“Strengthening and reforming the way we educate our children has long been a passion of mine, which is why I have consistently supported Charter Schools in Georgia,” Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said in a press release. “I’m proud to nominate Tom Lewis and Paul Williams to the Charter Schools Commission, two highly-qualified individuals that share my passion for public education. I look forward to working with them during the next few years and congratulate each of the appointees.”
In 2012, the General Assembly passed HB 797, the State Charter Schools Act, which, according to the Georgia Department of Education, “creates a seven-member state level commission that has the power to authorize charter schools. The commission members are appointed by the State Board of Education based on two recommendations for each open seat from the governor, the Lt. Gov. and the Speaker of the House — with the governor providing nominations for three positions, the lieutenant governor providing nominations for two positions and the Speaker providing nominations for two positions.”
“I am pleased to see that the members of the Charter Schools Commission represent a broad cross section of backgrounds and expertise in business, education, non-profits, and government,” Gov. Nathan Deal said. “I know they will take their duty of reviewing charter school petitions and approving high quality charter schools seriously, and I look forward to working with them to improve student learning and achievement across Georgia.”
Lewis said while he acknowledges the controversy surrounding the passing of HB 797, he believes the commission will succeed in serving the education system of Georgia. He said the intent of the commission is to review and evaluate charter applications and recommendations struck down by local school boards, determining whether a charter should otherwise have been approved.
“I think we have a good commission and we’re not going to just grant charters to every community that bickers with its school board,” Lewis said.
House Speaker David Ralston stated, “When Georgians voted to approve the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, they chose to set Georgia on a path that would allow for the creation of additional educational opportunities for students in our state and greater parental involvement. Now, the appointment of the commission marks another important step in providing the options that will ultimately allow all Georgia students to receive the education that they deserve. I am confident that the appointed members will serve the people of Georgia well using their experiences, background and knowledge to make the best decisions for our students and for communities across our state.”
The new State Charter Schools Commission members are:
Governor Deal’s Nominations
Dr. Charles Knapp
• Knapp is an economist and educator. He is the President Emeritus of the University of Georgia, having served as the president of the University of Georgia from 1987 to 1997. Knapp served as president of the Aspen Institute from 1997 to 1999. From 2005 to 2011, he was chairman of the board of the East Lake Foundation, the organization responsible for the highly successful community redevelopment project in Southeast Atlanta. He currently serves on the boards of Aflac, the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students and the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. Knapp received his B.S. degree, with honors and distinction, from Iowa State University and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Wisconsin Madison. Knapp previously served on the Georgia Charter Schools Commission. He and his wife Lynne live in Big Canoe.
• Rippner is an attorney and has spent her career working in education policy. She currently serves as a consultant for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and as a graduate research assistant at the University of Georgia where she is pursuing her Ph.D. in Higher Education. Rippner received her B.A. and J.D. degrees from the University of Florida. She previously worked as a senior policy and legal advisor at Education Counsel, LLC; as education policy advisor to Gov. Sonny Perdue and executive director of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement; charter schools program manager for the Georgia Department of Education and director of the Charter School Accountability Center at Florida State University. Rippner also served as the director of a charter school in Micanopy, Fla. She previously served as chair of the Georgia Charter Schools Commission. She resides in Acworth.
• Lowden is the executive director of STONE Academy, an after-school enrichment program that serves at-risk children in the Macon-Bibb County area. He also serves as a youth pastor at Lundy Chapel Missionary Baptist Church. Mr. Lowden earned his B.A. degree in Government and Economics from the University of Southern California and his M.Div. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served in numerous civic organizations in the Macon-Bibb area, including the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development Board and the board of directors for the Center for Racial Understanding. He was a member of Leadership Georgia’s 2011 class. He lives in Macon.
Lieutenant Governor Cagle’s Nominations
• Lewis has years of experience in state government, economic development and currently in his position as senior vice president for external affairs with Georgia State University. He previously served on the state’s charter commission. As senior vice president for external affairs, Lewis provides Georgia State University with leadership and direction in the areas of government and corporate relations, and serves as the university liaison to federal, state and local governments. He has led Georgia State to new levels of public awareness by directing a comprehensive effort to remake the university’s identity and communicate its unique urban mission. In his 22 years as vice president and senior vice president, he has advanced the university’s legislative agenda, strengthened relations with alumni, engineered an expansive marketing effort and improved Georgia State’s internal and external communications. Lewis came to Georgia State in 1991 from the Office of Gov. Joe Frank Harris, where he served as chief of staff. Prior to joining the governor’s staff, Tom served as executive vice president of the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce from 1978 to 1983, where he guided economic development during a critical period of the county’s growth; and as executive director of the Georgia Franchise Practices Commission from 1974 to 1978, where he developed new standards to regulate this fast-growing industry.
Paul W. Williams
• Williams has more than 30 years of financial experience working with companies in metro and rural Georgia, including his current service as chief financial officer of Brickstream Corporation, and prior CFO and other executive positions at Harvest Advisors, Aldridge, Riverbrooke Capital Partners, Fairfield Financial Services, Colony Management Services, Community Bancshares, Bank Corporation of Georgia, Deloach & Company, and Howard, Moore & McDuffie. He is a licensed CPA, a former board member of the Georgia Society of CPAs, and former adjunct professor of accounting at Mercer University. Williams is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of the J.M. Tull School of Accounting from the University of Georgia and also a graduate of Middle Georgia College. Williams also has been involved in Georgia’s 4-H program.
Speaker Ralston’s Nominations
Jose R. Perez
• Perez served on the State Board of Education as the 7th Congressional District representative from 2004 to 2011. During those years of service, he honed his skills as a state-level charter authorizer as a member of the Charter Committee and helped greatly in formulating the current approval processes which prepares him well for service as a State Charter Schools Commission member. Perez is the President of Target Market Trends, Inc., a Peachtree Corners business consulting firm that helps clients develop market and business strategies that target market trends to increase earnings using fact-based information to leverage the firm’s assets. Perez was born in Havana, Cuba, and his parents sent him to live with his grandparents in Key West, Fla., at the age of 12. He and his wife Yolanda have three children who attended the Norcross Cluster of Gwinnett County Public Schools and all graduated from the University of Georgia. Perez has an M.A. in Economics from Florida Atlantic University, and strongly believes that knowledge and determination are the keys to success.
James E. Hogg
• With more than 30 years in public education at every level from teacher to principal to Regional Education Service Agency administrator to state department of education to technical college director, Hogg’s career demonstrates a deep commitment to working to achieve what is best for students. His experience as interim director for charter schools at the Georgia Department of Education, as well as his work with the Walton County Career Academy in his role as Athens Technical College Walton Campus Director, prepare him for involvement in the creation of high quality charter schools as a state-level charter authorizer.