GCPS Board Meeting Summary for March 18, 2010

The following are highlights of the March 18, 2010, meeting of the Gwinnett County Board of Education. Board members present included Chairman Dr. Mary Kay Murphy, Vice Chairman Dr. Robert McClure, Carole Boyce, Louise Radloff, and Daniel D. Seckinger. The official minutes of the meeting will be approved by the Board at its next monthly meeting.

Board honors award-winning students and staff
  • The Board saluted Joe Frank Uriz, a Parsons ES Spanish teacher, on his recent recognition by the Foreign Language Association of Georgia as the organization's Teacher of the Year. This award recognizes teachers who effectively strive to use various strategies, techniques, and materials to enhance the students’ interest in, acquisition of, and proficiency in a second language. Mr. Uriz will represent Georgia in the 2011 competition for Foreign Language Association Southern Regional Teacher of the Year. Dr. Charlotte Sadler, principal of Parsons ES, introduced Mr. Uriz as "a quality-plus teacher." She said, "His students are engaged and he helps teachers and students throughout the school." In addressing the Board, Mr. Uriz said, "My students are my rewards. I am so glad to be a teacher in Gwinnett County and to be able to teach Spanish at Parsons."
  • Board members thanked Ken Johnson, a special education teacher at Central Gwinnett HS, and Scott Pryor, a retired principal, for their service on the Gwinnett Retirement System (GRS) Administrative Committee. GRS is led by an administrative committee that is comprised of teachers, administrators, and other participants in the plan. These dedicated employees volunteer to serve on behalf of their fellow employees and retirees as trustees of our GRS retirement funds. Mr. Johnson and Mr. Pryor each recently completed full seven-year terms as members of the committee.

Gwinnett Board approves GRS Plan changes with no change to the Plan benefits
The Board adopted a motion setting the employer rate of contributions to the Gwinnett Retirement System (GRS) at 4.88% of compensation for the fiscal years ending June 30, 2010, and June 30, 2011. Also, following a recommendation from the GRS Board, the Gwinnett County Board of Education transferred $70,500,000 from the GRS Disability Fund to the GRS Retirement Fund. Contributions to GRS are calculated using accepted actuarial methods by the Plan’s Actuary. These calculations may be relied upon by the employer to establish contributions rates to the Plan going forward. The GRS Administrative Committee receives the results of the Actuary’s calculations and transmits them to the Board along with recommendations as to contributions. At its February 2010 meeting, the Committee received the Actuary’s report regarding contributions for the remainder of FY 2010 and all of FY 2011. The report indicated that employer contributions of 4.88% of compensation for the fiscal years ending June 30, 2010, and June 30, 2011, are required to support the benefits of the System. The Actuary also recommended that in accordance with Section 9.03 of the GRS Plan Document, $70,500,000 be transferred from the Disability Fund to the Retirement Fund to internally rebalance assets within the Plan. In accordance with the GRS Plan Document, the Committee recommended that employee contributions of 1% of compensation remain unchanged.

Gwinnett County Board of Education approves revised GRS Plan document
The provisions and operational procedures of the Gwinnett Retirement System (GRS) are described in the GRS Plan Document. Since 1983, the Board has amended and restated the Plan Document from time to time to reflect changes in legislation and also to institute desired changes to benefits. Currently, the Plan calls for the annual calculation of a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for GRS retirement and disability benefits. Under current methodology, this calculation could cause benefits to be decreased if deflation-- as measured by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index (CPI)-- occurs in the U.S. economy. The approved revision eliminates this provision from the GRS Plan Document without impacting contribution rates. The approved change is contained in Section 4.05 of the GRS Plan Document and will be effective July 1, 2010.

Chaney and Barbee to serve on GRS administrative committee
School Board members approved the appointments of Mountain View HS Principal Keith Chaney and Peachtree Ridge HS Teacher Jim Barbee to the Gwinnett Retirement System (GRS) Administrative Committee. This nine-person committee consists of three teachers, one local school administrator, one classified employee, one retiree, and one position of any classification covered by the GRS plan. The Chief Financial Officer and the Chief Human Resources Officer serve as permanent members of this committee. The other seven members serve seven-year rotating terms.

Board reviews annual financial report and investment oversight committee report
Board members received and had the opportunity to review the district's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). This annual report is prepared each year in accordance with standards set by the Government Accounting Standards Board and the Association of School Business Officers. It includes detailed financial information for the most recently completed fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2009. This annual report has been audited by the school district's external auditors, Mauldin and Jenkins. In addition, the School Board also received a report from the district's Investment Oversight Committee, which is comprised of five members-- three from Gwinnett County Public Schools and two from the investment community. The Committee met quarterly to review investment transactions and compliance with policy and procedure, as well as with Georgia code. The Committee reported that, for 2009, all transactions were in compliance and that the investment portfolio also met all policy standards required for diversification by instrument, maturity, and financial institution. The Committee did make a recommendation to modify the Board's current policy DFL Investment Earnings to more closely align the policy with Georgia Code.

Chief Financial Officer Rick Cost provided members of the Gwinnett County Board of Education with a detailed report on both of these reports as part of the Board's afternoon work session which included a business oversight workshop. During the ensuing discussion, Board members recognized that Gwinnett County Public Schools is an incredibly sound financial organization. However, they shared concerns about the district's future due to budget and legislative issues that could affect the school system.

Board adopts proposed changes to the AKS
The Gwinnett Educational Management System (GEMS) Oversight Committee held its annual meeting on February 25, 2010, to review and recommend changes to the Academic Knowledge and Skills (AKS) curriculum. After reviewing highlights from the GEMS meeting, as well as suggested revisions to the AKS based on input received from educators and community members, the Board of Education approved all of the recommended changes.

Instructional materials adopted for some HS elective courses, and health and media center supplemental materials
In other curriculum news, the Board of Education adopted the instructional materials for a limited number of high school elective courses in the areas of science, mathematics, health, and technical education, as well as approved health and media center supplemental materials as recommended. All materials were piloted in classrooms during Fall 2009. Health materials and resource materials from local school media centers were approved by the Community Health Advisory Committee (CHEAC) as required. The projected budget for this adoption is $339,697.

GCPS amends charter application for Maxwell HS of Technology
Maxwell HS of Technology is seeking to become a conversion charter school. At its October 8, 2009, meeting, the Gwinnett County Board of Education approved a petition for Maxwell's charter for the years 2010-2011 through 2014-2015. The approved petition was submitted to the Georgia Department of Education for review. The Department of Education has requested that additional information be added to the petition prior to action by the Georgia Board of Education. The Gwinnett County School Board approved an amendment to the original charter application to address those suggestions and will resubmit the application to the Georgia Board of Education for approval.

Gwinnett expresses appreciation to School Board members
March is traditionally the month for acknowledging the service of school board members in Georgia. On behalf of the students, parents, employees, and citizen stakeholders of Gwinnett County Public Schools, CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks recognized the exemplary governance and public service exhibited by the five members of the Gwinnett County Board of Education.

Board member travel approved for GSBA events
The Board designated Dr. Mary Kay Murphy as its representative to the 2010 Georgia School Boards Association's Summer Conference and Delegate Assembly in Savannah, Georgia. In addition, the Board tapped Louise Radloff to serve on the GSBA's Governmental Operations Committee.

Board continues updates to policies
The School Board approved the following policy changes after tabling them last month to allow for public input:
Policy DFL- Investment Earnings- Changes to this policy align it with improvements in system processes.
Policy GBRI- Personal Leave- Changes to this policy align it with improvements in system processes.
As part of its ongoing policy work, the School Board tabled the following policy change to allow for public input prior to next month's meeting:
Policy JBCB- Acceptance of Transfer Credits- Changes have been proposed that align policy with improvements in system processes.

Citizens addressing the Board
- Eron Moore