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Georgia Receives Nearly $3 Million to Launch Leadership Institute for School Improvement

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Atlanta — January 8, 2002

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded Georgia a grant for nearly $3 million to provide professional development for public school principals and superintendents through a new Leadership Institute for School Improvement.

Scheduled to be launched in Spring 2002, the institute is a collaborative project of state government, public schools, higher education, business and the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB). The money will fund professional development in leadership and technology at the institute over a three-year period.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant is part of the foundation’s State Challenge Grants for Leadership Development program, available to all states, which aims to provide every principal and superintendent in public and private schools with access to quality leadership development focused on systems change and technology integration by 2003. The grants are part of a $350 million, three-year commitment to helping all students achieve in the classroom.

“Public-private partnerships are vital to the success of our efforts to improve education in Georgia,” Gov. Roy E. Barnes said. “With initiatives like the State Challenge Grant, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has shown its commitment to strengthening school leadership in our state. Through generous programs like this, our school leaders will be better able to provide Georgia’s students with the type of high-quality educational environment that will help them succeed in school and in life.”

“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is pleased to be a part of this exciting initiative,” said Tom Vander Ark, executive director of education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Strong leadership in our schools is a critical factor in helping all students achieve.”

Gov. Barnes’ Education Reform Study Commission conducted extensive discussions during the fall of 2000 on the issue of preparing educational leaders to bring about school improvements. The governor subsequently asked the University System of Georgia (USG) and the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education (GPEE) to take the lead in developing the leadership institute as a major part of the state’s strategy for effecting the needed changes. Barnes has pledged to match the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant with $3 million in state funds.

The governor appointed a Leadership Institute Executive Committee to coordinate the institute’s start-up. Members include:

  • Ron Newcomb, education advisor to Gov. Barnes
  • Phil Jacobs, president, Georgia BellSouth Telecommunications, Inc.
  • Steve Dolinger, superintendent, Fulton County Schools
  • F.D. Toth, executive secretary, Georgia Professional Standards Commission
  • Tom Upchurch, president, Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education
  • Jan Kettlewell, associate vice chancellor for the P-16 Initiative, University System of Georgia; committee chair and project director.

The committee devised a plan that calls for programs to be phased in over a three-year period. In 2002, the institute’s primary focus will be on current school leaders. A “charter” program for aspiring superintendents and principals will be launched in 2003, and executive programs offering master-principal degrees will be added in 2004. As each phase is implemented, the institute will seek approval for participants to gain credit for re-certification and various levels of certification. During Phase I, organizers will focus on professional-development certification. The type of certification offered during later phases has yet to be determined. Over time, the state hopes to have every educational leader in Georgia receive training through the Leadership Institute for School Improvement.

“School superintendents and principals are in a pivotal position to drive change for student success,” remarked Executive Committee Chair Jan Kettlewell. “This initiative will give them the tools and policy support needed to make a difference.”

The institute will function as a semi-autonomous unit, affiliated with Georgia State University for degree credit.

Additional financial support for the Leadership Institute has come from GPEE, the Board of Regents and a national consortium of the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Education Commission of the States, the National Governor’s Association, the National Association of State Boards of Education and the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The Board of Regents serves as the institute’s fiscal agent. In addition, business partners, the public schools, the University System and SREB contributed loaned executives, school practitioners, and higher education faculty and staff to develop the design for the Leadership Institute.

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