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 movement’s success stories, and a leader in alternative public education.
FDNSC was started by a group of seven dedicated teachers and three families 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 then add a grade over 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 the 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 facilities to us. For a little over a month, parents, students and staff worked together, setting up classrooms in various little rooms on Sunday evenings and teaching all week. Then packing up the school materials into car trunks on Friday afternoons and turning the spaces back into a church. On October 19, a day we celebrate each year as the school’s spiritual anniversary, we finally moved into our current location at 119 Brevard Road on 1.25 acres with five modular classroom buildings.
The school was named after Francine Delany, a wonderful local educator and principal, who did right by the children in her schools, and gave the teachers she worked with the freedom and encouragement to be their best. Francine worked with many of the teachers and parents who started this school. Her passing coincided with the beginnings of this school, and with her family’s blessing, it seemed appropriate to honor her in this way.
Each year of operation has brought unique challenges and successes, with sufficient funding always being one of our challenges. Our students’ state test scores continue to place us among the best of Asheville’s public schools, and we continue to retain our excellent, highly-trained staff. The students we have sent to local high schools are doing wonderfully. Our victory in the NC Supreme Court in 2002, helped to ensure our students received the correct amount of funding from all local sources 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.