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An Update on Our Vance Elementary School Community

November 9, 2020 

After hearing the thoughts and feelings of our students, staff, families and greater school community through four virtual town halls and dozens of emails, the Vance Elementary School Renaming Task Force has narrowed down its future name suggestions from more than 20 to just five.  

They are: 

  • Christine Avery:  Christine Avery served the Asheville community for over 50 years as an elementary and special education school teacher in Asheville City Schools.  She was also one of the founders of the Hill Street Daycare Center (now the Christine W. Avery Learning Center), Asheville's oldest and only Black-owned daycare facility still in operation. Avery was a charter member of the Asheville Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.  She believed that every person was special in their own way and deserving of love and care. Her message to everyone was to say and believe that, "I Am Lovable And Capable."
  • Gladys Pierce Forney:  A graduate of both Shaw University and the University of Illinois, where she earned a master’s degree in the Teaching of Social Studies, Gladys Pierce Forney came to Asheville in 1953 to teach history and sociology at Stephens-Lee High School.  She is known for being a key figure during the civil rights era, leading the charge during the years of integration when Asheville City’s two high schools were combined. Throughout her life, she continued to work for community peace through the Asheville-Buncombe Community Relations Council. 
  • Elynora M. Foster: A graduate of Howard University and Columbia University, where she received a Master’s Degree in Education, Elynora Foster began her teaching career at Stephens-Lee High School in 1952  An ACS educator for 20 years, she retired from Asheville High School in 1972. Foster’s obituary states that “she was the first African-American woman in Asheville to receive a master’s degree.”
  • Florence Green:  Florence Green was a graduate of Stephens Lee High School’s class of 1952 and a 1956 graduate of Benedict College in Columbia, SC.  An educator across Asheville City Schools, she taught at Hill Street School, Ira B. Jones Elementary, Newton Elementary and Claxton Elementary before retiring.  
  • Lucy Herring: For 52 years Lucy Herring dedicated her life to teaching; 35 of these years were spent in Asheville City and Buncombe County Schools.  She served as a teacher at Swannanoa, Hill Street and Stephens Lee and as principal at Mountain Street, a school that was later named in her honor.  She was founder and director of a summer reading clinic for teachers at NC College at Durham and was Associate Professor, Director of Reading at Livingstone College in Salisbury.   She was also a member of the Asheville Chapter of the American Association of University Women, Gamma Gamma Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and a lifelong member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People  

All five were Black, female educators right here in Asheville City Schools. 

When narrowing down its list, the Task Force considered its original seven guiding principles as well as four themes that were common additions suggested by those who attended the virtual town halls (distinguished by an *).  They 11 markers considered include:   

  • Reflects the values of our current community
  • Inclusive
  • Has long term potential
  • If we choose to name it after a person, it should be a Person of Color 
  • If we choose a theme, it should be something that’s already unique and relevant to the school 
  • Locally Relevant 
  • Something that makes people want to go there
  • Someone who is known to support public education*
  • Promotes Female Empowerment*
  • Commitment to racial justice*
  • Name should be empowering to the disenfranchised *

The Renaming Task Force is now completing additional research and meeting with local historians, as the Task Force is coming closer to meeting its goal of recommending a new name that honors and communicates our current values and beliefs.  Additionally, Vance Elementary School 5th Graders are delving deeper into the lives of these five great women as part of their North Carolina studies.  

The Task Force will bring their final suggestion before the Asheville City Board of Education during its December 7th meeting.  It hopes the Board will approve a new school name in February 2021.  

Should a member of our community wish to share their thoughts, perspectives or memories of one or more of the Renaming Task Force’s five name suggestions, please email ashley.thublin@acsgmail.net.


September 16, 2020

Good Morning Vance Students, Staff and Families.  This is Dr. Gene with an update about your school community.

As we move forward in Vance’s renaming process, I think it’s important that we agree from the very start that there’s a big difference between a museum’s purpose and that of a  school’s.  A museum is a place to remember, reflect and learn; whereas, I believe the name of a school is an important place of honor.  Our purpose in renaming Vance Elementary School is not about erasing history but instead about finding a way to express a new image for the building that reflects the current values of Vance’s students, staff, families and greater community.  

This process is not one I take lightly. 

Please know that renaming Vance Elementary School will not be a decision solely made by one or two people; instead, I want it to be a collaborative effort that includes feedback from as many stakeholders as possible.  That’s why a task force has been created.  Representing a wide array of perspectives that make Vance Elementary School such a unique place to work, learn and grow, the task force is made up of representatives from current Vance students, Vance alumni, teachers, staff members, families, future families as well as community members.  

At this point, the task force has held two meetings.  They have come up with a projected timeline, which is estimated to conclude with the Asheville City Board of Education making their final decision in February 2021,  as well as discussed ways to engage with additional members of the Vance community.  In order to do just that, please join the task force at one of their upcoming virtual town halls.  Each one will take place over Zoom.  Although you are more than welcome to attend any meeting, please know that their meeting on September 24th is specifically geared toward Vance staff and families. 

During the meeting, you’ll hear more from the task force about its operations, their projected timeline and why they believe racial equity/justice must be at the forefront of our decision making process.  Additionally, you’ll be able to rate guiding principles by their importance, share what category of names you find most appealing as well as bring your own recommendations before the taskforce. 

Thank you for your continued support of both our district and Vance Elementary School.  We look forward to seeing you during one of our upcoming virtual town halls. 


June 16, 2020

For more than 130 years, Asheville City Schools has prided itself on our constant desire to adapt to our changing world as we strive to best meet the needs of our students, staff, families and community. 

 Therefore, please know that the name of Vance Elementary School will be brought before the Asheville City Board of Education during their June 30th meeting.  Should our Superintendent, Dr. Gene Freeman, receive their approval to begin the renaming process, our district will start an extensive campaign to receive feedback from as many stakeholders as possible, especially those who currently make up the Vance Elementary School family. 

 In Asheville City Schools, we know that history cannot be ignored; however, we also know that some history should be in museums, as opposed to on the marquee of a school building whose main focus is creating a supportive, loving environment where all students can learn.  

 In our district, excellence with equity is more than a motto.  It is the driving force of every decision we make.  Therefore, we would be remiss to the social and emotional well being of children, especially our students of color, if they were to continue to attend a school named after a slave owner, as his stance on racial equity did not match the current beliefs and feelings of our Vance students, staff, families and community.