March 13, 2020 update: 11:34 a.m. — Public Education Partners is postponing Monday’s EDTalk to support public health safety. A new date will be announced.
For more than 30 years, Public Education Partners has worked to advance public education in Greenville County through programs that support teachers and strengthen schools.
While continuing that front-line engagement, the nonprofit is deepening its focus on education-policy development and advocacy. To celebrate this expanded role and provide a forum for educators’ voices to be heard, PEP will present a series of quarterly EDTalks. The first, from 6:30–8 p.m. Monday, March 16 in the Greenville Technical College auditorium, will address challenges facing today’s classrooms.
The program’s panel of experts will include Demond Criss, fourth-grade teacher at A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School; Katherine King, eighth-grade teacher at Sevier Middle School; Michael Delaney, principal of Carolina High School; Scott Turner, deputy superintendent of Greenville County Schools; and T.J. Rumler, a social worker for Greenville County Schools who works closely with the OnTrack Greenville Middle Grades Success Initiative. Travis Wharton, economic mobility manager for United Way of Greenville County, will serve as moderator.
Catherine Schumacher, who became PEP’s president and CEO in November 2019 after serving on its board for three years, said the event marks an exciting time for the nonprofit.
“Public Education Partners works directly with schools, teachers, and the district on tangible programs and projects like #Teach864, our campaign to recognize and celebrate teachers, and the classroom grants we’ve funded since our founding in 1985,” Schumacher said. “Now we’re also ramping up our leadership in education advocacy, building partnerships, and growing our capacity to effect systems-level change.”
The discussion will cover the teacher-shortage crisis and challenges that contribute to teachers leaving the profession. Other topics include the impact of trauma on student learning, social-emotional learning and discipline, and teacher support such as wellness and professional development. The EDTalk is an opportunity for the public to hear directly from educators.
“We’re building an army of public education advocates — parents, grandparents, teachers and business leaders,” Schumacher said. “We’re trying to elevate the teaching profession and highlight the challenges students and teachers face every day.”
Faced with conflicting views about education reform, advocates are looking for accurate information, Schumacher said. To fill that need, PEP released its recommendations for 22 policy priorities in January. The priorities can be found at https://publicedpartnersgc.org.
“Among those priorities we are really focused on our PEP Fast Five as a starting point to activate public education advocates and give them the information they need to raise their voices in support of education,” she said. “When you hear toxic criticism of teachers and public schools, it isn’t grounded in the facts: The vast majority of our children depend on public education and are well served by it. For those who aren’t, it’s up to us to promote change.”
PEP has also partnered with Acuitas Economics to create InformEdsc.org, an award-winning website providing education data to be used by citizens and policy makers to make informed decisions.
The Community Foundation of Greenville has long recognized the importance of PEP’s work and supported it through capacity-building grants and funding from the Margaret Linder Southern Endowment and Walter Johnson Trust.
“More than any other organization, Public Education Partners positively impacts student achievement by supporting professional development for teachers and principals,” said Bob Morris, CFG president. “Over the last 15 years, the Community Foundation has made $100,000 in grants to this work while also administering its endowment to help underwrite PEP’s long-term success.”
Schumacher, who attended and sends her children to South Carolina public schools, said this work is both a personal and professional passion for her.
“Public education matters to everyone; it’s the critical foundation of our civic life,” she said. “Schools are the heart of our community, building connections between people — students, teachers and families — of different backgrounds and experiences. Greenville County Schools is doing a remarkable job supporting student success and our ambitious goal is to build on that so that we continue to be a model for the state and the nation.”