The Innovation Project (TIP) brings together forward-thinking North Carolina school district superintendents to find and implement innovative and transformative practices in public education so that students and their communities can thrive.
The Innovation Project formally began on July 1, 2015. Gerry Hancock and Ann McColl founded the program as a service of the Raleigh law firm, Everett Gaskins Hancock LLP. The project began with ten superintendents who came together to seek innovative approaches to strengthening public education.
Gerry Hancock, a senior partner at Everett Gaskins Hancock has a legacy of establishing non-profit organizations that meet the needs of North Carolina, including the Public School Forum, the NC Biotech Center, NC Center for Public Policy Research, and EdNC. Ann McColl had served in a number of legal and policy positions within public education, including for the State Board of Education and as an associate professor at UNC Charlotte. Their vision was to create the space for addressing issues at the local level by bringing together forward-thinking superintendents and offering their expertise in policy and program development.
Within the first few months, TIP established a partnership with Dr. Roland Fryer and Harvard EdLabs to conduct a study on principal incentives within schools in TIP districts. TIP also received a grant from Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation of $150,000 during its first year.
By the beginning of year two – July 1, 2016 – TIP’s membership had grown to superintendents from 22 districts. Gerry and Ann were joined by other collaborators that could help respond to the needs of TIP superintendents. TIP also created a non-profit in order to manage partnerships and grant opportunities.
By the Spring of 2017, TIP was ready to move from the law firm into the non-profit. By then, TIP had established multiple partnerships and had grants from Z. Smith Reynolds and the Belk Foundation. Initiatives like the Restart Collaborative had grown and were ready for a non-profit home.
With the agreement of the TIP membership, TIP created its first board of superintendents who have assumed responsibility for the organization. Dr. Jim Merrill, superintendent of Wake County Schools served as the chair until his retirement. Dr. William Harrison, superintendent of Alamance-Burlington Schools is the current chair. Ann McColl serves as the chief executive officer. Gerry Hancock serves as senior advisor to the board.