NC Experts to Lead Pathways Design Teams

Six North Carolina early childhood experts will lead statewide teams in developing policy, practice, program and capacity-building strategies to move the needle on third grade reading proficiency. The Design Teams are the third phase of the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Initiative.

Pathways Design Teams will build strategies around key factors that impact third grade reading outcomes, including children’s social-emotional health, high quality birth-through-age-eight early care and education, and regular school attendance. Pathways Design Team co-chairs include:

Children’s Social-Emotional Health Team Co-Chairs

Kathy Vail Pope
Kathy Pope is a dedicated child advocate and community leader and is  Board Chair of Preventing Child Abuse North Carolina (PCANC).
Phillip H. Redmond, Jr.
Philip Redmond is the director of the Child Care Division of The Duke  Endowment and chairs the board of directors for the Council on  Accreditation.


High Quality Birth-through-Age-Eight Early Care and Education Team Co-Chairs

Patricia Beier
Patricia Beier serves as Executive Director for WAGES, a large community action agency In Wayne County, North Carolina, and serves on several statewide and regional and national Boards.
Cyndi Soter O’Neil
Cyndi Soter O’Neil serves as senior policy advisor for ChildTrust Foundation, which supports systemic impact in early childhood education and literacy efforts for under-resourced families in NC.


Regular School Attendance Team Co-Chairs

Steve Lassiter
Steve Lassiter was the Wells Fargo North Carolina Principal of the Year in 2015, and currently serves as the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and Auxiliary Services for Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools.
Dr. Gerri L. Mattson
Dr. Gerri Mattson works in the Children and Youth Branch in the NC Division of Public Health, and practices medicine part time in a local health department pediatric clinic setting.


The NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Project is creating partnerships among the state’s early learning and education, public agency, policy, philanthropic and business leaders to define a common vision, shared measures of success and coordinated strategies that support children’s optimal development beginning at birth. It is co-convened by the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF) in partnership with NC ChildNC Partnership for Children and Excellence (BEST NC).

During the first two phases of the work, Pathways partners created a framework of shared measures of success along the Pathway to Grade-Level Reading and considered the North Carolina data behind those measures. In March, partners agreed on seven measures to move to action on first, based on the data. Kicking off in June, the three Design Teams will build strategies for action around those seven measures.

These six NC experts join an impressive roster of other leaders who have guided the Pathways work to date, including a Data Action Team of 30 experts from North Carolina’s leading universities, research institutes, government agencies, businesses and think tanks who identified the measures for the Pathways Measures of Success framework; and Learning Teams that considered the North Carolina data and context around the measures of success, focused on the Pathways goals. The Pathways Learning Teams were led by:

Health and Development on Track, Beginning at Birth Learning Team:

  • Meghan Shanahan, research assistant professor of Maternal and Child Health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, and research scientist at the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center
  • Jennifer Zuckerman, director of strategic partnerships for the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) Foundation

Supported and Supportive Families and Communities Learning Team:

  • Amy Hawn Nelson, director of social research for the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and the director of the Institute for Social Capital, Inc.
  • Tamika Williams, program officer at The Duke Endowment

High Quality Birth-to-Eight Learning Environments, with Regular Attendance Team:

  • Khari Garvin, senior director of Head Start programs for Save the Children
  • Terry Stoops, director of research and education policy studies at the John Locke Foundation

The Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Initiative is focus on early literacy because reading in the early grades predicts high school and later success. Those who read well, go on to graduate, but those who aren’t reading well by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. Only 38 percent of North Carolina fourth graders and 25 percent of students from economically disadvantaged families scored at or above reading proficiency on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2015. To be successful readers, children need health and development on track beginning at birth, supportive and supported families and high quality birth-to-eight early care and education.