GCPS Board Meeting Summary for September 15, 2011

The following are highlights of the Sept. 15, 2011, meeting of the Gwinnett County Board of Education. Board members present included Dr. Robert McClure, Louise Radloff, Dr. Mary Kay Murphy, and Daniel D. Seckinger. The official minutes of the meeting will be approved by the Board at its next monthly meeting.

Board recognizes students, staff, and schools

- The Gwinnett County Board of Education recognized two schools and two individuals who earned top honors at the Georgia PTA annual convention/leadership training this past summer. Both Taylor ES and Couch MS were honored for their 2nd place recognition as an "Outstanding Local Unit" in the state. In addition to these school honors, South Gwinnett HS Principal Clay Hunter was named Outstanding Principal by the state PTA and Rebecca Branstetter, who serves on the Grayson HS PTSA and serves as the Gwinnett Area III PTA legislative chair, earned the state's Sally Fitzgerald Advocacy Award. A Dacula HS senior, Danielle Wilkerson, also was honored at the state level as the recipient of an $800 state PTA scholarship. District PTA Representative Carol Ranft began her remarks by reviewing the PTA's standards and how they contribute to supporting teaching and learning. Ms. Ranft introduced the PTA leaders from the winning schools, outlining some of the initiatives that earned these schools recognition by the state PTA.

- Board members congratulated athletes on the Gwinnett Heat Adapted Sports Football Team on their state championship season in the varsity football division. This is the second consecutive state football championship for the Gwinnett team. Accompanying the honorees were Adapted Sports Coordinator Mike Phillips and Heat Coaches Brian Elinburg, Jennifer Elinburg of Mountain View HS, and Michaela Istone of Oakland Meadow School.

- The Gwinnett County Board of Education honored a number of students on their 1st and 2nd place finishes in the National History Day in Georgia competition. National History Day in Georgia is a history education program for students in grades 6-12. The event is sponsored by the Georgia Humanities Council. Following a national theme, students research topics and present their findings in papers, performances, exhibits, or documentary videos. Students can work individually or they can collaborate in teams of two to five students. National History Day moves students out of the textbook and into primary sources such as buildings, artifacts, records, interviews, or archeological sites. Students may research any topic they would like, but they must also remember to look at available primary sources on their topic. Those who place 1st or 2nd in the state are eligible to participate in the national competition. Gwinnett's 1st place winners include Manav Dutta--Senior Historical Papers and Ryan Hawks-- Senior Individual Exhibits, both of Collins Hill HS. 2nd place honorees and the categories in which they excelled include Mariam Ahmed-- Senior Group Web Sites, Kessler Barlow-- Senior Group Exhibits, Hannah Lee-- Senior Group Web Sites, Ellen Min-- Senior Group Web Sites, Giahoa Nguyen-- Senior Group Web Sites, and Ryan Sterrit-- Senior Group Exhibits, all of Collins Hill HS. Accompanying the honorees were Collins Hill HS Principal Glenn McFall and Teacher Terrae Fogarty. This honor was introduced by Dr. Debbie Daniell, GCPS' director of Social Studies.

- Board members honored Peachtree Ridge HS' Boys Track team on its 2011 state championship season. This is the first state championship for the school in this sport. Principal Dr. Kevin Tashlein, Athletics Director Bill Holleman, and Head Coach Ron Clanton spoke highly of these student athletes and their accomplishments, on the track and in the classroom.

- A group of Trickum MS students earned praise from the Board for their top finishes in the Georgia Mathematics League. The "League" provides math contests for students in grades 4-8, as well as for students at the high school level. More than one million students from the United States and Canada participate in the Mathematics League competitions each year. The goal of the program is to encourage student interest and build confidence in mathematics by solving problems. An example of a problem in a previous competition is "If two pears weigh as much as three peaches, and two peaches weigh as much as thirty grapes, then how many pears weigh as much as ninety grapes?" Jason Fan finished in 1st place and was the 2011 State Individual Winner for all 6th graders participating in this year's competition. A team of Trickum students, including Jason, Tyler Draper, Kevin Mathew, Jake Wiley, and Chang "Mary" Xu, won 2nd place in the 2011 State School Division for all 6th grade classes participating in this year's competition. Accompanying the students were Principal Kay Sands; Dr. Linda LaPerre, their teacher; and GCPS Mathematics Director Anthony Smith.

- The Shiloh HS Air Force Junior ROTC (AFJROTC) unit GA-871, was selected for a 2010-11 Air Force Junior ROTC Outstanding Organization Award from the Department of the Air Force. This award recognizes the hard work and accomplishments of the cadets, the contributions of the instructors as mentors of the cadets, and the support of the school and community. The Outstanding Organization Award is limited to top units within Air Force Junior ROTC. Shiloh HS is one of 80 units nationwide to receive this award. Air Force Junior ROTC is located in 884 high schools across the United States and at selected schools in Europe, in the Pacific, and Puerto Rico. Junior ROTC enrollment includes more than 117,000 cadets. The objectives of the AFJROTC program are to educate and train high school cadets in citizenship and life skills; promote community service; instill responsibility, character, and self-discipline through character education; and provide instruction in air and space fundamentals. Accompanying the honorees were Principal Dr. Gwen Tatum and JROTC instructors Major Lourdes Trujillo and MSgt. Demetris Cook, along with Jody Reeves, director of Technical Education, Computer Science, and Work-Based Learning. Cadet Steven Hayes received a "field promotion" during the presentation when MSgt. Cook promoted him to major and named him commander for the unit.

- School Board members acknowledged three state counseling honorees-- Dianne Thompson, director of Advisement and Counseling, 2011 Georgia Supervisor of the Year; Summerour MS Principal Dorothy Parker-Jarrett, 2011 Georgia Counseling Advocate of the Year; and Mountain Park ES Counselor David Young, 2011 Georgia Writer of the Year. These three professional educators were singled out for this state recognition through a long and competitive process. They won local and Region 2 honors prior to moving to the state-level competition. Each of these honorees has demonstrated support for counseling programs, elevating counseling in GCPS to the highest standard. Gwinnett's counseling program serves as a model for programs throughout Georgia and the United States and has won more state and national counseling awards than any other school system. The Georgia School Counselors Association will recognize these state winners at its annual conference on November 10 in Macon. Dr. Jim Taylor, executive director for Academic Support, introduced the awards. The honorees were accompanied by Principal Valerie Robinett of Mountain Park ES, Assistant Principal Jean Herald of Mountain Park ES and Counselor Michelle Ransom of Summerour MS.

- Board members celebrated Gwinnett County Public Schools' designation as The Clean Air Campaign's PACE Award - 2011 "Clean Air Schools" District of the Year. Chief of Staff Berney Kirkland shared that on August 24, the Clean Air Campaign announced its PACE Award winners for 2011, celebrating the success of employers, property managers, schools, and individuals in advancing the campaign's goals of cleaner air and a reduction in traffic through commute options. GCPS was honored for its efforts to create a healthier environment and to educate students about conservation, clean air, and environmental stewardship. The school district partners with Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful in the Green & Healthy Schools Program, which uses information from the Clean Air Campaign's Clean Air Schools program to teach students about reducing smog and cleaning the air. Seventy-seven GCPS schools are designated as Green & Healthy Schools. The school district's comprehensive approach to promoting a healthier environment includes implementation of no-idling initiatives on school campuses; promotion of alternative modes of transportation, such as walking or riding the school bus; and environmental lesson plans integrated into the Academic Knowledge and Skills curriculum. Last year, Gwinnett schools reduced idling by an average of nearly 50 percent, and decreased significantly students' exposure to such pollutants as carbon monoxide and particulate matter, which contribute to smog formation. Almost half of the district's schools earned the distinction of "Clean Air School" in 2010-11.

Board authorizes contract negotiations for eCLASS initiative
At its August meeting, the Gwinnett County Board of Education authorized the superintendent to begin negotiations on a contract with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) publishers for the purchase and implementation of software in conjunction with the district's eCLASS initiative. eCLASS is a digital Curriculum, Learning, Assessment, and Support System initiative that will provide the district with an integrated enterprise solution to enhance student engagement and the learning process. The first component of eCLASS will be the instructional component. For the last several months, school district staff have been reviewing and testing a software application called Pinpoint, an HMH product that will be capable of meeting the school district's needs in the areas included in the instructional component. In tonight's meeting, the Board approved a contract with HMH for implementation of Pinpoint, working with the divisions of Information Management, Teaching and Learning Support, and Human Resources. The contract is for a five-year term, with the financial impact for year one coming in at $9,533,198.80.

Board reviews proposed budget development calendar
The Board annually adopts a calendar of critical activities and dates that comprise the budget development cycle for the coming fiscal year. The Board of Education reviewed the proposed calendar of activities and dates associated with adoption of the FY2013 budget. The budget development calendar will be presented for approval at the October 20, 2011, Monthly Business Meeting. Key dates proposed include:
October 20, 2011 – Adopt budget development calendar for Fiscal Year 2013
December 19, 2011January 31, 2012 – Prepare FY2013 program budget requests
February 1, 2012 – Central Office budget managers submit completed proposed budget requests to Budget Office
March 9-23, 2012 – Preparation and printing of Superintendent's recommended budget
April 14, 2012 – Board budget work session (Saturday)
April 17, 2012 – Board budget work session; adoption of tentative budget; (Area Board Meeting)
April 23, 2012 – Copies of Superintendent’s recommended budget available for public
May 2 and May 7, 2012 – Publish budget advertisement in newspaper
May 10, 2012 – First public hearing on budget
May 17, 2012 – Second public budget hearing; final budget adoption; and adoption of tentative millage rate
June TBD, 2012 – Final adoption of millage rate

Constitution Week recognized in Gwinnett schools
Constitution Day is celebrated on Saturday, September 17; however, Constitution Week was commemorated in Gwinnett County Public Schools during the week of September 12-16, 2011. Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Dale Robbins briefed the Board on Constitution Week activities held throughout the district.

Board continues updates to policies
The Board approved the following policy which had been tabled for 30 days to allow for public input:
- Policy JGC- Student Health Services-- Changes to this policy align it with improvements in system processes and with mandates in state and/or federal law.

The following policies have been tabled until next month's meeting to allow for public input:
- Policy EEE- Wellness Plan
- Policy IHFB- Graduation Requirements – Students Entering Ninth Grade in 2008-09 and Subsequent School Years

Citizens addressing the Board
- Craig Lownes