Timeline of History
In 2009, GAEL celebrated its 35th year of service to educational leaders throughout Georgia. During that time, the organization has grown from a first-year membership count of 190 to a current membership roll of more than 1600. Services have expanded from a single summer conference to a wide variety of membership support activities, including two annual conferences, a secretary/school support staff conference, legislative representation, insurance programs, etc.
GAEL was organized on June 7, 1974. Prior to this time, several administrator groups had been meeting separately, often in the same building at the same times. GAEL was conceived as an “umbrella” organization or confederation that would bring these existing groups together to discuss and act upon issues that the groups had in common.
At the June 7 meeting, representatives of elementary, middle, and secondary principals and superintendents met in Griffin. A constitution committee was appointed with Aulbert Kinsaul, principal of Swainsboro Elementary as chairman. H. M. Fulbright, then superintendent in Carrollton City, was named chairman of the organization committee and also served as founding president for 1974-75. GAEL was officially constituted on July 22, 1975.
The 1975-76 officers (and their positions at the time) were: President, J. Wesley Hardy, principal, Kittredge Open Campus School, DeKalb; President elect, Oliver Greene, principal, Troup County Jr. High; Secretary, Otis Abernathy, superintendent, Troup County; Treasurer, Dot Rainey, principal, West Town Elementary, Dougherty County. Membership dues for 1975-76 were set at $15.00.
The first GAEL Summer Conference was held on Jekyll Island in July, 1975. Attendance records for the first conference have been lost, but 460 educational leaders attended the 1976 summer conference. In 1979 the first GAEL Winter Conference was held at Atlanta’s Century Center. Fifty-eight educational leaders registered for this conference.
H. M. Fulbright served as part-time executive secretary of GAEL from 1974 until he was named full-time executive director in February, 1982. John Yates was employed as executive director when Dr. Fulbright resigned to accept the position of president of Truett-McConnell College. Jim Puckett became executive director upon John Yates’ retirement in 1996. Dr. Puckett retired in 2008 and was succeeded by Stuart Bennett.
Charles Musselwhite served as assistant director from 1988 until his retirement in 1996.
The GAEL office was first located on the campus of West Georgia College. It was moved to Dahlonega in 1987 and then to Flowery Branch in February, 1998. In January 2012, the GAEL office relocated to its' present location on the campus of the University of Georgia in the River's Crossing Building. At one time it was housed in the basement of the North Georgia College infirmary. Charles Musselwhite was convinced that every illness brought by students to the infirmary ultimately afflicted the GAEL staff.
Good leadership is essential to good organizations. It is obvious as we look back at the history of GAEL, its’ founders recognized the definite need for providing support to educational leaders. These founders provided a structure to meet this need, one that has met the test of time. Throughout these 35 years, their successors in various GAEL leadership positions have built upon these foundations to expand and strengthen the organization, its services, and the delivery of these services. Their work has contributed to the “professionalism” of educational leadership.