Timeline of History
In 2022, GAEL celebrated its 48th 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 2400 today. Services have expanded from a single summer conference to a wide variety of membership support activities, including providing two annual conferences, leading an annual aspiring principals academy, facilitating virtual collaboration networks for leaders, and committing to legislative and policy advocacy with government partners.
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. In light of this state of affairs, GAEL was conceived as an “umbrella” organization that would bring these existing groups together to discuss and act upon issues that the groups had in common for the benefit of public education in Georgia.
At the June 7 meeting, representatives of elementary, middle, and secondary principals and superintendents met in Griffin, GA. 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. Charles Musselwhite served as assistant director from 1988 until his retirement in 1996. Dr. Jim Puckett became executive director upon John Yates’s retirement in 1996. Dr. Puckett retired in 2008 and was succeeded by Stuart Bennett until his retirement in 2011. At that time, Dr. Jack Parish was named executive director, who remained for one year until Dr. Jimmy Stokes, also a Past President of GAEL, served faithfully as executive director until his retirement on July 31, 2019. On August 1, 2019, current executive director Robert “Buddy” Costley began his tenure as executive director and steward of the legacy of his predecessors for the GAEL organization.
The GAEL office was first located on the campus of West Georgia College. It was moved to Dahlonega inside the basement of the North Georgia College infirmary in 1987, and Charles Musselwhite was convinced that every illness brought by students to the infirmary ultimately afflicted the GAEL staff! Afterwards, the office was moved to Flowery Branch in February, 1998. Then, on January 1, 2012, the GAEL office relocated under Jack Parish to its present location on the campus of the University of Georgia in the River’s Crossing Building. To this day, we enjoy a wonderful partnership with our host, UGA’s Mary Frances Early College of Education.
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 the years since they created the vision that is now the GAEL organization, their successors in various GAEL leadership positions have built upon these foundations to expand and strengthen the organization, its affiliate and associate organizations, and its support for educational leaders all over Georgia.