Incoming PEPSC chair says SREB, DPI’s Tom Tomberlin have “overstepped bounds” in attempting to influence commission’s work on merit pay plan

In a July 12 meeting with the Governor’s Teacher Advisory Committee, incoming PEPSC chair Dr. Van Dempsey shared his thoughts about who’s actually in charge of the controversial merit pay proposal–and who isn’t.

Dr. Dempsey is dean of UNC-Wilmington’s College of Education. He also serves on the Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission (PEPSC) and will take over as that group’s chair at the beginning of September.

During the meeting, DPI’s Julie Pittman asked Dempsey to talk about his experience working with marketing firms in his role at the university. This question was presumably related to recent revelations about Eckel and Vaughan, the firm hired by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) using Belk Foundation grant dollars to help sell the unpopular merit pay plan.

Dr. Dempsey discussed a UNC-W project before turning the conversation to Eckel and Vaughan. 2016 NC Teacher of the Year Bobbie Cavnar then pressed Dempsey on the influence of outside forces on the licensure/compensation reform process.

Dempsey revealed that SREB Project Manager Megan Boren had “overstepped her bounds” in an inappropriate manner in PEPSC subcommittee meetings and that Department of Public Instruction Director of Educator Recruitment and Support Dr. Tom Tomberlin had done the same. He also mentioned that many varied interests would be eager to get their fingers in a project worth billions of dollars.

For background, SREB convened and facilitated the Human Capital Roundtable, the group that created the merit pay proposal behind closed doors from 2019-2021, and the Atlanta-based nonprofit continues to be intimately involved with DPI’s work on the project as well as the Human Capital Roundtable’s current efforts to market the controversial plan. Dr. Tomberlin is a member of the Human Capital Roundtable and is extremely active in PEPSC subcommittee meetings, often steering conversations and setting parameters for subcommittee work.

Video of this portion of the meeting as well as a transcript of comments are below:

Van Dempsey:  I know there are a lot of questions about what their role is in this.  I have questions about what their role is in this because I’m not directly connected to them right now.  I just had that one interaction with them back in the spring.

Bobbie Cavnar:  But they were hired by the Southern Region Education Board to market this plan specifically in our state by the Belk Foundation.  So it’s a plan that’s not written and we keep being told “This isn’t a done deal” and yet there are large organizations that are selling a plan that’s not written and we claim isn’t a done deal.  So that again is concerning to teachers to say wait, the Belk Foundation, the Southern Region Education Board, and you saw probably Best NC and EdNC have all published articles promoting this plan that isn’t written and isn’t a done deal.  That’s concerning to us.

Van Dempsey:  Bobbie, all I can tell you is there is not, there is no document that they can have, that they would have, that has been through the process that PEPSC is charged by the General Assembly to do and in this particular case, in this particular initiative, at the charge of the State Board of Education, for us to take the information that came out of the Human Capital Roundtable and do the best job we can to make recommendations about what that model can look like.

Bobbie Cavnar:  Dr. Dempsey I think you and I agree on that point.  What I’m saying is not that PEPSC is doing anything.  I’m saying PEPSC is being used by very powerful, very rich organizations.  And they are going to promote this. They already have.  They’ve already hired marketing firms, they’ve already got people in line at SAS and places like that.  And so, this came out of SREB and the Human Capital Roundtable, but it seems to us that there are other organizations besides PEPSC that are pushing what they believe is the plan.

Van Dempsey:  Yes.  Yes, Megan, I’m blanking on her last name, from SREB, has been in subcommittee meetings.  There have been times where I thought she overstepped her bounds on some of the things we were talking about and they have to be respectfully moved back out of that space.  It is inappropriate for them to do that.  We have seen a, the co-chairs have seen a presentation from a microcredential vendor.  The microcredential vendor stepped over the line in terms of some of the ways they were approaching that conversation and I believed it was appropriate to ask them to back back out of the space that they had tried to enter in that conversation. Tom has done that.  If you ask Tom, Tom will tell you yes, we had to back him out of that space.  Bobbie, I have no doubt that there are significant interests that want their fingers in this because we’re talking about billions of dollars of state funding that many entities would like to have a stake in.  That’s the nature of a profession that has become increasingly corporatized over the last forty years.  One of the things I’d like to see happen is the profession becomes less so in North Carolina, that those interests when they are operating with malevolent purposes or self, totally selfish interests that work against the profession that we identify that and we are able to neutralize that.  

One thought on “Incoming PEPSC chair says SREB, DPI’s Tom Tomberlin have “overstepped bounds” in attempting to influence commission’s work on merit pay plan

  1. “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”
    The best teaching methods ( which by themselves cannot be measured because those deemed unconventional cannot be excluded ) present course content but unless the student understands /is willing and able to understand NO learning takes place. To be paid based on the entire process being successful is ludicrous.

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