The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation believes that each child should have access to high quality public education that allows him or her to succeed in life and to contribute to the vitality of our state and its communities. To attain this goal for all North Carolina’s children, ZSR supports organizations that focus on encouraging communities to understand and invest in their local public schools. MeckEd – a Charlotte-based, independent nonprofit – exemplifies this commitment by: providing accurate, timely education information; actively engaging the community in the work of public schools; and making deliberate connections between key stakeholders and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
MeckEd has, for example, partnered with UNC-Charlotte’s Urban Institute to produce user-friendly, interactive data maps that demonstrate how education issues play out in specific schools. The maps provide school-specific snapshots of teacher turnover, graduation rates, suspensions, and other indicators. The partnership’s research also encourages viewers to consider school success indicators in a larger context, such as average family income and teacher turnover. In addition, MeckEd curates local, state, and national education articles for dissemination through its newsletter, serves as a background expert for local reporters, pushes out news and information through social media, and maintains a comprehensive website that displays its unique aggregation of data.
MeckEd also encourages sustained community dialogue about critical public education issues and pursues policy solutions that yield strong public schools. Through regularly scheduled public events, MeckEd encourages in-depth discussion on issues ranging from charter schools, to the Common Core State Standards, state budget and actions of the NC General Assembly. In preparation for last year’s local board of education elections, for example, MeckEd hosted a “CMS Board of Education 101” Community Conversation that included an interactive candidate forum with a moderator from Charlotte’s public radio station. MeckEd also holds an annual community breakfast that features well-known public education figures. Its 2014 breakfast focused on the future of education in North Carolina with remarks from former Governor Jim Hunt and honored State Board of Education Chairman Emeritus Howard Haworth.
Ten percent of all North Carolina students are enrolled in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS). Because of its size, CMS and the Charlotte community at large experience changes in the State’s education policy at a significant scale and thus can serve as a harbinger for the implications such changes might bring for other school systems. To deepen key community members’ understanding of public education issues, MeckEd intentionally works to connect with various stakeholders of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community including business leaders, parents, students and educators. MeckEd tailors its community engagement work to the specific needs and interests of these groups. Its community events and outreach provide opportunities for members of these various groups to interact with and learn from one another as they work to better support public schools.
Fortified by its community relationships, MeckEd is a reliable, non-ideological source of information, which admirably enables and activates citizens to have a voice concerning important local and statewide public education issues.