On Dec. 11, Georgia Charter Schools Association honored Dr. Gavin Samms, Head of Schools for Genesis Innovation Academy, and Jose Perez, Commissioner for the State Charter Schools Commission of Georgia, during GCSA’s annual Holiday Celebration and Recognition of Advocates. During the event at the City Tap House in Atlanta, Dr. Samms and Commissioner Perez received GCSA’s “Champion for Children Award” for their efforts to ensure Georgia children have access to high-quality educational opportunities.
Tony Roberts, GCSA President and CEO, thanked Dr. Samms for his advocacy efforts, particularly for impactful testimony he gave on House Bill 787 before Georgia’s Senate Education Committee in 2018. After gaining approval and being signed into law, the legislation increased the amount of funding for charter schools authorized by the State Charter Schools Commission by millions of dollars. It also secured forward funding for enrollment growth for all Georgia charter schools.
Roberts commended Commissioner Perez for his efforts to expand educational opportunities for students throughout Georgia in his role with the State Charter Schools Commission. Perez also previously served on the State Board of Education, and Roberts told those attending GCSA’s holiday event that Commissioner Perez, “focuses on what’s best for students.” During Commissioner Perez’s time at the State Charter Schools Commission, the SCSC’s portfolio has grown to 35 state charter schools that serve more than 32,000 students in grades K-12.
Commissioner Perez has served on the SCSC since the authorizing body was reestablished in 2013 following the passage of the 2012 Charter School Amendment. He represented the 7th Congressional District on the State Board of Education from 2004-2011.
During his time on the State Board of Education, Perez honed his skills as a state-level charter authorizer as a member of the Charter Committee. The experience also aided in formulating the current approval process for charter schools authorized by the SCSC.
Commissioner Perez is the Retired President of Target Market Trends, Inc. (TMT), a business-consulting firm he founded in 2002. TMT helps clients develop strategies to target markets and increase revenue. He also spent 25 years and retired from BellSouth working in various management capacities as well as an International Consultant with Gartner, Inc.
Commissioner Perez is an American born in Cuba. His parents sent him to live with his grandparents in Key West, Florida at the age of 12 to escape Castro’s regime. He lived in Florida, South Carolina, Texas, and New Jersey, before settling in Peachtree Corners, Georgia in 1983.
Dr. Samms has served as Head of Schools at Genesis Innovation Academy since the school opened in the fall of 2017. Dr. Samms previously served as Principal, Superintendent, and CEO of Fulton Leadership Academy, an all-boys charter school in South Fulton, in 2010-2014. The Academy exceeded state performance objectives in each year under Dr. Samms’ tenure with a population that was 100 percent young men of color.
In addition to work in Georgia charter schools, Dr. Samms was part of the founding leadership team of Harvard’s Education Innovation Laboratory (EdLabs). While there, he managed large scale educational interventions in partnership with urban school districts, including Chicago, New York City, Houston, and Washington D.C. During his tenure, Dr. Samms also trained and coached principals on successful school turnaround strategies.
Dr. Samms also previously served as the Managing Partner for Georgia Tech’s OMED: Educational Services unit, where his team’s nationally recognized efforts led to the closing of the achievement gap between black and white students and helped Georgia Tech become the top producer of African American engineers in the country.
Dr. Samms holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy from Harvard University and Master’s degrees in Industrial and Systems Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.