ArtSpace named ESEA National Distinguished School

Karrigan Monk
Black Mountain News
ArtSpace Charter School has been recognized as an ESEA Distinguished School.

Swannanoa’s ArtSpace Charter School has been recognized as an ESEA National Distinguished School.

ArtSpace Charter School was recognized in the category “excellence in serving special populations of students.” For the Swannanoa school, this means serving students with disabilities.

ArtSpace Charter School Executive Director Sarena Fuller told Black Mountain News it is "huge accomplishment" for the school to have the distinction , but she wanted to stress that no one did anything differently. She said this is just what they do.

“We didn’t do anything different for the award,” Fuller said. “It was authentic and genuine. They’re genuinely doing this work every day for all of our students, not just the students with disabilities, for all our students. It’s a testament to the culture that we’ve created here.”

Representatives from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction presented ArtSpace Charter School with a banner commemorating its new ESEA National Distinguished School recognition.

During an award ceremony held at the school Jan. 27, representatives from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction presented the school with a banner commemorating the distinction.

Alex Charles, a section chief for DPI and one of the representatives at the ceremony, congratulated the school and its staff for the accomplishment.

“You guys are just so amazing, we couldn’t make it down the hallway here without stopping five times, taking more picture of things that we saw, just the amazing things you guys are doing,” Charles said. “To put it into perspective, there are only 14 schools nationwide with this Category 3 distinction.”

State Rep. Eric Ager of District 114 was also in attendance at the ceremony. He said this was his first week in Raleigh and he has spent time talking with other lawmakers, and there is one thing they can all agree on, regardless of party.

“The one thing that we can agree with across the aisle, from the governor to both parties is that we’ve got to make sure we have a great teacher in every classroom and a great principal in every school,” Ager said. “You guys are clearly doing that and so thank you very much. We’re not great at thanking teachers for doing what they do every day.”

Rep. Eric Ager was present for ArtSpace Charter School's banner presentation.

Fuller said it is important to focus on students and teaching them, and she hopes other educators can learn from what they are doing at ArtSpace Charter School.

“It’s validating, but overall it means, what are we doing that others can learn from?” Fuller said. “Education doesn’t have to be controversial. It doesn’t have to be broken, and we don’t have to talk about test scores being down. We talk about students and we teach students, and that’s what it’s about.”

According to the ESEA (Elementary Secondary Education Act) Network website, schools are first selected by their state education agency and must have a poverty rate of at least 35% for the year, demonstrate high academic achievement or growth and meet or exceed any state accountability criteria.

The organization has been recognizing federally funded schools since 1996, a news release from the National Association of ESEA State Program Administrations said.

“We celebrate the efforts of school across the country making significant improvements,” the news release said. “The program has annually acknowledged the success of hundreds of schools in one of three categories.”

The categories include “exceptional student performance and academic growth,” “closing the achievement gap between student groups" and “excellence in serving special populations of students.”