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

UPDATED 3.11.19

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:

2019 Coverage:

Continuous Improvement Melds Business World with Classroom

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

 QUALITY COUNTS Expansion in Spartanburg County 1/31/18

Spartanburg reaches "Proof Point"

As these District 3 students share success, so can all in Spartanburg County!

As these District 3 students share success, so can all in Spartanburg County!

Spartanburg COUNTY has been named a "Systems Change" and “Proof Point” community thanks to the work of SAM, the county’s seven school districts and our nonprofit and business partners across Spartanburg County.

Proof point is highest designation a partnership can receive within the national StriveTogether Cradle to Career network.  

Proof point is highest designation a partnership can receive within the national StriveTogether Cradle to Career network.  

“Our designations as 'Systems Change' and 'Proof Point' is of great importance. It not only acknowledges the work of SAM, it recognizes the progress of our entire county toward shared goals of improved academic achievement for young people. This has been accomplished with the deep dedication of our public schools and multiple community partners. Reaching “Systems Change” and “Proof Point” designation does not mean the work is finished. Quite the contrary. It means that we have built the foundation for the necessary changes to happen and that we are beginning to see proof of that. Maintaining proof point designation from year to year will require our sharpened focus on the economic mobility of all our students and families across boundaries of region, race, and income. This focus is deeply embedded across Spartanburg County and within SAM’s ongoing efforts.” - Dr. John Stockwell, SAM’s Executive Director. 

SAM joins only seven other partnerships having reached these milestone, including: Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky (StrivePartnership); Dallas County, Texas (The Commit Partnership); Dayton/Montgomery County, Ohio (Learn to Earn Dayton); Portland/Multnomah County, Ore. (All Hands Raised); Racine County, Wis. (Higher Expectations for Racine County); Shelby County, Tenn. (Seeding Success); and Tacoma, Wash. (Graduate Tacoma)

“Since joining the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network in 2013, Spartanburg Academic Movement has been a champion for supporting the success of every child in Spartanburg County,” StriveTogether President and CEO Jennifer Blatz said. “I’m excited to see better outcomes for students through the partnership’s commitment, collaboration and hard work. The Network’s approach to improving education is showing clear results in communities across the country, and Spartanburg County is part of that success story.”

“Systems Change” and “Proof Point” designations came after StriveTogether evaluators visited Spartanburg on May 21-23 of this year, meeting with more than a dozen community leaders representing a cross-section of business, nonprofit, and education sectors to assess the impact of SAM’s work across Spartanburg County. 

Systems Change is the Qualitative designation indicating that systems within a community have made positive change across multiple sectors impacting education as a result of an organization's work within the community.

Systems Change is the Qualitative designation indicating that systems within a community have made positive change across multiple sectors impacting education as a result of an organization's work within the community.

To date, the majority of SAM’s work has been in the kindergarten readiness and early grades reading outcome areas and building the data stream to support the work from birth through post-secondary completion. SAM is increasing efforts in college and career ready high school graduation, and post-secondary targets for enrollment, persistence, and completion. Action in the area of middle grades math will begin soon.  



Recently, Steve Ballmer, co-founder of the Ballmer Group, former Microsoft CEO, and chairman of the LA Clippers came to Spartanburg to learn more about the work of SAM. Here is a clip of his comments as SAM’s report, Chapter 3: Systems Change, was released to the public.

Learn more about how you can find your fit with SAM!