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Bush Institute and Georgia's Gwinnett County Public Schools to Reform Education Leadership

September 14, 2012

Today, the George W. Bush Institute added Gwinnett County Public Schools’ Quality Plus Leader Academy to a network of innovators around the country that are changing the way school principals are chosen, trained, evaluated and empowered. AREL (Alliance to Reform Education Leadership), a program that was announced by Mrs. Laura Bush in September, 2010, focuses on enhancing and empowering the performance of America’s school principals as a means to impact student achievement.


“AREL changes the paradigm by which America’s public school principals are recruited, selected, prepared, certified, empowered, compensated, supported, and evaluated,” said Kerri Briggs, director of education reform for the Bush Institute. “Gwinnett County Public Schools is an award-winning district and a leader in school principal development, and we’re excited to work together on the important issue of empowering principals to improve student performance and achievement.”

At a roundtable discussion with Gwinnett County public school officials and principals, First Lady of Georgia Mrs. Sandra Deal joined Mrs. Bush to examine the growing awareness among educators that school leaders are critical to student achievement and school success. With partners like Gwinnett County Public Schools, AREL is focused on developing school leaders who are fully prepared for this role. 

AREL convenes experts from the public and private sectors, as well as academia and the military, to apply proven leadership practices to the important job of educating our children and running effective schools. When fully operational, AREL will be the largest initiative in U.S. history to focus on enhancing the performance of America’s school principals.

In Georgia, other partners include University of Georgia and University of Western Georgia. Gwinnett County Public Schools joins AREL as a model of how school districts can develop uniquely qualified individuals by using best practices in training principals.

“Not just anyone can be a successful principal today,” says CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks. “The demands of the job are great and require exceptional expertise. With enrollments of 1,000 to 3,000 students, staffs as large as 300 people, sizable local budgets, and key performance goals that must be achieved, a principal in Gwinnett is essentially the CEO of a good-sized company. To be effective, a principal must have knowledge, skills, and talent that cannot be acquired in college courses alone, and cannot be mastered without opportunities to learn from outstanding leaders in the profession. That is why Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) launched its ‘Quality-Plus Leader Academy’ (QPLA) Aspiring Principal Program.”

The Bush Institute’s education reform team develops programs to ensure every American student completes high school ready for college or prepared for a good career. Through a national network of innovative training sites, AREL will create an expanded and more rigorous selection process, improve principal training, and change the management context in which principals operate (more authority and increased access to data). Funding for AREL has been generously provided by AT&T and the Bradley Foundation. 

“This unique collaboration provides best practices in executive leadership for our educators, whose dedication and effectiveness is instrumental to student achievement,” said Laura Sanford, assistant vice president, Corporate Contributions, AT&T. “Great school leaders bring about great faculty, and create an environment for effective learning. Our giving is focused on helping our students succeed, which is key to our country remaining a leader in the global economy.”

AT&T is committed to advancing education, strengthening communities and improving lives. As part of its commitment, AT&T launched Aspire in April 2008, a four-year, $100 million commitment to education. AT&T Aspire is one of the largest-ever corporate commitments to address high school success and workforce readiness.

About the George W. Bush Institute: The George W. Bush Institute seeks to improve the human condition through human freedom, education reform, global health, and economic growth. In all its programming, the Institute integrates initiatives that empower women and military servicemen and women. The Bush Institute is the innovation policy arm of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, which includes the Presidential library, located on the campus of SMU in Dallas. For more information, please visit www.bushcenter.com or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Philanthropy at AT&T: AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) is committed to advancing education, strengthening communities and improving lives. Through its philanthropic initiatives and working with other organizations, AT&T has a long history of supporting projects that create learning opportunities; promote academic and economic achievement; and address community needs. In 2010, more than $148.2 million was contributed through corporate-, employee- and AT&T Foundation-giving programs.

About Gwinnett County Public Schools: Gwinnett County Public Schools, located in the metro Atlanta area, is the largest school system in Georgia and continues to grow. The school district serves more than 162,000 students. In fact, one of every five Gwinnett County residents is a GCPS student. The school system is diverse both ethnically and socioeconomically, with 52% of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch. A high-achieving district, Gwinnett County Public Schools, along with its students and teachers, continues to earn recognition. The Gwinnett school system is the winner of the 2010 Broad Prize for Urban Education, the country’s largest education award honoring school districts that demonstrate the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement.