Mission nurses advocate for PPE, training

Under the watchful eye of Mission Hospital security, several nurses involved with the push to unionize their colleagues demonstrated during the 6 p.m. shift change on April 9. Their signs and conversations with other staff members questioned the availability of personal protective equipment and training to deal with the COVID-19 threat — and how a union might increase their safety. “The biggest thing we’re pushing right now is that we want the highest level of PPE,” including N95 masks (which f

Police, judges, attorneys work to reduce Buncombe jail population ahead of COVID-19

People confined in the Buncombe County Detention Facility have considerably more elbow room today than they did prior to N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper’s March 10 declaration of a state of emergency over the COVID-19 crisis. Since then, local law enforcement and criminal justice agencies have reduced the jail’s population by 39%. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued detailed guidance for correctional facilities, noting that the integration of housing, health care and food ser

New Asheville superintendent to lead district starting June 1

Gene Freeman will begin working at Asheville City Schools on Monday, April 20, earlier than the July 1 start date previously announced, said Shaunda Sandford, chair of the Asheville City Board of Education, at the board’s meeting on April 2. Freeman and Bobbie Short — who has served three stints as interim superintendent for the district, most recently since the sudden departure in June 2019 of previous Superintendent Denise Patterson — will “co-lead” the district until Short’s final day on May

Dogwood CEO weighs grant allocations for COVID-19 fight

For the past couple of weeks, the authoritative word on the local coronavirus situation has come from state and county government officials. By contrast, Antony Chiang’s perspective as CEO of the $1.5 billion Dogwood Health Trust is nongovernmental and regional, encompassing the 18 counties of Western North Carolina and the Qualla Boundary of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Chiang spoke to local news media by teleconference on March 25, providing insight into how Dogwood is responding to

Asheville mayor gets emergency powers

It was a City Council meeting like no other. With nine people present in the echoing chamber, Council members on March 24 unanimously approved a consent agenda that granted Mayor Esther Manheimer broad emergency powers. Manheimer, along with Council members Sheneika Smith and Keith Young, attended via phone as their four colleagues in City Hall first passed a measure allowing up to three members to participate in meetings remotely. The emergency ordinance gives Manheimer — or, in her absence,

Asheville school board stands by its man

Gene Freeman may have gotten some bad press in Pennsylvania, but the Asheville City Board of Education remains committed to its choice for the school system’s new superintendent. “The Asheville City Board of Education received 28 applicants and spent many hours reviewing [survey results indicating] the most desired skills, characteristics and qualifications made by more than 2,000 students, staff and community members,” district spokesperson Ashley-Michelle Thublin told Xpress by email on Feb.

News reports raise questions about incoming Asheville City Schools superintendent

A lack of transparency, unusually generous contract terms, potential conflicts of interest and an extended recent absence are among the concerns raised about Gene Freeman, Asheville City Schools’ incoming superintendent, by a Pennsylvania journalism nonprofit in 2019 and in February. The stories highlight issues related to Freeman’s six-year tenure as superintendent of the Fox Chapel Area School District, located in a suburb of Pittsburgh. Freeman was selected as the new superintendent of Ashev

Unusual virus pattern shapes early flu season in WNC

This year’s season for the flu and influenzalike illnesses is packing a wallop, according to Dr. William Hathaway, Mission Health’s chief medical officer. “Across the board, we’ve been hit heavily. We typically see an escalation of influenzalike illnesses, many of which are flu, hit a crescendo and a peak, and then drop off over a six- to eight-week time period. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Flu signs and symptoms usually come on suddenly. People who are sick

Slates set for March 3 primary

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-Buncombe, announced Dec. 19 that he won’t seek reelection to the 11th Congressional District seat he’s held since 2013. Before the day was out, three Republican candidates had filed to replace him. And on the filing deadline of Dec. 20, nine more Republicans added their names to the list. All told, 19 candidates are currently in the running for Meadows’ position in the U.S. House, including five Democrats and one candidate each from the Green and Libertarian parties. But ev

Collaborative community effort tackles rising health inequities

“Around the world, infant mortality rates are seen as a key measure of how healthy a community is, because we know that so much more goes into this than just prenatal care,” Hannah Legerton of the Mountain Area Health Education Center told the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners in an update on the county’s Community Health Improvement Process on Dec. 3. Since 2010, Legerton said, the county’s white infant death rate has dropped from 4.7 to 3.8 deaths for every 1,000 live births, putting Bun

Life and hard times in the Buncombe County jail

Steps away from Asheville’s broad, busy front lawn with its grand pair of government buildings lies an entrance to another city. A hidden city. A place where hundreds come and go and eat and sleep and wait and wonder and worry. Pass between City Hall and the Buncombe County Courthouse and descend a pleasant set of concrete steps to Davidson Drive below. Cross the street and step up into the Buncombe County Detention Center’s harshly echoing lobby. Beyond the reception desk, a set of sliding doo

Dogwood Health Trust CEO Antony Chiang talks philanthropy

Antony Chiang is a pretty sought-after guy. Less than a month into his new job leading the Dogwood Health Trust — which is poised to spend $50 million to $75 million a year to dramatically improve health outcomes and health equity in 18 Western North Carolina counties and on the Qualla Boundary of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians — Chiang, 51, spoke to Xpress in an exclusive conversation for this fall’s nonprofit special issue. Before we dive into what’s on the horizon for you and Dogwood H

Judge launches school justice initiative

As North Carolina prepares to become on Dec. 1 the 50th state in the union to stop treating 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system, Chief District Court Judge Calvin Hill launched an effort to reduce the involvement of local juveniles with the court system as a result of school misconduct. On Oct. 29, Hill convened a group of judicial, law enforcement, school and community leaders to discuss the formation of a school justice partnership for Buncombe County. “There is no

Missing state data clouds ACS disparity analysis

An important set of benchmark data detailing the 2018-19 academic proficiency scores for all North Carolina districts and schools was posted online during the first week of October. Xpress downloaded the disaggregated proficiency testing results to assess Asheville City Schools’ recent progress in addressing huge disparities in the academic performance of white and black students. The district has repeatedly said that reducing the gap between white and black student achievement is its top prior

Futurist charts course for Asheville and Buncombe County

Rebecca Ryan isn’t a household name in Buncombe County. And why would she be? A resident of Madison, Wis., and a frequent flyer who consults with organizations and local governments around the country, Ryan spends more of her time powwowing in big-city conference rooms and attending think-tank discussions than she does exploring communities like Leicester, Weaverville or Black Mountain. But while most Western North Carolina residents wouldn’t know her from Adam, Ryan’s spent the past year and c

Panel discussion reveals emerging leadership dynamics

What do you see in this picture? Gender, race, length of time in Western North Carolina? Or maybe the institutional control of billions in assets and spending? Looking at a stage full of women — panelists for the Aug. 14 finale of Leadership Asheville’s summer Buzz Breakfast series on building a connected community — some might focus on the concentration of female power, bolstered by the presence of Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer and other female leaders in the audience. Others, noting that

Asheville City Schools begin new year with interim leadership

Over the past two years, Bobbie Short has enjoyed the pleasures of retirement: working in her North Asheville yard, serving on the boards of local nonprofits and planning an at-home wedding for her daughter. But with school back in session things have changed, both in Short’s schedule and her household. For one thing, her husband is now back on dinner duty. “If he wants to eat when I’m working, he has to cook,” she explains. For the third time in six years, Short has been tapped to lead the As

Middle schoolers research city’s African American past, present

Rising sixth, seventh and eighth grade students participating in the Middle School Magic program presented their findings to community members on July 25, the final day of the three-week summer enrichment series held at Asheville Middle School. About 45 students explored different aspects of the city’s African American history and its lasting effects. “We really wanted to give students a platform to have their voices heard and have their understandings of inequities in our city heard,” explaine

Swedish death cleaning comes to WNC

When my pack rat father moved into what turned out to be his last home, he did downsize, relatively speaking. Still, even as a single man in his late 50s, he felt that his new place, a 1,600-square-foot, three-bedroom house with an office, attic and two sheds in East Asheville’s Beverly Hills neighborhood, lacked adequate storage space. And so, as one does, he single-handedly built a sizable new workshop, mostly from hoarded and scavenged materials. Into that building, he stuffed a tractor-trai

Asheville activists honored with life-changing grants

Nicole Townsend was in a dressing room trying to find something to wear. Sheneika Smith was sitting in her driveway, having what she calls “one of those recurrent moments as a single mother when you’re cemented to the seat with the seat belt on, trying to build enough strength just to walk into the house.” Neither woman could have known she was about to receive a phone call that would change her life. When her call came, Townsend broke into tears, but she remembers trying to “keep it controll
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