Local News: Asheville and Hendersonville

Energetic retired teacher  Dot Case goes for school board

Dot Case, who retired two years ago after teaching locally for 47 years, is shown surrounded by North Henderson’s graduating seniors in 2016. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Case calls for continued increase in school security measures and technology, and meeting facility and curriculum needs. She suggests Hendersonville High’s main gym be retained, as its auxiliary gym on a revamped campus.

She stands out among candidates for her near half-century as an educator in Edneyville. She started in 1969, a month after a human (Neil Armstrong) first landed on the moon. “I have been there, done that — in the schools for 47 years. I know a lot about the curriculum, and the lay of Henderson County schools.”

Dot Case was named a Presidential Scholars Teacher in 1983, twice local teacher of the year, and also top regional and district teacher. She recently served on then-Gov. Pat McCrory’s Teacher Advisory Committee.

She taught in the Edneyville Union School — seventh and eighth grades in Edneyville Junior High in 1969-76, then history in ninth and 11th grade in the high school portion until the school closed in 1993. Then she transitioned to the successor high school, North Henderson, where she mostly taught juniors and advance placement (A.P.) classes. North Henderson has set up a scholarship fund, in her honor.

Case retired merely two years ago, and thus was teaching recently amidst rising technological use. One example is students using Google Chrome computer notebooks. “In another year, they’ll be in every school.” Dot has the perfect name for the “dot com” online era.

Case likes a blend of old-school and new methods. “You may be a visual learner, another student audio or a hands-on learner. We still need to teach kids on different levels, in different ways — not just one way or the other.”

Case’s venture into local school policy-making is fitting. She taught government and history. She sponsored the Edneyville and NHHS Student Council from 1970-2016.

She hosted A.P. national exam study sessions at home. She urged students to seek scholarships. In class, she cautioned that those without a college degree would end up toiling in “Burgerdoodle,” which she called the row of fast food restaurants on Four Seasons Blvd. near I-26. She cleverly referred to a generic person as a Herman Munster or Suzy Snodgrass, such as on a “pretend ballot.”

She urged that “you don’t vote for a name (and any stereotypes), but what a person stands for. “The kids researched what the candidates stood for, and did in the past. They ‘voted’ in class, and told me why.” Mock presidential election results varied, among 70 students in her three classes in her final semester.

In topical debates, “they have to prove their side. I’ll ask if they changed their opinion, after we discussed it. It’s a way to develop critical thinking skills.”

Recent Supt. David Jones, once an EHS teaching colleague, praised how she maximized students’ academic and civil potential.

Case as a teacher stood for greater understanding and appreciation of military veterans. She has required a student to interview two veterans. Her late father, John Reid, was part of Army invasions of Sicily then Italy in World War II.

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows lauded Case before Congress two summers ago, upon her retirement. “By pushing them to achieve what they might not have thought possible, Dot Case has made an unparalleled impression on generations” and “the community,” he stated. “More than an expert educator, Ms. Case has devoted herself to improving the lives of her students … to embolden and assist her graduates for years.”

Her legacy is advanced by many of her students following her career path, with six teaching mostly at North. An early protege is Sue Moon. She was a junior high basketball star for Case, who also coached track and cheerleading. Case recognized then a “smart leader, who got things done.” Moon also teaches social studies, is volleyball head coach, and mirrors Case’s civic causes by spurring student projects such as the walk-a-thon for cancer research.

Many co-workers and former students describe Case as energetic, concerned, and a go-getter. She raised four children. “I still have a passion for education, and care about kids and our communities,” she said.

“I want our public schools to remain with a good reputation, such as from high test scores. I want to see that students are prepared for SATs and ACTs and to go to college.” She values the “rigor” of A.P. courses, “blended education” of vocational and classroom, and teaching our kids study skills” to apply to various subjects.

“I’m a big proponent of vocational training,” she said, such as to train as a “plummer, to fix our heat, or drainage of storm water so it doesn’t get into our basements” such as from hurricane flooding.

She enjoys campaigning, and reconnecting. “I taught many of them, and their mothers and daddies. They remain a part of my life.” She attended many students’ eventual weddings. “The kids I taught are like family.”

Dot Reid Case has roots in two of the four districts. She graduated from West Henderson in 1965. Hers was the second class to study in West for all four years. She now lives in the West district, and still owns land in Mills River.

School security is a primary concern of hers. She wants to continue the school board’s recent steps and goals such as one commissioners are financially backing to get school resource officer (SRO) in every school. Further, she stressed, each SRO needs to be matched in personality to relate to those youths.

“I want our kids and teachers to be safe,” Case said. She lauds the objective of only “one entry into every school. The more open doors you have, the more chance you have of people getting in and committing crimes.”

She noted a consultant is analyzing campus layouts such as at high schools with multiple buildings. “They’ll see how schools operate, and how to make enhancements. Entries need to be safe (perhaps enclosed) between these buildings. There’s a fine line. We don’t want little kids scared to death, because of safety” measures” excessively restrictive and blatant.

She lauds the county’s mobile ap for reporting if someone is “bullying, or threatening over the computers.” As a teacher, she figured too often “kids might not ‘tattle.’ This way, you can call it in. that is fantastic.”

When asked if there was an area that might get shaved to offset rising spending elsewhere, she hesitated then said “we should not cut back on curriculum. And we’ve got to keep up with buildings, and safety.”

Schools are air-conditioned, though HVAC systems need upgrading at times. Edneyville School had no AC. “My room got morning sun. It got hot as blazes,” she recalled. “When kids are sweating, it’s hard to learn.”

A sub-issue of the project for a new Hendersonville High School is renovating the historic Stillwell Building, the main classroom structure dating back almost 100 years. The roof and HVAC are to be upgraded. Renovations would need to be more substantial, if it still had heavy foot traffic and classroom use as opposed to offices as is an option. Case realizes it “could cost a lot of money, to redo Stillwell.”

Its jewel is the HHS auditorium used for community as well as school shows. Case noted the balance of cost and scope of a new HHS includes the capacities of a new auditorium, cafeteria, parking and athletic facilities. “It’ll be interesting if they can keep the price down, and still provide much.”

She said “it’d be nice to build a 900-seat auditorium, as they talked about,” she said. Yet other high schools have managed with smaller ones.

Dot Case suggests retaining the Jim Pardue Gymnasium rather than tear it down as had been proposed, and to use it as an auxiliary gym. “I know from teaching in a high school that you have to have an auxiliary gym. There are so many sports games and practices going on at the same time.” HHS’ prior gym is its extra gym now. She attended many EHS and NHHS athletic events.

While many HHS alumni want Stillwell to remain standing and ideally in some use, Case said some other people oppose retaining structures such as the main gym. “Some don’t want to blend the old with the new.”

If a new school is totally new, “you lose traditions,” she said. “I know about school tradition. We lost the whole Edneyville School. There are two sides to every issue. People who graduated from there don’t want to lose their building. Newer students coming through” are less tied to the historic structures.

Meanwhile, groundbreaking this month for a new Edneyville Elementary felt “awesome,” she said. “It’s going to be really, really nice and something to be proud of. I’m thrilled. It’s a long time coming. People are excited about it.”

Case is an entertaining storyteller. One day in 1972, she tied a junior high boy to his desk to restrain him in English class after “he kept getting in and out of his seat.” She had rope handy, simply because she also taught gym.

In an “alarming” twist, the school fire alarm rang. “I was trying to untie him,” but was unable to while busy directing students to file out. So “I said ‘forget it.’ I told some boys, “pick him up!” They did, and carried him out of the school as if a prince on a throne — or a prisoner. He truly was “bound” to comically recall that escapade.

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