ABOUT OUR ASSOCIATION
Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) is a non-profit association of private, independent, and parochial schools throughout the state. The mission of GISA is to advance excellence and collaboration among Georgia’s independent schools by serving the professional growth, advocacy, and interscholastic needs of member schools. Each member school is unique, while sharing a unified commitment to overall excellence, as well as to the nurture and care of the physical, intellectual, social, and moral development of all students.
GISA was established to provide coordination of and services for member schools, dissemination of information between and among the schools, and to join other regional and national bodies in offering leadership on both meaningful and consequential educational issues. In addition, the Association fosters close relations between the member schools, colleges, and public schools within the State of Georgia. The Association also provides academic and athletic competitions among its member schools. While most schools are college preparatory, offering small classes, stressing a rich curriculum, and emphasizing individual attention, independent and parochial schools also encourage each student’s responsibility and service to the community in their policies and programs. Each member school promotes enrollment from all segments of the community. The enrollment in member schools varies from 75 to over 2800, with campuses that are rural, suburban, and metropolitan. Student bodies are predominantly co-educational with a smaller number of schools serving as single-sex schools, wholly boarding, or boarding and day facilities.
The majority of GISA schools are secular, but many are religiously affiliated. All schools admit students without regard to race, color, ethnicity, or national origin, to all the rights, privileges, and programs available within each school. In addition, each member school is required to adhere to a non-discrimination policy in administration of educational policies, admission policies, and financial aid programs to qualified students. Each GISA member school defines its own mission – what programs to offer, who will teach, and how they will teach. A compelling argument can be made that independent and parochial schools are the most accountable schools in America, for they answer directly to their constituencies: the families who choose them and the accrediting agencies that evaluate them. The member schools also foster relationships with alumni who serve as ambassadors of the schools’ traditions to the global community.
Each member school is fully accredited by one or more of the nationally recognized Regional accreditation bodies: AdvancEd / COGNIA, Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS), or the Georgia Accrediting Commission (GAC).
The Association is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS); the Georgia Private Education Council (GPEC); the Council for American Private Education (CAPE), and an affliate member of the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS).
Georgia Independent School Association was formed from the merger of the Georgia Association of Independent Schools (GAIS) and the Southeastern Association of Independent Schools (SEAIS) on July 1, 1986. Mr. Morris Johnson was GISA’s first Executive Director. He served as Executive Director for 15 years and retired in June, 2001. [Mr. Johnson passed away on January 12, 2006, at the age of 73.]
GAIS was founded in 1954 with Dr. William L. Presley, President of The Westminster Schools, Atlanta as its first president. Eleven schools were charter members — in 1986 its membership was 71.
SEAIS was founded in 1969 with Dr. Joe B. Hill, Headmaster of Stratford Academy, Macon as its first president. Twenty schools were charter members; in 1986 its membership stood at 65.
There is a distinctive diversity in the GISA membership (113 at its inception). Included are independent schools with no religious affiliation and schools sponsored by denominations such as Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Church of Christ, Episcopal, and Judaism. There are military schools, schools with boarding facilities, schools for girls only, and schools for boys only, as well as traditional co-ed schools. The preponderant majority of member schools are college preparatory and include grades K-12. Founding dates for GISA schools cover the period from 1845 to the mid-1970’s. The average existence of the member institutions is in the range of the mid-thirties.
The formation of the merged associations played a leading role in the establishment of the Georgia Private Education Council (GPEC) which engaged in several political actions on behalf of its members. Significant achievements in this area include: (1) participation in the Governor’s Honors Program; (2) relief from the state sales tax on certain items purchased by private schools; (3) assistance in defining the role of the Georgia High School Association concerning athletics, with particular reference to the treatment of private schools; (4) establishment of a literary and athletic league for private schools who choose not to participate in the activities of the GHSA.
Since the GPEC came onto the scene, most political action takes place through this organization; wherein, GISA acts in cooperation with representatives of five other Georgia private school groups. The sections of the Georgia compulsory attendance law, the parts pertaining to non-public or private schools were written by GPEC at the request of the Georgia Senate Education Committee and the Governor’s Office.
Mr. Morris C. Johnson, Executive Director (1986 – June 2001) – 15 Years
Dr. Michael Drake, Executive Director (July 2001 – June 2009) – 8 Years
Dr. Jeff Jackson, President (July 2009 – Present)