I am the director of the Georgia Governor’s Honors Program.

I accepted the job offer on Friday, April 1, and yesterday the State Board of Education voted to confirm my hiring. It is now official: I am the sixth director of the nation’s premiere summer gifted experience.

What a long, strange trip it’s been.

I attended GHP in 1970 as an art major. At the time, the program was housed on the campus of Wesleyan College in Macon. There were 400 students, and the program was eight weeks long. My life was changed forever, principally by my painting teacher Diane Mize, but also by the entire universe we created on that campus. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by other people who were as curious about everything as I was. When the program was over, I curled up in the back seat of the car and cried all the way back to Newnan.

Forty-one years later, the program is at Valdosta State University, serving 690 students for six weeks. (We’ve been cut to four weeks for this summer for budget reasons.)

The program changed my life again when I began teaching there in 1984. The director of the program, Lonnie Love, hired me to revitalize the media support area, to serve as a liaison between GHP students/staff and the VSU library staff. I taught students how to design, produce, and present their research; back then, we’re talking actual slides and overhead projections. The overwhelming richness of the experience, my amazing faculty peers, the concerts, the performances, the kids, all were even more incredible than when I was a student. I cried most of the way home, not an easy thing to do while hurtling up I-75.

My life changed again when, after serving as the Macintosh computer lab instructor in 1996 and creating the program’s first website, Dr. Joe Searle asked me to become the assistant director for instruction in 1997. It was my job to guide the curriculum, to supervise and support the teachers, and just to make sure that the instructional half of the program worked as advertised. After thirteen summers in that position, I took last summer off, my first in fourteen summers.

At this point, those who don’t know what the Governor’s Honors Program is or how it works can go over and look at the Wikipedia article.

Here’s what many people want to know: yes, I will be leaving Newnan Crossing Elementary. The director position is a 12-month position, and we are heading into the summer even as we speak. I will retire from the Coweta County School System on May 1 (one retires on the first day of the month, I have learned); my last day at school will be Friday, April 29, essentially two weeks from now.

Because of Teacher Retirement System rules, I will have to wait 30 days before I actually start work at the DOE. However, I will not wait until June 1 before plunging in—that’s only three weeks before the staff shows up in Valdosta. I have already volunteered my time working on a couple of pressing needs, and I will spend the next six weeks volunteering even more. For example, we released the list of finalists on the day I was interviewed, and now 690 acceptance forms are waiting on my desk for me to enter the students’ data into the database. We still have three staff positions that have to be filled. I’m also responsible for the Byrd Scholarship, and all paperwork has to be out the door on May 18. All the arrangements with Valdosta State University over classroom space still have to be finalized, as well as a host of other details.

So as tempting as it might be to head off to the south of France for the month of May, I will be commuting to Atlanta on my own dime, plus still helping out at Newnan Crossing. It will be great fun. I’m sure.

I will miss Newnan Crossing without a doubt. It’s a fabulous school to work at: great principal, great staff, fun students, and my media center is a phenomenal space. And this will be the first time ever that I have not worked directly with students. It will be a big wrench to my psyche, to have a “grown-up” job.

But I’m also excited by the opportunity to be the leader of GHP as it heads into its second fifty years. I’ve been teaching in the program for more than half its existence. It’s been a part of my life for more than half of mine. I think I’ve already had a profound impact through my work in the instructional half of the program, and now I look forward to putting my stamp on the program as a whole.

I would be remiss if I did not publicly thank my predecessors: Dr. Joe Searle, director, 1996-2010; Lonnie Love, director, 1983-1995; and Cary Brague, associate director, 2006-2010. Each of these has done all the hard work in shaping the program into what it is now. I am honored to be their heir.

Posted in GHP

12 thoughts on “GHP

  1. WOW! What a blog, Dale! I am so excited for you and for the GH Program as a whole. No one knows more about the entire program than you as a student, an instructor and an administrator! We will all need to chip in for your gas in the next month though! Congratulations! You will be missed at NCES, but what an exciting new adventure for you!

  2. Congratulations to you! You are so deserving and will do a fabulous job but you will surely be missed in the CCSS. Enjoy “retirement” –what fun!

  3. Congrats,Big Brother! I remember when you came home from GHP that first summer and announced to your loving family that “you weren’t sure you could live with average people.” Now, you don’t have to. You can fully embrace the GHPers. They are lucky to have you in their corner.

  4. Congratulations! And thank you so very much! I had the exciting opportunity, just this last summer, to attend the Governor’s Honors Program as a Theatre Major. The experiences I had has forever altered my life. It is funny because the events of which you spoke, the endless tears, and like-hearted, curious peers, were all joys I still miss today. The friends and mentors I met there will always be a part of my life. Please make the program even better than last year! I am absolutely positive you will! The time and effort you put in for those kids is appreciated on a grand scale by a wide variety of individuals, and I again want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  5. I’m so excited for you. There is truly nothing like GHP. You told me when I went in 1992 that it would be an experience that changed me and that I’d make life-long friends. Both were true. I look forward to hearing more about how you improve upon this wonderful program and how alumni of the program can get involved.

  6. Thanks so much for sending this link! “Your journey” is very inspiring! GHP is in great hands!! Please coninue to stay in contact. I will do better with Facebook when I retire!

  7. So Severus becomes Headmaster, does he? I think I’ve read this one.
    Congratulations, Dale!
    You will be excellent.

  8. some members of the summer of ’85 as well as myself are wondering about Lonnie, where he is, how he is, etc . ..

    here is a prophecy . . .i will work for you someday in GHP . . .

  9. Lonnie’s fine–I spoke to him soon after getting the job and we had a nice chat about the history of the program. Learned some things I did not know, needless to say.

    As for your working for us, you know hobbits are always welcome!

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