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Pamela Grundy

Six years ago, Shamrock Gardens Elementary was a struggling school with high poverty rates, low test scores, and dilapidated grounds. Most of the middle-class families living in nearby neighborhoods had abandoned it for magnet or private schools – but not North Carolina delegate Pamela Grundy. She saw Shamrock's potential, enrolled her son in kindergarten, and began to work to turn the school around. Pamela negotiated with the school board to help secure resources. She engaged with teachers and staff to build enthusiasm. She wrote multiple grants to develop the school gardens and hold community-building events. She reached out to culturally and economically diverse parents to create an atmosphere that celebrates differences. Today, Shamrock is surrounded by well-tended gardens, and houses a thriving "gifted" program for its advanced students, most of whom come from low-income families. Test scores have risen across the board, and the school recently received statewide recognition for its success in helping close the achievement gap. Teachers who once left the school now call to ask if there are openings, and middle-class families have started to come back. In the process, Grundy has become one of the school district's most visible advocates for low-income students and high-poverty schools. She has fought successfully for guaranteed small classes in the schools that need them most. She writes frequent editorials for the Charlotte Observer, and uses her blog to highlight the real-life challenges and potential of schools such as Shamrock.