Public Education Partners – A Fount of Innovation

2023 Report to the Community Impact Story

“A Fount of Innovation”


It’s no accident that Greenville County Schools are highly rated and considered among the best in the state. For decades, educators, administrators and the community have worked together to support student success. Since 1985, Public Education Partners (PEP) has fostered connections between the private sector and the public school system to provide the resources and new ideas needed to ensure that all students have what they need to thrive.

Catherine Schumacher, President and CEO, says PEP was launched by the same forward-thinking business leaders who saw the potential of Greenville, led by founder Hayne Hipp. Their vision was prescient, and nearly forty years later, the need for partnership in support of schools has never been greater.

“People come to Greenville for the strong public school system, and 85–90 percent of our community’s students go through the public schools,” she says. “If we want to invest in workforce development and economic mobility, it has to start with public schools.”

Over the years, PEP has served as an innovation lab for Greenville County Schools and a champion for public education. It has helped develop and pilot projects like the groundbreaking Greenville Alternative Teacher Education (GATE) Program that is today one of Greenville County Schools’ most successful teacher recruitment strategies, and prioritizes work with collaborative efforts like OnTrack Greenville and the Racial Equity and Economic Mobility (REEM) Commission.

One of its priorities for helping students has been through supporting teachers and elevating their voices as a key strategy for understanding needs.

“Because we engage with schools and educators on a lot of different levels, we can use what we learn on the ground level to inform our advocacy work. When teachers say ‘We need this,’ or ‘This is standing in the way of learning,’ we can use this insight to support legislation or ask candidates the right questions so that voters can choose their leaders wisely,” Schumacher says.

PEP prioritizes data and research to ensure that proposed initiatives are relevant and effective. “We always start with what the numbers tell us,” Schumacher says.

In 2019, PEP launched to highlight information about a range of data that impact how schools are assessed, governed, and funded, presenting complex information in a way that is useful and easy to understand.

Schumacher and the seven-member PEP team believe that their work here in Greenville is part of a larger conversation currently taking place across the country.

Public Education Partners Staff

“We’re shining a spotlight on the excellent work that is going on every day in our classrooms, and pushing back on the false narrative of ‘failing public schools,’ even as we acknowledge that there are gaps we must address and work we need to do,” she says.

To that end, PEP seeks ways to distribute resources so that those who need them most have access.

“Everyone doesn’t start in the same place and not everyone needs the same things,” Schumacher says. “The dream is to create an environment and resource it well enough so that every child has what they need to be the best version of themselves.”

PEP is committed to ensuring that the broadest possible coalition of private and public partners recognizes why public schools are powerful change agents in their communities.

“Strong public schools are as essential to civic life and a functioning society as roads and bridges and other vital infrastructure,” Schumacher says. “They are the spaces where we have an incredible opportunity to bring children, parents, and the community together to grow and nurture our future.”

The Community Foundation of Greenville and some of its fundholders are proud to support the work of Public Education Partners through philanthropic gifts.


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