Superintendent's Message - May 2007

Superintendent's Message - May 2007

System highlights recognized for school year 2006-07

In just a short time, the 2006-07 school year will be in the books… and what a year it has been. We had one of our best openings to date, successfully adding thousands of new students and teachers, and opening several classroom additions plus the replacement school for Trickum Middle. In November, voters approved an extension of the one-cent sales tax schools to fund more new schools and classrooms and technology for teachingand learning. We sold $425 million in general obligation bonds to be repaid with that sales tax so we could start the building program early, and we retained our Aaa bond rating from Moody’s Investors Services in the process, a stellar achievement for a large school system.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement visited us in February as we sought district-wide accreditation for the first time. Our schools and the system as a whole came through with flying colors, earning the respect and admiration of the visiting team, which gave GCPS an exemplary rating in all categories.

Gwinnett schools, employees, and students garnered countless national honors and recognition in 2006–07. Looking ahead to next year, the Board of Education adopted a balanced budget topping $1.7 billion that allows the district to continue its focus on teaching and learning. Finally, 8,000 graduates will walk in May as
the Class of 2007, not only our largest graduating class but also one that has earned a record $71 million in scholarship offers.

This year’s list of accomplishments is impressive. Among them is one initiative that I feel will make a difference for years to come—the Gwinnett County Board of Education’s participation in the Reform Governance in Action (RGA) program. GCPS and three other large, urban school districts were selected to take part in the two-year program focused on improving the governance of public schools. RGA is built on the belief that school systems, not individual schools, are the entity that can best reform education to ensure that all students achieve.

RGA teaches that a reform-minded Board must set forth in policy what it believes about public education (its Core Beliefs and Commitments) and the strategic direction it believes is best for the community’s schools (its Theory of Action for Change). Our Board formally adopted its beliefs and commitments in December, but in reality they are fundamental principles that have guided the Board’s decisions and actions for the last 11 years.

I hope you have already become familiar with the Core Beliefs and Commitments, as we have been sharing them internally and externally for five months. A video that highlights them was shown during the Area Board Meetings this spring, and it is airing on GCPS-TV. We also have featured them in system publications, including this one, and on the web site.

The beliefs and commitments are the foundation for the development of the Board’s “theory of action for change,” or in other words, its approach to improving its schools. The Board will finalize its theory of action during an upcoming RGA session in June, and adopt it as policy in July. You will hear and learn much more about the theory of action as the new school year begins because it will be important for all employees to know the philosophy underlying the Board’s governance decisions.

When it comes right down to it, it is our people who must embrace the Board’s core beliefs and make the theory of action happen for students. What connects all we’ve done and achieved in the past with what we intend to do and achieve in the future is our staunch commitment to student learning. That commitment provides the bedrock for our continued effectiveness.

Thank you for all that you have done for students and for your continued commitment to the goals of this organization. May you enjoy a fun, restful, and safe summer in anticipation of another successful year in 2007–08.

J. Alvin Wilbanks