The idea behind Forsyth Education Partnership (FEP) has had earlier iterations over the past twenty plus years, the previous being Community Alliance for Education. The Chamber of Commerce, the Merchants Association, the school system and individual citizens recognized the value of building a local education fund to increase community involvement in and commitment to our public schools.
Local Education Funds (LEFs) are independent, nonprofit, community- based organizations who enlist the support of their communities for high-quality public education. Successful LEFs in Mecklenburg, Durham and Wake Counties are leaders in this national movement.
In the summer of 1999, a group of citizens began to hold a series of meetings to determine the interest in developing an LEF in Forsyth County. With support from the Chamber of Commerce, the school system and diverse community participation, the group formed a 12-member steering committee that met for six months to adopt the organization’s name, mission, vision, purposes and guiding principles.
Members of the steering committee met with Superintendent Don Martin and Board of Education Chair Donny Lambeth to inform them of the Alliance and explore how the organization could work with the school system. Representatives from the Durham Public Education Network and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Education Foundation visited Winston-Salem to share lessons from their work. The national Public Education Network provided support and information.
Steering committee members recruited a founding board of business, civic and education leaders who represented the diverse interests and perspectives in the community and who demonstrated a strong commitment to public education. The board began meeting in the fall of 2000 to develop a plan of work. The initial priority was to increase student achievement, including addressing the achievement gap between white and non-white students.
In 2003 Study Circles were convened to offer the opportunity for anyone interested to help put the “public” back in public education. These small guided discussions were designed to build meaningful relationships between diverse groups of people. They explored and debated complex issues, and culminated in a final meeting where clear action steps for change were outlined.
Action committees were formed for the top four issues: Teacher Support & Retention; Communication between WS/FCS & Parents; Classroom Climate; and WS/FCS School Board Election Process.
In 2009, the board of directors elected to change the name of this local education fund to Forsyth Education Partnership. At present our board of directors and ad hoc members work on: Teacher Support and Retention through Clinard Grants for Innovative Teaching, the PROMISE Awards and Educator Warehouse; Community Engagement with Voter Guides and Public Forums; Student Programs with the Poet Laureate Project; Parent Programs with the Kindergarten Parent Project using videos to teach parents to be good stewards of their child’s education.
The Partnership (FEP) recognizes the role of the Board of Education, as an elected body, to make policies for our public school system. We respect the role of the Superintendent and school administrators to carry out those policies and provide direction for the overall system. We value the important role of principals, teachers, staff, PTAs and school-business partnerships working at each individual school. And we acknowledge the role of parents, grandparents and others who support each student. FEP will not duplicate those important roles.
FEP provides a vehicle for the broader community to better understand public education issues, to deliberate and reach consensus on community goals for our schools, to mobilize human and financial support for those goals, and to advocate for quality education for all Forsyth County students.