State task force recommends ending end-of-grade testing

(Winston-Salem Journal) North Carolina students could face fewer tests as early as next year. A state task force reviewing how and how often North Carolina public school students are tested is recommending a drastic reduction in the number of state-mandated exams. A.L. “Buddy” Collins, vice chair of the North Carolina State Board of Education, said the recommendations are still in the early stages but that the group’s first draft proposal calls for massive changes in how the state tests and calls for cutting out nearly all end-of-grade and end-of-course exams. “I don’t think anyone thinks we’re testing too little in North Carolina,” Collins said. “Everybody thinks we’re testing too much. It’s about how to accomplish the many different goals (that tests) are trying to achieve.”

Read the full story HERE>

 

Elderly, families struggle with when to stop driving

(Asheville Citizen-Times) A spate of recent wrecks involving older drivers, including two fatalities in Transylvania County, underscores the seriousness of the issue, with some critics asserting the elderly should be tested more often or face more stringent standards than younger drivers as their reflexes, vision and mental acuity decline. The matter will only garner more attention in the mountains, a region with a high percentage of retirees and older residents. They accounted for nearly 43,400 of Buncombe’s 248,000 residents in 2013. By 2033, projections put the number of residents age 65 and older at 73,400, a 69 percent increase, and comprising almost a third of the county’s projected population, according to the Buncombe County Council on Aging.

Read the full story HERE>

Asheville Sunday bus service gets rolling with nine routes

(Mountain XPress) Asheville’s transit system (“ART”) now has Sunday service. Buses rolled out of the Coxe Ave. downtown station at 8 a.m. today, providing 67 hours of Sunday service on nine of the city’s 17 routes. The Sunday route is expected to increase ridership by 85,000 per year. The 2012 transit master plan initiative was the genesis of the Asheville Redefines Transit moniker. Its purpose was to increase ridership and make public transit accessible to more people in the city. “I’m happy to say today that redefining takes another step today with Sunday service,” said Julie Mayfield, chair of the city’s Transit Committee. The ART system provides 120,000 rides monthly, with Sunday service boosting the total by 7,000. Funding came from $112,000 of the general fund, approved by Asheville’s City Council in October, to match a federal one year Job Access and Reverse Commute grant. “Cost was our number one hurdle in this,” said Asheville Transit Projects Coordinator Yuri Koslen. He said since it’s a one year grant, future funding will be a challenge, but if the extra day of service is a success, funding will come.

Read the story HERE>

100 employers with 6,000 jobs to be at upcoming job fair

(Asheville Citizen-Times) Those wondering how to find work in a job market where only 3.8 to 4 percent remain unemployed might want to follow Hannah Pollard’s lead. The 25-year-old Weaverville resident attended the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce annual job fair two years ago. One month later, Pollard was a teller at Asheville-based HomeTrust Bank. “I hadn’t necessarily considered banking,” Pollard said. “But HomeTrust’s employment specialist was just so nice. She gave me a sense of what type of employees worked there. I already got a very homey feeling from them.” The HomeTrust treatment was not an exception. Pollard said everyone was “very welcoming, with a huge smile.” This year’s job fair will be the chamber’s ninth, said Matt Popowski, a chamber spokesman. It is scheduled for 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday at the Davis Event Center at the WNC Agriculture Center in Fletcher. The 100 employers who will be recruiting is a record, said Heidi Reiber, the chamber’s director of research. Those employers are looking to fill about 6,000 positions, Popowski said. “A number of the companies are hiring for 50 to 100 positions.”

Read the full story HERE>

Flood insurance cost drops 10 percent in Asheville due to city practices

(Mountain XPress) Property owners in the city of Asheville with flood insurance will now enjoy a 10 percent drop in their rates, thanks to new floodplain-management and disaster-reduction policies and practices by the city of Asheville that exceed the standards of the National Flood Insurance Program. The determination was made by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Improvements made by the city include floodplain mapping, preservation of open space in flood-prone areas and better stormwater management. The improvements also include an education and outreach program.

Read the full report HERE>

Educational standards lowered for new Asheville police

(Asheville Citizen-Times) Once known for some of the highest educational standards in North Carolina, the Asheville Police Department has cut degree requirements for new recruits. The department quietly lowered education requirements in June, saying new police officers no longer needed a two-year college degree and could be hired with a high school diploma. The change is intended to “increase the size, diversity and quality of the applicant pool,” as well as put Asheville in line with most departments’ hiring practices, interim Police Chief Wade Wood said. Two Asheville police veterans say lower standards indicate a decline in the department’s prestige. A university professor specializing in police training said the change could even lead to more problems in the use of excessive force. “We were once seen as the most progressive agency in the state,” said 26-year Asheville police veteran Tom Aardema. “But the philosophy of the agency has changed.”

Read the full story HERE>

Buncombe parents worry schools are testing too much

(Asheville Citizen-Times) In Buncombe County, parents and teachers met earlier this year to talk about testing, and school board members are expected to hear more on the issue at a meeting next month. Beyond end-of-grade tests, the many assessments designed to track a student’s progress during the year are also causing problems, some parents say. “I’m not saying they don’t need to do it because children need to be assessed,” said parent Evelyn Burns, of Arden. “We don’t want them to be afraid to go to school and hate school.” Meanwhile, a state Board of Education task force is reviewing state summative assessments, those end-of-grade and end-of-course requirements.

Read the full report HERE>

Cam Newton pen’s powerful message to fans after accident

(USA Today) Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton suffered two transverse process fractures in his back Tuesday when he was involved in a traffic accident in Charlotte that left his truck overturned on the road. Newton was taken to the hospital and kept overnight, but discharged the following day. On Wednesday night, Newton posted a harrowing photo from his accident on Instagram and challenged fans to live life to the fullest.

Read his letter to fans HERE>

Asheville Metro Area shows lowest unemployment numbers in the state

(Mountain XPress) According to the October County and Area Employment Figures, released Dec. 9 by the North Carolina Department of Commerce, the Asheville area shows the fewest unemployment cases for any metropolitan statistical area in the state.  Buncombe County’s unemployment rate fell from 4.4 percent in the spring to 4.0 (4.1 when grouped with other counties included in the Asheville Metropolitan Statistical Area, which adds Madison, Henderson and Haywood).  While Asheville showed the lowest rate of any metropolitan area, Chatham County, showed the lowest number of cases in a county-by-county analysis, at 3.8 percent. Buncombe, Henderson and Orange tied for second, all at 4 percent unemployment.

Read the full report HERE>

Mission Health Limits Visitations for Patient Safety

Increase in Flu Incidence a Concern 

Staff Reports, 1350 WZGM (Asheville, NC) – Due to an increase in influenza (flu) activity throughout North Carolina, Mission Health asks that family and friends limit their visits to patients in the hospital. In particular, Mission Health suggests that children under age 12 and people who do not feel well should call patients rather than visit them at the hospital. Mission Health is implementing this precaution at Mission Hospital and all Mission Health member hospitals and affiliates in western North Carolina including CarePartners in Asheville, McDowell Hospital in Marion, Transylvania Regional Hospital in Brevard, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine, Angel Medical Center in Franklin and Highlands-Cashiers Hospital in Highlands.

In addition to limiting exposure, the spread of the flu can be controlled with frequent hand washing.  All hospital visitors are urged to wash their hands before and after visiting.

“The decision to limit patient visitations is based on recommendations from Mission Health’s Infection Prevention Committee in a system-wide effort to minimize the spread of influenza among our patients. Moreover, we don’t want healthy visitors picking up the flu and then spreading it throughout the community,” said William Hathaway, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Mission Hospital and Mission Medical Associates. “Our patients are our first priority and their health and safety is vital as we work toward our goal of achieving our BIG(GER) Aim: to get each patient to the desired outcome, first without harm, also without waste and with an exceptional experience for the patient and family.”

Limiting visitations is a precaution often taken during flu season when flu activity reaches a certain level.  Should the flu activity level increase, further restrictions may be recommended or implemented.  As a reminder, Mission asks that those who do not feel well at any time, and not just during flu season, refrain from visiting loved ones in the hospital for infection prevention reasons.

For more information, please visit mission-health.org or@MissionHealthNC.

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