The Belk Foundation brings leaders together, fostering civic dialogue and innovation
By Mebane Rash - Posted Feb 21, 2018
Last night, The Belk Foundation convened education leaders in Raleigh from school districts, nonprofits, state government, and philanthropy to think about education in North Carolina and across the nation. “We must be innovative in North Carolina for the sake of our students,” said Johanna Edens Anderson, executive director of The Belk Foundation.
John Belk, chair of the board of The Belk Foundation, kicked off the evening, noting the need to focus on “where we are leading in North Carolina, and where we have opportunities to improve.”
The evening featured Jeremy Anderson, president of Education Commission of the States, a national education policy organization that serves as a partner to state policymakers, and then responses from leaders across North Carolina, including Jennifer Haygood, Acting President, NC Community College System; Mark Johnson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction; Janet Mason, 2018 NC Superintendent of the Year, Rutherford County Schools; and Margaret Spellings, President, University of North Carolina.
Anderson works with state leaders — from governors to chief state school officers, from both political parties — to provide unbiased information, support, and opportunities for collaboration. In his remarks, he urged North Carolina’s leaders to find an issue they could work on together to improve outcomes for all students, trying to “breakdown silos, partisan politics, and territorial issues.”
Anderson noted the multitude of commissions working on different issues in North Carolina. “The question that I have for you though,” Anderson said, “comes down to a little bit of governance. How many of those commissions or task forces are talking to each other?… Where is the umbrella oversight to unify these kind of things and make it work?”
Anderson said in his work across the nation he has noticed that in states where “leaps and bounds” are being made, leaders have found ways to work across difference. “It’s a simple litmus test,” he said. “Can the people who can move this policy meet for coffee even if they disagree and talk though some of these differences?”