Craven County Partners In Education announces PIE Luncheon

More than 500 educators, business leaders, community members, and elected officials will fill the Riverfront Convention Center of Craven County on June 13, 2023, for the PIE Annual Luncheon. This annual event supports and recognizes the educators in Craven County Schools. PIE awarded over $400,000 through various grants and programs during the 2022-23 school year.

Jason Jones, President of Partners In Education, announced the luncheon would host East Carolina University Head Football Coach, and winner of the Birmingham Bowl, Mike Houston as the keynote speaker. 

Doors open at 11:30 a.m. for seating with the event beginning at noon. Tickets are $30 per person. The Chelsea is catering their famous Shrimp and Grits. John Bircher, an attorney with Davis Hartman Wright and West Craven High alum, will emcee. This event is open to the public. Tickets can be purchased from the PIE Ambassadors or at We suggest you purchase your tickets early because this will surely be another sell-out event.  

Jones explains, “The luncheon is an excellent opportunity for our community to support our public school educators. The event finances PIE Grants, grants awarded to teachers for creative and innovative projects in Craven County Schools’ classrooms that fund materials for technology, science, music, and art projects, along with supplies and books for our students. I’m pleased to announce that PIE awarded over $36,000 in PIE Grants during the 2022-23 school year.”

Brandy Popp, Chair of the Fund-Raising Committee, said she is thrilled to welcome Coach Houston to Craven County. Popp explained, “This year’s theme is ‘Power of the Pirate Nation’. The Pirates capped the year by collecting their first bowl win since 2014 with a 53-29 victory over Coastal Carolina in the 2022 TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl, and we are pleased to have Coach Houston join us!”

Coach Houston, who owns a 102-49 overall record, a combined six conference championships, one FBS bowl victory, and a national title in 12 seasons as a collegiate head coach, is in his fifth year directing East Carolina University’s football program.

The Franklin, N.C. native, who has averaged nearly nine wins per campaign during his career, was formally introduced as the Pirates’ 22nd head coach on Dec. 4, 2018, and immediately began a rebuilding process that has led to consecutive bowl eligibility seasons and one of the highest victory totals (22) for an ECU coach in their first four seasons and notable notched milestones on all three sides of the ball each year.

ECU put together a second-straight winning campaign in 2022, posting an 8-5 overall mark and finishing 4-4 in American Athletic Conference play. The Pirates won three of their first five games, dropping close contests to NC State (21- 20) and Navy (23-20 in double overtime). Sitting at 3-3 halfway through the season, ECU reeled off three consecutive wins – including a 47-45 four-overtime Homecoming victory over Memphis, its most complete effort of the season versus UCF (34-13), and a buzzer-beating road win at BYU (27-24) to earn bowl eligibility for the second-straight year. ECU outlasted Temple 49-46 in the regular season finale, reaching the seven-win mark for the second season in a row.  

Houston is a 1994 graduate of Mars Hill University, where he played tight end for the Lions and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology. On Nov. 16, 2020, Houston was inducted into the MHU Athletic Hall of Fame, following a similar honor at his alma mater Franklin High School in 2014.

Houston, 51, is married to the former Amanda Owen, and they have two sons, Owen Michael and Reid Wilson.

To learn more about PIE grants and programs, how to be a PIE Partner, and to purchase a ticket, contact Darlene Brown, Executive Director, Craven County Partners In Education, at 514-6321 or visit

By Darlene Brown, executive director