Trying to Own What Is Not Yours – BEST NC, Shamrock Gardens Elementary, and Opportunity Culture

When it pertains to academics, it is not a good practice to not cite sources or to claim credit for ideas and concepts that are not yours.

The same applies to the business world especially when it is relates to a business consortium talking about academics.

Simply put, Brenda Berg and BEST NC attempted to take credit where credit was not due to them. In fact, what happened on July 17th when as the CEO and President of BEST NC, she wrote a perspective piece for entitled “Shamrock Gardens Elementary School: A Blueprint for Educator Innovation,” Berg seemed to claim that the ideas used by a unique transformative school  ( validates what BEST NC does.

In reality, she inadvertently validated the power of teachers when they are allowed to be agents of change and given the professional freedom that reform-minded individuals in Raleigh do not respect – the same reform-minded individuals who claim to be using business models.

Mrs. Berg attempted to crudely explain how the transformation of Shamrock Gardens was made possible because of a model that engages “core business principles.” She made statements such as:

  • “That’s why we developed our primary advocacy priority, which we call Educator Innovation.”
  • “In fact, the BEST NC Board and Team was recently extended the privilege to visit this school so that we could better understand how educators utilize many of the core business principles that we believe are critical for empowering great educators and improving student success.”
  • “However, the rest of their recipe for success revolves around sound design principles that private sector employers strive for every day: supporting developing employees, creating clear career paths for leaders, and adapting their delivery of services based on data to meet ever-changing needs.”

There are numerous references to “we” (BEST NC) before the name of Shamrock Gardens Elementary is even mentioned at the end of the second paragraph. It establishes a scenario that what enabled Shamrock Gardens Elementary to change were the very ideas that BEST NC has been championing and sharing.

Two days later, Pamela Grundy, a Charlotte historian, writer, Shamrock Garden parent and public school advocate, penned another piece that clarified what really happened at Shamrock Gardens. She talked of a transformation that took years and was community-driven, not catalyzed by business (

A version of Grundy’s response was recently printed in “The Answer Sheet,” part of The Washington Post (

That version is entitled “The real story of how a failing North Carolina school became a success story” and it begins with this statement.

“Back in May, trustees of the business group BEST NC paid a visit to Shamrock Gardens, my son’s elementary school. They came for a presentation on a new staffing structure called “opportunity culture,” which has been quite successful at Shamrock. The report written by BEST NC’s president, however, overlooked a key reason for Shamrock’s success. This was my response.”

Grundy explained the use of a model called “Opportunity Structure” developed by Public Impact (PI). In fact, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has used that model for years in some of their schools like Shamrock Gardens Elementary (


Clicking on the link for Public Impact, one comes to the website that explains the model and gives clarity for what was used by Shamrock Gardens Elementary.


Ironically, the word “business” shows up on this webpage exactly zero times.

In Berg’s op-ed perspective, she mentions “Opportunity Culture” exactly zero times.

In fact, Berg’s piece highlights BEST NC’s “Educator Innovation Plan” before she even mentions Shamrock Gardens when it had nothing to do with anything that happened with Shamrock Gardens.

Grundy’s perspective in The Washington Post has received lots of reads and while comments are sometimes overlooked, one really stands out because it came from the people who created the Opportunity Culture model. It reads,

“As the chief architects of the Opportunity Culture school models, we appreciate the positive words about Opportunity Culture.

We just want to clarify that Opportunity Culture is not an initiative of any business group. While we appreciate and laud philanthropic support from business leaders for schools, we did not consult any business leaders from BEST NC or elsewhere about the design or implementation of Opportunity Culture.

Instead, our hardworking team consulted dozens of teachers to design the initial Opportunity Culture school models and have improved them with input of hundreds of teachers, principals and other school staff. Teachers, principals and other staff in schools are ultimately responsible for the successes that many OC schools, Shamrock included, have achieved for students. The OC models simply give educators the roles and collaboration time to ensure learning success for more students — and pay teachers more for this.

As you note, at Shamrock, and elsewhere, Opportunity Culture does not stand alone. We very much respect, and count on, the many complimentary efforts of teachers, staff, parents, and communities to serve children and improve schools.”

Respectfully, Emily Ayscue Hassel and Bryan C. Hassel

Read it again. Among other things, it states that what happened was the use of a model that was created by teachers, principals, and other staff members.

Also they make perfectly clear:

  • Opportunity Culture is not an initiative of any business group.
  • …we did not consult any business leaders from BEST NC or elsewhere about the design or implementation of Opportunity Culture…
  • …our hardworking team consulted dozens of teachers to design the initial Opportunity Culture.
  • The OC models simply give educators the roles and collaboration time to ensure learning success for more students…

What Mrs. Berg saw as an opportunity to tout the business model reform structure championed by BEST NC for public education was really an attempt to steal credit for something that educators and community members did.

Taking credit for something that is not yours in academic classrooms is called “plagiarism.” It happens in the business world when using concepts, ideas, and branding from another entity and not giving credit.

Not once did Berg talk about the very model used by Shamrock Gardens Elementary when it was clearly identified by Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools and people at Shamrock Gardens.

The chief architects of the Opportunity Culture model went out of their way to explain how they never consulted BEST NC or the business community in creating this model. They gave credit to teachers as they view teachers as the catalysts for change.

But Berg did go out of her way to promote BEST NC and how what is in its “Educator Innovation Plan” had obviously been in good practice at Shamrock Elementary.

What Berg did and what she purposes as the goals of BEST NC are not what is needed in North Carolina. We have the teachers. We have the communities.

What we need is for people to get out of the way and for legislature to remove obstacles instead of being one.

This North Carolina General Assembly has already gone out of its way to ram a business model into public education with non-innovative ideas like unregulated charter schools, vouchers, and Achievement School Districts with nothing to show for it except elevated language, unproven claims, and fatter pockets for for-profit companies.

It seems that if BEST NC really wanted to improve public education in North Carolina, it would help remove those obstacles instead of trying to garner credit for something it did not do.

It would also help if BEST NC and Mrs. Berg did more background research like examining what Shamrock Gardens Elementary and Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools did to create such positive changes.

It wouldn’t take long for them to find out about Public Impact and the Opportunity Culture Model which is trademarked. They are literally right down the road from BEST NC’s Raleigh headquarters.

In Chapel Hill.