GCPS Board Meeting Summary for July 21, 2011

The following are highlights of the July 21, 2011, meeting of the Gwinnett County Board of Education. Board members present included Dr. Robert McClure, Louise Radloff, Carole Boyce, 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.

Gwinnett superintendent issues statement with release of final report on third-party review of land purchases
Prior to the July 21, 2011, School Board meeting, CEO/ Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks and School Board Chairman Dr. Robert McClure held a news conference to share the findings and recommendations from a third-party review into the district's land acquisition process, specifically for the years 1999-2009. The review, conducted by former U.S. Attorney Joe Whitley, proved no major problems in the land acquisitions, such as criminal or unethical conduct. They did find areas, however, that should be re-evaluated for improvement and change. The Superintendent and School Board are reviewing the recommendations included in the report and will be addressing them through policy and procedural updates. Click here to read the superintendent's statement and to review the full report.

Board receives eCLASS update
Dr. Nosh Sethna, eCLASS program manager-- along with Chief Information Officer Scott Futrell gave the Board an update on the school district's eCLASS initiative to develop and implement digital Content, Learning, Assessment, and Support System. Dr. Sethna and Mr. Futrell explained the need for eCLASS and how the initiative will support and enhance teaching and learning. He discussed the reasons for moving to eCLASS at this time and shared the timeline for this multi-year project. GCPS teachers and learners will derive a number of benefits from the implementation of this project, including higher levels of engagement that helps to differentiate learning and uses digital content to leverage innovative learning approaches. eCLASS will improve teaching and learning through expanded technological capabilities that integrate various components of the district's educational program, including instruction, assessment, and human capital management. Additionally, it will build on students' interests and abilities. Plans are for a pilot to begin in the coming year in six schools (two elementary, two middle, and two high schools) in limited subject areas (math, science, and foreign language). The overall eCLASS initiative is a three- to five-year plan that will be implemented in incremental steps to address efficiency and budgetary considerations.

GCPS to serve as 'innovation site' in leadership development for Bush Institute initiative
On June 20, 2011, Gwinnett County Public Schools signed an agreement with The Bush Institute to participate as one of a handful of "innovation sites" for the Institute's Alliance to Reform Education Leadership (AREL). Former First Lady Laura Bush was on hand for the signing and a roundtable discussion with district representatives. The mission of AREL is "to help change the way in which school principals throughout the U.S. are recruited, selected, prepared, certified, empowered, compensated, supported, and evaluated." AREL seeks to achieve its mission by forming a network of training sites with shared goals and values. Gwinnett County Public Schools was invited to join AREL based on the success of the district's Quality-Plus Leader Academy, established in 2007 to prepare the principals and leaders the school district needs now and in the future.

Board adopts millage rate
The Gwinnett County Board of Education adopted the CEO/superintendent's recommended 2011 millage rate to support the fiscal year 2012 budget, which was adopted on May 19, 2011. Board members set the maintenance and operations millage rate at 19.25 mills and the debt service millage rate at 1.30 mills for a combined total millage rate of 20.55 mills. This is the seventh consecutive year that the Board has held the millage rate stable.

102 Gwinnett schools make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)
In a year when state standards rose, 80 percent of Gwinnett County’s public schools met the state’s accountability goals and only four schools are categorized as needing improvement. According to information released by the Georgia Department of Education, Gwinnett schools continue to make progress under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) as evidenced by the state’s Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) listing of Georgia schools. AYP requires schools to meet standards in three areas: Test Participation (for both Mathematics and Reading/English Language Arts), Academic Performance (for both Mathematics and Reading/English Language Arts), and a Second Indicator. AYP holds each local school district and each individual school accountable for the academic success of students. Of 126 Gwinnett schools required to meet state standards, 101 schools made AYP for the 2010-11 school year. Districtwide, 25 schools did not make AYP (five at the elementary level, 11 at the middle school level, and nine at the high school level.) Of the 25 schools not making AYP, only four face consequences as this is the second year in a row they did not meet state standards. Those schools will notify parents of choice options as well as information meetings about the schools accepting choice transfer students. The deadline to request a choice transfer is August 5.

IE2 report challenges Gwinnett schools to higher standards
Gwinnett County Public Schools is one of two districts in the state that has an IE2 Partnership Contract with the state. This contract provides the district with flexibility from specified Georgia laws and State Board of Education policies while identifying additional areas of accountability and defined consequences for not meeting goals. The increased areas of accountability call for Gwinnett's schools to increase the percentage of students scoring in the "Exceeds" level in Reading/English Language Arts and Math and increase the percentage of students achieving in the "Meets" and "Exceeds" categories in Science for all subgroups identified in AYP measures. In addition, schools should maintain or increase achievement in these areas over baseline data from the individual schools for the AYP subgroups of Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners. The Governor's Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) determined the criteria and whether schools had met their targets based on GOSA's interpretation of the IE2 contract. In terms of Year 1 Targets, 91 percent of Gwinnett schools met the evaluation criteria, with only nine schools reported as not meeting. It is important to note that these target goals are not minimal standards, but, rather, challenge schools to move more students to “exceeding” state standards. Our schools— even those determined by the state as not meeting their IE2 targets-- are improving in the percentage of students achieving in the “exceeds” category. The schools identified by GOSA as not meeting their first-year targets may have met the goals for most subgroups in the identified subjects, just not all.

Gwinnett readies for the new school year
August 8, 2011, marks the beginning of the new school year, a year in which Gwinnett County Public Schools will welcome approximately 1,700 new students for a projected enrollment of 162,459 students for 2011-12. The district will open two new schools-- Moore MS in Lawrenceville and GCPS' new, diploma-granting, online charter high school, Gwinnett County Online Campus (GOC). GOC offices are located in Norcross. With the opening of these two new schools, the school district will operate 19 high schools, 26 middle schools, 77 elementary schools, and 11 special schools, including five charter schools.

Board continues updates to policies
The Board approved the following policy:
- Policy BCAB- School Board Meetings-- Changes to this policy align it with improvements in system processes.
- Policy BCBI- Public Participation in Board Meetings-- Changes to this policy align it with improvements in system processes.

The following policies have been tabled until next month's meeting to allow for public input:
- Policy JBCB- Acceptance of Transfer Credits-- Proposed changes to this policy to align it with improvements in system processes.
- Policy FGB- Site Acquisition (Disposal)-- Changes to this policy align it with improvements in system processes. (This policy was tabled indefinitely to allow the Board to review additional recommendations made by a third-party review of land acquisitions.)

Citizens addressing the Board
- Annette Rogers
- Leroy Ranel
- Angela Gaddy
- Penny Poole