Alternative Public School Thrives in West Asheville
A Brief History of Francine Delany New School For Children
In 1996, in response to ever-louder demands for public education reform, the North Carolina legislature passed the Charter School Law, allowing public funds to be used to operate up to 100 newly-created independent public schools. Francine Delany New School for Children, at 119 Brevard Road just off of Haywood Road in West Asheville, was part of the first wave of these innovative public schools of choice, and it’s become one of the movements success stories, and a leader in alternative public education.
FDNSC was started by a group of seven dedicated teachers who wanted to create a public school that would put children and learning first. The plan was to begin as a K-5 school, and add a grade the next three years, heading for a K-8 school with 140 students. The Charter School law made no provision for start-up funds, so teachers put their houses and nest-eggs as collateral to get the site up and running. Everyone worked incredibly hard, but still, the site wasn’t quite ready when September, 1997 rolled around. In a wonderful gesture of community support, New Mount Olive Baptist Church opened its heart and its facilities to us, and for a little over a month, students and staff worked together, setting up classrooms in various little rooms Sunday evenings, teaching all week, and, Friday afternoons, packing up the school stuff in car trunks and turning the spaces back into a church. On October 19, a day we celebrate each year as the school’s spiritual birthday, we finally moved into our current location at 119 Brevard Road.
The school was named after Francine Delany, a wonderful local educator and principal, who always did right by the children in her schools, and who gave the teachers she worked with the freedom and encouragement to be their best. She worked with many of the folks who started this school, and her passing coincided with the beginnings of this school, so it seemed appropriate to honor her this way.
Each year of operations has brought unique challenges and successes, and sufficient funding will always be a problem. Overall, however, the students we have sent to local high schools are doing wonderfully, our students’ state test scores continue to place us with the best of Asheville City’s public schools, we continue to retain our excellent, highly-trained staff, and our victory in the NC Supreme Court has helped make us an increasingly influential model for successful public school reform. We look forward to many more years of service to our school’s community of learners, and to our community at large.