2016 Public Education Partners Conference

Addressing Opportunity Gaps in South Carolina


Many thanks to our key partners and conference sponsors: Elliott Davis Decosimo, Teach For America – South Carolina, USC’s Center for Educational Partnerships in the College of Education, the South Carolina School Boards Association, and Obviouslee Marketing.

For the ninth year running, SC Future Minds brought together dozens of groups across South Carolina to network and brainstorm ways to improve public education across the state.

This year, the conference featured a series of conversations on opportunity gaps in South Carolina and how we are addressing them. The real energy of the conference came from Small Group Discussions, held at the end of the morning session, in which stakeholders shared their insights on the day’s topics.  

The Read Out:
Highlights from Small Group Discussions

  • Race & Opportunity Gaps: The discussion should begin where our keynote conversation ended. This topic is uncomfortable and hard but necessary and incredibly urgent. Race is a sensitive issue, but we must be able to talk without fear in order to address root causes of opportunity gaps and provide an excellent education for all children. We need to look at the system and how it serves students of color.  We need to talk more about the benefits of desegregating schools.
  • Geography & Choice: It is no secret which schools have the resources or where the best schools are located; People buy houses based on where kids can go to school.
  • STEM: We are investing in STEM awareness with families; need to engage communities around STEM and educate them about opportunities that come with STEM education; important to support teachers who want to work with students in STEM subjects; engaging community around STEM (knowledge and opportunities)
  • Transportation: Transit options are critical for school choice; One district has invested in transport so that all kids have a choice.
  • Teachers: We need to make sure teachers are ready to go into low-resource schools, where students do not necessarily look like them or come from the same background.
  • Out of School Time: What are students’ plans for after school? What programs are available for these kids and how do the kids learn about the programs?
  • Schools as Centers of the Communities:  Schools should be community centers and should provide family education.  Important for schools to make parents and organization feel comfortable and publicize opportunities for engagement with schools and students.
  • Understanding Our Reality: It is important to use statistics more effectively; The State Department of Education is working to correctly measure student growth; balance between testing and teacher instructional time.
  • Health: We need more school resources for mental health, social services, nurses.
  • Funding: Funding is not the same across SC and that inequity contributes to opportunity gaps.  Until we have equity in funding and resources, we’re not going to get equity in outcomes.
  • Connectivity: Internet access to students and families at home is critical.
  • Early Childhood: The gaps in early childhood need to be better addressed and made a priority.
  • Building a Coalition for Change: We all need to come together to move forward. We especially need the state legislature to be a part of this conversation.


Conference Agenda:

8:30-9:00 Coffee & Networking

9:00-9:10 Welcome from SCFM & Opening Call to Action from a SC Public School Student

9:10-9:40 Morning Keynote: Opportunity Gaps in South Carolina by Nikole Hannah-Jones, New York Times & NPR Journalist.

Nikole Hannah-Jones is an award-winning investigative journalist. Her work focuses on the realities of school and housing segregation across the country. Her work has been featured in  ProPublica, The Atlantic Magazine, Huffington Post, Essence Magazine, The Week Magazine, Grist, Politico Magazine. She has also appeared on Face the Nation, This American Life, NPR, the Tom Joyner Morning Show, MSNBC, C-SPAN, and Democracy Now.

Read her Times summer 2016 issue article, “Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City” here, and listen to her Peabody-award winning NPR series “The Problem We All Live with” here.

9:40-10:00 Q&A with Ms. Hannah-Jones

10:00-11:00 Panel Discussion: Breaking It Down: How Leaders from SC’s Education Ecosystem are Addressing Opportunity Gaps and Improving Student Outcomes

  • View from the District: Steve Wilson, Superintendent of Calhoun County
  • View from the School: Kimberly Mason, Principal of Rosenwald Elementary+Middle School
  • View from the Home: Mary Eaddy, Director of ProParents
  • View from the State: Latoya Dixon, Director of School Transformation, SC Department of Education

11:00-11:30 Q&A with the Panelists

11:30-12:15 Small Group Discussions

Participants to join small group discussions on the issues raised during the keynote and panel, as well as determine next steps for individual and collective action.  Table leaders will take notes on discussions and be prepared to report highlights out to the full group.

12:15-12:25 Small Group Reports to the conference

12:25-12:30 Closing Call to Action from a SC Public School Student

12:30-2:30 Lunch and Presentation of the Dick & Tunky Riley “WhatWorksSC” Award for Excellence

Luncheon Session: A Conversation with Charleston County Schools Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait and Spartanburg District 7 Superintendent Russell Booker, moderated by Linda O’Bryon, President and CEO of South Carolina ETV

The 2016 Dick and Tunky Riley WhatWorksSC award finalists are:

  • Engaging Creative Minds, which improves learning and inspires creativity and innovation by integrating arts into the curriculum through in-school activities, professional development for teachers, and summer programming.
  • Healing Specieswhich uses rescued dogs to provide classroom lessons in compassion and violence prevention to elementary, middle and high school students in high poverty, high risk schools and incarceration facilities.
  • PULSEwhich offers a variety of standards-aligned activities and services such as mentoring, summer reading camp, the Comer Schools Development Program, and accelerated learning opportunities to students in the Darlington School District.

Former two-term Governor of South Carolina and United States Secretary of Education Dick Riley will present the award.