#36 – A Weekend of Connections: Feast of Freedom in Charlotte, North Carolina

This blog post is a summary of a recent article highlighted on EdNC. To Learn more about this project, you can also view our feature on PBS Charlotte, WTVI.

The end of 2018 marks a time of deep appreciation from us to all of our partners, community supporters, and steadfast followers. We are humbled by the growing engagement from stakeholders in the education space within and beyond Charlotte. Our team also commits to consistent reflection on how best to serve our partners and amplify our impact within any particular project. In the midst of school breaks and final meetings, we are excited to share a recent event on the unique district-charter collaboration, focused on family empowerment, between Ashley Park and Movement School.

Feast of Freedom marked the first joint event between Ashley Park and Movement School. The two-day November event offered unique services to Charlotte’s westside families in preparation for the Thanksgiving holiday. The Harvest Center of Charlotte designated a range of community support services for each particular day.

On Friday, November 16th, westside families could access health and wellness screenings/consultations, as well as, engage in a night of communication connections. The “Day of Care Through Serving” on Saturday provided time for community and school families to receive academic resources, engage in a personalized shopping experience in the clothing drive and shoe tent, and receive Thanksgiving treats with a hot meal and a frozen turkey to prepare for Thanksgiving.

Over twenty-five community organizations coordinated together to support the Harvest Center’s annual Thanksgiving Feast of Freedom event. For the first time, Movement School housed the event to provide ample space for the many exciting initiatives over the two days. School leaders arrived to support their families and gain additional insight into the academic resources provided to help students in literacy and math.

Principals Loftus (Ashley Park) and Sumter (Movement) were interviewed on stage to share how the collaborative project has impacted their school communities. Each school leader expressed tremendous enthusiasm for the organic opportunity to learn best academic practices from teachers at each school. Each leader shared also how the greater emphasis on parental empowerment has engaged numerous families to meet with their scholar’s classroom teacher and volunteer within the school.

The continued investment from Wells Fargo signifies the tremendous promise and belief in how parental empowerment results in tangible academic gains for students and improves student behavior. In 2019, each school will host at least five additional family nights (20 total across both schools in the 2018-2019 school year) that build upon feedback from families on topics they would like addressed each month.

Each month, our team meets with the individual family empowerment committee members at each school to coordinate logistics and plan how to deliver specific academic components to families. Families provide feedback through Exit Tickets in which they specify what topics they would like addressed, offer suggestions for improvement, and enlist as a volunteer for future events. Family Empowerment Committee staff members reflect on the feedback provided and discuss what academic materials would best equip families to help their scholar at home.

Additional family volunteers and their willingness to host sessions relevant to other parents signify the growing family empowerment present in each school. Families have more frequent touch points with their scholar’s classroom teacher and interact with staff and school community members in an organic space.

Opportunities to engage meaningfully in the school community and receive tangible academic support systems results in concrete academic improvements for scholars and enriches the trust between the school and family. We cannot wait to build upon the successful momentum of 2018 and catapult into family empowerment for 2019.

Ana Cunningham
Director of Projects, SchermCo

To learn more about SchermCo or inquire about our services, please email Ana Cunningham, ana@scherm.co. Lastly, follow our journey and engage with us on our social media platforms: FB, IG, and Twitter.

SchermCo is a social-impact implementation firm that offers strategic advising, organizational development, and implementation services to schools and education-focused organizations. SchermCo reinvests 1% of their time/funds from each project back into the communities they serve.

#35 – Welcome Jonathan Gardner, our 2018 Digitial Media Fellow

The SchermCo team is excited to welcome and announce our 2018 Digital Media Fellow, Jonathan Gardner. Please take a moment to read more about Jonathan, his passions, his hopes for his time with SchermCo.

Please help us welcome him!

Hello Everyone,

My name is Jonathan Gardner and I am honored to be joining the SchermCo team as their Digital Media Fellow. When I was a high school student, I benefited immensely from a program that aided children from underserved communities. Understanding that to whom much is given much is required, I have always dreamed to create the same impact within my own community similar to that program. Throughout my professional career, I’ve sought opportunities that combined my passion for community outreach and digital media to create that desired impact. Working with SchermCo aligns directly with my goal of aiding underserved communities through digital strategy.

Charlotte, NC, became my home just three years ago after moving from Philadelphia, PA. Though I am still adjusting to not having a classic Philly cheesesteak, I’ve been officially acclimated into Charlotte’s culture. From working for government offices and elected officials to local businesses, I’ve been able to learn more about my new home than what can be written. With each opportunity, I’ve developed a better understanding for the community members and their needs. Through strategic digital efforts, I have been able to bridge the gap between community members and the organizations trying to reach them.

My work inside the digital arena over the last four years has been extensive. From building more than 100,000 media impressions, increasing voter turnout by 15%, and increasing site traffic by 3%, my digital work has illustrated my ability to connect with community members. As I embark on this new journey with Scherm Co, I am confident that I can achieve similar results.

I received my B.A. in Communication from LaSalle University and am currently pursuing my M.A in Communication from Johns Hopkins University. When I’m not working, I’m cheering on my beloved Philadelphia Eagles or spending time with my puppy Bruce.

#34 – SchermCo Leads Second Year of Rare District/Charter Collaboration Focused on Family Empowerment

SchermCo is excited to announce the continuation of an unparalleled collaboration project in North Carolina and across the southeastern United States for a second year focused on family empowerment with a district and charter school in Charlotte, NC.


Over 940 data points were collected during the first phase of this partnership (January 2018-May 2018). These data points and input from families allowed both schools to identify and respond to the data in a timely fashion to improve engagement and empowerment efforts. Beyond the data points, approximately 50% of the families from each school attended family night events during the pilot phase. A post-survey completed by families revealed a significant increase in positive feelings towards the school in at least eight out of nine key surveyed areas.


With complete financial support and leadership from the Wells Fargo Foundation and management by SchermCo, Ashley Park PreK-8 (Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools) and Movement Charter School will offer a total of 20 Family Nights throughout the 2018-2019 school year. Each school will offer 10 Family Nights in which the topic and theme of each night will be chosen based on feedback from local families and aligned with academic and behavioral focus areas of each school. Local community organizations, restaurants, and vendors will also be leveraged for these nights. Leadership and staff from each school will attend joint professional development sessions in order to share feedback, lessons learned, and best practices to support their families.


“The Wells Fargo Foundation was interested in investing in the proposition of a collaboration between charter and public school leaders, said Jay Everette, Wells Fargo Senior Vice President of Corporate Philanthropy and Community Relations. We offered the school principals the ability to define the area for partnership and collaboration as long as it impacted student academic performance in some way. We thought that they would come back with a proposal addressing teaching and training but instead, they both felt strongly that parental and family engagement was an important area where they both faced challenges. It has been exciting to watch the increased levels of family engagement and empowerment. We are curious to study the research findings to see if we can identify any cause/effect relationships between engagement and academic performance.”


Research has consistently linked an increase in family engagement to positive relationships with local schools and better outcomes for students. Family engagement is also a key component of federal legislation since the Elementary and Secondary School Act (ESSA) passed in 2015. The idea of family empowerment builds off of engagement but focuses on seeking and implementing input from families at the school level. Further, empowerment refers to tapping into the wisdom and agency of families as schools seek to provide a better experience to those they serve. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte Urban Institute will also formally evaluate the link between family empowerment and scholar’s academic and behavioral performance during the second phase of this project.


Collaboration between district and charter schools is often rare and these models of education are often pitted in opposition to each other. However, emerging research and examples from across the country are beginning to attribute positive outcomes from such partnerships. Continual partnerships between districts and charters while capturing measurable outcomes from working together could lead to more impactful partnerships and possibly have policy implications.


“This project continues to be incredible for a number of reasons. We’ve long believed that when schools collaborate and build genuine partnerships, specifically districts and charters, families, students, and the whole community benefits,” says Greg Schermbeck, Founder and Principal of SchermCo. “We are fortunate to work with these two school leaders that aspire to provide the best experience for their families. We’re especially grateful to the Wells Fargo Foundation for investing in such an innovative project to not only bridge the district/charter divide but also seek ways of best supporting local families. This project would not be possible without their support and leadership.”


To learn more about this project, review the deliverables from the first phase, or inquire about other services offered by SchermCo, please email Ana Cunningham, ana@scherm.co. Lastly, follow our journey and engage with us on our social media platforms: FB, IG, and Twitter.


To see this project featured on PBS Charlotte – Carolina Impact, please click here.

To see a video from the pilot, please click here.


SchermCo is a social-impact implementation firm that offers strategic advising, organizational development, and implementation services to schools and education-focused organizations. SchermCo reinvests 1% of their time/funds from each project back into the communities they serve.

#33 – SchermCo Joins Forces with Leading To Change and Dream Builders Communication for the 2018 Leadership Education and Design Showcase

On November 15, 2018, SchermCo will partner with Leading to Change and Dream Builders to offer a dynamic day-long training in Charlotte, NC. The Leadership Education and Design Showcase (L.E.A.D) will target leaders from from both the non-profit and for-profit space. The training will offer insights and best practices focused on organizational development, change management, and innovation. Leaders will leave with tangible practices and tools to implement immediately into their organization.

“I’ve looked up to Eric and his team for a long time. They are passionate about their work and bring so much needed innovation and excellence to the adult training space. I’m honored to be able to share a space with Leading To Change and Dream Builders Communication for this day of training” said Greg Schermbeck, Founder & Principal of SchermCo.

Leading To Change is a nationally recognized training organization that has been offering dynamic training experiences for 15+ years. They have worked with organizations like Disney, Apple, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Dream Builders Communication is a multicultural leadership development firm that focuses on team assessments, evaluations, and training experiences. Dream Builders has five core focus areas: corporate, education, non-profit, federal/judicial, and executive coaching.

Eric Rowles, CEO of Leading To Change, has shared “We are thrilled to bring the synergy of three national training agencies to a one-day, intimate professional experience for our Carolina friends and partners.  Additionally, we’re thrilled to launch what we hope will be a continued partnership with SchermCo and Dream Builders for years to come.”

To see the full description of the L.E.A.D training and to purchase tickets, click here.

To learn more about SchermCo or inquire about our services, please email Ana Cunningham, ana@scherm.co. Lastly, follow our journey and engage with us on our social media platforms: FB, IG, and Twitter.

SchermCo is a social-impact implementation firm that offers strategic advising, organizational development, and implementation services to schools and education-focused organizations. SchermCo reinvests 1% of their time/funds from each project back into the communities they serve

#32 – Staff Culture: Define, Test, Measure, Adjust

“Culture is the set of norms, values and beliefs, rituals and ceremonies, symbols and stories that make up the ‘person’ of the school”

-Dr. Kent D. Peterson

University of Wisconsin-Madison

A strong staff culture can help motivate teachers and support staff members to innovate and forge the best solutions on behalf of students. Our team understands the importance of staff culture and we’re excited to share more about our recent project with Stoney Creek Elementary School in Charlotte, NC.


We partnered with Stoney Creek and Principal Susannah Barr from February-June 2018 with the goal of building a common definition and framework to support staff culture within the school. Throughout the partnership, we worked with Principal Barr to build a culture committee comprised of staff members, analyze a staff culture pre-survey data, conduct focus groups, test strategies, and analyze a staff culture post-survey.


“The work we did last year helped us identify ways to strengthen our staff culture and build a stronger community. We spent the summer creating culture building opportunities that have been met with great success this year! I appreciated the honesty, kindness, and candor that Greg and Ana offered each time we met. My staff feels more connected and aligned and ready to define how we operate as a team,” said Principal Susannah Barr.


By June of 2018, our team was able to collectively work with the culture committee and staff as a whole to agree on a common definition of staff culture as well as a plan to support and measure culture throughout the upcoming school year. Further, the post-survey results showed at least a 5% increase in five key staff culture focus areas and 80% of staff at Stoney Creek Strongly Agreed or Agreed in seven areas regarding the school working to better support staff culture.


“Our favorite projects are ones when we have the opportunity to work with a leader and their staff that are willing to adapt to feedback and implement solutions. In a relatively short time frame, we were able to gather feedback and work with the Stoney Creek staff to truly identify and build a framework to support staff culture. We can’t wait to see even more positive results a Stoney Creek this upcoming school year”, said Greg Schermbeck.


To learn more about this project or other services offered by SchermCo, please email Ana, Director of Projects, ana@scherm.co. Follow our journey and engage with us on our social media platforms: FB, IG, and Twitter.

#31–Profound Gentlemen – Planning and Growth

In January 2018, our team partnered with a passionate, mission-driven, and thoughtful organization set to genuinely impact the educational experience of young male students of color in classrooms around the country. Profound Gentlemen’s mission is to build a community of male educators who provide a profound additional impact on boys of color. This mission is accomplished by offering programming focused on retaining and developing male teachers of color. We partnered with Profound Gentlemen through our Community Support services to develop a market-based strategic plan and to offer board development support that would guide their growth for the coming years.

Our team leveraged our unique process to connect with stakeholders from across the country, including teachers, school leaders, and foundations to understand the needs and realities of the market. Insights from these conversations, coupled with ongoing meetings to better understand Profound Gentlemen’s model, allowed us to formulate a strategic plan that includes key goals for the next three years. Additional aspects of this partnership included board development services, budget analysis, and increasing earned revenue services with school partners.

SchermCo founder Greg Schermbeck shared that “Jason, Mario, and the entire PG team are remarkable. Their ability to build community and support male educators of color is unmatched across the country. It was our honor to partner with PG as they grow their impact for years to come”.

With continued support to implement key phases of their strategic plan, Profound Gentlemen aims to deepen their impact within North Carolina and the four other program cities. Specifically, the strategic plan establishes a set of actions to obtain a goal of serving 800+ male educators of color in North Carolina by 2022. Co-founder Jason Terrell expressed “SchermCo has helped Profound Gentlemen plan for future sustainability. Through our strategic plan, we have had the opportunity to communicate our strategic direction with potential funders, school partners, community members, and Gentlemen. We are looking to enter an implementation phase with SchermCo and ready to begin putting the puzzle together”.

To learn more about this project or other services offered by SchermCo, please email Ana Cunningham, ana@scherm.co. Lastly, follow our journey and say hi on one of our social media platforms: FB, IG, and Twitter.

#30–Summer Fellow–John Griffin

Hey All,

My name is John Griffin and I’m thrilled to be a SchermCo fellow for the Summer of 2018! Throughout my time working in various jobs and industries, I have realized that what I am most passionate about is human development. I bring an asset-based mindset to everything I do in life and am driven by helping others realize their full potential. I thrive when working on dynamic teams consisting of people with diverse talents, visions and working-styles, which is why I am confident SchermCo will be a great fit for me. I was attracted to SchermCo’s commitment to over-delivering and dreaming big in order to change the game – two values I live by in my life. I believe that in order to change systems that often fail young people, we must think outside of the box and be willing to disrupt.

For the last three years I have been working on a federal Social Innovation Fund grant (SIF) at the Boston Foundation (TBF) – Boston’s Community Foundation. The SIF grant has provided $6 million to eight Boston nonprofits to provide programming to thousands of Boston Public Schools graduates to help them make successful transitions from high school into college. The programming – which we call “coaching” – provides young people with mentors who help them become self-advocates as they navigate the many academic, financial, social-emotional and other obstacles of being a college student. Throughout my time at TBF, I have helped convene nonprofit, higher educational, government and business leaders to engage in the ongoing development of pipeline that ensures underserved students can attain the credentials and employment they need to live in their home city. It has been exciting to be around so many thought leaders in our country’s home of public education. With the convening power of a place like TBF, we have helped those who may be inclined to point fingers at one another instead work together towards common goals. Cross-sector collaboration is difficult, but powerful. Throughout my time at TBF, I am most proud of my development of a Salesforce database that has served as a platform for our college completion initiative’s partners to collaborate around and track student success. I have learned to gather people around disaggregated data so that they may approach their work thoughtfully, with an equitable focus on those young people who sometimes hide beneath the numbers.

Prior to my time at TBF, I worked in the “micro” of urban education as I was a volunteer at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep – a Cristo Rey Network high school serving low-income families from the West Side of Chicago. During my time at Christ the King I taught courses, coached sports teams, implemented student support interventions and ran logistics for the school’s board of directors. Developing relationships with young men and women from the West Side of Chicago opened my eyes to the educational inequities in our country and inspired me to work towards narrowing them, which I know I will do at SchermCo.

I received my B.A. in Communication from Boston College and will be pursuing my M.Ed from Vanderbilt University this Fall, studying Leadership and Organizational Performance. When I’m not working, I follow Boston sports, play my guitar and hang out with my family, much of which resides in Cape Cod, MA. I look forward to getting to know all of you better throughout the next several weeks.


All the best,


#29–Summer Fellow–Jessica Hernandez


My journey with education began when I was a small child and my family instilled in me the value of education and how vital it would be for my self-growth. I am reminded of the importance of education when I remember the quote “make time for the things and people that matter,” and hold those words close to my heart. Miss Blair Watler uttered these words to me in the 8th grade and I have lived my life with those words at the forefront of my actions.

Education and my educators have always served as a reminder of my potential and the formidable future I seek to create. Under-served schools made up my entire educational history up until college: insufficient school resources, managing overcrowded classrooms, and inadequate learning spaces comprised my educational experience. Despite the challenging circumstances, I was able to thrive because of the people that filled those academic spaces.

When I graduated Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology in 2016, I knew that I could not have walked across the stage without acknowledging Mr. Timothy Guilfoyle who allowed me to refine my leadership skills in 2016 as I became National Honor Society president. I had to acknowledge Mrs. Jennifer Kirkpatrick-Mark who always brought me home if I had missed the bus back in 2012 and who allowed me to share in her joy as she married her husband in 2016. I had to acknowledge Mrs. Melissa Thiel who helped me outline the road to college in 2011 and showed me that it was possible. Lastly, I could not have had the honor of choosing between UNC-Chapel Hill and Dartmouth College without the help of Mr. Adrian Taylor who had taught me four years prior and was still an integral part of my life.

My educators have imparted many life lessons throughout my life and have helped me find my footing as I transition from student to young adult.  The transition from high school to college would not have been possible without their support. As I continue my journey, I have had countless professors enter my life who add so much value and inspiration as have those before them. Their presence has also inspired me to become an educator myself and for that I am grateful.

I want to be an educator that leads with their heart and creates an environment that allows students to thrive. I want to inspire students, teach them as much as I can, and show them that you can always make time for the things and people that matter– just like my educators did for me.

What originally interested me about SchermCo is how it was distinct from any consulting agency that I had ever encountered. There is so much reform needed in today’s educational system and I just knew that SchermCo was a small piece of the overall puzzle to improving and empowering schools and communities.

Giving back to the community that blessed me with so many opportunities is important to me and SchermCo allows me to do just that. With SchermCo’s 1% initiative that reinvests 1% of the funds/time from a project back into a local organization, I know that my efforts will benefit the community around me or across the country. I have seen first-hand how educators give their all for their students and the ways in which schools try to maximize the resources they are given. SchermCo does just that while also providing support to educators and schools. Needless to say, I am excited to join this amazing team and continue their mission of aiding underserved communities and making time for people that matter.

#28 – People Like Us

I’m currently completing The Marketing Seminar, a three-month and fairly intense marketing class with Seth Godin. We are interacting with a number of professionals across the world by sharing ideas and responding to messages and videos from Seth. Recently, Seth released a video with the core message “people like us, do things like this” and it really got me thinking.

The prompt was meant to help us understand current clients, future clients, as well as establish clear expectations with our own teams. That if we can clearly establish the common beliefs and actions of “people like us”, we can then find others that get our message and vision. To me, the people part stands for what “we” believe in. The do things is related to the action of these people.

So, here’s what I think, specifically as I reflect on our people and work at our organization:

People like us

  • believe all kids can learn
  • believe all kids deserve access to a quality education
  • believe all adults can learn (and change)
  • believe innovation is needed in education
  • believe in leadership
  • believe in implementation
  • believe in measurable results
  • believe in diversity and integration
  • believe in building relationships
  • believe in creating what is needed

Do things like

  • smile
  • hustle
  • connect
  • check for typos
  • overdeliver
  • plan
  • fail
  • backward plan
  • work the plan
  • send thank you notes

This is an interesting exercise. It allows you to be aspirational and jot down ideas of your ideal self as well as the thoughts and actions of those who should be part of your community. We’ve found our most successful projects, relationships, and experiences often happen when with others from our tribe.

I hope you’ll consider finding your own tribe. Perhaps we’ll run into each other soon.

Action Steps

Leave us a comment and let us know more about you. People like us (you), do things like….





#27 – Social Media Fellow & Storyteller – Ana Cunningham

Greetings! Educators have played a prominent part of my life ever since I can remember. Parent volunteers helped me tell time at Wayside Elementary School. My seventhgrade math teacher ensured we understood angles and geometric planes at Herbert Hoover Middle School. The rigorous academic life lessons provided at Winston Churchill High School set a supremely high bar of excellence that remains significant in my life today.

In all of these distinct educational experiences, a super salient truth formed in my mind—the nourishment that education lends to the mind, body, and soul offers the greatest opportunity for our society to operate in unison as young adults dream big and believe we can create a perfect union.

My favorite AP English Literature teacher Ms. Eleanor Goodwin always impressed upon me that “life is a conversation” so I should aim to have as many conversations with as many people as I can. Our first conversation begins here with my exciting announcement that I have joined the SchermCo team as the new Social Media Fellow! ☺  

Introductions begin with a virtual handshake and name—I am Ana Cunningham and my initial conversations in Charlotte began in 2012 when I joined the Teach for America Charlotte corps as a high school English teacher at Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology. My passionate fervor to enter education stemmed from the extraordinary value instilled in me by my parents who never attended college, but understood how education opens access and opportunities—the proverbial American Dream.

Through my life, I have been fortunate beyond measure to re-frame what constitutes my own American Dream as I became the first person in my family to attend and graduate college, the first to own a dog, and the first to become a formal educator.

In my household, conversations at the dinner table centered on how to create impact and possess a solutions-oriented mindset in which meaningful ambition would be supported with a tangible concrete plan. My parents’ all-knowing wisdom has served me well from Northwestern University to Paris to New York City and on a daily basis in the classroom—they become quite giddy when I admit they have indeed been right all along.

The students with whom I have had the great privilege to live life the past six years foster and fuel my fire that access to the American Dream should neither be contingent nor dictated by zip code or school name. My students lead extraordinary lives of courage, conviction, resiliency, grit, hope, and fierce determination to seek their own success for themselves and their families. The greatest satisfaction has been to watch and develop my students as they work toward their long-term goals and become the first person in their family to attend and graduate college and many more firsts await them.

My most recent reminder of my parents’ sagacious words came in the form of the most exciting news—the opportunity to work at SchermCo with an impactful and solutions-oriented team. In my career as an educator, macro-solutions can be hard to accomplish from a classroom and I have always held the mindset to help the highest number of students possible.

My initial interest in SchermCo began with a college readiness program with whom Greg and the team had partnered and I found it amazingly nifty that the reach and scope of SchermCo’s vision and impact could be felt in Charlotte and other parts of the country. Conversations with Greg and the team center around a most significant bottom line—is it good work for kids? The question guides the work and frames conversations with partners in Charlotte and across the country. The powerful question of how can we create polices, forge solutions, and implement plans that are good for kids motivates and excites me to work within SchermCo to create greater possibilities for students.

I am beyond thrilled to begin my time here at SchermCo and continue to lead life with as many conversations with as many people as possible. Thank you to Greg and the entire team at SchermCo for the opportunity to innovate and inspire hope for kids.