Experienced educator with 20 years in the field, Ms. Celeta Thomas-Watson is a proven “turnaround leader expert. ”Celeta’s experience includes private, public, and higher education. Currently, Celeta serves as Senior Director of Leader Development for Cognia, a national school and college accreditation organization.
Guided by the educational mandates to educate the whole child, Celeta holds the core belief that all students have greatness within them.
Celeta’s extensive work in school, district, and state turnaround speak to this mission. She has served in various district and state leadership roles throughout her career, including the Superintendent of one of Georgia’s lowest-performing school systems in rural Georgia.
Celeta led the district in regaining its accreditation after a two-year probationary period. The district’s overall SACS/ AdvancED accreditation score increased by more than 85 points in nine months (from the low 100’s to an index score of 223).
In addition to increasing the system’s accreditation score, Ms. Thomas updated and revised more than 284 policies during her tenure as superintendent.
Prior to serving as superintendent, Celeta served as both an Assistant Superintendent and a Federal Programs Director. Celeta has several key areas of expertise that support district improvement and turnaround. She is noted for her skills in performance evaluations and goals setting, STEM curriculum, and instruction writing grants, and establishing partnerships.
As a building-level leader in Jacksonville, Florida, Celeta moved her middle school from an “F” designation to a “C” designation and in her first central office position with the Clayton County
An exSchools System, Celeta’ s leadership resulted in verifiable gains. A total of 80 percent of the Title I schools under her purview made tremendous gains and were removed from the states’ need’s improvement list.
In addition to her work in school systems, she has also served the Georgia Department of Education in the office of School Turnaround/ School Improvement as a School Improvement and Professional Learning Specialist. In this position, Celeta organized state-wide professional learnings and led and trained over 5,000 plus Georgia leaders assigned to low-performing schools.
Celeta's educational journey includes earned degrees from Grambling State University, Savannah State University, and Walden University. She is currently enrolled in the educational leadership doctoral program at Cornell University. In addition to her enrollment in degree-granting programs, Celeta was accepted into the Harvard Institute for Superintendents and District Leaders.
Celeta is dedicated to teaching and learning and has shared her experiences presenting on the national stage. Celeta is working on publishing her book for school leaders “Maintaining the Maintenance”. Celeta has recently been inducted into the International Society of Women Professionals. She has shared her turnaround work in Chicago, Illinois, Providence, Rhode Island, Dallas, Texas, and Miami, Florida. she has also worked on educational projects and served as a national grant writer/reviewer for the U.S. Department of Education with the focus on Innovation Literacy Projects for Higher Education.
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