A New Hendersonville High School Everyone agrees that the current HHS needs to either be replaced or renovated up to code. There were five competing plans and two finalists, one to renovate the Stillwell Building which was favored by the HHS alumni, and the other to build a new building which would cost $2M less. My opinion in February 2016 was that tradition is irreplaceable but controlling costs is also important. I recommended that the groups get together and come up with a compromise plan. The spirit and dedication of the HHS alumni is commendable and should not be ignored. There should be a way to combine the two. (Posted February 10, 2016)
April 2016: The School Board voted 4-3 in favor of the renovation plan. The County Commissioners decided instead to build a new HHS on the Boyd Chevrolet site at an opening cost of $52.5M, and to "re-purpose" the historic Stillwell Building as a separate project at a later time. Not everyone is happy with this plan. That decision seems arbitrary and not based on the merits,
and the School Board's deliberations were ignored.
Opinion: The devil is in the details. Instead of letting the architect or the commissioners tell us what we want, the architect should meet with the School Board, the HCPS central administration, the principal, the teachers, the parents, the athletic director and coaches, the alumni, and especially the students (no one ever asks the students !!) and find out what each group needs. Then the architect should submit a space plan to the School Board for discussion, with the expectation of vigorous critique and further revisions, since the School Board will own and operate the new building. The last HHS lasted 90 years; it would be nice to get the next one right. (Added 4-22-16)
May 2016. Opinion: While the commissioners still consider the future of the Stillwell Building to be a separate issue they don't want to discuss right now, a commitment should be sought that some classrooms will be retained for HHS use, and that the historic auditorium be preserved for school use and as a public event space. (Added 5-10-16)
July 2016 Opinion: The Hendersonville High School Alumni Association has generated an alternate plan which they believe will save $30M, preserve the Stillwell Building for classroom use, avoid the use of trailers during construction, and keep students away from traffic. The Commissioners didn't seem too receptive to this plan at first, but have now agreed to consider it. I hope it gets the fair hearing it deserves. (Added 7-31-16)
August 2016 Opinon: On August 13, the commissioners agreed to hear the new plan. The announcement sounded like they were doing it less from conviction than to let the opposition speak, but maybe that's local government at it's best. (Added 8-13-16)
A few days later, on August 17, a packed-to-overflowing meeting room heard passionate arguments over four hours, and then the BOC voted unanimously to reject the new Alumni Association plan and stick with the plan the commissioners had previously approved. During the meeting it was noted that the commissioners plan to turn the Stillwell Building "back" to the School Board (which already owns it), and let the School Board decide on it's future use.
Opinion: Same day: This last part is an opening. As a believer in tradition and an admirer of the HHS Alumni Association and it's strong feelings for the school, I believe (as I always have; see May 2016 above) that a School Board sensitive to these traditions could find an academic use for part of the Stillwell Building, which would keep it part of HHS. I will present this in a public forum tomorrow.(Added 8-17-16)
September 2016 Reason and good sense prevail. The County Commissioners have accepted the compromise suggestion, first voiced in public by me the day after the hearing (see above), that encourages partial use of the Stillwell building for academic space for HHS, keeping the historic building a part of the school. I'm sure others had the same idea (maybe that was the plan from the start), but however it happened it's nice to see the parties work out a solution good for HHS, the students, and the Alumni Association.
Opinion: IF I AM ELECTED TO THE SCHOOL BOARD, I WILL WORK TIRELESSLY TO SEE THAT THE STILLWELL BUILDING REMAINS A MEANINGFUL PART OF HENDERSONVILLE HIGH SCHOOL. (Added 9-3-16)
Photo courtesy of Times-News
Opinion: If all our students had a school computer, the School Board could set up a program of virtual learning in which students use their computers from home on days when school is closed due to weather, and not miss any class time. This would eliminate snow days. Just like they do next door in Brevard and Transylvania, and many other places.
Are We As Good As We Think We Are ? According to the College Board, only 40% of students taking the SAT are college-ready. At UNC and NC State, 20% of entering freshman are put into remedial classes. Compared to other NC school districts Henderson County results may look pretty good, but remember that North Carolina ranks 47th in education among the 50 states. Maybe that's why the School Board always issues it's comparisons with other North Carolina districts instead of a wider view. The illusion of excellence won't help our students when they find themselves competing with people from elsewhere.
Opinion: The School Board should be concerned with these outcomes. I would like to see a research project that tracks alumni 5 years and 10 years after graduation to assess how effectively their high school education prepared them for their future, and to identify areas for improvement. The results should be used to reappraise our present curriculum.
(Sources: The College Board, UNC Registrar, National Education Association)
ISSUES IN EDUCATION, p. 2
The state sets an August start date for the school year and a June end date, and requires 215 days of classroom instruction in between. If you try putting that on a calendar you will find very little wiggle room for snow days. Since nobody wants Saturday school, the only alternative is to use scheduled holidays like Veterans' Day, Election Day, Memorial Day, etc. The real problem is that the state has failed to recognize that Western NC districts are disproportionally affected by snow, and the state should loosen their requirements and allow more local decisions. This may require a legislative solution, except that..............
The 2015 women's golf teams from HHS (red), WHHS (blue), NHHS (white), and EHHS (green)
Enrichment: Art, Music, Athletics Henderson County Public Schools have remarkable programs and achievement in music, the arts, theatre, student government, journalism, and athletics. These programs benefit boys and girls equally and are conducted at a high level. Most important, participation in these activities teach lessons that could not be duplicated in the classroom, and are therefore essential elements of the curriculum and the school experience at all levels. They contribute to the broad experience we seek for our children.
Opinion: The preservation of these enrichment activities is a responsibility of the School Board, which must resist constant financial pressure to curtail them. The Board must commit to continuing these programs.
Charter Schools Charter schools are tuition-free unregulated schools which are considered public schools because they receive public funds and charge no tuition. They can operate under reduced teacher certification requirements. Their "charter" is issued by the state, which limits the number of charter schools and requires that each school be individually approved by the NC Department of Public Instruction. Charter schools are thought by some to be better than traditional schools, a view that came about when the first charter schools replaced underperforming public schools. Some charter schools have been successful, others have closed. There are two charter schools in Henderson County, the Mountain Community School (K-8), and the new FernLeaf School (K-3) in Fletcher.
Opinion: 1) Charter schools are a welcome addition because they expand parent choice 2) The same state tests of student achievement should be given in both charter schools and public schools (and home schools and private schools), so that achievement of educational goals can be judged on a level playing field 3) New charter school applications should be closely scrutinized because charter schools divert public school funds. In 2016-17, $1M will pass through our district to fund Henderson County students at charter schools, and half of these students will be going out of the county. If charter schools are desireable, financial support should flow directly from the state to the school along with the charter, with no reason to involve local school boards.
Schedules & Snow Days