Today in “North Carolina Department of Public Instruction documents the public needs to see” is an Eckel and Vaughan “proactive media strategy” memo sent to DPI staff and members of the Human Capital Roundtable (HCR) on April 13.
Eckel and Vaughan is a Raleigh-based communications firm that someone has hired to market the merit pay plan. (I requested an invoice from DPI and was informed they hadn’t paid Eckel and Vaughan any department funds, so it’s unclear who’s bankrolling their work.)
The memo notes a need to “gain greater control of the narrative” due to “recent media attention that PEPSC’s work has been receiving” (My first blog post on merit pay was April 2 and was widely shared, and others started speaking up about problems with the proposal around that time as well)
The E & V memo proposes the Human Capital Roundtable consider a three-phase approach.
Phase 1: Positioning Maureen Stover and Johnny Belk to write op-eds and do interviews. The memo says Stover would help with “gaining the trust of teachers around the state” while Belk’s involvement would get the business community on board and association with the Belk Foundation would bring legitimacy.
Stover is a former North Carolina Teacher of the Year who serves on two of the four PEPSC subcommittees that are working on the licensure/compensation proposal. Belk is the former president and COO of Belk, Inc. and current chair of the Belk Foundation.
Phase 2: Identifying teachers from varied parts of North Carolina to “submit an opinion piece in support to the [sic] changes to the system to a targeted outlet in their region.” This approach would ensure that teachers all over the state would hear positive things about the proposal.
Phase 3: Publish an opinion piece authored by former Governors Jim Hunt and Jim Martin. Eckel and Vaughan said this final phase would be crucial in giving the proposal legitimacy and gaining the support of legislators.
As background, I reported last week that the HCR is recruiting members to a group called the “UpliftEd coalition” to drum up public support for the merit pay plan. An HCR recruitment spreadsheet has Governors Hunt and Martin listed as honorary co-chairs. I have not been able to confirm their involvement.
The media strategy memo includes in its next steps “drafting the various opinion pieces.” It’s unclear whether that means Eckel and Vaughan would be writing the articles and then pretending the teachers and governors wrote them.
Here’s the thing.
If you work in the light, involve stakeholders and craft good policy, this manipulative crap is unnecessary. But none of that is happening here.
You can read the memo in its entirety below:RTMediaStrategyMemo-4-13-22-