The Governor’s Rural Education Foundation


A Request for Proposal

The Governor’s Rural Education Foundation (GREF) is an initiative by Governor Bill Lee to improve college access opportunities and college readiness skills for Tennessee students.  To achieve this mission GREF has chosen to work with The Ayers Foundation, due to its success of increasing the rates of college attendance and completion in the schools and communities that it currently serves, to implement and expand its Ayers Foundation Scholars Program model.  To facilitate this expansion and to separately monitor its results, the founder of The Ayers Foundation created TAF Rural Expansion Foundation (REF), a non-profit organization. REF will utilize The Ayers Foundation Scholars Program model to serve rural schools and communities not currently being served by The Ayers Foundation and the AFSP.

Outsized Outcome Measures: A Spotlight on Perry County

As of 2019, Perry County (the only distressed county currently served by AFSP) has the highest college-going rate in the state of Tennessee, outperforming several of the state’s wealthiest counties. These exceptional college-going rates can be attributed to the success of the AFSP, which has been at Perry County High School since 2010. Prior to AFSP, Perry County High School sent only 57% of its graduates to a postsecondary program, but now that number is over 85%. And the high school graduates from Perry County are progressing or completing at an unprecedented rate of 82%.



Key Considerations for Applicants


  • Only school districts in officially designated distressed and at-risk counties may apply. If there is more than one school district in the designated at-risk or distressed county, the interested school districts must apply together to represent the county.
  • Full time AFSPM counselors will be selected and employed by REF in a supportive partnership with the school district. The REF counselor will be accountable to the AFSPM team in a unique hosting partnership with the school district.
  • Participating school districts will have no required financial obligation or investment match regarding the partnership and implementation of the AFSPM. However, the school district must commit to providing a full-time school-based private office for the AFSPM
  • The school district must commit to ensuring that AFSPM counselors remain independent and are focused solely on student counseling, support and mentorship with the goal of ensuring that every student has a postsecondary opportunity and that they succeed in that postsecondary pursuit.
  • The number of AFSPM counselors in a rural school district will depend on the student population and the number of high schools in the county. In short, the number of counselors provided by the AFSPM depends on the student population to make sure that every student is engaged personally and comprehensively.


Find full details on the requirements and responsibilities of districts and ASFPM in the RFP below.

Submit Your RFP Response by June 18th

Questions & Answers

After reviewing the RFP, potential applicants may submit clarifying questions via the form below by Tuesday, June 8th. Answers will be posted below no later than Friday, June 11th.





  1. In a county where there is more than one district, do all special school districts need to apply together?
    • Yes, all districts in the county must apply together.
  2. Is the number of counselors determined by K-12 enrollment, or only by high school enrollment?
    • High school enrollment determines the number of counselors placed in the county.
  3. If there is more than one high school in a county and the county’s high school students are spread out across a wide geographic area, can the AFSPM still work for us?
    • Yes; AFSP currently serves districts with more than one high school.
  4. Do Ayers counselors help students that do not go to college to find employment? 
    • Our counselors are committed to making sure that every student has a meaningful and successful postsecondary experience. Our partnership is anchored in the shared belief that every high school graduate will have a postsecondary experience that opens more doors of opportunity - including those at TCATs, community colleges, four-year universities, and the military. To ensure counselors can remain fully focused on finding the right postsecondary opportunities for their students, counselors are not tasked with helping students find employment without a postsecondary credential.
  5. Will applications for AFSPM counselor positions be accepted from local applicants?
    • Yes, applications are being accepted from applicants from local counties but are not limited to a certain geographic area.  Local applicants are encouraged to apply, and we will select the best applicant for the position. Information is available at
  6. Will the district have input in who is hired as an AFSPM counselor in their high school(s)?
    • While the Ayers Foundation will make final hiring decisions, districts are highly encouraged to share the job posting and to assist with recommendations.  A point of contact from the district to discuss potential new hires will be needed.
  7. What are the qualifications to be considered for the AFSPM counselor position? What is the salary range? Are there benefits for this position?
  8. Will the AFSPM counselors be responsible for providing a postsecondary plan for each individual student regardless of whether the student seeks out the support?
    • Yes, our counselors serve 100% of the student population enrolled at the high schools they serve.
  9. How long is the grant? How long will the district have this support from AFSPM?
    • It is our desire to be a long term partner with the district and community. Agreements with partners will be discussed in more detail during the MOU process.
  10. Will the school system be responsible for any of the funding for the counselor(s) or the program?
    • New, recurring state funding through the Governor’s Rural Education Foundation initiative means that districts will not be responsible for any additional costs. Districts will, however, will be responsible for the following: 
      • Providing private workspace, access to equipment/technology as requested and an onsite mentor to help the counselor integrate 
      • Providing ongoing access to students, including counselors in planning for postsecondary
      • Helping connect each counselor to the local business community and postsecondary institutions
      • Providing feedback to AFSP on the counselor’s performance and the program
      • Collecting and sharing information and data as set out in data agreement 
      • Using best efforts to provide the foundation and counselors with the access and support needed to make the program a success
  11. We have an Advise TN counselor currently in place that is a local person and we are also very happy with her. Would the Ayers Foundation work cooperatively with the Advise TN counselor, and if the two programs cannot coexist, would Ayers be willing to hire our counselors for the Ayers program?
    • To partner with your district, AFSPM must be the county’s official TN Promise Partnering Organization. That being said, we are interested in your thoughts and ideas on how AFSPM might interact and/or engage with any pre-existing college access programs. We hope you will include any ideas you have for how this might work in your RFP responses.  We will also discuss partnerships in depth during finalist interviews, June 21-25.