Accelerating Reading Proficiency through Unique Partnership

The Mebane Foundation believes in the power of reading – that when a child can read, it opens up a bright new world of learning, achieving and confidence.  Seeing the greatest need in the small, rural and remote areas of North Carolina, they have invested in advancing their mission through early intervention for students in danger of falling behind and innovative teacher training to catch and correct the problem.

Out of a shared commitment to make sure every North Carolina schoolchild reads well by the fifth grade, a unique partnership between the Mebane Foundation and the North Carolina Public Charter School Accelerator has blossomed.

Our organization spoke with Larry Colbourne, Executive Director of the Mebane Charitable Foundation, about the Foundation’s vision and goals for its partnership with the North Carolina Public Charter School Accelerator.

What is the mission and vision of the Mebane Foundation?

Larry Colbourne:
We believe that by fifth grade every child in North Carolina should be proficient in reading and reading comprehension. Therefore, the Foundation is committed to strengthening early childhood literacy, grades K-5, through collaborative, innovative and quality initiatives.

What segment of North Carolina does the Mebane Foundation look to serve and why?

Larry Colbourne: The Foundation seeks to support mainly rural systems and schools. Our founder, the late Mr. Allen Mebane, understood very well that the urban/metropolitan systems and schools had needs, but always believed that 80% of the state was rural and felt the Foundation’s efforts would be better served in those smaller, more remote areas. Also, many of Mr. Mebane’s employees that worked in his Unifi plants came from rural school backgrounds.

How did the Mebane Foundation first become introduced to the North Carolina Public Charter School Accelerator and why this partnership?

Larry Colbourne: Although we were aware of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC) and its good work in North Carolina, our initial introduction was through Mr. Bill Cobey, current Chairman of the North Carolina Board of Education and friend of one of the Mebane Foundation board members, Mr. Eddie Smith. After a conversation with Mr. Cobey, we thought it would be good to explore opportunities and possible partnerships with PEFNC. The best fit seemed to lie with the North Carolina Public Charter School Accelerator program and how we might be able to add value in the literacy arena for new elementary schools that are granted a charter.

The Mebane Foundation’s recent investment in the North Carolina Public Charter School Accelerator focuses on literacy training for teachers. How does this focus specifically fit with the vision of The Mebane Foundation?

Larry Colbourne: Our vision has always been to ensure that all children have access to strong literacy programs and interventions, no matter where they are taking place. The North Carolina Public Charter School Accelerator offers a great service to new school leadership teams on the front end of their planning process, so we see our relationships and expertise in this field as a natural add-on/fit for that program. We just want to be part of the process on the front end so we can ensure the quality of the literacy interventions and processes at each of these schools when their doors open. We do the same for traditional public schools and systems around the state.

The Foundation recently made an investment in the Department of Public Instruction’s (DPI) efforts on literacy. Tell us about what you seek to accomplish?

Larry Colbourne: Recently the state signed off on the Excellent Public Schools Act and North Carolina Read to Achieve. Initially, the Mebane Foundation reached out with a small offer of support to the Department of Public Instruction for literacy intervention training for teachers who will be working in the mandatory summer reading camps and play a key role in the larger Read to Achieve initiative. We’ve had a long-standing and great relationship with The Hill Center in Durham, and as a result we have offered to fund training for summer camp teachers at The Hill Center. We’ve also been able to extensively leverage this partnership in the North Carolina Public Charter School Accelerator initiative.

Knowing the Mebane Foundation will be focusing on literacy investment moving forward, how do you see the partnership between the Foundation and the North Carolina Public Charter School Accelerator developing, especially as it relates to public charter school sector?

Larry Colbourne: Going forward, we see ourselves more as facilitators bringing high-quality reading intervention experts and organizations to the table with groups such as PEFNC and its Accelerator, as well as offering support to the traditional public system to include individual schools, school systems and DPI if they want our support and input.