Public Education Partners, a non-profit geared toward public education in Greenville County, has announced that Spartanburg native Catherine Schumacher will be its new CEO.
Schumacher served on the PEP board for three years prior to becoming CEO.
Through PEP, Schumacher said she plans to provide a laboratory for innovation and elevation in public schools.
“We just really want to make Greenville County schools the absolute best schools, not only in the state, but in the country,” Schumacher said.
Schumacher said she will focus on three primary areas. The first area is to elevate teachers.
“We want to celebrate teachers and the profession, really thinking of innovative ways to attract and retain the best teachers for students,” Schumacher said.
The second area is about empowering advocates. To this end, Schumacher said, PEP will roll out a new policy agenda with an expanded advocacy team.
“This is going to be a big year for advocacy in public education,” she said. “We’re looking at education-funding reform over the next couple of years.”
The final piece of the puzzle for Schumacher is to thoroughly engage communities in all of the work done through PEP. A heavy focus will be on how public education plays into broader community conversations like the effect of affordable housing on teachers, or homelessness on students.
Schumacher said her nine-member team at PEP feels optimistic regarding the future of public education.
“My job going forward is going to be sort of supporting and channeling the good work of all the members of the team, getting out into the community and then making sure that PEP is at the table before all the big important communication conversations,” Schumacher said.
PEP is working to help teachers not only during the school year, but to ensure students retain reading skills throughout summers with its Make Summer Count literacy program.
“The program provides reading libraries for students from 29 elementary schools in Greenville County,” Schumacher said. “It is really focused on reducing the summer slide, or students who lose crucial reading skills over the summer before heading back to school.”
Schumacher and her team work year-round on a range of ongoing, practical hands-on events.
“There really is no quiet time with summer being busy with the summer reading program, and advocacy work in the first half of the school year,” she said. “Then in the fall, we are getting into the school year and making sure we’re making connections with PTAs and school-improvement councils.”
Before joining PEP, Schumacher worked as a consultant for 14 years.
A product of South Carolina public schools
“I grew up in Spartanburg and went through the public schools there. So I am a product of South Carolina’s public schools and have personally benefited from a wonderful public school education,” Schumacher said.
After graduating high school, Schumacher spent about 13 years in Boston and New York but came back to Greenville to start a family.
“We just really want to make Greenville County schools the absolute best schools, not only in the state, but in the country.” -Catherine Schumacher
Schumacher got into the non-profit realm when she started working in the development office of an off-Broadway theater company.
“My background is in arts and I was an actress in New York where I learned about non-profit work and development,” she explained.
Schumacher credited her theater background with giving her a unique perspective and helping her develop the skills needed to help drive continued success at PEP.
Looking ahead, Schumacher said it’s an important time for public-education partners to take a leadership role.
“I think it is such an important time for public education in South Carolina,” she said. “I was in elementary school the last time South Carolina went through major education reform when Dick Riley was governor. We haven’t tackled education reform or education-funding reform in this state in a really long time, so it is crucial for PEP to have a visible and loud voice.”