2019 Governor’s Summit on Early Language and Literacy for Educators

Scheduled for June 19-20, 2019, the Governor’s Third Annual Summit on Early Language and Literacy will unite educational leaders, research scholars, policy leaders and the Deal Center’s Governing board to celebrate progress and galvanize state and local action toward the goal of building a community of practice around the science of language and literacy development in a birth to age 8 continuum.


June 19 – 20, 2019


Kilpatrick Hall

Peabody Auditorium at Georgia College

Milledgeville, GA


No Cost.


Malcolm Mitchell

Malcolm Mitchell

Children's book author & NFL Player

A native of Valdosta, Georgia, Malcom Mitchell is a wide receiver for the New England Patriots and an accomplished children’s author. Before beginning his professional career, Malcolm was a communications major at the University of Georgia (UGA), where he pursued his passion for football and literacy with equal vigor. As a student-athlete, Malcom was one of UGA’s top-ten wide receivers of all time. He also frequently read to students at local elementary schools, earning him the position of National Captain of the Allstate Good Works Team – the first UGA student to win this honor. 2015 was a year of new beginnings for Malcolm, as he graduated from UGA and published his first children’s book, “The Magician’s Hat.” In 2016, he was named Children’s Author of the Year by the Georgia Writers Association, was recognized by the Page Turners Make Great Learners Foundation and joined the New England Patriots. In 2017, he signed a deal with Scholastic to publish three more books and became a Super Bowl Champion. While life continues to move quickly for Malcolm – he was recently given the keys to the city of his hometown and received the Youth Literacy Award from the National Read to a Child Organization – he still prioritize his works both on and off the field.

Comer Yates

Comer Yates

Executive Director, Atlanta Speech School

Comer Yates has served for 20 years as Executive Director of the Atlanta Speech School, the nation’s most comprehensive language and literacy center with four schools, five clinics and the Rollins Center for Language and Literacy. Through research based language and literacy instruction and intervention, the School impacts the lives of approximately 1,400 children and adults on its campus and thousands of students across Georgia and the nation through the Rollins Center’s professional development program and its free online Cox Campus (readrightfromthestart.org). The Center coaches teachers on how to break the cycle of illiteracy and resulting poverty for children from families caught in generational lack of access to educational opportunity. Mr. Yates serves as Chair of the Georgia Commission on Hearing Impaired and Deaf Persons. He also serves as Co-Chair of Georgia’s Pathway to Language and Literacy, is on the cabinet of Get Georgia Reading, and is a member of the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Braintrust for Babies.

Lama Farran

Lama Farran

Director, Communication Sciences & Disorders Program, University of West Georgia

Lama K. Farran, Ph.D., CCC-SLP is Associate Professor and Director of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of West Georgia. She is a licensed speech-language pathologist and a certified member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association with more than 20 years of clinical experience. Lama earned a doctorate in early childhood education with a cognate in neuroscience from Georgia State University. Her teaching and research examine the development of language as a foundation for literacy in children from diverse cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic backgrounds with and without neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders. Her scholarly work has been published in interdisciplinary journals such as Reading and Writing, PLoS One, Action in Teacher Education, and International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders. Lama’s research interests include early detection and intervention to improve language and literacy outcomes for all children.

Governor Nathan and Mrs. Sandra Deal

Governor Nathan and Mrs. Sandra Deal

Governor & First Lady

Governor Deal has made investments in education a top priority to strengthen the workforce pipeline that runs from the classroom to the job market. Deal has dedicated more than 50 percent of state funds to education every year he’s been in office, devoting a higher percentage of the budget to K-12 funding than any governor in the past 50 years. First Lady Sandra Deal, the daughter of educators, has dedicated her life to encouraging childhood education. As a Georgia public school teacher, she taught for more than 15 years and retired as a sixth-grade middle school teacher in Hall County. She has furthered those efforts in her role as Georgia’s First Lady, and promoting literacy has been one of her top priorities. As part of her “Read Across Georgia” tour, Sandra has visited and read to all 159 counties and 181 school districts to encourage student reading. To date, she has visited nearly 700 schools in Georgia, encouraging students to love reading and to become “life-long learners.” Like her husband, the First Lady believes a good education is the key to future success.

Ralph Smith

Ralph Smith

Managing Director, The Campaign for Grade Level Reading

Ralph Smith is the managing director of the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, an effort to increase rates of third grade reading proficiency for children from low-income families that includes a network of more than 360 communities, representing 43 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada — with 3,900 local organizations and 450 state and local funders (including 185 United Ways).  Previously, Smith taught Corporations and Securities Law and Education Law and Policy as a member of the Law Faculty at the University of Pennsylvania for two decades, during which time he also served as Chief of Staff and Chief Operating Officer for the School District of Philadelphia. and as a senior advisor to Philadelphia’s mayor on children and family policy. Smith led efforts to design and implement the school district’s landmark voluntary desegregation plan, negotiate some of the nation’s first education reform-driven teacher contracts, and develop Children Achieving, a district-wide blueprint supported by the Annenberg Challenge.  Smith is the founding director of both the National Center on Fathers and Families and the Philadelphia Children’s Network, and a national leader of the Responsible Fatherhood movement.

Peggy Walker

Peggy Walker

Juvenile Court Judge, Douglas County

Judge Peggy H. Walker is the Juvenile Court Judge in Douglas County having served fulltime since 1998. She graduated from Georgia State University with a Master’s Degree in Education and a Juris Doctorate of Law.  She served as President of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges in 2015. She represents NCJFCJ on STRYVE (Striving to Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere) Action Council, a national effort to end youth violence.  She is graduate Harris Fellow of Zero To Three Class of 2005 and was a Senior Fellow at Emory University in 2008.  She served as Chair of the Georgia Commission on Family Violence for two years and served six years on the Commission leading the effort to draft a state plan to end domestic violence. She received the Commission’s Gender Justice Award in 2015, a Big Voice for Children award from Voices for Children in 2016, and Emory University’s EPIC Award for Unsung Devotion for Those Most in Need in 2016. Judge Walker serves as Vice Chair for Child Fatality Review.  She is an active member of the Rotary Club of Douglas County for the past twenty-four years.


20 community teams from across the state including the following:

  • Early Educators (Birth to age 4)
  • K-3 Educators
  • Youth Librarians
  • Literacy Leaders
  • Family Connection Leaders
  • Juvenile Justice Judges
  • University and Technical College Representatives
  • Policy Makers


Working Schedule at a Glance


8:00  9:00 a.m.

Registration and Continental Breakfast

9:00 am 

Welcome from Dr. Kelli Brown, Provost, Georgia College

9:15 am

Opening Address– Malcolm Mitchell: A Literacy Journey

9:45 a.m.

Literacy Changes Lives Porchside Chat between Malcolm Mitchell and Arianne Weldon, Director, Get Georgia Reading Campaign

10:15 am



General Session: (Click to view powerpoint)  Why are so many of our children struggling with early literacy skills?  Exploring Root Causes.

Comer Yates, Executive Director, Atlanta Speech School

11:30 am

Concurrent Sessions #1: Delving Deeper– Exploring Root Causes

12:30 pm

Lunch in University Banquet Room

1:45 pm

General Session: What are the factors that influence a child’s development?  Impacting the Whole Child.

Dr. Lama Farran, Associate Professor, Department of Communication Sciences & Professional Counseling, University of West Georgia

2:45 pm

Concurrent Session #2: Delving Deeper– Impacting the Whole Child

3:30 pm



Best Practice Example, Dr. Hayward Cordy, Executive Director, Oconee RESA

4:20 p.m.

“Literacy Changes Lives” Civic Dinner Roll-Out: Jostin Grimes, Civic Dinners

4:30 p.m.



8:00 – 9:00 am

Continental Breakfast and Registration for those only attending on June 21

9:00 am

Welcome and Introduction: Amy Jacobs, Commissioner, DECAL and Board Chair, Deal Center

9:15 am

Words from Governor Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal

9:45 am

National Pacesetter Award, Ralph Smith, Managing Director, The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

10:30 am


10:50 am

General Session:  How do we make a difference in the futures of our children?  Action Steps.

Peggy Walker, Juvenile Court Judge, Douglas County

11:30 am

Best Practices in Early Language and Literacy at Usher-Collier Heights Elementary School: Jerry Parker III, Principal Usher-Collier Heights Elementary School

12:00 pm

Lunch, University Banquet Room

1:00 pm

Introduction of the Community-Based Early Language and Literacy Innovation Grant Program and Initial Community Planning:   Bridging to Action, Dr. Theresa Magpuri-Lavell, Executive Director, Deal Center

2:00 pm


2:30 pm

Legislative Panel:

Representative Brooks Coleman, Chair, House Education Committee

Representative Joyce Chandler, Member, House Education Committee

Representative Miriam Paris, Member, House Education Committee

3:15 pm

Closing Remarks: Dr. Theresea Magpuri-Lavell, Executive Director, Deal Center