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Welcome, First-Time Principals!
Welcome, First-Time Principals!
Posted on 09/02/2019
A collage showing the four first-time principals interacting with students during the first week of school.BCS Communications Department

Welcome to four first-time Buncombe County Schools principals, who will continue our traditions of excellence in preparing students for their tomorrow!

Dana Haney builds a toy tower with a student.DANA HANEY, OAKLEY ELEMENTARY

It was an exciting first week of school for Ms. Dana Haney, the new principal at Oakley Elementary. Ms. Haney transitioned from Enka Intermediate School for this new role.

“The smiles are extra wide as the students meet their new teachers, explore their new classrooms, and make new friends,” said Ms. Haney. “These days have been busy making personal connections with students, families, and helping to establish effective routines.”

Oakley Elementary is home to many unique opportunities for students such as the Dual Language/Spanish Immersion program and the Leader in Me (a leadership model based on Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”). As in all Buncombe County Schools, the Compassionate Schools model is woven into the culture of Oakley.

“I envision Oakley Elementary as the place where students learn in a compassionate environment that encourages them to be leaders and become life-long learners,” said Ms. Haney.

As Ms. Haney wraps-up her first week in this new position, she is focused on success for her staff and students.

“I am looking forward to helping teachers and students grow as learners and leaders in our school and community,” she said. “The Oakley community is very invested in our students. I look forward to encouraging these connections in order to help our students make the academic gains that they need to prepare them for the future.”


Steven Molinari made the rounds on the first day of school, welcoming new students and poking into classrooms to say hello.

Steven Molinari talks to a student outside Erwin Middle.The new Clyde A Erwin Middle principal said he wants to make sure every student has what they need to be their best.

“Our teachers, staff, and community partners work hard every day to get our kids ready to succeed,” he said. “They’re a dedicated group of people building a sense of pride and family.”

An Appalachian State University alumnus, Mr. Molinari has been a classroom teacher and administrator at several schools across the state over his 24-year career. He previously served at the assistant principal at Enka Middle School.

“I’ve seen a lot of schools and how they do things, so I’ve got a broad range of ideas,” he said. “I try to listen to all parties, and when I make a decision, I stay consistent with it.”


Carla Shipman has taken the helm at Emma Elementary, and the new principal says her staff continues to focus on leadership and love.

Carla Shipman swings a child on a swing set at Emma Elementary.“We have a history of growing kids, and we’re going to keep doing that by creating a culture where they can find their voice,” she said. “When they feel secure and safe, they can do anything they set their minds to.”

Ms. Shipman, who has been an assistant principal at Emma for the last two years, said she is impressed by Emma’s academic growth, and Emma provides several other advantages. As a Leader in Me school, Emma provides students and staff with a framework that promotes collaboration, goal-oriented learning, and character development. Students “begin with the end in mind,” “put first things first,” and “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

The school also boasts a school garden for fun, hands-on learning across the curriculum. The STEM Lab provides real-world applications for classroom lessons, and teachers and counselors implement a Compassionate Schools model that promotes a culture of empathy.

“I want students to leave this school knowing that what was done here was for them and about them,” Ms. Shipman said. “Because they are our business.”

Ms. Shipman, a graduate of Mars Hill College and Western Carolina University, has been an educator for 17 years and a National Board Certified Teacher for 12 years. She grew up in the Erwin District, taught in several Erwin District schools, and her children attend Erwin District schools.


In the auditorium at Valley Springs Middle in South Asheville, Mr. Ben Alexander walked out in front of the incoming seventh grade class - half of the school’s more than 650 students - and introduced himself as their new principal.

Ben Alexander speaks with students while sitting on a bench outside the school.As he welcomed the young teens, cracked a few jokes, and earnestly shared a vision for success, Alexander imagined himself in their shoes and how they must have felt on that first day. This wasn’t difficult to do because only a few decades earlier, he was in their shoes- carrying a backpack, struggling to open his locker, and finding his way around Valley Springs as a student. Now, he’s proud to lead the school that helped shape his desire to teach.

This year, now armed with a master’s degree in school administration from the University of Scranton and an Educational Specialist (EdS) degree from Appalachian State University, Alexander accepted his first principal assignment at Valley Springs.

“I strongly believe in the power of the classroom and the ability it has to positively change and impact lives,” Alexander said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

He’s particularly enjoyed taking on the new role during the school’s centennial celebration. Under his leadership, the halls will be decorated with historical photos and murals. The school’s social media accounts will regularly share school facts using the hashtag #ValleySprings100. There are even t-shirts and a community cookout planned.

“We’re just proud that we’ve been in this community educating students the right way for 100 years,” he said.

Danny Fusco shakes a students hand on the first day of school.DANNY FUSCO, CHARLES C. BELL ELEMENTARY

Danny Fusco is not new to leading a school, but this is his first year as principal of Charles C. Bell Elementary School! Students were greeted on the first day of school with smiles and high fives. Mr. Fusco, previously the principal of Oakley Elementary School, replaces Jenny Klein who retired last June. Mr. Fusco is working to get to know his staff, students, and parents.

“As a public educator, it is a true joy to welcome the students back into the school community for the start of the school year,” said Mr. Fusco. “I thoroughly enjoy the bright eyes and excited spirits of the students and families as they start the school year with an eagerness to learn and grow.”

Mr. Fusco helped implement the Leader in Me at his previous school and hopes to bring a focus on leadership to the students at Bell.

“My vision for Bell Elementary School is to provide student leadership opportunities and grow experiential learning experiences while providing a compassionate school environment ready to respond to the needs of students,” he said.

Buncombe County Schools is in the process of reviewing its website to ensure compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Buncombe County Schools does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its education programs or activities and is required by Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and federal regulations to not discriminate in such a manner. This requirement extends to admission and employment. Inquiries about the application of Title IX and its implementing federal regulations may be referred to the Title IX Coordinator and/or the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. The Title IX Coordinator's contact information is: Shanon Martin,, 828-255-5918, 175 Bingham Road, Asheville, NC 28806.

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