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Board of Education recognizes student, teacher accomplishments

WEST JEFFERSON — Accomplishments of Ashe students and teachers were recognized by the county board of education during its regular monthly meeting in the Ashe County High School auditorium at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 4.

Prior to the board meeting, teachers, parents and students convened in the high school commons area for a reception, featuring food and desserts, and an old-time music trio featuring Ashe County Board of Education member Lee Beckworth, his son Josh and daughter Sarah.

Musical performances continued into the high school auditorium to open the board of education meeting, with the ACHS Jazz Ensemble rattling off some funky compositions, and the sixth grade Ashe County Middle School Chorus harmonizing through a pair of numbers, including “The Wayfaring Stranger.”

Following the quick concert and the board’s public comment session, a plethora of Ashe County students and teachers were recognized for various awards, honors and accomplishments. Included alongside this story is a list of teacher and student names, and the reasons they were recognized.

Those recognized were announced on-stage and given certificates of achievement, with their picture taken while holding the certificate.

Board member Keith McClure was absent from the meeting due to a family emergency, with the other four members and Ashe County School Superintendent Phyllis Yates seated on the right side of the auditorium stage. In the audience were about 20 people, including Ashe teachers who stayed for the board’s business session.

During public comment, a Pond Mountain father approached the board and said he was concerned about equal transportation opportunity for his daughter, whose bus driver has been unable to make the drive to Pond Mountain during wintry weather, and when the driver can make it up the mountain, his daughter spends two hours on the bus on the way to and coming from school. The board said they would investigate the matter and respond at its next meeting.

Ashe County Arts Council Program Director Rebecca Williams also appeared before the board during public comment, handing out the arts council’s spring programming list.

Personnel recommendations from ACS HR Director Lesia Goodman were approved by the board 4-0, as was a resolution supporting local control of the school calendar, which Yates explained would assist local elected state representatives pass a bill to allow counties in western North Carolina more control in handling and scheduling around snow days.

On the subject of the school calendar, Yates updated the board on the remainder of the 2019 school year. So far, ACS has cancelled 12 days of school in the 2018-19 school year, Yates said. If no more school days are missed, spring break will not be affected, nor will high school graduation.

The last thing Yates said she wanted to do in case of more missed school is take days off spring break, but she said she would schedule school on Saturdays if in dire straits. According to Yates, the superintendents from Watauga, Avery and Ashe met with N.C. Sen. Deanna Ballard (R-Blowing Rock) Monday to discuss enacting flexible school calendars for High Country school systems.

Ashe County Schools Auditor Mike Wike was at the board’s meeting to present the 2017-18 ACS financial audit, in which a change from the state in schools’ post-employment insurance policies resulted in a -$20 million balance, which Wike assured the board was not as frightening a number as it appeared to be.

The board considered revisions to ACS attendance policy, which presently allows students to miss 10 days of school per semester. At the recommendation of faculty, the board is considering slimming down the maximum number unexcused absences to 6 school days.

ACS Maintenance Director Jerry Baker updated the board on a project to replace some 159 windows at the high school in phases, and ACS Career Technical Education Director Joallen Lowder presented the February CTE Month schedule to the board.

Large-scale plans for the new Ashe County Middle School are being finalized by the architect, and the project will be put out for bid thereafter, Yates said.

As of Monday night, Ashe Early College received 76 student applications, including 3 homeschoolers, according to Yates. Yates said she wants no more than 105 students to attend the early college next year, but the county needs at least 100 students enrolled to keep the principal’s salary paid for by the state.

“We’re very tickled about the numbers who have applied,” Yates said.

During superintendent comments, Yates said Laurel Ridge Camp, Conference & Retreat Center, located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Laurel Springs, had contacted her about a $75,000 grant the camp had received, with $25,000 of the grant allocated as credit for Ashe County Schools to spend at the facilities in whatever way the school system saw fit during the next 5 years. The other $50,000 was split between Allegheny and Wilkes counties schools, according to Yates.

The spelling bee is in the ACHS Auditorium at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, and February is Career Technical Education Month in schools across the county, Yates said. Bus Driver Appreciation Week is Feb. 11-15, according to Yates.

The school board went to recess at 8:54 p.m. before reconvening for a closed session for the purpose of considering a personnel action that involved an officer or employee of the school board, as well as a real estate matter.

The next meeting of the Ashe County Board of Education will be in the ACS Central Support Annex on South Street in Jefferson at 7 p.m. Monday, March 4.


News
Cox reappointed, McMillan named to Ashe County Planning Board

JEFFERSON — Following a delayed influx of applicants interested in serving on the Ashe County Planning Board, the Ashe County Board of Commissioners unanimously appointed the first two people who applied for the position.

At the recommendation of acting Ashe County Manager Adam Stumb, the board of commissioners decided to reappoint Ashe County Planning Board Chairwoman Priscilla Cox of Crumpler to serve another 3-year term, and appoint 6-year Ashe resident David McMillan of West Jefferson, during the commissioners’ regular meeting at 9 a.m. Monday, Feb. 4.

McMillan will fill the planning board seat left vacant since August 2018, when Gene Hafer resigned.

Both Cox and McMillan had applied and were scheduled to be appointed to the county planning board during the commissioners’ Jan. 22 meeting, but their appointments were postponed at the request of Stumb, who said there had been a late rush of applicants after Ashe Post & Times published an article about the planning board vacancies in its Jan. 16 edition. The commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of postponing the planning board appointments until their Feb. 4 meeting, with Vice Chairman William Sands and Commissioner Larry Rhodes casting the dissenting votes.

Regardless of the delayed vote, the commissioners unanimously went with Stumb’s original recommendation to reappoint Cox and appoint McMillan, bringing the Ashe County Planning Board to a full five members after almost six months with a vacancy.

In his application, McMillan, formerly the Novant Health vice president, said he was retired after more than 37 years in the healthcare and healthcare construction industries, and wanted to join the board to contribute to the community.

As of presstime, McMillan was unavailable for comment.

Other Ashe County residents to apply for the planning board vacancy include pastor Sonny Thomas Sr., retired corporate executive manager Barry Thomas, retired Lowe’s Companies property developer Lindsay McGrady, civil engineer Terrance Kepple, retired physician assistant Jerry Heath and former state house representative Jonathan Jordan, according to county documents.

The commissioners voiced their overall satisfaction with the planning board applicants. Commissioner Paula Perry said there were some really good submissions, Chairman Todd McNeill said it took him a long time to go through all the applications, Sands said he agreed with Perry and McNeill, and Commissioner Larry Dix said the high-caliber applications should serve as a challenge to the planning board, and future applicants.

Also during its Feb. 4 meeting, the board of commissioners made appointments to the Farmland Preservation Advisory Board. Cecil Miller, of Creston, was reappointed to a second 3-year term, while Jimmy Cox, of Crumpler, and Loyd Miller, of Creston, were appointed to 3-year terms and Anthony Farmer, of Creston, was appointed to a 2-year term, all at the recommendation of Ashe County N.C. Cooperative Extension Director Travis Birdsell.

The Farmland Preservation Advisory Board appointments were 4-0 votes, with McNeill excusing himself from voting because he leases farmland to Jimmy Cox.


News
Hubbard gets first Superior Court date

JEFFERSON — Jessie R. Hubbard is set to make his first appearance in Ashe County Superior Court Monday, Feb. 11. Hubbard is being charged with four counts of possession of a firearm by a felon and the Aug. 19 murder of Diane Goss.

Hubbard, who was 59 and living in Crumpler at the time of his arrest, was indicted by a Grand Jury Nov. 13, 2018, after two appearances in District Court were continued while the State held its own investigation into the matter, according to his attorney, Jak Reeves. Hubbard’s case was continued Sept. 6 and 27, 2018, the second time being continued to a Nov. 15, 2018, date that never materialized due to the case being moved to Superior Court.

Hubbard was arrested Aug. 19, 2018, by the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office in relation to Goss’s death. According to then-Chief Deputy Bucky Absher, Hubbard was the one who called 911. Ashe Post and Times submitted a public records request on Aug. 24, 2018 requesting the contents of the 911 call made by Hubbard the night of Goss’s murder.

Judge Michael Duncan of the 23rd Judicial District ordered for the 911 communication to not be released for the full duration of the trial, citing that it would be prejudicial to Hubbard’s case.

According to court documents, when Hubbard was arrested he had a Marlin 22 caliber rifle, a Fox double barrel shotgun and two Remington model 700 rifles in his possession.

Hubbard was originally charged with three counts of possession of a firearm by a felon, which was increased to four counts when he was indicted by a grand jury due to one of the three warrants covering two guns.

In addition to the charges he currently faces, Hubbard has a history of criminal activity. Since 1975, he has been charged with breaking and entering and larceny twice, misdemeanor and felony escape from prison, driving while impaired three times, resisting an officer, violating vehicle registration, driving while license revoked twice, possession of schedule six drugs, violation of drug laws, DWI level one, DWI level two twice, breaking and entering into vehicles six times, assault inflicting serious bodily injury twice, larceny after breaking and entering, larceny five times, possession of stolen goods and assault while pointing a weapon.

Ashe Post and Times will continue to provide updates as they become available.


News
State dismisses animal cruelty charges

JEFFERSON — Amanda E. Smith, 36, of West Jefferson had two counts of felony cruelty to animals and two counts of felony killing an animal by starvation dismissed by the State in Ashe County District Court Thursday, Jan. 31. Ralph E. Smith III, 41, also of West Jefferson, is facing the same four charges. His case was continued to March 21.

Amanda E. Smith was also facing a simple assault charge while Ralph E. Smith III faced an assault on a female charge. Both charges were dismissed.

According to Ashe County Animal Control Director Joe Testerman, animal control officers were called to a West Jefferson residence Dec. 12, 2018, when neighbors heard the sounds of dogs, but hadn’t seen anyone go in the residence in some time. Officers Jeremy Eller and Dana Shatley were sent, and later joined by members of the West Jefferson Police Department and Ashe County Sheriff’s Office. According to a report of the incident filed by Shatley, it appeared no one had been at the residence since it started snowing on Dec. 8, 2018.

When the officers heard the dogs inside, the property’s landlord let them inside. According to the report filed by Shatley, the officers could smell something foul before they entered the building.

When they entered, they found two dogs who were very emaciated and in poor health. Testerman said the two appeared to be medium-sized shepherd mixes and that one only weighed 13 pounds when they found it. Two other dogs were found and appeared to have been dead for a few days, with the two living dogs able to barely survive by eating their remains.

Both were arrested Dec. 13, 2018, after a warrant was issued. Amanda E. Smith was released the same day under a $1,000 secured bond, while Ralph E. Smith III was released under a $10,000 secured bond Dec. 15, 2018.

Ashe Post and Times will provide updates on this story as they become available.