I am a product of public education who is passionately dedicated to our public schools. I believe that our democracy is only as strong as our system of public education. I am also a servant leader. As a lawyer, I have dedicated my professional life to public service. And for each of my 23 years in Asheville, I have supported public and private organizations working to improve access to basic needs and to improve the quality of life for Asheville's and Buncombe County's citizens. Below are some of the reasons I believe I am well prepared to serve as an effective member of the Asheville City Board of Education.
My wife, Leslie, and I are long-time parents and volunteers in Asheville City Schools. For 18 years, we have had at least one child in the Asheville City Schools, and we will have children in ACS for another 10 years. After attending Isaac Dickson Elementary and Asheville Middle School, our two sons graduated from Asheville High School. Our daughters are in second and fifth grade at Isaac Dickson, following in their big brothers' footsteps.
Throughout my time as an ACS parent, I have volunteered, formally and informally. I have served on Isaac Dickson's school-improvement team; I have volunteered in my children's classrooms; I have chaperoned field trips; and I have been actively engaged with administration and faculty.
I also have teaching experience. After college at the University of Virginia, I spent two years teaching high school English. I also served as a grade-level coordinator and swim coach. I know what it feels like to be a nervous teacher on the first day of school, to care deeply about students whose lives are mostly affected by forces outside of my control, and to answer the demands of parents and administrators.
As a lawyer, I have dedicated my career to public service. I served for two years as the housing attorney for Pisgah Legal Services, representing clients threatened with eviction or living in substandard living conditions. I served on the Asheville Housing Coalition and worked closely with residents and staff of the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville to develop policies designed to maintain the safety and well-being of residents. I also wrote grants that successfully resulted in the delivery of significant federal funding to assist those who were unhoused or threatened with homelessness.
For the last 18 years, I have served as an Assistant United States Attorney, representing the United States in criminal and civil appeals. In this role, I am acutely aware of what happens when young people do not feel a part of — or invested in — community. Many of our most violent crimes are committed by young adults or juveniles who did not graduate from high school and who found community in gangs or other organizations that provided the community they did not find in school or in the broader civic society. We must reach these students.
I have successfully served on non-profit and community boards and understand the role of a board member, vested with the responsibility of wisely administering public and private funds in service of a mission. I have served on the board of the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville and on the board of the Asheville City Schools Foundation. I have also served on the boards of Women at Risk and Room in the Inn. I limit my service to one board at a time so that I have the capacity to serve well, and I have learned how to be an active and strong board member. I stay on task, do my homework, insist on transparency, and ask questions — even difficult or uncomfortable questions — of those leading the organization. I always bear in mind that as a board member, it is my job to ensure strong and careful management of financial and personnel resources and progression of the mission.
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WHY I'M RUNNING
I am offering to serve on the Asheville City Board of Education because I believe that every student can learn and every student can and should feel embraced by their school community. I want Asheville City Schools to serve all families as well as it has served my family. For that to happen, we must hire a superintendent who understands that their job is to get into the schools — to listen and to learn from the educators who interact directly with our students. Asheville City Schools has been managed hierarchically by leaders who, too often, have not empowered our educators to innovate, to discern and to respond to each student's unique needs, and to ask for the support they need to enable each student to succeed and each educator to thrive. That paradigm must shift.
Instead of enabling the current culture of distrust, we must create a culture of trust, transparency, and joy, as we make Asheville City Schools a place where students learn and they and their families are held in community; a place where teachers love to teach because they are respected, they are encouraged to innovate, they can ask for what they need with confidence, and they are fairly compensated for the difficult but rewarding work they do; and a place where every staff member — from the superintendent to our cafeteria workers to our guidance counselors to our teachers to our custodial staff — can thrive, knowing that they are part of a team that serves every student well. And equity in opportunity and achievement must guide our path at every turn. To that end, I pledge:
To hire a superintendent who is a servant-leader — a superintendent who understands that their job is to ensure that every student and educator has the resources they need to thrive. A superintendent who understands that their role is neither to dictate nor to silence, but to serve administrators, educators, families, and students. A superintendent who believes every student can succeed and who takes responsibility for the success of every student and educator.
To hold the superintendent accountable and to insist on transparency and trust at every level. I will not be placated by surface-level explanations. I will insist on substance and authenticity. And I will require that the superintendent spend significant time every week in the schools — witnessing, listening, and learning how best to support our student-facing educators. The superintendent must earn the trust of families, educators, staff, and students.
To maintain a laser focus on equity. It is not and never has been about what is best for one child or for a small group of children — even if that child happens to be mine. Our decisions have to be guided by equity. We must ensure that every student has a fair opportunity to achieve and to thrive. We must also recruit and hire more educators of color and provide the training and support those educators need to succeed and to stay. Our focus must be what is best for the entire community, including students, teachers, administrators, staff, and families. I have the ability to maintain that focus.
To balance the ACS budget and to ensure the stewardship of our financial resources in service of our mission. I will read the balance sheets. I will ask questions. I will do the work required to understand how we began operating at a deficit, and I will do everything possible to return to financial health, while preserving the programs and services that are serving us well and working to increase the salaries of our educators.
To listen. Since deciding to run, I have been engaging in listening sessions with all kinds of stakeholders — teachers, administrators, parents, students, and community leaders. I will continue listening and learning. And I will make myself available to hear ideas and concerns and to celebrate successes.
To be transparent in my own decision making and to have the strength and fortitude to make decisions that serve the ACS mission of educating and nurturing every student and creating an environment in which our educators and administrators can serve with Cougar pride. I am not afraid to make difficult decisions in service of our mission. And I will explain my decisions. I am a strong communicator — I write and communicate for a living. I will not promise one course of action and take another. If I am persuaded that a position I have taken was wrong, I will say so, and I will explain my change in thinking. I will not only insist in transparency from others. I will bring transparency to my Board service.
Thank you for your interest in my candidacy. Please reach out to me if you have questions or want to know more. I look forward to the conversation. And I welcome your support and your vote!
Fun Facts About Amy
I love good food, and I love to cook! Breaking bread with family or friends around a table or gathering with friends in my backyard for a fire and some cornhole is hard to beat.
I treasure time outdoors— hiking on any of the innumerable trails that crisscross our beautiful mountains, walking around my neighborhood or into town, or biking with my family on a greenway. I go to church regularly, but I also find that time in the woods feeds my soul.
I love sports! I love playing sports. I love watching sports. I was a swimmer at the University of Virginia (Go 'Hoos!) and also enjoyed playing volleyball with my family when I was growing up. These days I enjoy playing tennis and would like to learn pickleball. Watching the Asheville Tourists and Asheville City Soccer teams play are two of my favorite ways to spend a summer evening. And there is little better than watching my kids play sports, especially for the Cougars!
I also love live music! I enjoy all kinds of music, and I am usually looking forward to an upcoming concert. I have seen lots of musicians play locally, and I would be thrilled if Florence & the Machine, Yo Yo Ma, and Lizzo made their way to Asheville.
I am goofy! Ask my wife or any of our four children: I may appear serious and have a job that requires engagement with difficult realities. But I am quick to laugh at myself, and my kids enjoy laughing at me, too!
My spirit animal is the otter. The only place I have ever felt graceful is in the water. I love lakes, creeks, and the ocean, and the more time I am in and around the water, the happier I am.
I am a cradle Episcopalian and a member of the Cathedral of All Souls in Biltmore Village. I have taught Sunday School, served on the endowment committee, and I am currently serving on the Cathedral's discernment committee to call a new priest (dean of the cathedral) who will lead our congregation. My commitment to this committee will conclude in June 2022.
I am a cancer survivor — twice. I have been through chemotherapy and radiation and numerous surgical procedures. I am now gratefully cancer free. What I learned: I have a phenomenal community of support, beginning with my wife Leslie who was my advocate, my nurse, and my companion through it all and who made me laugh every day. Being seriously ill deepened my compassion, and I greet every day with gratitude.
My family brings me terrific joy. We are all very close, and we take care of each other. We also believe in engaging with our community and using our gifts to make our world a little bit better.