James E. (Gene) Bottoms has served as director of the Southern Regional Education Board’s High Schools That Work initiative (HSTW) since 1987. In July 1997, Bottoms was promoted to senior vice president of the Southern Regional Education Board, reflecting his role in and SREB’s interest in and commitment to the initiative. HSTW is an effort to improve high schools for career-bound students involving over 1,000 high schools in more than thirty states.
Prior to joining the Southern Regional Education Board, Bottoms served as executive director of the American Vocational Association, where he emphasized academics as an integral part of vocational education at the secondary and postsecondary levels. He served as director of educational improvement for the Georgia Department of Education for thirteen years, overseeing improvement efforts in both vocational and academic education.
In September 1995, Bottoms received the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education. This award is presented annually to individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of knowledge through education.
In 2000, he was appointed to the National Commission on the Senior Year, which was created by the U.S. Department of Education to examine students’ experiences in their last year of high school.
Bottoms has been a local school teacher, principal, and guidance counselor. He is a native of Georgia and a product of its public school system.