ABOUT TIPThriving Children and Thriving Communities
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.
How We Do It
TIP seeks superintendents who want to be a part of a close, dynamic community of leaders to rethink, reimagine, and redesign public education with equity and access as foundational goals. We seek to engage in work that enables educators, leaders, and students alike to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, to prepare them for the challenges of learning and leading in the 21st century.
We build networks across our school districts and communities that accelerate and sustain innovation. Our work centers on connecting our superintendent members and their leadership teams with each other and collectively delving into deeper explorations of innovation. Our work is supported and enhanced through partnerships with other education-focused organizations in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
Commitment to the State
While we are committed to maintaining a close community for exploring innovation, we are also committed to scaling change across North Carolina by sharing resources created by TIP. TIP staff also present at conferences, and our members are encouraged to share resources at their regional and state meetings.
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. By 2017, TIP’s growth demanded a more robust organizational structure. We had established multiple strong partnerships and had earned the support of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and the Belk Foundation. Initiatives including our Restart Schools Collaborative had grown exponentially. In light of this early success, TIP ended its incubation in the law firm and became an independent North Carolina nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization. As part of this shift, TIP created its first board of superintendents, which 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 and former State Board chair, served as the next chair. Dr. Tony Jackson of Vance County Schools served as chair from 2018-2021. Dr. Kim Morrison of Mt. Airy City Schools is the current chair. Dr. Sharon L. Contreras has served as the organization’s CEO since September 2022.
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 has served in a number of legal and policy positions within public education since 1991, including as counsel to state organizations for educators, superintendents and administrators and school boards as well as legislative director for the State Board of Education and as an associate professor at UNC Charlotte. Ann also has devoted considerable time to researching and presenting on North Carolina’s constitution in order to explore themes or race equity and courageous leadership in education. 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.