The Hidden, Devious Opportunity in North Carolina’s K-12 Opportunity Scholarships
January 17, 2016
Presented by Jan Blunt
Jan presented a program on how NC’s K-12 school vouchers, so-called “opportunity scholarships,” are, on the surface, about providing low-income parents with more school choices for their students but the details tell a different story. Tax dollars intended for public schools are being sent to private religious schools without accountability or transparency for how the funds are spent, what their students are taught, or by whom. She made the case that lawmakers want to give all students, not just low-income children, the same “opportunity” because the grants to private schools are less per student than the money given to the public schools. The more students that sign up for the “opportunity scholarships”, the less the state will have to pay for education.
Jan Blunt has been a teacher, Marketing Director and is the former Communications Director for Buncombe County Schools. Jan researched and wrote about NC’s “opportunity scholarships” for her Public Policy Analysis course in completing her Masters of Public Affairs program at Western Carolina University. Her career has spanned both the public and private sectors. Jan now has her own firm, Strategic Communications for the Public Sector.
Winter Festival, 2015 – “Heaven’s Here on Earth” was the theme
December 20, 2015
Presented by Joy McConnell and many guest presenters and musicians
Joy McConnell lead a program of poetry reading, beautiful images and a holiday season exploration of gratitude and appreciation. Building on the Tracy Chapman song of the same title, we explored various perspectives on what makes life worth living.
A potluck holiday dinner was served after the meeting.
“Good Without God – Humanism in Western North Carolina”
November 15, 2015
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life which affirms the ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity. Two panelists from Western NC Humanists and two panelists from the Ethical Humanist Society of Asheville discussed the history and philosophy of each organization – exploring how they are alike and different. Moderated by Tom Heffner, Calvin presented the history of the American Humanist Association (AHA) and Judy Kramer presented the history of the Ethical Culture movement and the American Ethical Union (AEU). Geri Weaver, the president of WNC Humanists discussed the current activities and focus of the organization. Andy Reed, a member of Ethical Humanist Society Asheville (ESHAsheville) and former Board Member, presented the three pillars of our local EHSAsheville activities focusing on the “Head” – our Platform/Presentation Meetings; the “Heart” – our Colloquy Meetings: and the “Soul” – our diverse Ethical Action activities
Discussion also focused on similarities and current and new areas of collaboration.
“Sexuality and Current Events”
October 18, 2015
Presented by Kelley Johnson
Kelley discussed how recent news events in Asheville and around the nation relate to sexuality. She drew from a multi-disciplinary approach to current events and fostered critical thinking about important issues of the day. The discussion helped participants recognize and focus on what we can do to combat sexually inappropriate behavior.
Kelley Johnson has been a health educator since 1989; she has spent 15 years teaching Health and Sexuality and Women’s Health at UNC Asheville. She has a B.S. in Clinical Nutrition and a Master’s degree in Public Health Education, both from UNC Greensboro. In 2009, she received a Ph. D. in Human Sexuality. Dr. Johnson’s practice includes private consultation, public speaking, curriculum development, professional training and education.
“Critical Actions for Global Survival”
September 20, 2015
Presented by Jim Barton
Jim discussed the converging global movements for world peace, the focus on climate change, and improving the human condition. He focused on the 14th International Day of Peace celebrated annually on September 21st, the UN’s soon-to-be ratified Sustainable Development Goals, and Pope Francis’s encyclical on issues of climate, ecology, and human well-being with his upcoming addresses to the UN and the U.S. Congress.
Jim Barton grew up three blocks from the Essex Ethical Culture Society in Maplewood, NJ and attended the then-Ethical Culture sponsored Encampment for Citizenship in 1976. He studied History and German Studies at the University of California in Santa Cruz and attended law school at the University of California in Davis. He has been active in the peace movement for 41 years, in the environmental movement since 1977, and the movement for global democracy since 1989. Barton has lived in Asheville since 2005.
“Ordinary People Making a Real Difference: A Report from the 100th Assembly of the American Ethical Union”
August 16, 2015
Presented by Joy McConnell and Jackie Simms.
Ours is the first generation that can end poverty, and the last that can take steps to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, if humanity has the will to do so. To those ends, the United Nations prepared Sustainable Development Goals as a roadmap to fight against extreme poverty, strive toward more equitable economic growth and environmental sustainability, and reduce the dangers of human-induced climate change. To support those UN Goals, the AEU 100th Assembly gave participants opportunities to hear experts on social, environmental, and economic development speak about the many grass-roots ways we can protect our world for future generations. Jackie and Joy shared what they learned at the Assembly and how they were inspired and energized by their experiences.
Joy McConnell, a certified Ethical Culture Leader since 1989, has served as clergy with the Ethical Society of St. Louis, the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago, and as consulting Leader with our Society here in Asheville. In the 1990s, Joy served the American Ethical Union as Director of Religious Education and Director of Growth and Development.
Jackie Simms has been affiliated with the Ethical Culture movement since 1978 and, in 2001, was a founding member of the Ethical Humanist Society of Asheville. She is a former director of the Western North Carolina Satellite Program for Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and a retired teacher in the Early Intervention Program for Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.
“Lessons from Jane: The enduring Urban Wisdom of Jane Jacobs”
July 19, 2015
Presented by David A. Johnson, FAICP, Professor Emeritus of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
A half century ago, a feisty New York journalist changed how we think about cities and economies. In her remarkable career, Jane Jacobs challenged established urban planning orthodoxies, defeated the bulldozers of Robert Moses and showed us how to look at and improve our neighborhoods. The lessons she taught us are still germane to cities like Asheville. Prof. Johnson spoke about the continuing relevance of Jane Jacobs to current issues of urban and national development. After Dr. Johnson’s talk, Annie Butzner, Jane Jacobs’ niece, shared memories of her aunt.
David Johnson is Professor Emeritus of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He received Bachelor and Master degrees in architecture and planning from Yale, a PhD in regional planning from Cornell and was a Senior Fulbright scholar at the Moscow Institute of Architecture. He is the author of numerous articles and several books, including Planning the Great Metropolis (2015) that examines how past planning shaped the New York Metropolitan Region. Dr. Johnson is a Past-President of the Fulbright Association of the United States and a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He resides in Asheville, NC where he serves on the board of the Asheville Design Center.
Annie Butzner studied sculpture and later became a nurse. She was educated as an Oncology/Psychiatric Clinical Nurse Specialist at University of Delaware, Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center and the Cleveland Clinic. She was Visiting Faculty and speaker at MSKCC. After moving to NC, she worked as Medical Programs Chairperson at a local college, Nursing Supervisor/Wound Care Specialist at Highland Farms, and Director of Nursing. “Health Disparities in Buncombe County. How Do We Close The Gap?”
“Health Disparities in Buncombe County. How Do We Close The Gap?”
June 21, 2015
Presented by Sharon Kelly West, Women Veteran’s Program Manager – Charles George VA Medical Center.
West provided an overview of the history of disparities in Buncombe County and the interventions that have been made to impact community health through community collaborations and programming. The importance of advocacy and community champions was highlighted.
West is a registered nurse with a Master’s degree in Health Science from Western Carolina University. She completed post graduate studies at Wake Forest University in Clinical Ethics. She is a Jim Bernstein Fellow of Community Leadership and appointed by the NC Speaker of the House of Representatives to the Minority Health Advisory Council.