PEP Talks and Advocacy 2.0

Steve Hairston – PEP’s Agency and Advocacy Director

As PEP Talks expands its offerings in 2018, we plan to host several evening, knowledge-building events so other community members can attend who are unable to at lunch. We plan to host our next PEP Talks in late April, June, August, and plan to set those topics and dates soon. Keep up-to-date on future PEP advocacy events and our PEP advocacy newsletter, PEP Rally, by visiting our page.

PEP Talks 2017

Our last PEP Talks of 2017 focused on South Carolina’s teacher shortage and recommendations for helping mitigate the number of empty classrooms in our school districts. PEP invited experts from the Center for Education Recruitment, Retention, & Advancement (CERRA), Greenville County Schools (GCS), and our own President/CEO to address teacher recruitment and retention specifically in Greenville and throughout South Carolina.

Dr. Jennifer Garrett, CERRA Coordinator of Research and Program Development, and Dr. Jenna Hallman, CERRA Assistant Director/Program Director, shared several state-level statistics. The data points showed the number of induction teachers and those with less than five years’ experience not returning to the classroom, average amount of turnover in SC school districts, and what is currently happening within post-secondary teacher certification programs to attract more people to the profession. Candice Moore, Professional Employment Specialist with GCS, stressed Greenville also has shortages in special education, math, science, foreign language, and has a higher turnover rate with teachers working less than five years in the profession. Ms. Moore also noted Greenville currently recruits teachers from the southeast and developed professionally supportive programs so talented educators stay with the district.

Dr. Ansel Sanders, President and CEO of PEP, shared a glimpse into the future of PEP’s initiatives to make Greenville the gold-standard destination for teaching professionals. Dr. Sanders profiled several PEP programs – STEAM Grants, Greenville Alternative Teacher Education (GATE), induction teacher events – which help elevate the profession. PEP is also planning construction of affordable teacher housing to help turn Greenville into what Dr. Sanders calls, “Teacher-Town USA”.

PEP Talks 2018

Our most recent PEP Talks: A Brown-Bag Series showcased the lack of upward economic mobility in Greenville for youth living in the poorest households. Dr. Christen Hairston, Executive Director of Student Affairs at the Greenville Health System, presented data on behalf of the Greenville Network for Southern Economic Mobility (GVLNSEM), their current work, and long-term strategies for improving the economic outcomes of our poorest youth aged 16-24.

According to Dr. Hairston, “GVLNSEM is a collaborative group of committed Greenville leaders wanting to dramatically change the outcomes and mobility opportunities for youth and young adults in our community. Our goal is to change the conversation, change who is involved in the conversation, change behavior towards the poor in Greenville, and ultimately change lives through educating Greenville of the challenges we face for upward mobility.”

The audience was comprised of a number of community members from other nonprofits, philanthropic organizations, the Greenville County School Board, and parents of public school children. In addition to hearing about the work GVLNSEM is undertaking, the crowd got to learn a little bit about a research project PEP did on behalf of the NSEM group. This project consisted of identifying policy levers for GVLNSEM to further investigate. While these levers are just a small segment of the policies, programs, and regulations that affect economic mobility, our hope is that an exploration of them will allow GVLNSEM to discover ways to further research and eventually change the economic landscape of the poorest youth in our county.

GVLNSEM spawned out of MDC, a nonprofit research and program development organization addressing issues of inequality. MDC published the State of the South report, calling for greater upward mobility of youth living in the southern US and introduced the Network for Southern Economic Mobility (NSEM) in 2016.  NSEM is a group of Southern communities—Athens, GA, Chattanooga, TN, Greenville, SC, and Jacksonville, FL— committed to increasing upward economic mobility for youth in their communities and creating systemic change that positions youth for economic achievement.

Advocacy 2.0

In an effort to make advocating easier and more beneficial for public education and topics near to PEP’s heart, the organization updated its online advocacy technology. Starting at the beginning of the 2018 legislative session, Soft Edge© software will help organize and easily connect PEP’s advocacy partners to their elected officials. This new software allows anyone to read and follow state legislation, register people to vote in this year’s upcoming gubernatorial and House elections, see voting records of elected officials on legislation critical to public education, and directly contact legislators so they can hear from Greenville citizens. This is a phenomenal, intuitive tool that matches your home address and zip code to the representative or senator representing your district. Feel free to peruse the Take Action Tab of the Advocacy section to utilize this software first-hand.

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