Dr. Lori Ward-Rodgers: Transforming Students’ Lives in Central Georgia
Dr. Lori Rodgers, Assistant Superintendent of District Effectiveness in Bibb County Public School District, received the 2022 All In for Students: Education Partner Award for her two decades of leadership in Georgia schools and 11 years of local support and partnership with Communities In Schools of Central Georgia.
“My journey with Communities In Schools® (CIS®) started nearly 20 years ago. I was a teacher in a rural county in Georgia. As I moved into another role in education, I had the pleasure of meeting Taryn Collinsworth (CEO, CIS of Central Georgia),” said Dr. Lori Ward-Rodgers, Assistant Superintendent of District Effectiveness in the Bibb County Public School District in Georgia.
In 2011, Dr. Ward-Rodgers recruited CIS of Central Georgia (CIS of CG) as a partner in the federal GEAR UP initiative in Bibb County Schools. The initiative was a collaboration of institutions of higher education and community partners led by the Bibb County Public Schools. The GEAR UP initiative gave students early awareness and access to college and career opportunities that they would not have had otherwise.
“As we began work on the GEAR UP initiative, the graduation rate in the Bibb County Public Schools hovered at close to 50%. Moving the graduation rate forward became the focus of the collaborative initiative. The plan was to do this by working with a cohort of middle school students and serving them through graduation and beyond,” explained Collinsworth.
Dr. Rodgers’ vision, leadership, and strategic support fueled the success of GEAR UP. Guided by Dr. Rodgers, the partners met monthly as a group and individually with the leadership team to collaborate, develop strategies and discuss best practices in implementation. The upward movement of the graduation rate from the beginning of the initiative in 2011 through 2018, when the final members of the cohort graduated, was an amazing 26.2 percentage points. More than 1,000 of those students continued on to college.
“My mission as an education partner with Communities In Schools is to help transform student lives, to be there to fill in the gaps, to connect the resources needed for each student to be successful. Success does not mean the same for each student. Once we know what a student needs, there’s a caring adult in the building for those students,” said Dr. Rodgers.
All partners were proud to be a part of Dr. Rodger’s carefully guided success. Though GEAR UP ended, Dr. Rodgers has continued to manage resources and develop partnerships in support of instructional excellence. In addition, she has continued to contract with CIS of CG to provide CIS services in district schools. Last year, she contracted with CIS of CG to bring CIS services into 12 schools in the district with a focus on the successful return to school.
I’m able to connect the schools, principals, and staff with the community partners that are able to provide after school programming. And my hope and aspiration is that one day we can have CIS staff in every building in the Bibb country school district.
CIS of CG continues to work with a variety of state, city and neighborhood partners to provide clothing to students and families, stock school supply closets, make referrals for eyeglasses, food, housing, employment and family mental health support. CIS of CG works with parenting teens to find healthy sustainable solutions for their new families.
CIS of CG and Bibb County School District have formed a strong partnership committed to transformational change for the students they serve.
“Being all in means that I’ve done everything possible so that a child received what he or she needed to be successful for that day—and that’s important,” emphasized Dr. Rodgers.
Thank you, Dr. Rodgers, for showing what it means to be #AllinforKids! Watch Dr. Rodgers' story below.