An honor that means more than meets the eye

Champions 1.JPG

On Wednesday, August 8, SAM's Executive Director, John Stockwell received the Champions for Public Education Award during the Spartanburg District Two School Board meeting. It was presented by Travis Sloan, Region 14 Director for the South Carolina School Boards Association. Sloan also serves Vice Chair of the Spartanburg School District One School Board. 

"The Spartanburg Academic Movement exists to make a difference for the children of Spartanburg County and is a true Champion for Education," Sloan said during his presentation. "On behalf of the South Carolina School Boards Association, I want you to know how much your efforts are appreciated. You are making a difference in the lives of Spartanburg county students and families!"

Recognition for a job well done and the quality of an effort in progress is indeed an honor. When an award is received that represents a county-wide effort, the privilege goes deeper than the shine reflecting, in this case, from a beautiful palmetto tree.

First, SAM was unanimously nominated for the award by the school boards of Spartanburg's seven different school districts. The significance of that level of support is extremely important to the SAM board and staff who believe strongly that the only way to make a difference is by working together for the children of our county and their futures. The partnership we have with the seven school districts is key to the impact of our work. We know that few counties have the strength of that level of commitment from the leaders of districts serving unique communities, willing to be collaborative and competitive in support of what's best for the children and families they serve. This award recognizes that commitment as well.

Secondly, that the award is one presented by the South Carolina Association of School Boards, representing 81 school boards across the state of South Carolina is incredible. SAM values the tremendous effort and dedication of school board trustees. The vast majority of those trustees are elected by their local communities. The support not just of our community, but the extended community of leaders across SC is extremely meaningful.       

An honor such as this also helps to remind others that the work continues. Being a champion for public education is not a one-and-done act. It is a commitment for the long haul - a dedication we share with a strong and growing network in our State and beyond it's borders.  

This network building was exemplified by a gathering of 22 educational and community leaders on Wednesday, August 29. They came to SAM to hear about how the long-term approach is being supported by the community as a whole and how it works. They heard about SAM's evolution and how the @StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network has driven impact efforts. They learned about the key learning stages we track through core indicators, the formation and tasks of Collaborative Action Networks (CANS), and the pre-birth through post-secondary data pipeline SAM engages across its work. They were also given an overview of where SAM stands now, with the launch of the Continuous Improvement Institute to strengthen educational and cross-sector interventions to improve student success.  

When SAM's visitors came through the door, they were welcomed by the shining Palmetto Tree, then heard the story of how Champions for Public Education grow - from a deep commitment to making what works for children the focus of partners across the community, for the long-haul work that needs to be done - so evident in Spartanburg County. 

 8/29/2018:  22 visitors from NC and GA came to hear about Spartanburg's efforts, through SAM, to build county-wide commitment as they seek to build their own networks' Champions for Public Education

8/29/2018:  22 visitors from NC and GA came to hear about Spartanburg's efforts, through SAM, to build county-wide commitment as they seek to build their own networks' Champions for Public Education

New hires to strengthen community engagement

The Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM) is expanding community engagement with the hire of three new staff members, Mendy Mossbrook, Meghan Smith, and Savannah Ray.  Each will lead different aspects of SAM’s work to impact student success county-wide.  Support for this expansion comes from an extension of two current community partnerships and funding through the StriveTogether Community Challenge Grant. 

“The ability to expand our reach exemplifies the shared vision across Spartanburg County to improve academic achievement. These three new staff members bring expertise and talents we look forward to engaging in this work as we continue our work to improve systems that impact the  lives of children and families,” said John Stockwell, SAM Executive Director.

 Mendy Mossbrook

Mendy Mossbrook

Mendy Mossbrook has been hired as Director of SAM’s Continuous Improvement (CI) Institute. The CI Institute, being developed and launched with funding from a StriveTogether Community Challenge Grant Award, will train local educators, and agencies supporting children, in embedding data driven Continuous Improvement strategies into their operations. Mossbrook was previously employed as Director of Engineering for Sealed Air Corporation and lead STEM career outreach programs with the Society of Plastics Engineers.


 Savannah Ray

Savannah Ray

Savannah Ray has been hired as a dually appointed staff member for SAM and the United Way of the Piedmont as Director of Educational Engagement and Partnerships.  She will lead efforts to broaden active relationships with both organizations across the county’s diverse nonprofit, faith, and business sectors, willing to align their actions in support of children across Spartanburg County.  Ray was previously employed with the Girl Scouts of South Carolina, leading outreach teams for the Mountains to Midlands Council.


 Meghan Smith

Meghan Smith

Meghan Smith has been hired to serve as SAM’s College and Career Readiness (C/CR) Project Manager.  Her appointment to SAM is shared with the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce. She will organize, facilitate, and manage activities of the C/CR Collaborative Action Network (CAN) to identify and implement strategies to support students’ attainment of skills included Profile of the South Carolina Graduate.  Smith has had extensive work experience dealing with the challenges faced by first generation college students through her work with SC TEST PREP and its “Open Doors” program. She comes to SAM and the Chamber with a strong network of contacts within area schools and community agencies and deep engagement with the Hispanic communities in the area. 

The three will begin their work with SAM during the second week in September with multiple training activities and partner introductions. All will be engaging with multiple community sectors: school- based, non-profit, business, faith based, and government agencies as SAM continues to expand its efforts to align community action toward improving the lives of children.


SAM Receives Significant Project Funding - Media Release

Spartanburg Receives Project Funds through $20 Million Grant Program by National Nonprofit StriveTogether

The Spartanburg Academic Movement is one of nine winning initiatives that will tackle systems changes needed to improve outcomes for children across Spartanburg County.

 Spartanburg, SC — The Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM) has been awarded one of nine Cradle to Career Community Challenge Opportunity Fund grants from StriveTogether, a national nonprofit working to bring communities together around data to make decisions and improve results for kids.  Of StriveTogether’s 70 partnerships nationwide, SAM is one of nine members recognized for having changed local systems to benefit children.

This targeted investment funds the start-up of SAM’s Continuous Improvement Institute, a long-term project to embed continuous improvement practices in schools and educational non-profits across Spartanburg County. SAM is already working closely with the County’s seven school districts on this agenda, having launched a pilot continuous improvement training and coaching initiative within four county schools where poverty rates are the highest. 

“Start-up funding for the CI Institute will allow us to develop skills in defining, measuring, and acting quickly to introduce interventions to address challenges to learning; and having acted, to control, repeat, and refine the intervention cycle in seeking continuous improvement. CI practices, common in corporate and health care sectors, will enable practitioners in schools and non-profit sectors to better align interventions with students’ needs.” SAM Executive Director John Stockwell said. 

“With so many at work to improve opportunities for children in Spartanburg County, aligning continuous improvement practices with the efforts underway will give our partners the tools they need to know what’s working, and where to shift or expand their efforts for the greatest impact,” Beth Thompson, SAM’s Director of Continuous Improvement said. “This isn’t about changing what an organization offers; rather, it’s about ensuring that what an organization does has the greatest impact it can possibly have on our shared goals.” 

This Cradle to Career Community Challenge grant will provide support over a three-year period with increasing match requirements in order to build and expand County-wide local sustainability for the project. Grant funds will be used to hire and train project-specific staff and support the cost of launching continuous improvement training within Spartanburg County.

“Using the common language of data, we can create better, more equitable systems to improve outcomes for major milestones in every child’s life, StriveTogether President and CEO Jennifer Blatz said. “I’m excited Spartanburg Academic Movement will expand training in continuous improvement practices for local schools and nonprofits working to support children in the community.  Thorough efforts like the one in Spartanburg County, our Cradle to Career Community Challenge will enhance and expand the real, lasting results underway across our 70 communities.”

StriveTogether’s Cradle to Career Community Challenge will invest more than $20 million over the next three years, funding projects across the country that aim to shift public policy and engage the systems needed to help students progress from kindergarten to postsecondary completion and a career. The Community Challenge seeks to create local change to enable economic mobility. The program’s goal is to strengthen and align the many systems, such as education, employment, health and housing, that shape opportunity for children and families in America.

Of the nine Opportunity Fund grant recipients, Spartanburg’s award was the only one made to a StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network member in the southeast.  Eight additional Opportunity Fund grants also have been awarded to network members in Central Texas; Cincinnati, Ohio and Northern Kentucky; Dallas County, Texas; Dayton/Montgomery County, Ohio; Tacoma, Washington; Portland/Multnoma County, Oregon; Racine County, Wisconsin; and Memphis/Shelby County, Tennessee.


Partner Highlight: The Spartanburg Herald Journal

 Covering the challenge, highlighting success 

Covering the challenge, highlighting success 

The Spartanburg Academic Movement has received tremendous support from the Spartanburg Herald Journal as a media partner in the work to build educational success across Spartanburg County, SC. After SAM’s executive director, Dr. John Stockwell, shared the work of SAM, its partners, and specific project areas with Herald Journal executive editor Michael Smith, the Herald Journal responded by launching an in-depth coverage initiative to increase community  understanding of the challenges and responses to key issues surrounding student success.

Topics have been guided by the early factor analysis for The Four Schools Project an area of SAM work that identifies and addresses the unique factors influencing educational success for children living in poverty. The article series launch in February 2018 was paired with a FB Live interview with Stockwell about The Four Schools Project.

The need for early childhood education, support for transient children, strategies for helping children who bring ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) with them into the classroom,  and most recently, the challenges faced by English language learners are key topics covered in the series. Each article has been deeply researched with related stories published simultaneously highlighting the efforts of community educators and bright spots in the lives of children facing some of these challenges. As The Four Schools Project work continues, the Herald Journal remains committed to following the stories as they unfold; as the Spartanburg community as a whole digs more deeply into the key factors influencing its children, and as SAM leads an effort to unite partners from all sectors in efforts to surround these challenges with solutions.

The first lead reporter on this project was Zach Fox. Reporter Adam Orr, took over the coverage project. The Herald Journal also broadcast a ‘behind the reporting’ perspective interview with Orr, bringing additional insights into the needs The Four Schools Project. We are deeply thankful to have the Herald Journal fully committed to raising awareness about the challenges facing our children and how our educators are working to meet their needs. 

SAM’s initial efforts to turn Summer Slide into Summer Climb with a pilot for early intervention were covered in multiple stories in the summer of 2017.  The next installment of the Herald Journal’s coverage is expected later this summer with follow-up on the Summer Climb initiatives. 

Updated (7/31/18)  List of Articles with links:

Series Launch: 2/24/2018

Early Childhood Education Critical for Students In Poverty

Kenesah Hardy Educator Profile

Inspired 8-year-old

Transience: 3/26/2018

Four Schools Project Dealing With Student Transience  

Lindsay Layton Educator Profile

5th Grader Dreaming Big

ACES:  5/20/18

Schools Become Front Line

English Language Learners: 6/17/18

Hurdles Faced by English Language Learners

Student Beats Odds

Gow Lo Educator Profile

Turning Summer Slide into Summer Climb: 7/29/18

Summer Slide to Climb

Mitu Bagchi Educator Profile 

Student Profile - Journey to Post-Secondary

Summer Climb/Summer Learning (2017 Coverage)

Reading Programs Seek to Prevent Summer Slide

Reading Program Mixes Pups and Paperbacks

Turning the Page this Summer

Summer Education