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Gwinnett Schools, Bush Institute Form Partnership

Top officials meet with the former first lady Monday in Atlanta.

The Gwinnett County school system, the state's largest, has formed a partnership with theGeorge W. Bush Institute aimed at changing the way school principals are selected, trained and evaluated.

Gwinnett Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks and Board Chairman Robert McClure met Monday with former first lady Laura Bush, a former teacher, and Georgia first lady Sandra Deal in Atlanta as part of the effort. The Bush program is called Alliance to Reform Education Leadership and was announced by Laura Bush in September 2010.

“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, in a media release. “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.”

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, according to a Bush Center media release. 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 the University of Georgia and University of West Georgia.

“Not just anyone can be a successful principal today,” Wilbanks said in a release. “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," Wilbanks continued. "That is why Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) launched its “Quality-Plus Leader Academy” (QPLA) Aspiring Principal Program.”

Funding for AREL has been provided by AT&T and the Bradley Foundation.

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