simply shared Betsie Stockslager Emry's post to our page. Therefore, I do not feel comfortable signing your release and believe Ms. Emry would be the correct person to contact. However, if you need a comment from the district, please see below:

    Bear sightings are rather common in Asheville; although, this is the first time in recent history that a video’s been filmed showing bears playing on one of our playgrounds. While we enjoyed seeing our furry friends enjoy the playground, the incident occurred after hours, and all after school students were safely inside. Consistent with our safety protocols, if such a sighting were to have occurred during the regular school day, our school administrator would have informed families that the campus was in a precautionary perimeter lockdown until the bears left campus.

    September 23, 2021 - Newsweek

    REQUEST:

    I'm writing a story about the adorable video that was taken of the two bears playing on the playground at Isaac Dickson Elementary School. I was interested in a comment from the district for the piece.

    RESPONSE:

    Bear sightings are rather common in Asheville; although, this is the first time in recent history that a video’s been filmed showing bears playing on one of our playgrounds. While we enjoyed seeing our furry friends enjoy the playground on Tuesday, the incident occurred after hours, and all after school students were safely inside. Consistent with our safety protocols, if such a sighting were to have occurred during the regular school day, our school administrator would have informed families that the campus was in a precautionary perimeter lockdown until the bears left campus.


    September 23, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    I saw ACS had some adorable visitors at Isaac Dickson! When were the bears there? Has this ever happened before?

    RESPONSE:

    Bear sightings are rather common in Asheville; although, this is the first time in recent history that a video’s been filmed showing bears playing on one of our playgrounds. While we enjoyed seeing our furry friends enjoy the playground on Tuesday, the incident occurred after hours, and all after school students were safely inside. Consistent with our safety protocols, if such a sighting were to have occurred during the regular school day, our school administrator would have informed families that the campus was in a precautionary perimeter lockdown until the bears left campus.


    September 22, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Evening Local Media Partners, 
     
    As shared with Asheville High & SILSA staff and families, please see below for an important update about the high school campus, which is in the beginning stages of several construction projects.  
    -------

    Thanks to the generous support of our County Commissioners and the School Capital Fund Commission, we are installing solar panels to certain roofs and starting construction on Building G.  Additionally, using capital funds from the Maintenance Department, we are stabilizing the slope around the athletic field and adding external guttering to the media center/repairing its roof. 

    Illustration 1: Aerial Photo with construction highlights

    You will soon begin seeing additional work vehicles on your child’s campus.  Please know the construction crews will follow both our COVID-19 and Safety Protocols.  

    • Fencing will be around construction materials, and students will not have access to the prep sites.  

    • Background checks will be required for all on-site workers. 

    • Construction staff will be easily identifiable as part of the crew.  

    None of these projects should interrupt instruction; however, it may impact how students move around the campus.  If it seems like a particular project will disrupt their typical movement between buildings, I will be in direct communication with our students to ensure their safety.    

    Additionally, during this time, it will be imperative that your child parks in their assigned spot.  If a student does not park in their assigned spot, they will be ticketed.  I will be sharing this information with students directly but would appreciate your support in sharing this news about parking spots as well. 

    SOLAR PANELS (green on map):

    Crews from MB Haynes will begin our school’s solar panel project tomorrow, Thursday, September 24th.  They will be installing solar panels to the roofs of the Cafeteria, the Arts Building and the CTE Building. 

    The first phase of this project will include the Cafeteria and the Arts Building.  This phase will be complete before Winter Break.  Phase 2 will include the CTE Building and will be completed in the Spring Semester.  

    Again, we do not anticipate disruptions to our school day but wanted to keep you informed about how the county’s investment in renewable energy is impacting our school community. 

    THE MEDIA CENTER (yellow on map): 

    Construction crews will also soon begin working on the Media Center.  

    As it currently stands, there is a design flaw with the downspouts.  This means stormwater comes through the interior drywall whenever there’s heavy rain.  To repair this issue, the Media Center will receive new roofing and external guttering to drain water away from the building.  The drywall and ceiling will also be repaired.   

    We anticipate the Media Center project to be completed before students leave for Winter Break. 

    While construction is occurring, students WILL still be able to visit the Media Center and check out books. 

    SLOPE STABILIZATION (blue on map): 

    Our athletic field sits in the bottom of a grass valley.  Over time, water has begun to wash away the slope and created a small sink.  Therefore, contractors will make repairs to our outdoor drainage system in order to stabilize the grassy hill. 

    At this time, crews have begun running camera lines to see the interior structure as it currently stands.  We are waiting on those results.  Once we have those results, we will begin having monthly meetings on plan submittals, permitting and bidding.  

    Student-athletes WILL continue to have access to the athletic field both during the school day and for practice.  We DO NOT anticipate construction interfering with any upcoming athletic events.  

    The project is estimated to finish this winter.  However, due to weather delays, procurements of materials and needed permits, completion may be pushed back.

    Please understand that this is a vital step that must occur before we can replace the high school track. 

    BUILDING G (red on map): 

    As early as next week, construction will also begin on Building G.   

    The original building was put together by students in 1948 as the vocational program’s real-world construction lesson; following a 2018 site visit from the Buncombe County Permits and Inspections Commercial Plan Reviewer, the building was structurally condemned and demolished.  

    The new construction project will replace the old facility and will house classrooms, a weight room, a new program space and a locker room.

    Last week, school and district leaders met with engineers, architects, contractors and Buncombe County Government to discuss next steps.  H&M Constructors will be leading the project.  

    At this time, submissions are beginning for construction bids, and we are seeking approval from both The City of Asheville’s Zoning Department and Buncombe County’s Permits & Inspections Office. 

    We anticipate construction on Building G will begin on Friday, October 1st.  Upon its start, the project will take, at minimum, 365 days.  Weather delays, inability to procure materials because of COVID-19 and unforeseen circumstances may extend this timeline. 

    IN CONCLUSION: 

    I am excited about these upgrades and appreciate our County Commissioners for their continued support as we invest in our next generation of leaders.  

    I will continue to keep you updated as progress is made and appreciate your understanding as we work together to ensure construction across the high school is carried out as smoothly as possible. 

    Thank you all for your continued support, and I look forward to maintaining an amazing campus for our current students and all those coming in future generations.  
    -------
    Thanks, and if you have any questions or need further information, please let me know!

    September 20, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    Remind me, does ACS require unvaccinated teachers and workers to be tested weekly?

    RESPONSE:  

    Asheville City Schools supports our health department in sharing vaccine appointment information. However, at this time, we are not maintaining data on our staffs' vaccination status nor requiring unvaccinated employees to get tested weekly.


    September 20, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    I’m writing today about how Biden’s vaccine mandate will also apply to school workers.

    Can you all tell me how you plan to implement the mandate and what you understand the deadline to be? Also, is it your understanding that unvaccinated employees will be fired?

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2021/09/18/federal-vaccine-rule-apply-public-employees-26-states/8324838002/

    https://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/news/local/south-carolina/2021/09/18/covid-vaccine-requirement-south-carolina-public-employees-teachers/8397381002/

    Also, can you give me the latest count on how many employees there are in the district and how many are vaccinated?

    RESPONSE:

    First and foremost, I wanted to let you know that I'm unable to speak to the two articles you shared because both are for subscribers only. 

    However, regarding your other requests...In alignment with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Asheville City Schools is waiting to see OSHA’s emergency vaccination rule and hear more from Governor Cooper and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services before proceeding.  
     
    As shared in our district-wide Back to School Safety Updates, we know vaccination is the leading public health prevention station to end the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why Asheville City Schools continues to support our health department in sharing vaccine appointment information. 
     
    Additionally, please understand that if Asheville City Schools were to begin requiring staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, this information would first be shared with staff, then ACS families before going out to our greater school community and local media partners. 
     
    Asheville City Schools employs around 825 full-time, part-time and temporary staff members.  At this time, we are not maintaining data on our staff’s vaccination status.

    September 20, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    As shared with staff and families... 
     
    As a follow-up to this morning’s communication, please know our Maintenance Department IS saving the bricks and plaques as they disassemble the wooden structure at Jones Park Playground.  Unfortunately, the wood itself is not salvageable. 

    The bricks and plaques will be taken from the Ira B. Jones campus for safekeeping and cleaning.  In the near future, I will share more information about when community members that purchased a brick or plaque will be able to collect their keepsake.  

    For your safety, please do NOT come to the construction site to retrieve these mementos at this time.  Again, further communications will be sent out.  

    We know and understand the beloved playground was built by our community, which is why we will continue to keep you all updated as progress is made. 

    Thanks, and please let me know if you have any questions!

     

    September 20, 2021 - WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    Just doing a little story research for the week ahead have you guys had any kids steal or vandalize school bathrooms? There’s apparently a tiktok trend going around right now: https://www.npr.org/2021/09/17/1038378816/students-are-damaging-school-bathrooms-for-attention-on-tiktok?utm_term=nprnews&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&fbclid=IwAR0d1nr7vUrj2OyI-vcAl6w1AkaMin5qogLkhaJBrD8IdEZrVqkztqWJOYY

    If so would you be interested in working on a story with me about this next week?

    RESPONSE:

    Over the weekend, school administrators shared the following update with middle and high school families. 

    We wanted to make you aware of an issue that we are having on our campus this week. There is a current "challenge" circulating on the social media app TikTok where individuals are encouraging others to steal or damage school property. Because of this viral trend, we have had incidents of this happening at our middle and high schools. Our buildings are meant to be a safe, clean space for our students and staff, and we will not tolerate the destruction and theft of school property. There will be consequences for students who choose to engage in this behavior, including the involvement of law enforcement.

    We are doing our best to identify the students who are committing these acts, but we need your support- please speak with your child about this so they are aware that actions like these are unacceptable.  And, if your student has any information they would like to share to support us in stopping further destruction like this from happening, please encourage them to speak with either myself, their teacher or another trusted school staff member.

    Thanks, and please let me know if you have any questions about our statement. 


    September 20, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Morning Local Media Partners, 
     
    As shared with staff and families, please see below for an important update about Jones Park Playground. 

    Per previous communications, Jones Park Playground has been closed to all students and community members since August 24th following an unsatisfactory safety inspection from a third-party consultant. 

    The initial playground safety audit shows that the cost to make improvements to the current structure would be more than 50% of the replacement cost and exceeds “the added useful life of this play equipment.”  Therefore, fixing the playground as it currently stands is neither fiscally responsible nor an option Asheville City Schools would like to pursue.  

    Therefore, the next step in eventually replacing the beloved playground as funds become available is to remove the current structure.  Our Maintenance Team will begin disassembling the wooden structure beginning today, Monday, September 20th.  Originally, our plan was to begin this process tomorrow; however, due to impending weather, they will start today.  Therefore, you will notice additional staff on Ira B. Jones Elementary School’s property.  

    Once the playground is removed, a green space will be created for students, families and community members to enjoy.  

    Thank you for your support and understanding.  We will keep you updated as next steps are determined. 

    Thanks, and if you have any questions, please let me know. 


    September 17, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon and Happy Friday Media Partners,
     
    As shared with staff and families...Starting Monday, September 20th, the Asheville City Board of Education will allow public comments to be made both in person and virtually.  This change to Board Meetings is in response to not only the physical distancing restraints COVID-19 currently puts on our meeting spaces but also knowing that most of the people who wish to speak during public comment have school-aged students at home and are trying to juggle Board Meetings with making dinner, bath time and putting little ones to bed.  The Board’s hope is that allowing for virtual public comments will increase accessibility and allow them to hear from more voices.  

    If someone would like to make their public comments virtually they will follow the same guidelines as those coming in person, including having three minutes to speak.  

    To do this, they can complete our virtual public comment sign-up form, which can be accessed here.  It will also be included on both the Asheville City Board of Education webpage and in the district’s social media meeting reminder posts.  Please know next week’s virtual public comment sign-up form will close on Monday, September 20th at 12:00 NOON. 

    Once the virtual public comment sign-up form has closed, staff will send those wishing to speak an email which will include a Zoom Meeting Link, a copy of the meeting’s agenda and the Public Comment Guidelines. 

    And, once the meeting begins, virtual public comments will be heard following all in-person public comments.  When it is their turn to speak, a staff member will call on them.  One point of note is that, in order to be considered present, the virtual public commenter must be able to have a camera projecting their face while they are speaking. 

    To read more about this new opportunity, which we hope will support our busy students, staff and families, please review Policy 2310

    Thanks, and please let me know if you have any questions! 

    September 16, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Evening Local Media Partners, 
     
    I've shared the following communication with our staff and families as well as posted it on our social media platforms; however, because this forthcoming construction impacts our greater community, especially those living on Courtland Avenue, Houston Street and Arborvale Road, I would appreciate your support in sharing it as well. 

    We wanted to let you know that construction will soon begin on the replacement of Montford North Star Academy’s current retaining wall.  We believe the large rock wall was originally constructed in the 1950s.  And, over time, the wall has begun to deteriorate.  Currently, there is a segment along Gudger Street that, if left untouched, will eventually pose a threat to public safety; families currently picking up their car riders are safe driving on Gudger Street. 

    Thanks to the generous support of the School Capital Fund Commission, about $580,000 has been allotted to complete this project.   

    Asheville City Schools’ Maintenance Department has engaged with a third-party engineering consultant, S&ME, to ensure the new design is not only structurally sound but in alignment with the requirements of the Asheville Historic Resources Commission.  The full design report can be found here. (see email version of this letter)

    Construction on the new retaining wall will take about 120 days to complete.  While the project is underway, Gudger Street will be closed beginning Monday, September 20th until just before our students and staff leave for Winter Break. Knowing that our MNSA families currently use Gudger Street to pick up their car riders, with support from Principal Baggett, a new traffic pattern will be temporarily put in place for our car riders.  Families will form the car line down Courtland Ave. 

    In order to support our families, please know a traffic guard will temporarily be stationed outside MNSA during dismissal.  

    Construction will not interfere with our bus riders. 

    Thank you for your support and understanding as we work together to ensure construction is carried out as smoothly as possible.  We will continue to keep you updated as progress is made. 


    Thanks, and if you have any questions, please let me know! 

    September 16, 2021 - The New York Times 

    REQUEST:

    I'm a New York Times reporter writing a story about how schools are experiencing food shortages because of supply chain issues. I saw a local news report about how Asheville is experiencing this now. Can you share more about some of the challenges the district is facing and what types of products it is seeing a shortage of?

    RESPONSE:

    Regarding our School Nutrition Department, you can find our statement on food shortages below. Also, just in case you need it, our Back to School Safety Update from September 13th goes into greater detail about the department and its response to COVID-19.

    “We know that school meals fuel our Cougar Family throughout the day, which is why we’re looking forward to continuing to provide all students with nutritious, no-cost breakfasts and lunches this year. As shared, School Nutrition Programs across the country are experiencing supply chain issues due to limited product availability, nationwide transportation challenges and supplier labor shortages. At this time, Asheville City Schools is having difficulty receiving chicken. Therefore, we are responding by serving alternative meals based on the substitute items our School Nutrition Department receives. Despite the replaced items, please know that our students continue to be served healthy breakfasts and lunches that meet the meal pattern requirements for the National School Lunch Program. We appreciate the continued patience of our students and families.”

    Thanks, and if you need any additional information, please let me know.


    September 15, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    As a follow-up to this morning's phone call, below you will find the names of those who make up our Enrollment Team: 
    • Allana Wagner 
    • Holly Murray 
    • Melissa Hedt 
    • Laura Parks 
    • Sarah Cain 
    • Tanya Presha 
    • Paula Dowd 
    • Ian Nelson 
    • Kidada Wynn 
    • Tisha Rousseau 
    • Kimberly Jones  

    September 15, 2021 - WLOS 

    REQUEST:  

    Something else that caught my eye last night was that elementary school students are being sent home with take home work if they are quarantined. Do all ACS elementary school students have an iPad? And will they not be receiving some type of virtual instruction that way when they are quarantined? I figured the district was one to one with learning devices since the virtual learning last year.

    RESPONSE:

    During Monday’s Board of Education Meeting, Carrie Buchanan, the principal of Hall Fletcher Elementary School, spoke on behalf of our elementary principals.  She explained that, as we begin the new school year, our elementary schools have decided the best way to support our students in isolation is to have paper packets available for pick-up or to have a staff member drop off independent work to a student’s home if their family is unable to get to their child’s school.  This decision was made because we want our students to focus on getting better.  

    However, yes.  Each of our elementary students does have access to a device.  In most cases, it’s a touchscreen Chromebook, with some Kindergarten and 1st Grade classes utilizing iPads. 

    And, if a whole class needed to be quarantined, we would be able to provide virtual support.  

    You can read more about Asheville City Schools’ academic support here


    September 14, 2021 - WLOS 

    REQUEST:

    At the school board meeting yesterday, the school nutritionist gave an update, saying that supply chain issues are also affecting ACS schools and what foods they are able to serve. Wanted to see if someone with ACS could talk for a quick interview today about that and exactly what kinds of foods ACS is having difficulty getting for school lunches?

    RESPONSE: 

    Unfortunately our School Nutrition Director, Melissa Bates, in unavailable for an on camera interview today.  As shared last night, four of our nine cafeterias currently have vacancies, and Mrs. Bates will be busy supporting her staff.  However, if you’d like to set up an on camera interview for later this week, please let me know. 

    Of course, I do understand that, typically, WLOS reporters operate on a same-day turnaround.  Therefore, if this is not feasible, in her absence, you’re more than welcome to use the following statement: 

    “We know that school meals fuel our Cougar Family throughout the day, which is why we’re looking forward to continuing to provide all students with nutritious, no-cost breakfasts and lunches this year.  As shared, School Nutrition Programs across the country are experiencing supply chain issues due to limited product availability, nationwide transportation challenges and supplier’s labor shortages.  At this time, Asheville City Schools is having difficulty receiving chicken.  Therefore, we are responding by serving alternative meals based on the substitute items our School Nutrition Department receives.  Despite the replaced items, please know that our students continue to be served healthy breakfasts and lunches that meet the meal pattern requirements for the National School Lunch Program.  We appreciate the continued patience of our students and families.” 


    September 14, 2021 - WLOS 

    REQUEST:

    I heard that the school nutritionist said during the school board meeting that the district was facing supply chain issues with school food. Could you go into a little more detail about what this means: what food is the district struggling to get, is it affecting the nutritional value of the food, and what meals have changed as a result? 

    RESPONSE: 

    We know that school meals fuel our Cougar Family throughout the day, which is why we’re looking forward to continuing to provide all students with nutritious, no-cost breakfasts and lunches this year.  As shared, School Nutrition Programs across the country are experiencing supply chain issues due to limited product availability, nationwide transportation challenges and supplier labor shortages.  At this time, Asheville City Schools is having difficulty receiving chicken.  Therefore, we are responding by serving alternative meals based on the substitute items our School Nutrition Department receives.  Despite the replaced items, please know that our students continue to receive healthy meals that meet the meal pattern requirements for the National School Lunch Program.  We appreciate the continued patience of our students and families.


    September 13, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Evening Media Partners, 
     
    As shared with staff and families as well as posted to ACS's social media, you will find our latest Back to School Safety Update below. 

    Good Evening Students, Staff and Families.  This is Ashley-Michelle Thublin, Executive Director of Communications.  

    On behalf of  Dr. Gene and the Asheville City Board of Education, I’m reaching out with a safety update. 

    HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS

    COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols were discussed during this evening’s Work Session of the Asheville City Board of Education.  The presentation shared with the Board can be found here

    A panel made up of school and district leaders discussed our data dashboard, announcing that, beginning this week, Asheville City Schools will include the total number of confirmed positive cases on each campus since the 2021-2022 school year began as well as how many students are currently in quarantine.  The panel also talked through possible scenarios (such as a student tests positive for COVID-19 and is able to complete their school work) and how the district would provide support while they were away.  Per previous communications, you can find additional details about Asheville City Schools’ academic response if your child is quarantined or tests positive for COVID-19, here.  

    And, please be reminded that Asheville City Schools is now requiring a full 14-day exclusion from in-person learning for unvaccinated individuals who are deemed as close contacts to someone that has tested positive for COVID-19.  

    • Per the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit, an individual can only discontinue quarantine before the 14 days of last exposure if they wear their face coverings and maintain physical distancing of six feet or more at all times.  

    • With all our students and staff learning in person, it is difficult to ensure that we can carry out such protocols for every student every minute of the day; therefore, in order to be consistent, we have made this our procedure for all grade levels at this time.  

    • We will continue with this procedure while our countywide transmissions rates are high and will reconsider other options once countywide transmission rates decline.

    As shared, if your child is identified as a close contact and is fully vaccinated, they can return to school the next day if they have no symptoms and are able to provide proof of vaccination.  

    Please watch the recorded meeting to hear more from our panel of experts.  The health and safety discussion began around 45 minutes into the meeting.  

    SCHOOL NUTRITION

    Additionally, the district’s School Nutrition Director, Melissa Bates, also shared safety updates pertaining to her department.  

    • Based on the unique needs of their building and the number of school nutrition staff members on their campus, principals have created their own transition plans to ensure all students, Kindergarten - 12th Grade, are going through the lunch line.  The district is supporting their decision-making.  Please know the only prerequisite to the plan was that lunches would no longer be delivered to classrooms; all other decisions were left up to the discretion of school leadership.  

    • As staff currently stands, Asheville City Schools does not have the manpower to deliver meals to all elementary classrooms long-term.  In addition to school-based staffing shortages, at this time, four out of the nine cafeterias have vacancies.  

    • Having students come through the line to pick out items eliminates food waste, as students select just what they’d like to eat.  On the other hand, when meals are brought to the classroom, enough is prepared and brought for each student to have one of each item.  If a student chooses not to eat something, it must be discarded.

    • Mrs. Bates is concerned that, by delivering food to the classroom, we are making students take food they may not eat and increasing food waste at a time when we are having trouble receiving food.  School Nutrition Programs across the country are experiencing supply chain issues due to limited product availability, nationwide transportation challenges and supplier’s labor shortages.

    • The National School Lunch Program is not set up to serve meals in the classroom.  

      • To Mrs. Bates’ knowledge, no other districts are serving lunch in the classroom.

      • NCDPI School Nutrition Services considers this year normal and is only granting waiver flexibility in rare circumstances.

      • Mrs. Bates called to discuss our self-service options and procedures with the local health inspector.  The health inspector stated that we do not have any COVID-19 restrictions for the way we serve.

    • Even while in the lunch line, students should continue to follow districtwide physical distancing protocols. 

    ATHLETICS 

    Sonita Warren-Dixon, Asheville High Schools’ Athletic Director, explained how the district is keeping its student-athletes safe.  

    • Coach Warren-Dixon reemphasized that our number one priority remains to protect our student-athletes, coaches and fans.

    • Student-athletes ages 12+ are encouraged to receive the COVID-19 vaccine if they have not already done so, as vaccination is the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    • Student-athletes continue to follow the three Ws - waiting six feet apart, wearing face coverings and frequently washing their hands. 

      • Even when they’re outside, student-athletes are required to wear masks unless they’re actively engaging in rigorous physical activity.  

    • Both buses and locker rooms are routinely sanitized. 

    • Student-athletes are NOT drinking out of the same water bottles.  

    She also reminded Cougar Fans that face coverings are strongly recommended and encouraged to be worn when attending an outside athletic event, especially for those that are not vaccinated.  And, in alignment with our current districtwide protocols, face coverings are required for all indoor athletic events.  Parents, we are asking for your support in reiterating to your child how important it is to keep our community safe and healthy.  

    CONTINUE TO MONITOR FOR COVID-19 SYMPTOMS

    Board members were also reminded of COVID-19 symptoms.  In order to keep our staff and students as safe as possible, we ask that families continue to monitor for: 

    • Fever or chills 

    • Cough 

    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing 

    • Fatigue 

    • Muscle or body aches 

    • Headache 

    • New loss of taste or smell 

    • Sore throat 

    • Congestion or runny nose 

    • Nausea or vomiting 

    • Diarrhea

    And, if any student, teacher or staff member has symptoms of COVID-19, they should stay home and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and further care.  Please know that Asheville City Schools is also able to provide no-cost, rapid antigen tests at each of our district buildings as part of a statewide program. 

    In closing, thank you for your continued support of Asheville City Schools.  We will continue to modify our safety protocols to ensure we can maintain a healthy, in-person learning environment.

    Thanks, and, as always, if you have any questions, please let me know! 

    September 13, 2021 - WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    I am reaching out to see if the Asheville City Schools board meeting tonight will be livestreamed?

    RESPONSE:

    Great question!  Tonight's Work Session will indeed be livestreamed on the district's YoutTube page.  


    September 9, 2021 - NewsRadio 570am WWNC

    REQUEST:

    Is there any chance you can tell me the number of ACS students with Covid and those quarantined because of exposure?

    RESPONSE: 

    Our district-wide dashboard does not include the number of students currently in quarantine because they’ve been deemed as a close contact, so I don’t have that information to share. However, per last Thursday’s dashboard, we had eight new confirmed positive cases when an individual was on our campus during the infectious window as of Wednesday, September 1st. This week’s dashboard, which will include our most current numbers, will be updated today by 6:00 PM. Additionally, as BCHHS is a resource for all schools in Buncombe Co. (charter, private, and public) they might be a good resource for an overall look at the county.


    September 8, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Evening Local Media, 
     
    As shared with students, staff and families as well as posted to ACS's website and social media, you will find our latest Back to School Safety Update below: 

    Good Afternoon Students, Staff and Families. This is Ashley-Michelle Thublin, Executive Director of Communications, with a back-to-school safety update. 

    First and foremost, I wanted to let you know that, per Senate Bill 654, the Asheville City Board of Education will be required to vote monthly on whether they would like to continue to require face coverings for all students and staff.  Therefore, as part of these requirements, “face coverings” will be an item on the agenda of the September 13th Work Session, and the Board will be voting on it during the September 20th Regular Meeting.  And, “face coverings” will be a standing item on meeting agendas for the foreseeable future.  

    I’m also writing to provide you with further clarification regarding confirmed positives, how confirmed positives are communicated and our quarantine/isolation procedures.  

    CONFIRMED POSITIVES: 

    We’ve received a few questions from parents about what makes a case a “confirmed positive.”

    • If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 with an at-home test kit that was NOT prescribed/ordered by a healthcare provider or from an at-home specimen collection kit that was sent to a lab for testing (like Pixel by LabCorp), Asheville City Schools is requiring a second test to confirm the diagnosis.  The second test can be carried out by your local healthcare provider or at no charge at any Asheville City Schools facility.  At-home tests that are not prescribed by a healthcare provider or sent to a lab are not acceptable testing results per North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services guidelines.  

    • If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 with an Asheville City Schools rapid antigen test, we are not requiring them to receive a second positive test. Please know that Asheville City Schools is able to provide rapid antigen tests at school as part of a statewide program.  All tests that result in a positive diagnosis are reported to the state and to BCHHS.  

    • Students and/or their parents can provide Asheville City Schools with a positive test result from a local healthcare provider or certified testing site to allow for confirmation of a positive case.    

    As a reminder, if your child has been tested for COVID-19 and is waiting on their results, they should not come to school. 

    And, if a student or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19, they are required to isolate. Per the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit, Asheville City Schools will continue to follow the recommendations of our local public health department regarding quarantine for close contacts and isolation for positive cases.

    COMMUNICATION ABOUT CONFIRMED POSITIVE

    Our goal remains to provide you with accurate information as quickly as possible. 

    However, we want you to know that contact tracing only occurs for confirmed positive cases.  

    School administrators are also only able to notify families that a student in their child’s class has tested positive for COVID-19 after 1) a case has been confirmed and 2) close contacts have been identified. 

    We know that this can be very stressful for families, especially when information is shared amongst friends before the individual case can be confirmed.  However, the district must wait until a case has been confirmed to ensure the information we’re sharing is accurate. 

    In order to keep our staff and students as safe as possible, we ask that you continue to monitor your child for COVID-19 symptoms: 

    • Fever or chills 

    • Cough 

    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing 

    • Fatigue 

    • Muscle or body aches 

    • Headache 

    • New loss of taste or smell 

    • Sore throat 

    • Congestion or runny nose 

    • Nausea or vomiting 

    • Diarrhea 

    QUARANTINE PROCEDURES: 

    Additionally, we wanted to let you know about an update to our quarantine protocols.  

    In August, we provided you with different scenarios to support families if their child was in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.  Since then, we have updated our decision because, now that students are back in our classrooms, we realize we cannot guarantee physical distancing as required for a shortened quarantine, although staff and students are maintaining as much physical distance as possible. 

    In collaboration with our MAHEC School Nurse Team, we have determined that: 

    • If your child IS NOT fully vaccinated and is identified as a close contact to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, they will be required to stay home from school and quarantine for 14 days.  If your child is confirmed as a close contact, specific communication will be shared directly with your family, including the day your child can return to school.  

    • If your child is identified as a close contact and IS fully vaccinated, they can return to school the next day if they have no symptoms and are able to provide proof of vaccination.  

    Out of an abundance of precaution, Asheville City Schools will handle all its quarantine/isolation protocols like this until further notice. 

    As always, we thank you for your support and understanding as we continue to keep our staff and students as safe and healthy as possible.  The pandemic has shown us that change is the only constant we’re facing, which is why we’re continuing to modify our safety protocols to ensure we can maintain a healthy, in-person learning environment.

    Thanks, and should you have any questions, please let me know! 

    September 8, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    Quick Question; is ACS. aking staff if they've been vaccinated/to provide proof of vaccination? 

    RESPONSE: 

    No, not at this time. 


    September 2, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    I am currently working on a series of articles analyzing the current decline in high school athletic participation statewide since the start of the pandemic, specifically looking at the Asheville area. I was wondering if you could help put me in contact with someone at Asheville City Schools who I could talk to about this.

    RESPONSE: 

    Thank you so much for reaching out. However, after speaking with our High School Athletic Director, we are not experiencing a decrease in student-athlete participation, so I don't believe we would be appropriate to include in your piece.


    August 30, 2021 - WLOS 

    REQUEST:

    Good morning. I am reaching out to confirm and get any updated number concerning covid cases in Asheville City Schools following the first week of school. I saw an article in the Citizen Times that put the number at 22. 

    https://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/2021/08/30/asheville-city-schools-covid-19-outbreak-cases-reported-first-week/5619949001/

     We are doing a story today looking at the covid numbers in the school systems across our area as classes start back up. 

    RESPONSE: 

    We believe public health is a shared responsibility, and it is one that our district takes seriously, which is why our campuses are taking all precautions consistent with the CDC and Buncombe County Health and Human Services. We’re happy that students are back in the classroom and will continue to do everything we can to keep our students and staff safe.

    You are correct. 22 was the number shared with staff and families as part of our August 26th update.

    For staff, it reflects the first day our teachers were back, which was August 16th - Thursday, August 26th. And, for students, it began on Monday, August 23rd - Thursday, August 26th. Moving forward, our dashboard will reflect cases from Thursday to Wednesday.


    August 27, 2021 - The Citizen- Times 

    REQUEST: 

    Sorry — another quick question. What exactly is an “infectious window?”

    RESPONSE:

    To clarify what we’re referring to when the table says “infectious window,” please know that to decide an infectious window, it must first be determined whether someone was symptomatic or asymptomatic.

    • Symptomatic: If a person has a symptomatic lab-confirmed case, their infectious window is 48 hours prior to the onset of their symptoms thru the completion of their isolation period. Their isolation period ends 10 days from the onset of symptoms as long as they’ve had no fever for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication and had 24 hours of improved symptoms.
    • Asymptomatic: If a person has an asymptomatic lab-confirmed case, their infectious window is 48 hours prior to their positive test thru 10 days from their positive test date.


    If you have further questions about infectious windows, I invite you to reach out to Buncombe County Health and Human Services, as they're the medical experts we collaborate with.


    August 27, 2021 - The Citizen- Times 

    REQUEST: 

    The report sent out yesterday, do those number reflect Monday-Thursday?

    RESPONSE:

    For staff, it reflects the first day our teachers were back, which was August 16th. And, for students, it began on Monday, August 23rd - Thursday, August 26th. Moving forward, our dashboard will reflect cases from Thursday to Wednesday.


    August 27, 2021 - The Citizen- Times 

    REQUEST: 

    Could I please get a statement about the district’s positive COVID cases so far. Was ACS anticipating so many positives after only a few days?
    How are COVID protocols going? Are students and staff adhering? Any complaints?

    RESPONSE:

    Per Dr. Gene Freeman, Superintendent of Asheville City Schools, "We believe public health is a shared responsibility, and it is one that our district takes seriously, which is why our campuses are taking all precautions consistent with the CDC and Buncombe County Health and Human Services. We’re happy that students are back in the classroom and will continue to do everything we can to keep our students and staff safe. I anticipate that it's going to be a great year."


    August 25, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    I understand ACS has COVID testing on site. Is this free for students/staff who have to be tested?

    RESPONSE: 

    Great question!  Asheville City Schools was part of a pilot program during the 2020-2021 school year and is continuing to offer on-site, rapid, antigen tests at no cost to students and staff.  This service informs staff if students are able to stay in school if they've tested negative for COVID-19 as well as quickly let them know whether a student should quarantine after testing positive


    August 24, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners

    As shared with our staff and family members and posted to ACS's social media, please see below for an important update regarding Jones Park Playground:

    In August 2021, Asheville City Schools’ Maintenance Department engaged with a third-party consultant, Synergy Sports Global LLC, to assess the safety and code compliance of the Jones Park Playground. To clarify, this is NOT the primary playground Ira B. Jones students utilize during recess but is the one community members and their families have access to on Ira B. Jones Elementary School’s property. Out of 100, Jones Park Playground’s safety inspection was ranked at 14.7. In total, 59 issues were identified from the following categories:

    • ADA and Accessibility
    • Deterioration of Equipment
    • Drainage
    • General Hazards
    • General Maintenance
    • Paint and Powder Coating
    • Security of Hardware
    • Signage Failure to Warn
    • Surfacing

    According to the report prepared by Synergy, “Jones Park Playground has served its useful life... poses a safety risk to users and has the potential to structurally fail.” The full report can be found here.


    Therefore, beginning immediately, the Jones Park Playground will be closed to all students and community members until further notice. Temporary fencing will begin going up around the playground as early as Thursday, August 26th.


    We know and understand the playground is a valuable asset to the neighborhood and school community. Thousands of students have grown up playing at the park, and many parents donated their time and financial resources to build the park.


    However, at this time, the park is not safe and uninsurable. Therefore, we must quickly act to ensure no one gets hurt.


    The initial playground safety audit shows that the cost to make improvements to the current structure would be more than 50% of the replacement cost and exceeds “the added useful life of this play equipment.” Therefore, fixing the playground as it currently stands is neither fiscally responsible nor an option Asheville City Schools would like to pursue.


    Synergy recommends that the Jones Park Playground structure be “replaced as soon as feasible.” The estimated cost to do so is between $85,000 - $150,000 depending on which new structure is selected.


    School administrators, district leadership and the Asheville City Board of Education will be exploring several possible options. Our eventual hope is to replace the beloved playground as funds become available. However, such a project will take time, community support and community input.


    Thank you for your support and understanding as we work together to determine next steps. Please know we will continue to update you as progress is made.


    Please let me know if I can answer any questions or if you'd like to set up an interview with our Board Chair, Mr. James Carter.


    August 24, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    Hi Ashley-Michelle!  When does Jackie McHargue's resignation go into effect? 

    RESPONSE: 

    Based on information received from Ms. McHargue, her final meeting will most likely be November 8th. 


    August 18, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners

    As shared with our staff and families, I wanted to let you know that Asheville City Schools will be hosting a COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic TOMORROW, Thursday, August 19th from 9:00 AM - NOON.  In partnership with Buncombe County Health & Human Services and StarMed (a State mobile vaccine provider), the no-cost, walk-up clinic will be held under the walkway, near the main office of Montford North Star Academy located at 90 Montford Avenue.  

    The Pfizer vaccine will be available.      

    We apologize for the late notice, but when the opportunity presented itself to host a vaccine clinic prior to the first day of school, we were quick to take it - especially after our local health department shared earlier today that our county’s positivity rate is up to 8.5%.  

    Vaccinations are the “leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic.”  So, we’re highly encouraging all North Carolinians, especially those that are part of the Cougar Family, ages 12 and up who have not received the vaccine to make plans to attend tomorrow’s clinic.  However, if someone is unable to attend but would like to know when other upcoming vaccine events are occurring across Buncombe County, click here.

    Our hope is to continue to host more vaccination clinics this year. Once those dates have been solidified, we'll be sure to send further communication so that you can mark your calendars for this important community resource.


    August 17, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    How many students were put on the waitlist for summer academy this year?

    RESPONSE:

    No middle or high school students were waitlisted for our summer program.  Regarding elementary students...summer programming was offered to students in Kindergarten - 5th Grade who demonstrated academic need or fell under the NC Read to Achieve Reading Camp requirements. Due to late enrollment requests from invited students, additional staffing was required, so sixteen students were temporarily placed on a wait-list until we secured additional teachers. Of the waitlisted students, all were offered spots and ten opted to participate. In total, we provided programming for 307 students, during six weeks of summer school. 


    August 17, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    As shared with staff and posted to the district's website and social media, Asheville City Schools will be operating on a two-hour delay for all staff members tomorrow, Wednesday, August 18th due to the impact of Post-Tropical Storm Fred.  This means that all staff members across the district should report at 10:00 AM.


    August 16, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    On behalf of Dr. Gene and the Asheville City Board of Education, please see below for our latest Back to School safety update, which was previously shared with our staff, families and greater school community. 

    SAFETY MEASURES: 

    As previously shared, at this time, we will not be providing universal remote learning options like we did during the 2020 - 2021 school year because the Toolkit no longer includes Options A, B and C.  Because we do not have an established virtual academy, our hope is to have as many students learning in our school buildings as possible.  With face-to-face instruction, our schools offer a safe, productive educational environment with opportunities for social-emotional support, academic support, diverse enrichment through arts and athletics as well as no-cost, nutritious meals. In order to do this, safety measures have been put in place. 

    According to Buncombe County Health and Human Services, if we require universal masking, maintain proper physical distance, and frequently wash our hands, we anticipate the number of students who have to quarantine this year will be limited.  

    Additional safety measures our district is taking include but are not limited to: 

    • Classrooms and high-touch surface areas will be cleaned daily. 

    • We have made some improvements to our air ventilation systems and are continuing to upgrade filters this school year. 

    • At least three feet of distance should be maintained between students, while staff should maintain six feet between students and other adults. 

    • When actively eating, six feet of physical distance should be maintained, and lunches will be eaten outside whenever possible.  If the weather does not allow outdoor dining, assigned seating indoors will be required.  

    • Although Asheville City Schools will no longer require daily symptom screenings, we are asking families and staff to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. Students, teachers and staff who have symptoms of COVID-19, should stay home and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and further care.

    • We encourage our staff and students over the age 12 to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.  Vaccinations are the “leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic,” so make plans to attend one of Buncombe County’s no-cost, upcoming vaccine events

    As we begin the 2021 - 2022 school year, our local health department will continue to lead our contact tracing and case investigation efforts, and their staff will determine if quarantine is required and for how long.  

    Based on current guidance, if a student tests positive for COVID-19, all other students who are close contacts will likely not have to quarantine, if they have consistently followed mask and distancing protocols.  This change from previous health recommendations was a primary reason why our Board of Education voted for universal masking for all students and staff. 

    Despite the strenuous safety measures our district is putting in place, we know that community spread is likely to impact Asheville City Schools.  Therefore, please know students and staff will be required to quarantine for the following reasons: 

    • They test positive for COVID-19

    • They have symptoms of COVID-19

    • They are deemed a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and are required to quarantine by Buncombe County Health and Human Services

    INSTRUCTION WHILE IN QUARANTINE: 

    If your child contracts COVID-19, has COVID-19 symptoms or is required to quarantine, please know our staff will: 

    • Communicate with you on an individual basis about your child’s missed instruction 
    • Work with your family to answer questions as they come up

    • Ensure your child has access to the coursework that they miss

    For additional details about our academic response if your child is quarantined or tests positive for COVID-19, click here.  Please understand these scenarios are subject to change based on revised guidance from our local health department and the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit

    Additionally, if your child needs to be out of school for four or more weeks due to medical reasons, including lingering COVID-19 symptoms or a medical condition considered high-risk for COVID-19, they may request Homebound Services.  Please contact your school for additional information about Homebound Procedures.  

    Thanks, and please let me know if you have any questions.

    August 11, 2021 - ProPublica

    REQUEST: 

    I’m a reporter for the news organization ProPublica looking into how schools and students are responding to COVID-19. I saw in this article (https://my40.tv/news/local/some-henderson-county-parents-left-scrambling-after-board-suspends-virtual-learning) that Asheville City Schools is allowing parents to request homebound services if they have a medical condition.

     Could you tell me how many students have requested that for the first semester so far? I’d also love to know which remote learning providers you are working with and what your homebound program offers in terms of instructional hours per week.

    RESPONSE: 

    Great questions.  And, they're ones that have actually been answered on both our Transparency and Back to School Frequently Asked Question Page.  
    • According to Tanya Presha, Asheville City Schools' Academic and Program Support Coordinator, no students have been approved for homebound services.  In fact, Central Office has not received any completed applications.  That being said, a parent could be speaking with their child's principal to gather information first; however, once applications have been received at the school level, they are sent to Ms. Presha for final review and approval.

    • Will Asheville City Schools have a 100% virtual learning model for the 2021-2022 school year?

      • Asheville City Schools will use our Homebound Services for any family requesting that their child not attend school in-person due to medical reasons, including those students who have a condition considered high-risk for COVID-19.  Please know a medical documentation page will be required in order to utilize this process.  
      • For students who will be out of school for at least a semester, ACS has contracted with a remote learning provider to provide instructional services to students (K-8: Edgenuity, 9-12: NCVPS). This will provide additional support for students above and beyond our typical homebound services.  Additional information about our Remote Learning Provider can be found here. 
      • If you are requesting this process for your child, please contact their school for the required paperwork for Homebound services. 
    Thanks, and please let me know if you need anything else. 

    August 11, 2021 - The Citizen-Times

    REQUEST:

    I’m working on a story about substitute teachers and have a few questions for you. Would you be able to connect me with a sub for an interview about why he/she subs, how long they’ve done it, what they like about it, etc.? 

    How many substitute teachers did ACS have in 2020-21 and 2019-20? How many does the district have for next year?

    How much are subs paid? When was the last time the pay was increased?

    RESPONSE: 

    I've reached out to a substitute teacher and will get back to you on their availability just as soon as I hear. 
     
    Regarding your additional questions, Asheville City Schools has 79 active substitutes.  For the 2020-21 school year, we have 118.  
     
    We believe this decrease has been caused by:  
    a) some substitutes receiving full-time positions within the district 
    b) some substitutes relocating due to the increasing cost of living in Asheville, 
    c) some of our older substitutes have said health concerns in the time of COVID-19 have been a contributing factor in their decision not to return at this time 
     
    In terms of pay, Asheville City Schools increased the daily rate of substitute pay to $125 a day for those who hold or have held a teaching license and $100 a day for those who have completed the Effective Teacher Training course in October 2020.  Our substitutes are an essential part of our Cougar Family, which is why we've chosen to pay our substitute teachers equal to and, in many cases, more than our surrounding LEAs. 

    August 11, 2021 - The Mountain Xpress 

    REQUEST:

    One of my freelancers let me know that she had been in contact with you regarding the latest average daily membership numbers for Asheville City Schools. The N.C School Report Cards to which you referred her did not have ADM info for the 2020-21 school year, so I'm hoping you can provide that information directly. Buncombe County Schools released a report with that information on May 6, so I trust the data are available.
     
    I'd also appreciate any tentative information you can provide about enrollment numbers for the 2021-22 school year, although I understand if that data may be fragmentary at this point.

    RESPONSE: 

    According to the Principals Monthly Report from August 2020 (which, if we're trying to compare apples to apples, is the closest comparison I have to the beginning of our upcoming school year), we had 4,322 students Pre-K thru 12th Grade last year.   
     
    Also, when Carmela and I spoke on the phone, I told her about the enrollment presentation our Deputy Superintendent presented during the August 2nd Work Session, which has our projected numbers for the upcoming school year, and which is readily available on our website as a resource.  However, if she had trouble locating it, I'm happy to provide it here as well.  

    August 11, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    How many students have been approved for the medical homebound program for the next school year? How many have applied?

    RESPONSE:

    According to Tanya Presha, Asheville City Schools' Academic and Program Support Coordinator, no students have been approved for homebound services.  In fact, Central Office has not received any completed applications.  That being said, a parent could be speaking with their child's principal to gather information first; however, once applications have been received at the school level, they are sent to Ms. Presha for final review and approval.


    August 10, 2021 - WLOS, The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    Doing a story today on virtual enrollment. Is ACS offering a virtual option this year? If so, what is the enrollment deadline, what is enrollment looking like so far? And how does this compare to the virtual option that was offered last year, when it was mandatory for each district to provide it? If there is no virtual option -- why is that? What are the other options for families in that case who don't feel comfortable sending their kid in classes, even with mandatory masks? Don't necessarily need an interview, just a statement/some info would be fine.

    RESPONSE: 

    Great question.  And, it's one that's actually answered on our Back to School Frequently Asked Question Page.  
    • Will Asheville City Schools have a 100% virtual learning model for the 2021-2022 school year?

      • Asheville City Schools will use our Homebound Services for any family requesting that their child not attend school in-person due to medical reasons, including those students who have a condition considered high-risk for COVID-19.  Please know a medical documentation page will be required in order to utilize this process.  
      • For students who will be out of school for at least a semester, ACS has contracted with a remote learning provider to provide instructional services to students (K-8: Edgenuity, 9-12: NCVPS). This will provide additional support for students above and beyond our typical homebound services.  Additional information about our Remote Learning Provider can be found here. 
      • If you are requesting this process for your child, please contact their school for the required paperwork for Homebound services. 

    August 9, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    As shared with our students, staff and families, the Asheville City Board of Education approved an Amended 2021-2022 School Calendar during tonight's Regular Meeting.

    The new calendar has four fewer late starts for secondary students.  This change from 16 to 12 is due to the finalization of the testing calendar and will minimize the disruption on testing days.  On days when our elementary school-based employees are driving buses for middle and high school students, staff members from the Central Office will go to the elementary schools to support our educators. 

    As a reminder, the late start allows our secondary schools protected time to fully implement a Multi-Tiered System of Support.  The late starts will be used to 

    • Provide dedicated time for staff to meet in Professional Learning Communities including but not limited to Content Teams, Vertical Planning teams, or Grade Level Teams. 

    • Allow for core problem solving/planning. 

    • Provide ongoing data analysis to improve instructional practices tied to increasing outcomes for all students. 

    PLCs are currently in place at all other schools; however, due to the complexities of the Asheville High School Master Schedule, it has been impossible for staff to meet in PLCs during the school day.  All secondary campuses will utilize the late start model because they share buses.  

    Additional information about the district’s late start plan, including the finalized 12 late starts, can be found here.  In addition to the fewer late starts, the 2021-2022 calendar has one additional Optional Teacher Workday.  It will be on June 10, 2022. 

    Thank you for your continued support.  And, if you have any questions about the calendar changes, please let me know. 


    August 9, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    While the name of Vance Elementary school has officially changed to Lucy Herring, the big sign out front still says "Vance" on it. They added Lucy Herring to the reader board, which is above the official sign, but the sign should be officially updated ASAP, IMO.  When will they make this change, and why is it taking so long?

    RESPONSE: 

    Thank you so much for reaching out!  You are correct, the school has officially been renamed Lucy S. Herring Elementary School.  And, it is our distinct honor to recognize a woman who dedicated 52 years of her life to teaching, 35 of which were spent in Asheville City and Buncombe County Schools.  Unfortunately, there were several components across the school campus that showed its past name.  Our Maintenance Department is presently in the process of upgrading the building to reflect its exciting new change to Lucy S. Herring Elementary School.  


    August 9, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    I’m curious if the school board is expecting any attendees to speak in opposition of the mask mandate at tonight’s meeting. Have you heard word of this? Considering what happened at last week’s Buncombe County Board of Education meeting, what is the plan if something similar occurs at tonight’s meeting?

    RESPONSE: 

    According to Mr. Carter, the Asheville City Board of Education has not received any emails in opposition of last week’s decision.  

    The Board greatly appreciates our students, staff, families and community members.  Our system of public education depends on on their involvement; therefore, as with all regular meetings, we invite them to share their thoughts and feelings with them during the Public Comment Section of tonight’s agenda.  In accordance with our traditional Public Comment Section, we ask those wishing to speak to please be mindful of the following guidelines: 

    • Unless otherwise approved by the Board, time for public comment shall not exceed thirty (30) minutes.
    • Members of the public may speak for three (3) minutes. Time remaining is indicated by lights directly in front of you.
    • Multiple speakers from a group who are presenting on the same topic may choose to elect one speaker for the group.  If a single speaker is used by any group, they shall be allocated five (5) minutes instead of three (3) to address the Board.  If your group chooses this option, please identify everyone in the group when you sign up to speak.
    • If an unusually large number of people wish to speak, the Board may decide to (a) reduce the time allotted to each speaker; and/or (b) require the designation of a group spokesperson.
    • Please be respectful. A disruption by any person or persons of a public meeting is unlawful and can result in removal from the meeting.    
    • Public comment allows you to provide the Board of Education with your thoughts and/or relevant information concerning the Asheville City Schools. Therefore, Board Members will not normally respond to individuals who address the Board except to request clarification.
    • In order to make a public comment, individuals must be present and make their comments in person.  Upon arrival and prior to the meeting, individuals who wish to make a public comment should sign-up via the public comment sheet, which is located in the Board Room.  Should attendance exceed current Buncombe County room capacity numbers, we will provide additional seating in the Training Room and will move people in and out of the Board Room to complete public comment.  
    • Incorrect or misleading information presented by a speaker may be responded to at the direction of the Chairperson.
    • Please understand that confidential student and personnel matters will not be discussed during public comments, and the Board does not accept personnel complaints through public comment. If someone has a concern about an employee or a student matter, we ask that they please contact or see the superintendent after the meeting.  

    August 5, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    A quick follow-up: how much is the bus driver supplement from ACS?

    RESPONSE: 

    Currently, our dual employment staff receive the $175 a month from ACS; however, the full-time ACS drivers from Buncombe County Schools do not receive $175 from Asheville City Schools. 
     

    August 5, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

     Could you please confirm the following are accurate:

    • As of right now, instructional assistants and custodial employees are NOT also required to be bus drivers.
    • If policy 7438 is approved, current IAs and custodial staff will have to get a license and be a bus driver at least on a substitute basis.
    • If policy 7438 is approved, driving a bus will be a requirement for new IAs and custodial staff.
    • In 2020-21, there were 87 teacher assistants and 21 custodians with 17 teacher assistants and 9 custodians also serving as bus drivers.

    And one question:

    How many bus routes does the district have/how many bus drivers are needed?

    RESPONSE:

    As a district, it has been a practice to require most, but not all, instructional assistants/custodians to obtain a CDL and drive a school bus. It has also been a district practice to exempt these employees from their bus driver duty if they presented medical reasons for not driving the bus. Currently, this practice is not a stand-alone district policy. The Asheville City Board of Education made the recommendation to create an official school board policy due to bus driver absenteeism or the lack of bus drivers in the district. In Policy 7438, individual exemptions from this requirement will be considered on a case-by-case basis in accordance with federal and State laws. 

     
    At this time, Asheville City Schools has 96 Instruction Assistants and 32 Custodians.  Of those two groups, we have:
    • 1 full-time bus drive position who is also a custodian 
    • 8 part-time bus drivers who are custodians
    • 1 transportation safety assistant who is also a custodian 
    • 13 part-time bus drivers who are also instructional assistants 
    Each day, Asheville City Schools has 29 bus routes that include over 130 runs.  In order to meet this need, Asheville City Schools requires 29 bus drivers and 4 Transportation Safety Assistants for our 4 Exceptional Services buses. 

    August 5, 2021 - The Mountain Xpress

    REQUEST:

    If you would be able to send ACS enrollment data from the past five years that would be so helpful. We're just looking for trends and how they compare to the state and county. And, yes, if you could link to upcoming protocols, that would be much appreciated as well.

    RESPONSE:

    Unfortunately, I am not able to personally pull enrollment data for the past five years before the end of business day, as we were in an administrative retreat with principals until 5:00 PM.  However, one document that may be helpful in your search is reviewing the district's school report card for the past five years, which can be found on NCDPI's website, as it contains student counts Kindergarten - 12th Grade -- Pre-K is not included. 
     
    Also, here's our Back to School Page, which includes updates, links to our FAQs as well as our Back to School Safety Protocols presentation.  

    August 2, 2021 - The Mountain Xpress

    REQUEST:

    I'd like to request all emails and documents that were provided to NCDPI as part of the review of school food service operations.

    RESPONSE:

    In response to your request: 
     
    You will find all documents provided to DPI as part of their review (minus those which, according to our legal counsel, should not be shared as they are confidential attorney-client communications or those which contain confidential personnel information) here
     
    Additionally, in order to be as thorough as possible, you will find all emails Asheville City Schools' Former Director of School Nutrition sent or received from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction from August 1st, 2021 - her last day.  They can be accessed here.  
     
    Please let me know if you have any questions. 

    July 30, 2021 - The Citizen-Times, WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    Could I please get a comment as soon as possible about the district’s thoughts on Gov. Cooper suggesting schools mandate masks in the fall?

    RESPONSE: 

    The Asheville City Board of Education has its next meeting on Monday, August 2nd. “Back to School Safety Updates” is an item on the agenda.  Following the meeting, I’d be happy to send additional information to you (as well as all our local media partners) after it's been shared with staff & families.


    July 27, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    Good Morning, 

    As shared with you via text, I've had the chance to read this morning's piece, and the headline and following paragraphs, do not reflect the information I shared with you yesterday. 
    Screen Shot 2021-07-27 at 6.30.58 AM.png
    Screen Shot 2021-07-27 at 6.34.02 AM.png
    As part of my response, I confirmed that "students and staff will NOT be required to wear face coverings when they are outside for recess, PE or when learning in an outdoor classroom," "in alignment with the Toolkit, all students, Pre-K thru 12th Grade, will be required to wear face coverings on school buses," and that all additional updates "will first be provided to Asheville City Schools staff, students and families, then shared with our local media partners and greater school community."  
     
    Stacia Harris is the expert on all things Buncombe County Schools, and I would never claim to speak for her district; however, at least for Asheville City Schools, nowhere did I say that "the decision to require masks is a done deal for now."  Therefore, I would ask that you please change your piece to reflect what was shared by my school district. 
     
    I would like to get this resolved as soon as possible.  So, certainly, feel free to call me if you have any questions. 
     
    Sincerely, Ashley-Michelle Thublin

    July 26, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    I’m looking into plans for next school year in terms of COVID precautions.

    RESPONSE: 

    School and district-based administrators are currently reviewing the Toolkit’s key changes and have a meeting set up with Buncombe County Health and Human Services later this week.  We will provide additional insight into how this will impact our district's back-to-school protocols and procedures as they become available.  And, we anticipate that Return to Learn Safety Protocols will be an agenda item during the Asheville City Board of Eduction’s August 2nd Work Session. 

    However, at this time, we know that in alignment with our end of the year Return to Learn Updates, students and staff will NOT be required to wear face coverings when they are outside for recess, PE or when learning in an outdoor classroom.  

    In alignment with the Toolkit, all students, Pre-K thru 12th Grade, will be required to wear face coverings on school buses.  

    Regarding vaccines…Asheville City Schools supports our health department in sharing vaccine appointment information.  And, as a resource for our students, staff and families, the district has hosted two vaccine clinics, in which all North Carolinians ages 12+ were invited to attend.  However, at this time, Asheville City Schools is NOT requiring our students or staff to receive a COVID-19 vaccine prior to the start of the 2021-2022 school year.  Additional information about the vaccines that are required can be found in Board Policy 4110.  

    Asheville City’s first day of the 2021-2022 school year will be Monday, August 23rd.  As we look ahead to a safe and healthy school year, we appreciate hearing the thoughts and feelings of our parents, staff and community members.  We invite our Cougar Family to share their feedback with April Dockery, our Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations, at april.dockery@acsgmail.net


    July 21, 2021 - WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    I saw that NCDHHS released new guidance that recommends school districts still require masks for grades K-8, and for high schoolers who are unvaccinated.  Just wanted to see if Asheville City Schools is planning on following this guidance?

    RESPONSE:

    Like all districts across North Carolina, Asheville City Schools received access to the updated Toolkit this afternoon around 2:00 PM. At this time, we are currently reviewing its key changes and will provide additional insight into how this will impact our district's back to school protocols and procedures as they become available. All updates will first be provided to Asheville City Schools staff, students and families, then shared with our local media partners and greater school community.  I would be more than happy to keep you updated as the district moves forward.


    July 19, 2021 - AVL Watchdog 

    REQUEST:  

    Requesting official comment on several vax questions as the new school year approaches:

    — What is the ACS policy on COVID-19 vaccinations?

    — Now that the vaccines are available to anyone age 12 and older, will ACS high-school students, faculty, staff, and administrators be required to be vaccinated before school starts for the fall?

    — Has the ACS attorney issued an opinion on whether the system can require COVID-19 vaccinations? What about other vaccinations, like measles, polio, meningococcal, etc?

    RESPONSE:  

    Asheville City Schools supports our health department in sharing vaccine appointment information.  And, as a resource for our students, staff and families, the district has hosted two vaccine clinics, in which all North Carolinians ages 12+ were invited to attend.  However, at this time, Asheville City Schools is NOT requiring our students or staff to receive a COVID-19 vaccine prior to the start of the 2021-2022 school year.  Additional information about the vaccines that are required can be found in Board Policy 4110.  

    July 15, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 
     
    REQUEST: 
    I’m writing this afternoon about the recent construction bid on the classroom replacement for Asheville High.  Got any background on why the construction is happening?
     
    RESPONSE:  
    I spoke with my Maintenance Director, Don Simms, and he explained it is indeed a joint project with Asheville City Schools & Buncombe County, as it’s funded through the School Capital Funds Commission. It’s replacing the building originally constructed by students in 1949. We appreciate our Buncombe County Commissioners for ensuring future Cougars have a safe educational environment in which they can learn, discover & thrive.

    July 7, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:  

    I’m looking to request suspension records for the past five years (names omitted of course), should I file that formal request with you or go through the city?

    RESPONSE:  

    Above and beyond the information provided for each campus as part of its DPI School Report Card, I am not aware of Asheville City School keeping records of each suspension.  Per public records law G.S. § 132-6.2(e), a public agency need not “respond to a request for a copy of a public record by creating or compiling a record that does not exist.”  Such a request would require the creation of new records that do not otherwise exist.  Therefore, I am not able to fulfill your request. 


    July 6, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners

    Asheville City Schools is hosting a summer celebration this Friday, July 9th from 5:00 - 7:00 PM in the green space beside the Wesley Grant Center on Livingston Street. 
    Complete with a bouncy house, Kona Ice, an on-site DJ, door prizes and Asheville Play Adventure’s pop-up playground, it’ll be a FREE community event for the whole family.  Backpacks will even be given away to school-aged students. 
    Plus, the Preschool Program will have enrollment information available, as we’re currently offering no-cost, income-based slots for three and four-year-olds who live within our district.

    July 1, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    In celebration of the July 4th holiday, Asheville City Schools will be closed on Monday, July 5th.  

    This day off includes both our hardworking School Nutrition and Transportation Departments.  Therefore, we will NOT be serving meals at either our school or community-based meal distribution sites on Monday, July 5th.  Instead, students will be able to pick up Monday’s meal this Friday, July 2nd.