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EducationNC’s Annual Report 2017-18



That’s how many miles our team drove — and biked — this year across the state of North Carolina meeting students, learning from teachers, engaging with school leaders, covering policymakers, gathering all kinds of folks in communities across the state we love, creating spaces locally, statewide, and online to inform the issue of education. If you add in our travel to six states (California, Maryland, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah) and the District of Columbia, it’s 66,521 miles. With India and Colombia, team EdNC traveled 90,844 miles.

People make us proud, not numbers. But if there are numbers we are proud of, it’s those. 

When we travel, we learn how education issues play out differently in people’s lives. On a recent, hot summer day, we walked around a neighborhood known as Mobile City in Edgecombe County with Jenny O’Meara and Jessica Parker, the principal and assistant principal of Phillips Middle School. We talked to students about school and education. Along the way, we learned a lot about why students miss school, what they like and don’t like about school, why relationships matter, and literacy. 

In “The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters,” Priya Parker writes, “Gathering — the conscious bringing together of people for a reason — shapes the way we think, feel, and make sense of our world.”

EducationNC launched online three and a half years ago with these core beliefs:

it’s all about our students,

nothing is more important to the future of North Carolina than their education, and

too many stories go untold — stories of teachers, leaders, and programs doing incredible work each and every day in all of our educational settings serving students from birth to career, and stories about what is and is not happening across our state to build a 21st century system of education.

EducationNC provides citizens and policymakers with nonpartisan data, news, research, information, and analysis about the major trends, issues, and challenges bearing on education, including ongoing research from Union County to Singapore, from Edgecombe County to India about what our classrooms of tomorrow should look like. And we engage you — all of you — in our architecture of participation so you can weigh in on the education issues too.

In this interview on First in Future, Leslie Boney and I talk about the challenges and opportunities ahead.

This year, EducationNC was chosen to be part of the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative. 

EducationNC selected for Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative

Tim Griggs, the former publisher of The Texas Tribune, is our coach for the initiative, and he says, “EdNC is one of 10 participants in this year’s Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. The team is tackling a hugely important challenge — expanding its focus across the education continuum from birth to career — and the program will help arm them with a whole suite of new tools and disciplines to manage change and drive performance in service of its mission. By this time next year, our hope is that what once seemed extraordinarily challenging will be the new norm for the EdNC team.”  

As part of the initiative, we find ourselves on our own quest to get to know you better and also serve you better. Who are you? What types of content do you prefer? When and where do you prefer to receive our content? What do you do with the information? Do you value our work and why? 

You matter to us. In his book, “Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business,” Danny Meyer writes, “[W]hat’s most meaningful is creating positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and human relationships. Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.”

So our theory of change remains the same.


Impact and hope: EdNC’s theory of change

You get to define our value add from the simple to the complex, and we have learned that it is different for each you depending on lots of things like where you live, where you work, if you are a student or parent or educator, if you are a philanthropist or policymaker.

That’s why all those miles matter. 


EdNC is North Carolina’s go-to source for data, news, information, and analysis across the educational continuum.

This year, Nation Hahn and our team visited 15 community colleges — 12 more than once — leading to the expansion of our work going forward to cover education from birth to career. We have seen first hand the opportunities community colleges create for students, businesses, communities, our state, and our future, and we have seen first hand the challenges they face. We will kick off this work by blitzing all 58 community colleges the week of August 27, 2018, and by the end of the blitz, we will have 85 visits to community colleges across the state under our belt.

Investing in EducationNC, investing in North Carolina

From the beginning we have said that we cannot cover education without covering poverty, health care, the economy, the urbanization of the state, and our future. With the investment by the John M. Belk Endowment and our other funders in building our capacity, this year EducationNC will establish North Carolina as the most robust, information-rich state in the nation on education issues.

In addition to being selected for the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative, which will help us with this expansion, this year EdNC’s journalists and journalism were honored in important ways.

Recognizing journalism: EdNC wins NC Press Association awards

EdNC’s Alex Granados is Education Week’s inaugural Chronister Fellow

Principal pay is one of the issues we have raised again and again. Great principals hire great teachers. They turn around schools. Here is a timeline of our work on this issue since day one:

With a grant from the Center for Cooperative Media, EdNC’s Alex Granados and WRAL’s Kelly Hinchcliffe teamed up for an in-depth report on North Carolina’s Restart Schools, and Alex will continue to report on these schools and raise this issue until we know how these schools are serving our students.

Starting Restart in North Carolina’s traditional public schools

EdNC’s Liz Bell created a remarkable series of short videos on equity. Liz writes of her experience:

The past year at EducationNC has been eye-opening, enriching, and hopeful. As I travel across the state and hear the stories of students, educators, families, and communities, I am reminded of how lucky I am to be constantly learning to be a better listener and conveyer of the realities of North Carolinians. 

One of the projects I am most proud of started last summer with the idea of exploring racial equity in schools through film. I had the opportunity to focus on four black male leaders in our state who are leading conversations and work around bringing oppressed voices and untapped talents to the table — to both benefit the lives of those individuals and the future of our state. Through the short film series, “Equity Meets Education,” these four perspectives paint a picture of where N.C. schools are in acknowledging and implementing the policies, support, and resources students of color need to succeed. The idea of an “achievement gap” is broken down to look at how race informs students’ educational and life experiences and how the state’s education system could better work for all students.

We then held screenings and conversations around the series in Durham and Charlotte. I was inspired by the dialogue that resulted from those evenings and hope to hold events elsewhere in the state to continue discussing systemic inequities. Thank you for sharing with and teaching me.

ICYMI: Equity Meets Education: Reporter’s notes

EdNC also embeds deeply in issues. Statewide, Caroline Parker covers the adolescent experience of faith, and Yasmin Bendaas covers STEM.

Faith in Focus: A look at the intersection of faith and education

Eastern NC high school students blend leadership and STEM learning

The N.C. Center for Public Policy Research

EdNC reaches more than 100,000 influential people across North Carolina, and the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research reaches the 1,000 influencers. The N.C. Center for Public Policy Research is our 40-year-old, nonpartisan think tank studying the most important policy issues facing our state.

In 1977, Bob Spearman along with Gerry Hancock, Tom Lambeth, and Joel Fleishman founded the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research to, as Hancock said, “identify problem areas and then propose solutions to them.” This year, our work and this annual report are dedicated to Bob for challenging us to think and care about public problems and to commit ourselves to finding solutions. Bob was held in high regard for his legal prowess, but it was his spirit that made us love him. Both could be seen in his work as the lead attorney in the Leandro lawsuit, in which the N.C. Supreme Court held that there is a state constitutional right to a sound, basic education.

Bob taught us to be people first.

Bob taught us the importance of reaching out.

Bob taught us the importance of civility.

Bob taught us the importance of stories – “all good stories are about our common humanity and our common frailty.” 

Bob taught us to identify and lift up heroes.

Bob taught us to invest in leadership and the value of mentors.

Our state was lucky to have him, and we will miss him terribly.

In January 2018, the Center launched a three-year, statewide study of equity spearheaded by former NC teacher of the year James Ford. 

It’s time: Launching a statewide study of equity in schools across North Carolina

Here is Teaching in Color, our series written by Black, Latinx, and Native teachers throughout North Carolina about their experiences and perspectives as part of a small minority within the profession, addressing issues from relationship building to equity, culturally-responsive pedagogy, and expectations.

The Center’s study of equity received a grant from Unite Charlotte, a United Way grant program established in response to the unrest in Charlotte in September 2016. Unite Charlotte supports programs and organizations focused on building trust and creating opportunity, particularly around racial equity and social capital, in Mecklenburg County. Funding from Unite Charlotte will support our place-based initiative that seeks to increase economic mobility of students through strategic intervention in schools.

Molly Osborne, our director of policy and engagement, is our lead problem and solution identifier.

This year, she traveled from India to Colombia to DC and all across North Carolina.


Under her leadership, the Center conducts studies on issues and solutions.

Districts address teacher turnover by providing affordable teacher housing

Our teacher pipeline: A more nuanced take is warranted

And she asks you, North Carolina, what you wonder.

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First Vote NC

First Vote NC allows high school students to participate in online, simulated elections so they graduate civic ready. It expands the opportunity for civic education statewide, building a more informed electorate. It is one of just 23 projects nationwide honored for best practices in civic collaboration to be a finalist for the 2018 Civvys.

Reach NC Voices

Reach NC Voices is an initiative that builds tools to connect us to people and people to us to discuss issues in real time so we can better understand communities across our state. It is version 2.0 of our architecture of participation, which we will continue to iterate again and again to meet changing industry trends and the needs of our audience and the state.

You are the most important part of our architecture of participation and Reach NC Voices. Email an article to a friend. Post it on your Facebook page. Tweet your reaction. Take a survey. Comment on an article. Write an article for us. Engage. Your participation defines the success of our work. 

The News Integrity Initiative at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism selected Reach NC Voices for one of 10 investments “to improve people’s lives by fostering trust between newsrooms and the public, and nurturing constructive, inclusive community conversations.”

NII invests in EducationNC: Weaving civic dialogue and engagement into our reporting

Reach NC Voices: Our First Year

Reach NC Voices continues to nurture conversations online and offline across North Carolina, and we are in the process of building additional tools and features which will allow us to better integrate email, texting, live events, and our survey tools to capture the stories, comments, and pulse of you.

Text us at 73224 to interact with us anytime.

Newsletters and Social Media

We have learned that you like for us to send you content via email, and Nation tells us email is the new homepage. EducationNC has five newsletters. Our Daily Digest is sent at 9am each morning and includes news from across our state and nation aggregated by Mebane Rash as well as what you need to know to be in the know. Our Weekly Wrapup is sent out on Friday in the early afternoon, and it includes our content from throughout the week. The Reach Roundup is curated by Analisa Sorrells, and it includes our survey question of the week. Friday@Five is curated by Molly Osborne, and it includes links to research and in-depth policy analysis. We will be launching a new postsecondary newsletter, Awake58, curated by Nation Hahn, which may even include links to the best food we find along our travels.

Under Analisa’s leadership, the Roundup surfaces public problems in your life and then lifts those problems up to a broader audience through a weekly newsletter, which includes essential reads to deepen our knowledge about the problem. Here is an example:

You will see us experiment this year with newsletters and Twitter handles on particular issues like STEM, equity, and faith. Follow us on Twitter at @EdNC_Faith.


You can sign up for Reach NC Voices here:



Many of you like to meet with us in convenings we host all across North Carolina. Sometimes they are focused on an issue, like the equity convenings. Other times they are focused on leaders, programs, communities, or initiatives driving change.

Engage. Connect. Elevate. 

Our EdAmbassadors initiative seeks to amplify the voices of educators — those with the greatest insights into the policies and practices most impacting students, educators, schools, and our state.

Educator-led, the EdAmbassadors has three primary goals: engage educators in EdNC and Reach NC Voices, connect educator-driven networks to share skills, experience, stories, and perspectives about the policies and practices that most impact students and their work, and elevate the voice of educators to enhance, deepen, and diversify EdNC’s work.

The design and work of EdAmbassadors is led by an advisory board of educators from across North Carolina, representing a range of experiences, perspectives, and interests. For its initial year, the advisory board has selected three focus areas aligned to its goals of connecting classrooms, engaging stakeholders, and elevating teachers across the state:

School + Community Initiatives of Success: Showcasing educator-selected stories and learning opportunities to inform and inspire.

Classroom + Instructional Tools of Success: Develop an accessible platform of educator-identified instructional practices.

Gathering + Learning: Educator-curated convenings for educator-curated issues for educator-curated audiences.

Derick Stephenson not pictured.


Our EdAmbassadors include Greg Asciutto, English Department Chair, Garinger High School, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools; Amy Moore Boyette, Principal, Hollister Elementary Leadership Academy, Halifax County Schools; Ana Cunningham, Grade 9-12 English Teacher, Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools; Michelle Ellis, Science Teacher, Hunter Huss High School, Gaston County Schools; Erica Everett, 6th Grade Social Studies Teacher, Moore Square Magnet Middle School, Wake County Public School System; Jacey Macdonald, 7th Grade Language Arts and Global Studies Teacher, Daniels Magnet Middle School, Wake County Public School System; Amanda Kennedy Macon, Assistant Principal, Instruction, Jay M. Robinson High School, Cabarrus County Schools; Doug Price, 6th Grade Core Connections Teacher, Voyager Academy Middle School, Durham; Heather Puhl, Beginning Teacher Mentor, Education Center, Caldwell County Schools; and Derick Stephenson, 8th Grade English Language Arts Teacher, Martin Millennium Academy, Edgecombe County Public Schools.

More and More Multimedia

In addition to our podcast, EdTalk, we have learned that you love video. Thanks to Robert Kinlaw, EducationNC will more and more be telling stories in this compelling format. If you never thought welding would move you, take a look at this video:

And this one brought tears to your eyes and ours:

The Force Multiplier Effect

At EducationNC, our work doesn’t end when an article is published, and in many ways, the most important part of our work is just beginning. 

For example, earlier this year we published an article about the important work of Book Harvest, and more recently we have been helping them submit a federal grant. 

Book Harvest’s Book Babies: Unleashing parent leadership at birth could lead to a lifetime of benefits

You can see all of us out and about our state giving speeches, being interviewed by other media outlets, working with other organizations, and meeting with stakeholders from educators to funders to policymakers.

We are a force multiplier because of the power of public voice and the participation of citizens from across North Carolina. We aim to lift your voices to those in positions of power. It is our privilege to do this work with you. We feel like we are just getting started.


EducationNC is a collection of nonprofits and initiatives, a force multiplier for our students, our state, and our future. Our mission is to expand educational opportunities for all children in North Carolina, increase their academic attainment, and improve the performance of the state’s public schools. We provide citizens and policymakers with nonpartisan data, research, news, information, and analysis about the major trends, issues, and challenges bearing on education. We gather and disseminate information employing the most effective means of communication, primarily through the Internet. In addition to the content distributed, we encourage an active and connected community of those interested in education policy and practice throughout the state. Our work encourages informed citizen participation and strong leadership on behalf of the school children of North Carolina. 

EdNC is North Carolina’s go-to source for data, news, information, and analysis about education from birth to career. The N.C. Center for Public Policy Research is our 40-year-old, nonpartisan think tank studying the most important policy issues facing our state. First Vote NC allows high school students to participate in online, simulated elections so that they graduate civic ready. And Reach NC Voices, our architecture of participation, connects us to people and people to us to discuss public policy in real time so we can better understand communities across our state.  Collectively, in an era of transition for news organizations and think tanks, we are a pioneer in the new media landscape. June 30, 2018 marks the end of our fourth fiscal year, and we have been operating online since January 12, 2015.

Our Team

We work in teams, always trying to organize ourselves to do our best work without regard to titles or org charts.

Yasmin Bendaas and Liz Bell not pictured

Mebane Rash is our CEO and editor-in-chief. Alex Granados is our senior reporter. Nation Hahn is our chief growth officer. Liz Bell is our reporter, embedded in Nash, Edgecombe, and Halifax counties on a project researching kindergarten readiness. Nancy Rose is our chief operating officer. Molly Osborne is our director of policy and engagement. Caroline Parker is our communications strategist. Analisa Sorrells is our associate director of policy and engagement. Yasmin Bendaas is our STEM researcher, writer, and outreach. Robert Kinlaw is our multimedia strategist.

EducationNC consults with specialists as needed, including currently James Ford on our equity project; Bryan Noreen, a data scientist; Jay Dawkins and his company Public Input on all things tech; Hunter Buxton on First Vote NC; and Elizabeth Cunningham on EdAmbassadors. Aislinn Antrim is working with us this summer as an intern. 

Our thanks to Barb Baranski, Nate Barilich, Ferrel Guillory, Andrew Holton, Kelley O’Brien, Adam Rhew, and Tim Rosenberg who play invaluable roles on our team. Many thanks also to our attorneys, Maria Lynch and Amanda Martin, and our accountants, Batchelor, Tillery & Roberts, LLP.

And we could not do what we do without the more than 645 of you statewide who lend your voice and your time to our architecture of participation. Thank you for being part of the EducationNC team.

Our 2018-19 Board of Directors

We are thankful everyday for our board and your dedication to our work, but more importantly your dedication to our students, our state, and our future. A special thanks to our executive committee. Leadership matters.

  • Gerry Hancock, Chair and Publisher
  • Ferrel Guillory, Vice Chair and Editorial Advisor
  • Andrew Holton, Treasurer
  • Debra Horton, Secretary
  • Newell Clark, Executive Committee
  • Ed Croom, Executive Committee
  • Mebane Rash, CEO and Editor-in-Chief
  • Chris William, Executive Committee
  • Edna Earle Blue
  • Tom Bradshaw
  • Russ Campbell
  • Donnell Cannon
  • Mo Green
  • Sam Houston
  • Tom Lambeth
  • Steve Lassiter
  • Nancy Pekarek
  • Shirley Prince
  • Kayla Romero
  • Larry Wooten


Our funders breathe life into our work. They encourage us to “go up in the bucket.”

Many thanks to the following list of donors for funding us during the 2017-18 year:


  • News Integrity Initiative
  • Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation
  • The Duke Endowment
  • The William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust
  • Belk Foundation
  • ChildTrust Foundation
  • Burroughs Wellcome Fund
  • Duke Energy Foundation
  • Mebane Foundation
  • John William Pope Foundation
  • SAS Institute
  • Park Foundation
  • Center for Cooperative Media
  • Everett Gaskins Hancock LLP
  • Edna Earle Blue
  • James Barrett
  • Tom Bradshaw
  • Earl and Judith Britt
  • Marisa Bryant
  • Hunter & JB Buxton
  • Catherine Carter
  • Evan Covington Chavez
  • Howard and Gloria Covington, in honor of Ferrel and Kat Guillory on their 50th wedding anniversary
  • Lou Fabrizio
  • Kent Gardner
  • Juan Granados
  • Mo Green
  • Kathleen & Ferrel Guillory
  • Hope & Gerry Hancock
  • Andrew Holton
  • Debra Horton
  • Stephen Johnston
  • William Kessler
  • Steve Kroeger
  • Amanda Martin
  • Ellen McIntyre
  • Graig Meyer
  • Rolfe Neill, in honor of his beloved Ann Neill
  • Travis Packer
  • Shirley Prince
  • Betty Chafin Rash
  • Lloyd and Margaret Rash Family Advised Fund
  • Mebane Rash
  • Nancy Rose
  • Kayla Romero
  • Amy Strecker
  • Beth Swartz
  • Edwin Vaden
  • Evan Walker-Wells
  • Kenneth Wells
  • Chris William

Contributions in memory of Dennis Rash, father of our CEO Mebane Rash

  • Judy and Jim Allison
  • David Badger
  • Frances and Boyd Campbell
  • Russ Campbell
  • Elizabeth and Cal Cunningham
  • Pam Dittloff
  • Grubb Family Fund
  • Hope & Gerry Hancock
  • Katherine Heath and Tom Webb
  • Ashley and Wanny Hogewood
  • Debra Horton
  • Stephen Johnston
  • Kevin Kelly
  • Tom Lambeth
  • Ellen McIntyre
  • Liz and Ward McKeithen
  • Kelley O’Brien
  • Nancy Rose
  • Doug Roberts
  • Octavia Seawell
  • Marsha Sherry
  • Sarah and Allen Shifflet
  • Adelaide Sink
  • Bob and Caroline Sink
  • Jeff Sossamon
  • Trip Stallings
  • Fred Stang
  • Amy Strecker
  • Sylvia and Cullie Tarleton
  • Clarissa Vandenburg
  • Katherine White
  • Brad and Carole Wilson
  • Dennis Winner

EducationNC received a contribution in honor of the educators on EdNC’s Board of Directors.

EducationNC received other income from FirstVoteNC, SECU Foundation, Education Week, and the Democracy Fund.

The North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research

  • Kenan Charitable Trust
  • Duke Energy Foundation
  • The Burt’s Bees Greater Good Foundation
  • BB&T
  • Biltmore Farms Inc.
  • Biodelivery Sciences International
  • Bolick Foundation
  • Duke University Health System
  • Fidelity Investments
  • First Citizens Bank
  • Gregory Poole
  • Hanesbrands
  • IBM
  • Jordan Lumber Supply
  • MCNC
  • Mid-East Commission
  • Mission Hospitals
  • National Gypsum
  • NCHA Inc.
  • Obrienatkins
  • Pearsall Operating Company
  • Pepsi-Cola
  • Randolph Hospital
  • SAS
  • Stonecutter Foundation
  • The Dickson Foundation
  • Betsy Alexander
  • Richard NL Andrews
  • Linda Ashendorf
  • Philip Baddour
  • Wade Barber
  • Pat Beyle
  • Richard Bostic
  • Eugene Brown
  • James Bryan
  • Tom Byers
  • Peggy Carter
  • Katherine Chambers
  • Dan Clodfelter
  • Ran Coble and Jane Kendall
  • Louise Coggins
  • Arthur Cooper
  • David DeVries
  • Tom Everly
  • Richard Ford
  • Randall Fraser
  • Jody George
  • Gibson Gray
  • Marion Griffin
  • James G. Hanes III
  • Lori Ann Harris
  • William Holman
  • Daniel Hudgins
  • Robert C. Hunter
  • John Huson
  • James Johnson
  • David Kiel
  • Ed Klemmer
  • James Laney
  • Patricia Lawler
  • Marian Lowry
  • Darlyne Menscer
  • Robert & Cama Merritt
  • Robert Merritt
  • Danita Morgan
  • Kelley O’Brien
  • Michael Patrick
  • David Price
  • Mary Joan Pugh
  • Betty Chafin Rash
  • Katherine Skinner
  • Fred Stang
  • Brenda Summers
  • F.W. Townes
  • Gina Upchurch
  • Robert Usry
  • Katherine White
  • Malcolm Williams

Thank you for your ongoing support of EducationNC. We could not do our work without you. Please consider making a sustaining contribution so we can continue to grow our impact in 2018 and beyond.

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Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC.