GCPS Board Meeting Summary for September 8, 2005

The following are highlights of the September 8, 2005, 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.

Board recognizes Duluth HS student on national award
School Board members honored Kent Kercher, a 10th grader at Duluth HS, for his first-place finish in the National Geography Challenge last spring. Kent's top finish was the first time Gwinnett County has had a national winner in this competition. Sponsored by the National Council on Geographic Education (NCGE), the Challenge involves an exam that is administered to students in grades 9-12. The top 10 scores from each school across the country are compared with scores from students in schools across the country. For his first-place finish, Kent received a medal from NCGE.

GCPS enrolls student victims of Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina rolled through the gulf states last week, and this week student evacuees are rolling into Gwinnett schools. As of September 7, more than 600 students had relocated and registered in Gwinnett schools due to Hurricane Katrina. This includes 309 elementary school, 142 middle school, and 166 high school students. CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks gave Board members information on the system's efforts to accommodate these new students. He also shared that the system is apt to gain more students as evacuees continue to relocate. GCPS is working with a Georgia Department of Education (DOE) case worker to ease the transition and the system's acquisition of necessary records and school documents. The school system will be reporting its enrollment of evacuees on a daily basis to several agencies, including the DOE.

Board approves Lanier HS as name of anchor for a new cluster in the upper North Gwinnett area
The Gwinnett County Board of Education set aside its usual school naming process to adopt the name for a new high school planned in the upper North Gwinnett area. The Board unanimously approved naming the new high school Lanier High School. In making his recommendation to the Board, CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said the name seemed fitting as the new high school will be located where the current Lanier Middle School facility resides. This recommendation honors the rich history of Lanier Middle and the geographic location of the new cluster, near Lake Lanier. The conversion of Lanier Middle to the new high school would be a part of the 2007-12 building program, which would be funded through an extension of the current sales tax for school construction. The school system anticipates needing 32 to 35 new schools as part of the new building program. In preparation for that program, Gwinnett County Public Schools has purchased 10 pieces of property for new schools, several of which will be a part of the new Lanier Cluster.

Resolution passes opposing funding education solely with a statewide sales tax
Board members adopted a resolution stating their position opposing the funding of public education solely with a statewide sales tax as proposed in House Resolution 58. The issue of how public education is funded is extremely important and of significant consequence to school systems across the state. The proposal under consideration would eliminate the property tax as a source of public school funding and replace it totally with a dedicated statewide sales tax. The Board's reasons for opposing funding public education solely with a statewide sales tax include:
- The sales tax is a highly volatile source of revenue. Property taxes, on the other hand, are much more stable over time.
- Placing public school funding totally in the hands of the state would mean the loss of local control, impacting the quality of education Gwinnett students receive.
- Relieving property owners of the expense of funding public education is not necessarily in their financial best interest. Many Georgia taxpayers would actually pay more in taxes if the funding mechanism for schools was changed to a statewide sales tax.

Grayson HS Techncial Education Program update
The Grayson High School Technical Education Program is in its second year of offering unique opportunities for technical education concentrations to Gwinnett County Public Schools juniors and seniors from across the district. Students may enroll in courses of study in 15 state-of-the-art technical areas. The program has seen significant growth for the 2005-06 school year.
Key Points:
· Programs of study available are Biotechnology, Commercial photography, Culinary arts, Digital media and design, Environmental horticulture, Environmental science, Hospitality and tourism, IT networking, Law enforcement, Music recording, Music technology, Technical theatre, Veterinary technology, Video production and television broadcast.
· 305 students are currently enrolled in the programs for the fall 2005 semester.
· The state-of-the-art equipment and curriculum provide Gwinnett County juniors and seniors with unique opportunities to gain industry-standard knowledge and skills, in preparation for their own career paths and/or post-secondary endeavors beyond high school.
· Continued growth in enrollment is expected in coming semesters as students from across the district see first-hand the tremendous benefits afforded by the advanced learning opportunities available at Grayson High School.
· Grayson’s programming provides a model for the delivery of unique, specialized programs of study as the district plans for additional non-traditional offerings in other areas of the county.

GCPS to begin review of safety and security plans
Chief School Improvement Specialist Emmett Lawson updated Board of Education members on the school system's safety initiatives. Safety and security is a critical focus of the system and is included as one of the system's seven strategic goals. The system has long worked with county, state, and federal agencies to stay updated on events that may affect schools. Additionally, each Gwinnett school has a safety plan, which has been approved by the state and is updated regularly. As part of its continuous improvement efforts, GCPS will soon begin the formal process for revising and improving its safety plans. The system has applied for a federal grant to help with the process, which will include the formation of a committee to review and update safety plans. The committee will be comprised of educators, community members, and local and state emergency management personnel. It will look at best practices and work to update school safety plans to provide schools the tools and resources to plan for and respond to a variety of crisis situations. Another goal for the committee is to communicate the basic purposes and function of the safety plans. Mr. Lawson assured Board members that the system will continue its work to improve its plans to ensure a safe, secure, and disruption-free learning environment for students.

Board members receive update on Investing in Educational Excellence (IE2) Task Force
Last year, Governor Sonny Perdue commissioned a task force charged with defining what "excellence in education" means for Georgia. This group, called Investing in Educational Excellence (IE2) Task Force, also is focused on determining the proper way to fund an excellent education. The task force, made up of five committees, will next meet in Albany on September 19. These committees and their key initiatives are:
- Community Conversation Committee-- Last January, the state held its first community conversation on education. A second community conversation is scheduled for October 26. During this second conversation, participants will be asked to talk about six scenarios. The scenarios will ask citizens to determine how to use a set amount of money to best educate students in a rural school and a school in an urban/suburban Georgia system, looking at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.
- Requirements and Best Practices Committee-- This committee collects information on educational best practices. At its next meeting, the task force will hear presentations on best practices in the areas of English/Language Arts and school-level financial data.
- Cost Model Committee-- This committee has obtained RFPs from consultants and is developing a model of what it will cost to provide an excellent education for Georgia's children.
- Strategic Multiples Committee-- This committee's work meshes with that of the Cost Model Committee, exploring the costs associated with educating specific groups of children.
- QBE Review Committee-- This committee is working on recommending the "foundation formula" for funding public schools. This committee will also make some short-term recommendations for the current QBE funding formula for consideration in the 2006 session of the Georgia General Assembly, specifically regarding changes in the equalization grant and the class-size for high school science classes. Another essential focus of the committee's work is to define the partnership between the state and local groups in providing students a quality education.

School system sets FY2007 budget development calendar
Each year, the School Board reserves critical dates relating to the development of the next year's budget. Key budget dates for FY2007 include:
Feb. 3, 2006-- Central Office budget managers submit proposed budget requests
Feb. 27 and 28, 2006-- Superintendent and Cabinet meet to discuss FY2007 requests
March 9, 2006-- Meet with Teachers Advisory Committee to hear budget suggestions
March 30 and 31, 2006-- Superintendent's Recommended budget to Board
April 15, 2006-- Board budget work session
April 18, 2006-- Board budget work session and adoption of tentative budget
April 24, 2006-- Copies of Superintendent's Recommended Budget available for public
May 4, 2006-- First public hearing on budget
May 11, 2006-- Second public hearing and final adoption
June 2006-- Adoption of millage rate
Sept. 15, 2006-- Transmit adopted budget to State Department of Education