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.