Project L.I.F.T. Announces Executive Director
Successful CMS Principal Tapped to Join Effort
July 13, 2011 (Charlotte) – Officials from Project L.I.F.T. announced today they have named Denise Watts as executive director.
Watts, currently the secondary central zone superintendent for CMS, has also served as a middle school principal and teacher. Watts was the North Carolina Middle Level Principal of the Year in 2008-2009. She will report to a board of directors to be named in the coming weeks.
“Denise is a dynamic leader with proven and measurable results in improving teacher effectiveness, enhancing school culture, and increasing student achievement – all terrific attributes she will bring to the 7500 students in Project L.I.F.T.,” said Anna Nelson, a representative of the C.D. Spangler Foundation and co-chair of Project L.I.F.T. “Her passion for eliminating the student achievement gap in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools is inspiring.”
Project L.I.F.T. co-chair Richard “Stick” Williams, president of the Duke Energy Foundation, added, “Denise brings the perfect combination of experience and preparation among a large field of highly qualified candidates. We had qualified applicants from all over the country, and the ideal person was right here in our backyard.”
Project L.I.F.T. (Leadership and Investment For Transformation) is designed to address the achievement gap in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. The program seeks to provide $55 million in private funding over five years, which will support additional services and educational enhancements for students in the West Charlotte corridor, defined as West Charlotte High School and the middle and elementary schools that feed into it.
“I am elated to have the opportunity to lead the groundbreaking efforts of Project L.I.F.T.,” said Watts. “I grew up just like many of these kids, so I feel morally and professionally obligated to work towards ending the dual system of education based on a child's zip code.”
Earlier this year, organizers announced they had intentional contributions in hand of $40.5 million. To date, that amount has increased to more than $43 million. The group had hoped to raise the full $55 million by June 30 of this year. They met on that date to discuss their options, and agreed to extend the fundraising period until June 30, 2012. “A number of important discussions are ongoing with local and national funders,” said Stick Williams. “It has taken longer than we initially thought, but we have a high degree of confidence that we will see additional donors joining this effort.”
In addition, the group stipulated that successful continuation of the project will depend on:
A group of private philanthropists, corporate funders and community leaders has been working on the initiative since September of last year. Based on their study of proven reform models across the country, the group recommended a model for Charlotte. The project will focus on providing the following:
An extensive outreach program is also planned to engage community and business leaders, faith communities and others in ensuring that students get the most out of their educational opportunities.
Initial major contributors to Project L.I.F.T. include:
In addition, a grassroots fundraising campaign has emerged in Charlotte’s African-American community. Pledges and gifts from this campaign currently stand at more than $250,000.
How to Give:
Interested in Giving? Visit www.fftc.org/GivetoLift or call 704.973.4500.
About Foundation For The CarolinasFoundation For The Carolinas is a nonprofit community foundation serving donors and a broad range of charitable purposes in North Carolina and South Carolina. With assets of $932 million, the Foundation encourages and makes possible philanthropic giving by individuals of all means to benefit their communities. Visit www.fftc.org.