Updated: Sep 16
1. Tell us a little about yourself, why you are running for office, why you are qualified, and why you are the best candidate.
I’m running for City Council because together we can take better care of our community, our environment, our people, how we all grow and how we all thrive. I want to put my deep experience and love for our community to work on city council. I’m a 20 year resident of Asheville and raised my family here. My son, Dylan, graduated from SILSA with the class of 2020. I am a hands-on volunteer and have served on local government and nonprofit boards for twenty years, including doing community planning, animal rescue, fighting hunger / food banking, providing family services, and supporting local small business associations. I currently serve as the Chair of Affordable Housing and the Chair of the Downtown Commission for the City. My background is in Finance and City Planning. I have a Master’s in Urban & Regional Planning and work as the Finance and Project Manager of the French Broad Food Co+op, downtown’s community owned and living wage paying grocery store. I manage a variety of needs, including union contracts and parking lots, budgets and audits, and my favorite, the expansion and restoration of our historic buildings.
2. Tell us about your experience advocating for public education either as an elected official or in other capacities.
My advocacy in education started about ten years ago when my son’s public charter school was struggling financially and needed finance committee members. I served on their committee for five or so years and later on a Foundation board that formed to help with a campus expansion. I recall learning about the various funding needs and stressors, ever changing technology, frozen teacher wages for years on end, the IEP process and associated funding needs, and how critical those first twenty days of school are to funding for the entire school year. I baked a lot of fundraiser cookies during those years. Recently, my education related service has been as a board member and Treasurer for Manna Food Bank; Manna is at a critical juncture of food and education. Through my work with Manna, I know that 1 in 4 children in our area are food insecure and that a day started without breakfast and a nutritious lunch harms a child’s ability to focus and learn. Manna delivers 5,100 Manna Packs (bags of groceries) a week to schools and to children on food assistance programs.
As a candidate for Council, my concerns and advocacy are centered around the longstanding and growing education gap between White and Black children; the impacts of COVID on our childrens’ schooling and access to food, emotional support, and IEP services; how we are growing our future education leaders; and how other factors outside of school, like how family and neighborhood food insecurity and unstable or unaffordable housing and the digital divide, are affecting education.
As Chair of Affordable Housing for the City, I see intersections of education issues, community development and planning. An example is the way we decide how much and what type of housing we need to focus our energies on and spend our tax dollars on. Our housing studies to date have always pointed to the highest need being efficiency and 1 bedroom units. Coupled with the long wait list of 1 bedroom units at the Housing Authority, we have created a situation where all policies point to 1 bedroom units as the goal. Where does that leave our families? We are unwittingly creating very few new affordable units that accommodate families.
3. How would you approach the disciplinary gap between our students of color and their white peers? What is the appropriate role for SROs in our schools?
School Resource Officers can be tremendous resources and mentors. And they can hold the same implicit biases and disproportionate punishments on Black children as we see in policing adults. We need a new approach, one that is rooted in anti-racist practices, and that is restorative, comprehensive, and does not put kids at risk of a school to prison pipeline. As mentioned in my answer to question #2 above, other factors are affecting our children including housing and food insecurity, overcrowding, and lack of access to daily needs. We need to understand and begin the hard work of unpacking and addressing these issues.
4. How do you see the role of your potential office in supporting families of marginalized populations, particularly in the areas of racial and social justice?
This four year term on Council will be the implementation era of our $25M in affordable housing bonds. It is much of why I’m running, having spent the last five years helping rewrite policy, a bond campaign, establishing new tracking and deliverables for our progress, and attaining needed data and studies to get us here.
This election will also create the Council that reimagines public safety, begins restoring wealth through reparations, and lays the groundwork for redeveloping all public housing communities, where our marginalized neighbors and families often reside.
5. Our students show a significant disparity in standardized test scores between Black and White students. How will you work in the legislature to address this disparity, and similar disparities in other school districts?
We need to focus on the items we can impact while running requests for funding and advocacy up the ranks through relationships with legislators.Thankfully, I have relationships with several. A recent example is a Resolution I drafted for Council in late August timed just ahead of the General Assembly went back into session. I contacted legislators to alert them to the resolution and to encourage them to regroup and pass NC HB1200 as originally intended, to provide $200M in rental and mortgage assistance to our NC cities, bringing as much as $1.2M to Asheville. You can read the Resolution here.
6. How do you view the importance of special classes, such as PE, art, music, language and media?
Long live special classes. These critical opportunities allow children to learn experientially, helping to build critical thinking, relationships, and collaboration skills.
7. How do you view the role of Education Support Professionals in our classrooms and what is your priority in funding them?
Having helped raise a stepchild with many medical needs and raised another with education needs, I know the importance of ESPs inside and outside the classroom. Part of improving equity in school children is having persons ready and able to assist in fluid ways and as needed in changing situations. If there is a funding situation or potential cut to these programs, I am unaware and would like to learn more about the ways I can assist.
8. Do you support or oppose the use of tax credits, vouchers, and/or any use of public money for private K-12 schools and why?
I oppose. Private schools do not need taxpayer subsidy to maintain their needs and subtracting funding from public schools would have impacts across the campus, not just in one classroom.
9. What are your thoughts about the role of charter schools in public education? Should charter schools be required to serve the same demographic as traditional charter schools?
My children attended charter elementary schools. Our charter school relationship stemmed from a high need and complicated medical pathway for the oldest child, which paved the way for the next child to enter as a sibling. We had a tremendous experience and appreciated our time there. I was always aware of the waiting list that was hundreds of children long and the issues that created those desires.
I’m not sure I understand the last part of your question; I do think that charter schools should be held to the same demographics as traditional public schools (assuming that is what you meant).
10. How would you characterize the current state of public education in North Carolina right now? Please include your personal experiences with our public schools.
With COVID’s far reaching layers, it has become a frantic disaster and changing landscape. In the Spring, when COVID first hit, I was alarmed to hear we had only dozens of portable wireless devices and hundreds of kids that needed them. We were fortunate to have wireless but had friends who didn’t have any signal and lived in areas without service. I was further alarmed to hear that almost 300 children went home because of COVID and never logged in again. We know gaps in the summer can greatly impact retention and learning; COVID has exasperated that. Programs like My Daddy Taught Me That, that leverages play time with responsibility and growth and kept children immersed in education through the Summer give me hope. The PODS give us hope. We’re going to have to be creative to help our kids through these times.
We also know how exhausting it is to work on a screen all day. I am hearing from families about how exhausted they are, how hard it is on the children to focus and learn in these new ways, how hard it is on the parents to adjust to homeschooling. The children are losing invaluable social time with friends, having emotional meltdowns, and are missing experiential learning activities. Teachers and ESPs also play a critical role in watching our children for signs of neglect and or abuse. I am increasingly worried for children experiencing these issues and how COVID might be exacerbating them. It’s downright tragic.
At a higher education level (my youngest is a college freshman), we are seeing devastating impacts to families of kids living in dorms and having to return home, or struggling to learn online.
11. What will you do as a public official to ensure that public education is a budget priority and local government provides adequate funding for high-quality public schools for all children? Discuss your top priorities.
I would advocate to the County Commission for ongoing needs they have control over, like subsidizing teacher pay. I would work with the County to align our resources with the priorities of the school and the resources they need outside of school. So, while Council does not have a direct impact on the majority of the school budget, we can prioritize the many layers that create a healthy and accessible homelife that supports our kids and helps them do their best in school.
I would continue advocating for before and after school programs like My Daddy Taught Me That and In Real Life, and putting our public libraries to work helping our kids with access and the internet.
12, Please explain how, as a public official, you would specifically build respect for the education profession in order to help attract and retain the highest quality educators?
One powerful tool we have is educating, training, and growing our future educators from our own community. Retaining and building lifelong relationships with educators that know our community is invaluable. Perhaps we can source scholarships for leaders, particularly BIPOC leaders, to become educators. Perhaps we can work with the County and nearby Colleges and Universities on a long range plan.
We also need to look at affordable housing for educators and prioritizing affordable housing options for teachers to help reduce expenses and travel time.
13. How do you expect to keep the safety of our students and staff as a priority in light of the health crisis we face with COVID 19?
I’ll do everything I can to support our kids and school staff through this challenging time. Safety is our first priority. We need to get wifi into public housing communities and to families that don’t have it. Access is critical. We need increased emotional support and support for before and after school programs. We need tutors, assistants, tech support, and more.
14. What is your position on the funding of local supplements for teachers, administrators, and education support professionals (ESPs)?
As a County educator, you get one supplement and as a City educator, you get two supplements. The City supplement is not keeping up with the cost of living so we are seeing city educators move to the County school system. This is something we need to be watching and improving upon. We also need to lobby higher governments to provide hire base supplements for teachers.
15. As a public official, how would you engage with BCAE, its leadership, and educators about education policy issues and using their expertise to inform your decisions if elected? How can we expect to hear from you in response to our concerns and questions?
My model of leadership includes substantial listening and checking in with stakeholders on issues. If you reach out to me, you can expect a response.
16. What do you see as the role and reputation of BCAE in advocating for our students, schools and staff?
You are the voice for our teachers and your work is supported by teachers and folks like myself. I would like to hear from you all regularly about the changing landscape of needs, especially during COVID.
17. Do you have any other thoughts about public education that have not been addressed in this questionnaire?
There used to be a tradition of having the Asheville board of education and the Asheville City Council do joint, public meetings. This can assist in accountability and better understanding the needs of our children and how to make progress on our education gap. Is there interest in bringing that back?