GCPS Board Meeting Summary for August 14, 2008

The following are highlights of the August 14, 2008, meeting of the Gwinnett County Board of Education. The official minutes of the meeting will be approved by the Board at its next monthly meeting.

Students, staff, and community members earn Board recognition
-- Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) has received four significant recognitions in 2008 as an employer of choice. Atlanta Magazine voted GCPS a top 25 employer in the metro area by community vote. Ranked at number 14, GCPS was the only school system named, joining such well regarded companies as Coca Cola, the Southern Company, and the Shepherd Center. In addition, Atlanta Business Chronicle profiled GCPS as a top metro employer, describing the district as an economic booster shot. For a fifth straight year, Gwinnett Magazine has named GCPS a best employer in the county by community vote. In addition, Black Collegian Magazine voted GCPS a top 100 employer, a first for the district. Black Collegian is considered the number #1 career opportunities magazine for collegians of color, and is distributed on over 800 campuses.
-- The Board of Education honored Gwinnett County Fire Chief Steve Rolader and James Mason, training technician with Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services, citing their outstanding service for first responder training in CPR and first aid. In 1994, Chief Rolader, in cooperation with GCPS, designed a CPR and First Aid Course specifically for system employees called First Responders. Over the last 14 years, Chief Rolader and his staff have conducted this course, which has become an extremely popular staff development opportunity for GCPS employees. Chief Rolader was so committed to this effort that, on several occasions, he used his vacation time to provide this extremely important service. In the summer of 2007, the school district's Health and Physical Education Department worked with Chief Rolader to modify the program to provide an opportunity for even more GCPS employees to earn certification. Each year, the Gwinnett County Fire Department typically trains about 75-100 GCPS employees. However, since July 2007, 340 GCPS employees have been trained. Mr. Mason has been instrumental in providing the training since August 2007. This recognition provides a thank you for the continued support of Chief Rolader and the instruction provided by James Mason during the 2007-08 school year.
-- Board members saluted Dr. John Green on his recent honor by the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders (GAEL) as its Outstanding Educator Award winner. This Award is presented annually to a GAEL member who has shown significant achievement in the field of educational leadership and who has made important contributions to GAEL and one or more of the GAEL affiliates. Dr. Green currently serves GCPS as its Area V Superintendent, a position he took in July of 2008 after serving North Gwinnett High as its principal for a decade. Under his leadership at North Gwinnett High, the school implemented an exemplary academic and athletic program, initiated a foundation to enhance student achievement, developed a model student leadership program, and worked with feeder schools to ensure strong ties between North Gwinnett High and its community. In addressing the Board, Dr. Green humbly said it was "crowded at the top" due to the amount of support he received over the years. He went on to acknowledge and recognize the staff members, students, cluster principals, and community members who helped him be successful at North Gwinnett HS.
- Governor Sonny Perdue recently announced the names of individuals identified as "High-Performance Principals" as defined by SB 468, which was passed and funded during the 2006 General Assembly. According to the law, high-performance principals are designated based on evidence of their effectiveness in improving a low-performing school or in taking an average or excellent-performing school to higher achievement within the last five years.In addition, the principal must have been assigned to his or her school for at least three consecutive years. The members of the Gwinnett County Board of Education thanked the following "high-performing" Gwinnett principals and applauded them on this latest accomplishment: Margaret Ackerman, Patrick ES (recognized for previous leadership at Meadowcreek ES); Laurie Allison, Lovin ES (recognized for previous leadership at Alford ES); *Cindy Antrim, McKendree ES; Dr. Craig Barlow, Riverside ES; Jackie Beasley, Instructional Support Center (recognized for previous leadership at Lilburn ES); Patrick Blenke, Duluth HS (retired); Dr. Charles “Buck” Buchanan, Parkview HS; John Campbell, Osborne MS; Dr. Valerie Clark, Central Gwinnett HS; *Michelle Farmer, Puckett’s Mill ES (recognized for previous leadership at Head ES); Nancy Morrison, Walnut Grove ES (recognized for previous leadership at Bethesda ES); *Kathy Jones, Camp Creek ES; Mary Ray, Craig ES (retired); Terry Watlington, Kanoheda ES; Bron Gayna Schmit, Simpson ES; *Jane Stegall, Brookwood HS (retired); and Vivian Stranahan, Mulberry ES (recognized for previous leadership at Shiloh ES).
*These four principals also were recognized as a High-Performance Principal last year for School Year 2005-2006.
- Board members recognized the Shiloh HS Air Force Junior ROTC Unit GA-871 on its designation as a "Distinguished Unit." The Distinguished Unit Award recognizes the personal growth and accomplishments of the cadets, the contributions of the instructors as mentors of the cadets, and the support of the school and community. The Distinguished Unit Award is limited to the best of the best of the nation's 879 Air Force Junior ROTC units. Principal Dr. Gwen Tatum, Major Lourdes Trujillo and Demetris Cook accepted the Board's congratulations on behalf of the unit. Major Trujillo, who has been at Shiloh for six years, applauded her students for exceeding their goals.
- The School Board honored Benjamin Townsend of Brookwood HS who won a study trip from the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG)/Pädagogischer Austauschdienst (PAD) [a government agency of the Federal Republic of Germany]. AATG, in conjunction with the PAD, awards study trips to Germany to outstanding students based on their performance on the National German Exam. Mr. Townsend is one of only 30 students in the country to receive this award. He performed above the 90th percentile on the National German Exam, and completed a rigorous application and interview process before being selected as Georgia’s sole candidate for the trip. Mr. Townsend spent part of June and July in Germany, living with a family and attending school. Accompanying Mr. Townsend were Principal Debbie Dees and German teacher Peter von Steinhauer.
- Former Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year Judson Bridges, who teaches Spanish at Collins Hill HS, has earned recognition from the Georgia Chapter of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP). Each year the state chapter selects an outstanding K-12 educator as Georgia’s Spanish Teacher of the Year. The nominees for the award must be an active member of the organization for at least five years and demonstrate excellent teaching qualities. In introducing Mr. Bridges, Foreign Language Director David Jahner said the engagement Mr. Bridges gets from this students is incredible. Mr. Bridges expressed his pride in being a part of the Gwinnett County education team and his appreciation for the support he receives.
- Other foreign language honors were earned by Jessica Hernandez and Caila Blanton of Parkview HS. Each year over 100,000 students participate in the National French Exam, which is sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of French. Miss Hernandez had the highest score in the state and nation of the more than 23,000 students who took the National French Exam, Level I. Miss Blanton had the second highest score in the state and third highest score in the nation of the approximately 20,000 students who took the National French Exam, Level 3. Accompanying Parkview's award-winning students were Principal Dr. Buck Buchanan and teachers Sandy Boyle and Donna Johnson.
- Spanish students also took center stage at the Board meeting as the School Board honored Sebastian Licon and Brenda Luo of Parkview HS who earned the highest scores in the state on the Level 2 Bilingual Exam and Level 3 Exam, respectively. Norcross HS students Cassandra Parkos and John Tirado were honored for earning the highest scores in the state on the Level 4 Exam. This past year, more than 90,000 students across the nation took the National Spanish Exam. Students who achieved at or above the 95th percentile received a gold medal for their efforts and are recognized on the National Spanish Exam web site. The students recognized by the School Board exceeded that threshold by having the highest scores in the state in their division. Mr. Tirado, the only student in attendance at tonight's meeting, received a certificate from the Board of Education and as well as a medal from the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese for his accomplishment.
- Rounding out the foreign language honors for the night were nine students who wrote perfect papers on the National Latin Exam for Level 1. Of the more than 150,000 students who take the National Latin Exam around the world, fewer than 1% achieve perfect papers. This exam assesses students’ knowledge of Latin syntax, grammar, and vocabulary, as well as cultural understanding. Honorees included: Christina Erin O’Neal of Brookwood HS; Young Jeon, Ronnie Kurtz, Kayla Rollyson, and Kyle Whitaker of Duluth HS; and Vanessa Jennings, Jane Lee, Alec Livaditis, and Lora Persyn of North Gwinnett HS. Dr. Jason Lane, principal of Duluth HS, thanked the students' parents and recognized the teachers from all three schools for their hard work and dedication.

Update provided on Board's involvement in Reform Governance in Action
In July, the Gwinnett County Board of Education completed its two-year participation in the Reform Governance in Action (RGA) Program, conducted by the Center for Reform of School Systems (CRSS) and funded by The Broad Foundation. The Board has been invited to continue its work with CRSS for another two years in the RGA Sustainability Program. Chief of Staff Berney Kirkland briefed the Board members and audience on the deliverables that came about as a part of the Board's involvement with RGA (improvements to Board meetings, the development of the School Board's Core Beliefs and Commitments, as well as policy and procedure updates). She also discussed upcoming activities associated with the program.

Superintendent briefs Board of Education on IE2 Partnership Contract
The Georgia General Assembly passed HB 1209 in the 2008 session, allowing school districts to enter into performance contracts with the State Board of Education with the intent to improve student achievement. The contract would give the district increased flexibility from certain state laws, rules, and regulations in exchange for increased accountability for student achievement and defined consequences. Executive Director for Accountability and Assessment Linda Mitchell briefed the Board on the status of the State Board rule for implementation of the new law, which is in the final stages of development and is still open for public input. The State Board rule was instituted August 13 and the Department of Education and the Office of Student Achievement are currently defining roles and responsibilities as part of the rule. Mrs. Mitchell indicated that GCPS, as a district, has provided input on the rule and school plan. Gwinnett County Public Schools supported HB 1209 and intends to submit a performance contract when the law is implemented. CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks indicated that specifics regarding a proposed contract would be brought to the Board in a future meeting. He added, "We see some advantages in how this will allow schools to operate."

Superintendent reviews priorities and initiatives for the coming year
In his role as CEO/Superintendent, J. Alvin Wilbanks reviewed with Board members the school district's priorities and initiatives for 2008-09. Key areas of focus will be implementation of the Board's strategy for improving its schools (the Board's theory of action for student achievement, or managed performance/empowerment) and the continued development of Gwinnett County Public Schools into a coherent organization capable of implementing and sustaining the improvement strategy. In addition, the district will focus on increasing participation in Advanced Placement, improving graduation rates, completing Phase II of The Plan for addressing the system's long range facility and technology needs, and building its successful succession plan through the Quality-Plus Leader Academy.

Board members fulfill state-mandated training requirements
In addition to the Gwinnett County Board of Education's selection and participation in Reform Governance in Action (RGA), its members must fulfill state training requirements. They are required by state law to annually complete approved training activities offered through the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) Professional Development Program. The GSBA program provides a comprehensive series of leadership development activities for the school system leadership team. At tonight's meeting, Superintendent Wilbanks thanked the Board for their commitment to learning and distributed certificates issued by GSBA acknowledging their completion of the state-mandated training.

Citizens and groups addressing the Board
- J.K. Murphy, Gwinnett Daily Post
- Regina Bekerman