I have attended almost every regular meeting, work session, special meeting, and board retreat of the ACS Board of Education over the past 8 years. For the past 7 years, I served as an officer of parent teacher organizations in two of our schools and helped other parent teacher organizations access resources and raise money.
As a parent and advocate for all of our schools, I was in the room in 2016 when ACS management projected enrollment growth from 4,600 to 5,100 students over 5 years and presented the Board with a plan to expand facilities and crack down on families displaced by our affordable housing crisis in order to slow district growth. Instead of growth, their plan worked too well: ACS shrank by nearly 500 students, sacrificing more than $5+ million in annual funding revenue before COVID hit.
At this point, we simply cannot cut our way to fiscal health without rebuilding enrollment and restoring trust. Closing schools and preschool buildings reduces enrollment, breaks trust, and harms students. This is not equity. We cannot close early literacy gaps that lead to achievement gaps without first closing the preschool gap. Working with local, regional, and state elected officials and the community, we need to address enrollment, trust in district leadership, access to quality early childhood education, our legacy moth-eaten school district boundaries, and state funding shortfalls, so we can support our excellent teachers and staff to meet the needs of all students and families in Asheville City Schools and the City of Asheville.
This photo of Pepi Acebo and his fabulous kid is from an article by Paul M. Howey in Asheville Made, August 30, 2018. Photo by Karin Strickland. Used with permission.