The new Williams-Baldwin Teacher Campus has many connections to Roberson due to the fact that its namesake comes from two alumni and former staff members.
The teacher campus is an apartment complex that will only be available for Buncombe County and Asheville City teachers or other licensed educators in those counties. The apartments are currently being built and could be open two months ahead of schedule, according to Buncombe County’s Director of Human Resources Cynthia Lopez.
“The project is ahead of schedule because the weather has been fairly mild. Initially, we were looking at the apartment being available by July. Now it looks like they could be available by May 1,” Lopez said.
The idea for the apartments originated from the Long Shoals branch of the State Employees Credit Union. A number of retired educators were concerned with the price of housing in Buncombe County compared to the average teacher salary. The concern was that the high cost of living and low teacher salary would decrease the ability to recruit young teachers to Buncombe County and Asheville City Schools.
The ultimate goal of the Williams-Baldwin Teacher Campus is to decrease the cost of living for teachers by lowering the rental cost of housing in Asheville. The efforts were in response to a report by the Asheville Citizen-Times that, Asheville recently overtook Charlotte as the costliest city for rent in North Carolina.
The apartments will initially be open to any licensed educators in Buncombe County or Asheville City Schools.
“In the future, the apartments may be limited to brand new teachers or teachers of a certain subject area like math,” Lopez said.
The apartments will include two bedrooms and two bathrooms priced at approximately $900 a month. In comparison, the average rent for a two bedroom apartment located in Asheville in 2016 was $1,180 per month. The 24-unit complex will be located in the Erwin district on Erwin Hills Road near Eblen Intermediate.
The apartments have been named after UNC basketball Coach Roy Williams and his wife Wanda Jones Williams. Both are Roberson graduates of the class of 1968. Additionally, the apartments have been co-named after former Roberson boys’ varsity basketball coach Roy Eugene “Buddy” Baldwin and former math teacher Rosa Lee Case Baldwin.
“Wanda and I both taught in the school system in North Carolina I just think we need to make it easier for incoming teachers to be able to do their job and not be worried about finances. [If they are] trying to have job on the side or on the weekend, they are not able to rest to do a better job in the classroom,” Williams said.
Originally, the thought was to name the apartment complex “The Williams Teacher Campus” after the Williams family. However, Roy Williams pushed to include the Baldwin name due to the tremendous influence Rosa Lee and Buddy had on him when he was growing up.
“If you added up the years that the two of those people (contributed to Buncombe County Schools, and specifically Roberson, it is probably close to a hundred years. So to me, they were extremely important,” Williams said.
Rosa Lee taught math in the Roberson district for 42 years, teaching thousands of students during her career. She was known for her no-nonsense style of teaching math, which according to popular opinion, made her one of the best. .
“Rosa Lee Baldwin was the finest teacher I ever had. She was the toughest, but she was also the best teacher I ever had. She impacted my life a great deal. I still do some things with my basketball team that I learned from her when she was teaching, so she did have a tremendous impact on my life and still has to this day,” Coach Williams said.
Buddy Baldwin was a social studies teacher as well as the varsity basketball coach at Roberson. He then retired and became a Driver’s Ed teacher in the Roberson district. He was known to have a huge influence on students who went through Roberson.
“Buddy Baldwin was the most influential man in my life when I was a teenager. He still has a tremendous influence on me today as well,” Williams said.
To this day Buddy is still in contact with Coach Williams on a frequent basis, and Rosa Lee does not miss any of the televised UNC basketball games.
“To me they were extremely important. I just think the entire Baldwin family has dedicated their lives to the education of young people in Western North Carolina, and I felt like they really deserved it a heck of a lot more than I did. I am thrilled to have my name up there beside theirs,” Williams said.