THE MISSION OF THE GEORGIA ASSOCIATION FOR GIFTED CHILDREN IS TO ADVOCATE FOR GIFTED CHILDREN AND YOUTH BY WORKING WITH EDUCATORS, PARENTS, POLICY-MAKERS, AND THE COMMUNITY TO MEET THE NEEDS OF THE GIFTED.
Our purpose is:
HISTORY OF GAGC
Submitted by: Ruth Cowan, GAGC Past President
Georgia Supporters for the Gifted, the original name of the organization, was the brainchild of Dr. Leonard Lucito. Dr. Lucito, a professor of gifted education at Georgia State University, put together a steering committee of gifted educators, business people, parents, graduate students, and community people to work on designing GSG. The charter for the organization was signed by numerous folks who attended the organization meeting in the fall of 1977 on the campus of Augusta College in Augusta, Georgia. The plan for the organization was presented and several committees were formed and met during the day. (I joined the Local Chapter Assistance Committee and two years later, found myself the chair of the committee.) Each committee reported back to the total group of over 300 people.
Dr. Ed Martin, the first president of the organization was on the faculty of Oglethorpe College. He was a firm believer in the mission of Georgia Supporters for the Gifted. The initial plan was modeled after the design of the National Association for Gifted Children with elected officers and a paid administrator who would handle the day to day operations of the organization. Funding such a position was a problem from the start. Seeking soft money in the form of grants and finding someone who was willing to take on the position for a small salary was not realized.
During the early days of the organization, there was a flurry of interest followed by a massive departure of interest. The strength of organizations for gifted education in the State of Georgia was in the Georgia Association of Gifted Education (GAGE), a statewide organization run primarily by gifted educators. This organization met annually at the time of the annual conference sponsored by the State Department of Education, Gifted Program Division. At the time of the death of the state coordinator of gifted educator, Miss Margaret Bynum, in February 1982, GAGE was still the primary organization for gifted education and GSG was dwindling in membership and leadership.
Following Miss Bynum’s death, state conferences ceased, state dollars for staff development were cut off and the State Advisory Organization, sponsored by the Department of Education, was dismantled. Miss Bynum was gifted education and her death left an abyss of great magnitude. A small group of gifted educators held onto the ideas and mission of Dr. Lucito in Georgia Supporters for Gifted Educator. Annual conferences continued to be held with only a few people in attendance. Falcon Training facility in Suwanee, History Village Inn in Athens, the Ramada Hotel across from the Atlanta Stadium, Best Western Hotel in Savannah, Holiday Inn in Calloway Gardens are just a few places where conferences were held in an effort to try to attract folks to some of the tourist locations. Yet, folks continued to wait on the State Department of Education to once again provide staff development through statewide conferences as they had known them during Miss Bynum’s lifetime. It didn’t happen. At one point, fewer than five people were holding onto the ropes trying to keep GSG and its mission alive. It was not uncommon for two to three people to meet as the GSG board and council.
It was not long into these lean years that the elected officers of GSG realized that the original plan for GSG to have a salaried executive was not going to happen right away. The by-laws were rewritten embracing the current organization format. Volunteers were sought from wherever they could be found. Around 1986, 1987, 1988, it became apparent to gifted education teachers across the state that the Georgia Department of Education would no longer be offering statewide conferences in gifted education. Gifted program teachers and parents of gifted children soon began to look to GSG for support for professional development. Attendance at the conferences, which were now housed at the Continuing Educator Center in Athens, began to grow. The leadership of the organization was convinced that if we would bite the bullet, pay the bucks, and schedule a well-recognized name in gifted education to be the key speaker at the conference, the word would get out and people would begin to take the organization seriously. That’s exactly what happened. Dr. Bertie Kingore, Dr. Jim Webb, Joyce Juntune (executive director of NAGC), were among those who first graced our conferences with their knowledge of gifted education and motivating presentation style.
We were growing. Conference attendance was now up to 75, then 125, then over 150. This was a major breakthrough from the 35 – 40 to which we had grown accustomed. By now the early 1990s were here and GSG was beginning to catch on. Local chapters were beginning to pop up. An attempt to sabotage the organization and its leadership was diverted by the wisdom of the organization’s leadership and the strength of the organization’s membership.
GSG continued to grow. The word was out that one of the best annual conferences was that of Georgia Supporters for the Gifted. Innovative ways to attract conference participants were tried. They worked. Conference participants could count on exciting conference presentations. The quarterly newsletter, which has been a consistent communication vehicle for GSG since its inception, was put together by very competent newsletter editors and was an attraction to the membership as well as other readers. The work of GSG was wide-spread. In the fall of 1994, the leadership of GSG reviewed a proposal for changing the name of the organization to Georgia Association for Gifted Children. The membership approved.
By now, we are well into the era beginning the development of multiple criteria for identifying gifted students. Georgia Supporters for the Gifted showed its real strength through key legislative contacts and picked up the ball and ran with it after it had been dropped. Following the first legislative breakfast hosted by GSG/GAGC, leadership and members crossed the street to the capitol where they met briefly with Representative Charlie Smith (D-Camden County) and Representative Brooks Coleman (R-Gwinnett County) and invited them to support bi-partisan legislation promoting multiple-criteria for identifying gifted students. For one month, the leadership of GAGC worked faithfully with these two legislators and their legislative writers on structuring legislation that would help to identify gifted learners from a more diverse population. In one brief month, this legislation was passed. Now it was up to the Georgia Department of Education to redesign the rule for Gifted Education that embraced this legislation.
A draft of the multiple-criteria rule was presented to the Georgia Board of Education in June 1995. As is customary, the proposed rule would lay on the table for thirty days while giving the public an opportunity to provide feedback. The rule was not acceptable and GAGC went to work contacting gifted program teaches, parents, administrators, and the community. Opposition to the rule came from all corners of the state. GAGC now had a new president who was the Gifted Program Coordinator in a school district that was being reviewed by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) regarding the lack of black students in their gifted program. With OCR’s interest in the development of the rule, the Georgia Board of Education (GBOE) took note of the many objections to the elements present in the proposed rule. At their July meeting, the GBOE reviewed the rule on the table. In light of the responses opposing the rule in its present form, the GBOE charged the State Department personnel to “go back to the drawing board” and work with the leaders of GAGC to make the necessary changes. Challenges to the rule continued to flow to board members. GAGC’s telephone tree was at work. In August the GBOE scheduled a hearing so that they could hear from members of the public as they addressed the proposed rule. The GBOE heard from a room full of gifted education supporters stating their concerns about different elements of the proposed rule. Once again, the GBOE charged the Department of Education personnel to work with the leadership of GAGC and make the necessary changes. In December 1995, once again the GBOE reviewed the proposed rule for Gifted Programs in Georgia. During this time, the National Research Center for Gifted and Talented (NRC/GT), under the leadership of Dr. Mary Frasier, was also working on a major Javits grant to assist in the development of criteria for identifying under-represented populations in five of Georgia’s school districts. With the support of Dr. Frasier and the attorney from the Office of Civil Rights working closely with the GAGC leadership, the requested changes were made. Multiple criteria were out of the gate and GAGC was running with it.
Just a few months after approval of the multiple-criteria rule for Georgia’s Gifted Programs, GAGC hosted the annual conference of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC). This was the first time that NAGC had ever scheduled their annual conference in Georgia. This was a huge success and captured the attention of educational leaders in the state as well as the Atlanta press. GAGC continues to capture the attention of leadership at the Department of Education, the writers of the “Atlanta Constitution”, and key legislators.
As GAGC has grown, it has been necessary to make changes in the organizational structure. However, the purposes and mission of GAGC remain the same with its focus on service to Georgia’s gifted students, gifted education teachers, parents of gifted students, and service to the community.