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Baldwin Elementary dedication salutes namesake Beauty Baldwin

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Baldwin Elmentary School held its dedication ceremony saluting Beauty Baldwin whose name adorns the new Norcross school.

Gwinnett County Public Schools CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks delivered the dedication address, and Baldwin added her acknowledgments at the end of the program.

A former teacher and administrator, Baldwin became the superintendent of Buford City Schools in 1984 and was the first black female school superintendent in Georgia. In 2014, she founded the North Metro Academy of Performing Arts, a charter school in Gwinnett, where she currently serves as board chair.

Baldwin Elementary School is located at 123 Price Place in Norcross.

Sugarloaf Mills donates 33 Adidas shoes to GIVE West

Monday, September 26th, 2016

Simon Property Group @ Sugarloaf Mills Corporate Office donated 33 pairs of Adidas shoes to GIVE West. The Foundation delivered the shoes along with a small donation to help purchase clothing uniform needs for their students.  Thank you Sugarloaf Mills for your generosity to Gwinnett County Public Schools!


Pictured from Give West is Principal Todd Marschke, school nurse Laurie Garrett, and PE Parapro Mr. Mulcahy. Insert picture: Donna Zimmer for the Foundation, Sugarloaf Mills Office Administrator Deanna Harris and Operations Director Jim Hudson.


Great Days of Service 2017!

Monday, September 26th, 2016

gdos-imageLike a large group of siblings, Gwinnett County’s cities like to rib each other and jest about who is the best at just about anything.

The friendly spirit of competition spreads across a wide range of activities. What is at stake is something arguably more valuable than gold or other riches. It’s about bragging rights.

Who has the best festivals? Who has the best downtown area? Which city is the best place to live?

This year, that spirit will take the form of a competition to see which city can collect the most food during a collection challenge the Gwinnett Municipal Association is overseeing as part of this year’s Gwinnett Great Days of Service. Food collected by each city will go to their local food co-op.

“I believe the term I’ve heard used to describe things like this is ‘coopertition’ or something like that,” Municipal Association Executive Director Randy Meacham said. “It’s just something to show the cities care about their communities because it’s not like one area of the county gets something from this and another doesn’t.”

The food challenge, which is the brain child of Snellville City Councilman Dave Emanuel, is just one of the ways Gwinnett County residents can get involved in the 17th annual Great Days of Service this year.

The Gwinnett Coalition is looking for volunteers from across the community to sign up to participate in one of several projects that will be taking place around the county Oct. 21-22 by searching for volunteer events at Great Days of Service organizers have also placed information about the initiative at
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Grayson teachers of the year honored at council meeting

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

grayson-teachersGrayson’s cluster Teachers of the Year recipients were in attendance Monday to be honored by Mayor Allison Wilkerson and the City Council.

Shown in photo above, left to right, are Wilkerson, TOY’S Jenny Beck, Grayson High School; Hope Culpepper, Bay Creek Middle; Rebekah Castner, Couch Middle; Cassie Raymond, Trip Elementary; Julie Wangsness, Starling Elementary; and Christi Umans, Grayson Elementary. Not shown is Jon Jurick, Pharr Elementary.

Gov. Nathan Deal attends dedication of Duluth’s Coleman Middle School

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

Members of the Coleman Middle School administration pose for a picture at the dedication of the new Duluth school. From left, Assistant Principal Kim Booth, Assistant Principal Jennifer Dunn, Principal J.W. Mozley, Brooks Coleman, Gov. Nathan Deal, CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, and School Board Member Mary Kay Murphy. (Photo by Lisa Hopper)

Gov. Nathan Deal, CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks and Gwinnett School Board member Mary Kay Murphy were among the people who attended the dedication on Sunday of Coleman Middle School in Duluth.

Coleman is named after Brooks Coleman, a former teacher and administrator in GCPS, and in his 12th term as a state representative in the Georgia legislature. It’s Gwinnett County Public Schools’ signature STEAM school, which means it focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts and math. It’s on Main Street and in the same building as the former Duluth Middle School.


Former students of Brooks Coleman were on hand for the dedication on Sunday of Coleman Middle School in Duluth in honor of state representative and form long-time school administrator Brooks Coleman (Photo by Lisa Hopper)

The arts offerings at Coleman consist of dance, visual arts, theater arts, band, chorus, orchestra, guitar and music technology. Arts are offered during connections periods and integrated in the core academic areas.

During his tenure in the legislature, Coleman has served on numerous committees and has chaired the Education Committee. His ties to the Duluth community run deep, including being the Voice of the Wildcats at Duluth High football games and his work with the Duluth Fall Festival.

Norcross grad and Gwinnett Sports Hall of Fame inductee Mary Ellen Warta fighting cancer through Swim Across America

Monday, September 19th, 2016

Norcross grad Mary Ellen Warta (left) sits with her son Jonas in 2012 during his cancer treatments for retinoblastoma. Warta is one of more than 500 swimmers who have raised more than $350,000 for childhood cancer research as a part of Swim Across America’s Atlanta Open Water Swim, an event featuring several Olympians.

Mary Ellen Warta’s son doesn’t remember much about his health ordeal when he was 3.

Jonas Warta was diagnosed in 2012 with retinoblastoma, a cancer that forced the removal of his right eye. He doesn’t recall the pain or the chemotherapy, only recently finding out he had a scar where a port was inserted in his chest.

He is a healthy, active youngster now, but he learns more daily about the life of a cancer survivor.

 “The last time we had to go in for an MRI, because he doesn’t like going and doesn’t like the thought of anesthesia and the IV, then he kind of gets very sad,” said Mary Ellen Warta, a star swimmer at Norcross and an American record-holder under her maiden name Blanchard. “He asks where his eye is, where’s the eye they took, is he going to get it back, where did they take it, is that going to happen to my other eye? That’s part of going through this cancer treatment, getting questions. You’re not prepared for it. You’re never prepared for it. You get hit with those questions and it floors you. As a 7-year-old, that he’s having those thoughts is sad.”

Since Jonas’ diagnosis, Warta has made it her mission to support the fight against childhood cancer and support others going through what her family endured with the disease. She has found the perfect outlet through Swim Across America, which hosts its Atlanta Open Water Swim this Saturday at Lake Lanier. The event is a day of fun with races, a water park and appearances from Olympians like Missy Franklin, but the mission is supporting the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

The swim’s first three years benefited a research project that became a clinical trial, and a new recipient will be supported this year by the more than $350,000 raised by more than 500 swimmers. Warta’s Team Jonas topped the $10,000 mark on Tuesday, putting it seventh among SAA teams at Lanier. Continue reading...

Brookwood teacher named finalist for $100,000 after-school grant

Monday, September 19th, 2016

Brookwood Elementary School teacher Sharon Smith wrote a grant proposal to Farmers Insurance and was recently told it’s in the top 15 of the county. If selected, $100,000 would go toward after-school programs to help at-risk students at Brookwood and Meadowcreek elementary schools.

Last spring when Sharon Smith was asked to submit a grant that focused on what a teacher would do to improve education in their community and beyond, she had one specific idea: After-school intervention.

“It’s an issue that’s very near and dear to my heart,” said Smith, a Brookwood Elementary School teacher who was named Gwinnett County Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year two years ago. “Especially for those children that have no other means of getting that extra support. In elementary school, we have these children longer than any other level in their education. So it is imperative that we catch them as they’re falling.”

In recent weeks, Smith has learned that her grant proposal to Farmers Insurance was among the 15 finalists across the country, and only one in Georgia. Six will be chosen and the winners and receive $100,000. The winners will be decided through an online vote at a still undisclosed web site. Voting is scheduled to begin Oct. 1. and run through October.

 “Dr. Smith is very passionate about helping at-risk students in an after-school intervention program that is innovative and engaging for students,” Brookwood Elementary Principal Cheri Carter told the School Board on Thursday. “We knew that if we were going to be able to provide this opportunity for students, we would need to seek resources outside of our school.”

Gwinnett Schools honors Dacula, Lanier clusters for innovation

Monday, September 19th, 2016

dacula-lanier-cluster-logosThe idea arrived about two years ago, and in May, Gwinnett instituted an award for schools who focus on innovation and transformation of how they teach.

“What we did in 2014 is we need to figure out a way to reward the behaviors we want to see happening in our school district,” CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said Thursday afternoon. “Folks, this is what we’re about.”

It was at a workshop session with the Gwinnett School Board on Thursday where district officials honored Lanier and Dacula clusters for their practices and impact on students. Principals and teachers from schools in those areas were on hand to explain what goes on in the classrooms and how it spreads to each school.

 The intent of the award is to formally recognize and financially reward a cluster or a group of schools for their exceptional efforts in schools and a focus on initiatives and priorities. The schools each received a six-figure reward.

“This is not a high school initiative, this initiative is K-12 in every single school in the Dacula cluster,” Principal Bryan Long told the School Board. Continue reading

GCPS announces Teachers of the Year for local schools

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

GCPS Logo_color_rgbThe annual process to honor Gwinnett’s Teacher of the Year is underway as teachers from 135 local schools were named tops in their schools by their colleagues and administrators.

Gwinnett County Public Schools’ Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Nikki Mouton, said the teachers are passionate about education and giving students a bright future.

“Our local TOTYs are selected by their colleagues which is an honor because they understand what it means to be an effective teacher,” Mouton said in a press release. “They know firsthand the time, energy, and commitment required of teachers. The selection of this year’s local school winners is a testament to the honor and respect they command at each of their local schools.”

 The individual school honorees later this month will be narrowed to a group of 25 semifinals, and then six finalists will be chosen in mid-October.

The annual Teacher of the Year banquet and the announcement of this year’s top teacher in Gwinnett County will be held on Nov. 10.

To arrive at the finalist stage, a selection committee made up of teachers, central office personnel and administrators visits the classrooms of the six finalists and conducts thorough interviews with each teacher.

The committee looks for original teaching methods, studies the educator’s teaching philosophy, considers the influence the teacher has had on the teaching practices of colleagues, and reviews any special class projects the teacher has initiated.

There will also be level winners honored among the finalists for elementary, middle and high school, and one of the level winners will be recognized as the GCPS 2016-17 Teacher of the Year. Continue reading

Gwinnett Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks recognized with prestigious PAGE honor

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

Gwinnett County Public School CEO and Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks was honored at the 12th annual A PAGE Turning Event for 20 years of achievement in his roles.

More than 600 guests joined with a nonprofit organization in honoring Gwinnett County Public Schools CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks on Monday for his outstanding achievement in education.

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators is a statewide professional organization that provides resources for more than 91,000 educators, administrators and support personnel to enhance education.

The group honored Wilbanks and the Gwinnett school system during its 12th annual “A PAGE Turning Event” held at the Infinite Energy Forum in Duluth. The event was created by the PAGE Foundation to recognize leaders with a demonstrable commitment to public school improvement.

John Varner of the PAGE Foundation said it was a no-brainer to select Wilbanks and the school district because of his and its commitment to education, and how he’s survived the slings and arrows of being a public school superintendent for 20 years.

“For somebody like Mr. Wilbanks to not only survive, but prosper over 20 years is remarkable,” Varner said.

The event is usually held at the Fox Theatre, but because capacity there is 420, Varner said the spike in audience interest because of Wilbanks and the size of Gwinnett County Public Schools brought the move to Duluth. Continue reading