Education reporting

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

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

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

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

Asheville Board of Ed hires PR consultant, details superintendent process

The Asheville City Board of Education is fighting fires on multiple fronts. The city school system has vacancies in its superintendent and finance director positions, as well as the state’s worst disparities in academic achievement and discipline between white and black students. This month, the system learned it must reallocate 15% of its special education funding due to disproportional rates of suspension among African American students with disabilities. At a special called session on June 2

Goals, timeline lacking in program to narrow racial achievement gap

Second place for education reporting, 2019 N.C. Press Association awards Two years ago, Xpress reported on the hope-filled 2017 kickoff of an effort to address huge disparities between the achievement of black and white students in Asheville City Schools. Then-Superintendent Pamela Baldwin asked the school board to support the selection of Integrated Comprehensive Systems for Equity, based in Wisconsin, which she said was the only system “that actually addresses the specific components of an educational system to address the gaps and needs of children and teachers i

Asheville government, schools, nonprofits launch effort to address achievement gap

Parking was at a premium outside the Stephens-Lee Recreation Center just before noon on March 20. Prominent members of the intersecting worlds of black Asheville, local government, business and nonprofits jockeyed for spots as they streamed in for a lunch meeting, the second session of a new effort to address the Asheville City Schools’ catastrophic racial achievement gap. The initiative, which doesn’t yet have a formal name, grew out of a Jan. 22 joint meeting of Asheville City Council and the

Parents protest planned Vance Elementary playground changes

Parents of students at Vance Elementary School in West Asheville have turned out in force at two recent meetings to share concerns about city plans to upgrade an existing softball field on school grounds. The proposed change adds a fence that would divide an open play area currently used by Vance students during recess and for after-school activities. Parents said the new fence would restrict how teachers can use the space during the school day and reduce its availability for after-school progra

Asheville City Schools’ worst-in-NC achievement, discipline gaps widen

Numbers don’t lie, but sometimes they can break your heart. Seated at long tables facing one another, Board of Education and City Council members confronted their shared heartbreak and responsibility for the Asheville City Schools’ failure to adequately serve its African-American students. At the unusual joint meeting, held on Jan. 22 at Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer’s request, the district revealed that the disparity in the academic achievement of its black students compared to white studen