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Asheville Primary

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Asheville City School District

A Plea to County Commissioners:

Please do what you can to help prevent ACS from running itself into the ground. The years of financial mismanagement and failed leadership feel like they're coming to a head. This time next year there will be an elected board, finally with some accountability, please help prevent this lame duck board from doing irreversible damage to our district by closing a school and relocating preschool classrooms, yet again. Stakeholders are exhausted and have lost faith. The enrollment crisis will simply deepen with these actions. Demand a long term plan and budget from ACS that details the benefits of closing this successful, well-loved school. RIght now NO ONE is convinced.


If this building is repaired over the next few years there is space for the Montessori program to grow, and to reinstate the preschool classes into this centrally located building. Growing affordable high-quality Pre-K is the best way to increase enrollment in ACS and close the achievement gap. People don't want to enroll their kids somewhere that feels like it's imploding. I predict moving forward with this action of school closure and Pre-K relocation will result in an exodus of students, staff, and teachers.


We love our school. We want to love and support our district... but they're making it really hard.

From the APS PTC:

The School Board is trying to close Asheville Primary School. Full stop. At the meeting on Monday they made that crystal clear. They will vote next Monday to close our school. Tonight (TUESDAY 12/7/21) is the ONLY chance we have to make our voices heard.

You need to please send emails and make calls to the below people. The only way our school will stay open is if you take action. That is a fact. I’m sorry to be alarmist but after what I saw in the meeting tonight I witnessed a farce of a process intended to close us, after multiple board members gave assurances that was not the intention. They have straight up lied to us so to keep us from organizing against this.

I’m normally a very rational person when it comes to these things but I’m furious after what I saw tonight.

THE COUNTY COMMISSIONERS ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO CAN STOP THE SCHOOL BOARD FROM CLOSING APS. THEY CONTROL THE PURSE STRINGS AND HAVE LOST FAITH IN THE SCHOOL BOARD BECAUSE OF THE KINDS OF INCOMPETENCE WE’VE SEEN THIS MONTH.

The county commissioners had NO IDEA they were even voting to move the school until we, APS parents, told them.

Send emails to the everyone below, especially county commissioners NOW, or else we will lose our school. No joke. Come tomorrow, Tuesday, to the “forum” at 85 Mountain Street at 5pm, come early to sign up to speak. Also, email ashley.thublin@acsgmail.net, but tonight I just realized her job is to actually gloss over any public concern and sweep it under the carpet.

If you only do one thing, email county commissioners. But all the people below deserve to hear your voice. Say what you want to these folks but here’s some thoughts from us.

– The school board is trying to close a school with literally NO notice. They only made the motion to close the school tonight and the ONLY public forum is tomorrow. This process is a sham. They know it and it’s disgraceful.

– They have lost the trust of the County Commission because of years of mis-managemement and they are doing everything they can to lose the trust of Asheville families with half-cocked moves like this.

– They say that they want to fix the budget nightmare that was their own making but cutting elementary ed is only going to hamstring the district more. These are kids that should be in the school system for 12+ years and now they’re just chasing them away.

Say what you want. APS is a great school and should be a flagship in the district. Closing it is a bandaid on the district’s financial problems. A drop in the bucket, but here we are being targeted again after getting promises after promises that we would NOT end up here again.


COUNTY COMMISSIONERS

Alfred.Whitesides@buncombecounty.org,

Brownie.Newman@buncombecounty.org,

Robert.Pressley@buncombecounty.org,

Amanda.Edwards@buncombecounty.org,

Jasmine.Beach-Ferrara@buncombecounty.org,

Parker.sloan@buncombecounty.org,

Terri.wells@buncombecounty.org,

MAYOR

esthermanheimer@avlcouncil.com,

CITY MANAGER

Dcampbell@ashevillenc.gov,

CITY COUNCIL

sheneikasmith@avlcouncil.com,

sandrakilgore@avlcouncil.com,

antanettemosley@avlcouncil.com,

kimroney@avlcouncil.com,

sageturner@avlcouncil.com,

gwenwisler@avlcouncil.com,

STATE LEGISLATORS

Julie.Mayfield@ncleg.gov,

Brian.Turner@ncleg.gov,

John.Ager@ncleg.gov,

Susan.Fisher@ncleg.gov,

Email these folks with a piece of your mind, but they’ve made up their minds. The folks above are the only once who can help.

SCHOOL BOARD

james.carter@acsgmail.net – (828) 301-2894

george.sieburg@acsgmail.net – (828) 279-7649

shaunda.sandford@acsgmail.net – (828) 273-9445

peyton.oconner@acsgmail.net – (828) 713-2083

martha.geitner@acsgmail.net – (828) 279-1197

SUPERINTENDANT

gene.freeman@acsgmail.net,


ACS BOE meeting Monday 12/6/2021

A consolidation proposal for Asheville Primary School will be presented at tonight's BOE meeting. No public comment will be allowed at this meeting, and no decision will be made.

Watch here: https://www.ashevillecityschools.net/Page/5472


Open hearing on consolidation Tuesday 12/7/2021

Join us to make public comment at the Open Hearing on Tuesday, December 7th at ACS Central Office, 85 Mountain Street, Asheville. Sign up for comment opens at 4:30pm. REMOTE COMMENT WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE. Written comment may be submitted to ashley.thublin@acsgmail.net before 5pm on Tuesday.





Advocacy Time is Here Again!


From the Asheville Primary Parent-Teacher Collective:

Hi all. It’s advocacy time again! Some of you have been working on advocating for APS since the early days of tea parties at the Howers, and others are new to this aspect of being part of the APS community. If you are new to this, welcome and we are happy to help. Here are some updates on the lead up to the vote on the future of APS:


Please share your thoughts on our beloved public Montessori, and the 4 city preschool classrooms that remain on site by filling out this survey from the Board of Education. You can share your love for public Montessori education and Asheville Primary here:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdeLzqRjKywn0NVHEkiluVPrL_EkDQy7xURr0pGeF8-6RfpTw/viewform

Every voice matters, so even if you only have time to write one sentence, we hope you will.


Here is an updated timeline:

In the spring of 2021, after an incredible effort by families and the larger community, the BOE voted to keep APS in its current location and expand to 4th grade for this school year and to 5th for next year. They said they would revisit the location of APS Montessori and the remaining preschool classrooms after approving a budget this fall.

On December 6th at 5 pm, there will be a work/closed session meeting (no public comment available) of the ACS Board of Education during which Central Office staff will share their proposal for the future of APS. Their proposal will be to move Asheville Primary School to a shared space with another ACS school. Which location they will be proposing has not yet been shared.

A Public Forum will likely be held the next day on Dec. 7th at 5pm to allow public input on the potential closure or relocation of APS.

The official BOE vote about the future of our school is scheduled for December 13th.

How you can help: Fill out the survey (DEADLINE IS TODAY! THURSDAY 12/2) and tell the BOE how expanding and growing our public Montessori school would benefit the students and families of ACS. Remind them of their commitment to expand APS to 5th grade. Encourage them to renovate the current APS building so that it can continue to be a community space in the heart of West Asheville.

Thank you! We appreciate your continued support and love for our school and community!

-APS Parent Teacher Collective


One Response to the Latest "Survey"


What thoughts or ideas would you like to share with the Asheville City Board of Education about the relocation of Asheville Primary School and possible implications for other elementary schools? *

You have been too reactive and short-term in your thinking and your actions. If you were going to consolidate schools, you should only be doing it as a long-term process that involves both school communities affected, and it needs to be part of a LONG. TERM. PLAN. with benefits for all children. Build a vision WITH families. Y'all clearly ALREADY have a plan for APS in mind, so it doesn't feel like you're being honest brokers when you are asking for input. What are you even going to do with this feedback? Cherry-pick it again so that you can control the narrative about what families want and how they basically agree with you? Great.


What else would you like the Board to know about your experience with Asheville Primary School?

It's an amazing school, and you need to build it back up after you knocked it back last year by preventing open enrollment (which skewed our racial and income demographics) and removing one of our lower el classrooms (not to mention casting doubt on the future of our school). At a minimum next year, we will need to provide space for three PreK-K classrooms (18 kids each--and stop ignoring Montessori PreK students in your numbers, please), five 1st-3rd classrooms (about 16 kids each due to state classroom caps), and two 4-5th grade classrooms (ultimately about 26 kids each). Each of these classrooms requires a teacher and an IA. We also need to keep all of our enhancements teachers as a part of our school. They do so much more than lead pull-out electives--they are the glue that holds our school together. That's 10 large classrooms, 10 lead teachers, and 10 assistants. That's 187 kids without any expansion beyond reinstating what we had and filling out to 4th/5th as you promised. Do you have room for that elsewhere? Please tell us where? And at what cost to other school communities?


Do you have any other questions about Asheville Primary School?

Why do you keep putting out the message that there is no money when the real issue appears to be long-term misuse of funds which no one is or has ever been held accountable for? Why hasn't there been a detailed independent investigation into the finances of the district over the past 7-8 years? Why are you so opaque about what positions are funded by local vs DPI funds? If you hadn't tried to hack our school down last year, enough children would have joined during open enrollment (with a waitlist) so you wouldn't have to be paying the Principal's salary out of local funds this year. Why are you so afraid of planning together with families and teachers? Why does the superintendent have such an adversarial relationship with the Buncombe County Commissioners who allocate funds for the district? How much money will you have to put into 441 Haywood to turn it into offices? Are you still hoping to sell that valuable real estate on the open market someday? What are your future plans for expanding PreK in ACS without displacing existing programs run by other organizations? Or was all that talk last year about valuing PreK just talk? Why do you continue to support this superintendent who has lost you both money and goodwill over his short tenure? Why is any critique of the leadership of this district treated as an attack? What are you afraid of? How can you become open, transparent, proactive, inclusive, and responsive in your decision-making instead of being closed and defensive and constantly working damage control?

--Lara Lustig

Make your voice heard! Submit your own response to the survey here!

Board work session at 4pm.

Public Comment IN PERSON at 6:30.

85 Mountain St, Asheville, NC 28801

Free pizza! Transportation available--just email saveashevilleprimary@gmail.com

It's Not Just About Saving One School. It's About Saving Our District.

The cracks are showing in ACS district leadership. The mismanagement of Asheville Primary and the ACS Preschool is just one symptom of a much deeper set of problems. The jumbled, ever-changing "plans," the opaque budgeting decisions, and the refusal to center our children and put their needs first are irresponsible and unacceptable.

The school board needs to take control and restructure central office before it is too late.

Board Member Email Addresses

  • james.carter@acsgmail.net - (828) 301-2894

  • jackie.mchargue@acsgmail.net - (828) 450-2703

  • shaunda.sandford@acsgmail.net - (828) 273-9445

  • peyton.oconner@acsgmail.net - (828) 713-2083

  • martha.geitner@acsgmail.net - (828) 279-1197

Asheville City School Board, We Are Counting On You.

Asheville City Schools is (finally) imploding. Those who have been in leadership since Pamela Baldwin have finally managed to rot the whole barrel of apples.

The who.....each Superintendent since Robert Logan has been worse than the last. Starting with relatively milk toast Allen Johnson, who had to leave because he hired and then protected sexual predators. Then Pamela Baldwin, who spent a bunch of money on an equity program we never used, brought in folks who never moved here, but wasted our time and took our money, and worst of all, elevated those who now have "led" our district for the last 7 years through the likes of Denise Patterson (pawn) and Gene Freeman (pawn, and also a short tempered horrible man).

At the epicenter, Melissa Hedt. Who has failed in every equity initiative she had introduced and implemented over the last 7 years. She is now Deputy Superintendent, essentially running the show. Her right and left sides are Laura Parks and Sarah Cain, who both received raises a couple of weeks ago (while we are allegedly broke....) Oh, by the way, Gene has given raises to nearly everyone in Central Office, including the Board. The rest of the "leadership team" includes these folks..... By leadership what I mean are the folks who are in the "room where it happens".......former Board Chair Shaunda Sandford, who continues to meet regularly with Gene and Central Office staff, as well as the general Asheville community representing herself as the face of Asheville City Schools, Melissa Hedt, Gene Freeman (who is on vacation again this weekend), Kidada Wynn, who was Shaunda's pick to be head of Student Services (laughable in our district where students are not the focus of these "leaders"), April Dockery, and some lesser players who help them work their misdeeds.

Through all of this, teachers and staff have remained. Working in fear. Working for and with our children. With little support from above, but lots of interference and road blocks. This year has been the straw. Folks are jumping ship. Good good people. Who simply can't take it any longer.

Our elected officials (at the county level) are done with it. City Council couldn't care less. Yesterday's budget presentation where our Superintendent acted the ass has been on the news all over the state.

I've been sounding the alarm for 5 years now. Quietly, at first. Louder each year. The last year it has been my full time job, 30-75 hours a week. Listening and talking.

I've got a last ask. Now it's a demand, really.

I need the Board to take charge. NOW. I mean tomorrow morning when they get out of bed. Nothing happens in Central Office without their knowledge and approval. NOTHING.

THEN...... Get rid of the Superintendent. Clean house in Central Office. Get rid of at least half of the directors and executive whatevers. Keep those committed to working with children, who are actually working with children. Hire an interim from within who can earn the job permanently.

That's the ask. Folks are already asking and planning for the dissolution of the district. I would say this Board has about 24 hours to turn this around. It might be too late. After yesterday.

Good luck. We are all watching. And counting on you.

Kate Fisher

May 12, 2021

WE. DON'T. FIT.

Families pointed this discrepancy (and many others) out at the public hearing in March, and it was not addressed or revised in the updated study.

Please keep in mind that Montessori classrooms are multi-age, and Pre-K3 and 4 are an integral part of our early childhood (PreK and K) classrooms.


Updated APS "study":

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1STKjD-s1ZIT7Eaxz9GysXC95r5Q-IHEH/view

More issues outlined here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1sa0hmYB2pctBzbhqOlMH80uvCBezCqz2/view


Special Called Meeting Thursday, May 6th, 2021 Targets ACS Budget

NOTICE OF SPECIAL CALLED MEETING Thursday, May 6, 2021 4:00 PM Please take notice that the Asheville City Board of Education ("Board") will hold a Special Called Work Session Meeting on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in the Board Room of the Asheville City Schools Administrative Offices, 85 Mountain Street, Asheville, North Carolina The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the items on the agenda. No action will be taken. There will be limited seating in the Board Room due to physical distancing guidelines. We will provide additional seating in the Training Room for viewing.


AGENDA

I. Call to Order - 4:00 PM James C. Carter, Board Chair

II. Quorum Determination James C. Carter, Board Chair

III. Adopt An Agenda James C. Carter, Board Chair

IV. Budget Georgia Harvey, Executive Director of Finance

V. Future Meetings/Announcements ● Work Session/Closed Session and Regular Meetings, will begin at 5:00 p.m. on Monday, May 10, 2021 at the Administrative Offices, Board Room, 85 Mountain Street, Asheville, NC, 28801

VI. Adjournment - 6:00 p.m.

BOE chooses new chair and vice chair, opts to put the fate of APS back on the agenda at their next work session.

4/26/2021

At tonight's regular meeting, James Carter was chosen as the new ACS BOE Chair in a 3-2 vote, and Jackie McHargue was chosen as the new vice chair, also by a vote of 3-2. Shaunda Sandford and Martha Geitner voted for Peyton O'Conner for both the chair and vice chair positions.

During the work session that preceded the meeting, Jackie asked that the future of Asheville Primary School be put on the agenda for their next work session, and there was unanimous consent, so please continue to contact board members to share your perspective on the future of APS and ACS early childhood education.

Also notable: Strong public comment in favor of transparency and stakeholder involvement in decision making and questions about the honesty and legality of the process so far.

CAO Answers to Boost Families Burton FullDay FullYear 2 Classrooms 2021 03 08.pdf

ACS Plan to Close and Vacate Asheville Primary School Could Displace Other Vital Early Childhood Programs

"4. What is the impact to Community Action Opportunities programming from Asheville City Schools Preschool moving into Housing Authority locations, including Burton being one of the locations they cited in their application?"

"CAO has previously had a strong partnership with ACS for many, many years. We have collaborated in many areas including: community assessments, shared training opportunities, participated on selection and assessment committees, and co-located staff. CAO Head Start has also contracted with ACS to provide education services to Head Start eligible children (current contract is for 55 children) for over 20 years.

CAO was surprised to learn of the Primary School closure in the news. As of March 12, CAO, ACS, HACA and the County have met together for exactly one hour of conversation regarding possible collaborations and solutions to the community crisis created by this decision.

CAO leases its three city Head Start Centers located at Hillcrest, Pisgah View, and Southside (the Lonnie D. Burton ECE Center) from the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville (HACA). There has been no request to date regarding Hillcrest or Pisgah View centers. ACS has approached HACA and requested the full use of the Lonnie D. Burton ECE Center.

If approved, this would dislocate / evict four classrooms of high-quality early childhood education serving 72 Head Start, NC Pre-K, and BCECEDF children and families that live on lower incomes. At the Burton Center this year, 75% of children served are children of color, 80% of families are single parent households and the average income is for all families is $10,388. ACSs’ current plan would reduce or supplant high-quality, comprehensive Head Start services to children and families of color and families living on low incomes."

PRESS PAUSE AND MAKE A PLAN

Keep the Montessori and Preschool classrooms in place at APS and take at least one year to involve all stakeholders in making good decisions that benefit all ACS children.

Background

Asheville Primary School (APS) is an Asheville City School (ACS) building that currently houses two programs- The Asheville City Preschool (a 5 Star preschool program that benefits some of Asheville’s most vulnerable families) and Asheville Primary (WNC's only public Montessori school).

The ACS School Board and Superintendent have decided, without meaningful community input, to begin the process of selling the APS building and the property on which it sits. They intend to reclassify the Montessori School as a "program" and move its 8 classrooms into Hall Fletcher Elementary School. They have put a freeze on ACS Preschool enrollment and say they will move the 7 5-Star preschool classrooms to unknown locations around the district and/or community.


Support Our Students!

Join us to prevent a short-sighted dissolution of two fully-enrolled, highly successful programs within ACS and to stop the sale of the campus on Haywood Road in West Asheville. The families, staff, and supportive community of Asheville Primary School agree that the decision to sell the building at 441 Haywood Road and the redistribution of the Asheville City Preschool and public Montessori school currently housed there to other spaces is short-sighted and is being made hastily without a long-term plan for what is best for the community. Stakeholders’ requests for an open dialogue with district leadership and Board of Education Members have been denied. These drastic decisions that impact the entire Asheville community should not be made during a pandemic, under new leadership, and without stakeholder involvement. We demand transparency from the Board of Education and the Superintendent about why this agenda is being rammed through right now.


What We're Advocating For

  • We request that all decisions regarding the selling of the building be put off for a minimum of 2 years. The district has already invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into renovations and should continue to renovate the space instead of sacrificing a long-term asset for a short term gain. During that time both programs should be able to keep full occupancy of the building. The community of West Asheville would be greatly altered if the school was sold to a private buyer or developer. The school currently serves the needs of our community by offering free and affordable high quality preschool options to some of our most vulnerable families.

  • We request that the Preschool and Montessori programs remain intact and continue to benefit from shared space and collaboration between the exceptional educators of both programs.

  • We request that we preserve the 7 highly effective, 5-Star preschool classrooms on the Asheville Primary campus while continuing to branch out with additional satellite classrooms at other ACS elementary schools or other community locations that best serve Asheville’s 3 and 4 year olds.

  • We request that the Montessori program be expanded to 4th grade for the 2021-2022 school year and 5th grade for the 2022-2023 school year. Keeping our current 3rd graders in the school through 5th grade will allow the district to collect data on students who have benefited from Montessori learning since Kindergarten. This data will be essential for the district to see the benefits of public Montessori when making decisions regarding the future of the program.

  • We request open enrollment in APS Montessori, not limited to just siblings of current APS students so we can obtain accurate longitudinal data on a fully functioning public Montessori school. Public Montessori schools across the US have shown positive outcomes in closing the opportunity gap, especially increasing positive outcomes for students of low-income backgrounds. We request that the district fully commit to Asheville Primary Montessori as a pre-K to 5th grade school, joining the ranks of the rest of the public elementary schools in the district's magnet program, instead of downgrading it and limiting enrollment and therefore limiting the ability for accurate longitudinal data.

There has been significant investment in this building over the past 5 years including a new playground, a new parking lot, a new media center, new gym roof, cafeteria updates and mold abatement and office renovations. Yes, the building has issues but the staff of both programs love the space, the natural light, the safe outdoor access, outdoor classroom spaces, and more.

What happens in a few years post-Covid when ACS is again bursting at the seams and this building has been sold? We all know property within Asheville City limits is not inexpensive or easy to come by. Please take a look at this issue, insist on a 5-10 year plan for ACS, and don't let a short-sighted plan to rectify a budget deficit allow this hasty plan to move forward.