Explainer: Community School Leadership Retreat

Living in Asheville, especially during the summer and fall seasons, we are no strangers to tourists filling the streets, parks, restaurants, and breweries. Of course, who wouldn’t want to enjoy a brew against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains? And although it may seem, at times, that Asheville only draws tourists because of the gorgeous scenery, delicious food, and craft brews there are many other reasons people choose to converge in our county. 

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During the week of November 24th, dozens of Community School coordinators, managers, and leaders became tourists of Asheville, not only for its beautiful landscape but also for the powerful work happening in Buncombe County revolving around Community Schools. 

For those new to the Community School strategy, it is a central focus of United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County(UWABC). You can learn more about the Community Schools strategy HERE.

Along with craft beer, our local leaders like Laura Elliot, and Keynon Lake with My Daddy Taught me that, Copland Rudolph with Asheville City Schools Foundation, and principal Travis Collins with Erwin Middle School, just to name a few, are a reason to travel to Asheville. Children-focused work may not be everyone’s reason for tourism. Still, those who feel passionately about Community Schools and childhood education throughout our nation have recognized that excellent work is happening in Buncombe county. They wanted to see it for themselves, firsthand.


UWABC worked with the Coalition of Community Schools and the Institute of Educational Leadership, to bring movers and shakers from all across the nation to Asheville to learn more about the exceptional Community School strategy here in Buncombe County. The people who visited Asheville for the Community School Leadership are some of the finest community school minds in the nation. From community school coordinators to all levels of management and community leadership positions, the diverse people who visited Asheville the third week of November have dedicated their lives to the community school model of education.  This was the Community School Leader retreat; as you can imagine, the excitement was in the air here at UWABC. 



During the 5 days,  80+ Community School leaders would gather a discuss leadership roles, strategies, co-working, and of course, community school techniques. Across the days of passionate discussion, the group would visit the Cambria Hotel, UNCA, Stevens Lee Community Center, The Collider, and multiple UWABC Community Schools. Every individual from out of town was looking towards the work of United Way and our community partners to gain insight into their community. The days were jam-packed with critical questions moderated by the Institute of Educational Leadership staff. The goal was for each leader to share their experiences and wisdom with the larger group, in order to enter a national discourse with the improvement of community school tactics in mind. Between the break-out sessions, inspirational readings, and one on one discussions priceless ideas were being exchanged.


“This event here, it's important to pay attention to because Asheville, Buncombe County, truly has genuine authentic partnerships,” said Jose Munoz, with the Institute of Educational Leadership, “Yes in every community you have politics, personal agendas, and personalities.  But what I just had a chance to witness the last three days is how Buncombe County has worked and is working through that for the purpose of one mission, and that's to serve the kids.”


Here at United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County, we are honored to co-host this event. We understand that Asheville was chosen for its nationally acclaimed work in our public schools using the Community School strategy. We also realize that non of this work is possible without the actions of our Community Partners(LIST OF COMMUNITY PARTNERS HERE), and the support of individuals across the county. Just as equally important that we share ideas within a national discourse, we must share out ideas and have critical discussions within our most proximate communities. UWABC is proud to continue to work to co-create a diverse community where our Bold Community Goal can be fulfilled.