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School Board members defend decision to defy calendar law

Dot Case and Amy Lynn Holt defended the School Board’s decision to ignore state law in endorsing a 2023-24 school calendar that starts classes on Aug. 14. Dot Case and Amy Lynn Holt defended the School Board’s decision to ignore state law in endorsing a 2023-24 school calendar that starts classes on Aug. 14.

Henderson County School Board members are strongly defending their vote to defy state law and adopt a 2023-34 school calendar that starts classes next Aug. 14, two weeks earlier than the state allows.

In the last meeting for Vice Chair Amy Lynn Holt, who did not stand for re-election, and Dot Case, who lost her seat in last week’s election, members said Monday that after seeing their efforts to change the calendar law blocked in the state Legislature they believed they had no choice but to adopt the calendar they say is best for school children. The School Board will review the calendar two more times, in December and January, before a vote to formally adopt it.
Board members say they want to align K-12 schools with community colleges and four-year colleges and eliminate the current three-week holiday break between the end of class and fall semester exams.
Holt said the calendar issue became personal when her daughter graduated after her fall semester as a high school senior and was unable to enroll in community college.
“I was the person that brought this up in 2018,” she said. “I then began to work with every elected official that we have been represented by.” State Reps. Tim Moffitt and Jake Johnson wrote bills that never got a hearing. “Chuck Edwards (the state senator) has been working with us for several years and has come up with very intelligent solutions that would fix the calendar so that we can align with the community colleges,” she said. “We’ve done everything that we can and we are told quite frankly it is one person. It is (N.C. Senate leader) Phil Berger who will not change the calendar. He has said, ‘If you bring me a calendar that starts earlier than the Monday closest to the 26th, I’m not going to read it, I’m going to put it in the trash.’ And you may quote me on that. What a shame that one bully down in Raleigh is controlling what’s best for our students here in Henderson County and across the state. … I think we have roughly 115 school districts and if we have 100 of them say, ‘We’re not following the law, we’re doing this,’ then that’s going to be the push that needs to happen.”
Jay Egolf quoted an email from an aide to Edwards explaining that a school calendar bill the senator drafted “was shut down and Sen. Edwards was told under no circumstances would it be even heard or move forward.”
“I just don’t want the public to think that this is a rogue school board that is violating the law,” said Egolf, who won election to a second term last week. “We’re trying to do what is best for the students of Henderson County and to be portrayed as a rogue board that is breaking laws is not correct. We’re trying to do everything right. But at the end of the day, when we put our school board hat on, my job is to do the best for the students of Henderson County, and this calendar does that.”
Case compared the School Board’s defiance to the patriots that fought a war for independence from the British crown.
“In 1776, 13 colonies were fed up with the British rule and what they were saying and they went against the rule, went against the law for their own benefit and for mine and your benefit today,” she said. “Thank God we’re under a democracy. We fought a war, we got our freedom from that. And for me, it is like that with this calendar. It’s the best for testing. It’s the best for our kids all the way around.”

Board thanks Holt and Case

To open the meeting, board Chair Blair Craven and their fellow board members thanked Case and Holt for their service.
In her 12 years on the board, Amy Lynn Holt helped guide the board to numerous “high level accomplishments,” Craven said, including “the battle of all battles” to push through the Hendersonville High School design and construction, “a brand new school for Edneyville” and a water-safety program at the YMCA for second graders.
Holt credited then-County Manager Steve Wyatt for supporting her request to fund school resource officers in every school after the Florida school shooting that killed 17 people.
“I will never forget in 2018 after Parkland, the next morning, I texted him and said, Can I come in and talk to you? And I went over there and I just had this whole speech prepared that we needed funding for SROs. That was one thing that was so important to me when I ran for the Board of Education back in 2010. … And at one point he said, ‘Can you pause a minute so that I can tell you, I’m gonna get the funding for that.’”
To Case, Craven said, “You are an absolute champion for kids. You love all of your students that you’ve had for 43 years that you taught in Henderson County. You gave your all to this board. And there’s nothing more that I could possibly ask for as a chair or as a board member to have someone that cared as much as you did.”
Board member Stacey Caskey praised Case for making tough votes that were often panned by parents in the audience at School Board meetings.
“Throughout the pandemic, you upheld your oath to try as best as possible to keep our kids in school and safe from a deadly disease, and there’s neither any gain or glory from doing so — and I have about 20,000 emails to prove that,” she said. “I have been proud to sit at this table for the past two years with someone who has the heart of a teacher, someone with an unmatched legacy in the education of the children of Henderson County. What is right is not always popular, and I thank you for your courage to stand by your oath and protect and educate the children of Henderson County. There’s a reason why your photo and your name adorn the walls in the Education Hall of Fame.”