Tuesday, February 25th, 2014
State School Superintendent recognizes Gwinnett AP Honor schools
Several Gwinnett County high schools were honored on Monday by the state Department of Education for their students’ participation and results from 2013 Advanced Placement classes and exams.
The 2014 AP Honor Schools are recognized in five categories: AP Challenge Schools, AP Access and Support Schools, AP Merit Schools, AP STEM Schools and AP STEM Achievement Schools. #Overall, the state named 462 Advanced Placement Honor Schools. Last year, 18 traditional schools in Gwinnett and two charter schools were honored along with 424 others throughout the state.
Advanced Placement classes and exams are administered by the College Board, which also administers the SAT. AP classes offer college-level learning options to students in high school. Students who receive a 3, 4 or 5 on AP exams may receive college credit.
• AP CHALLENGE SCHOOLS, or schools of 900 or fewer students with students testing in four of the core areas (English, math, science, and social studies): Gwinnett School of Math, Science and Technology.
• AP ACCESS and SUPPORT SCHOOLS, or schools with at least 30 percent of their AP exams taken by students who identified themselves as African- American and/or Hispanic and 30 percent of all AP exams earning scores of 3 or higher: Archer, Berkmar, Central Gwinnett, Dacula, Grayson, Lanier, Norcross and Shiloh.
• AP MERIT SCHOOLS, or schools with at least 20 percent of the student population taking AP exams and at least 50 percent of all AP exams earning scores of three or higher: Berkmar, Brookwood, Collins Hill, Duluth, GSMST, Mill Creek, Mountain View, Norcross, North Gwinnett, Parkview and Peachtree Ridge.
• AP STEM SCHOOLS, or schools with students testing in at least two AP math courses and two AP science courses (AP calculus AB, AP calculus BC, AP statistics, AP biology, AP chemistry, AP environmental science, AP physics B, AP physics C, AP computer science): Apalachee, Archer, Berkmar, Brookwood, Buford, Central Gwinnett, Collins Hill, Dacula, Duluth, Grayson, GSMST, Lanier, Meadowcreek, Mountain View, Norcross, North Gwinnett, Parkview, Peachtree Ridge, Shiloh and South Gwinnett.
• AP STEM ACHIEVEMENT SCHOOLS, or schools with students testing in at least two AP math courses and two AP science courses and at least 40 percent of the exam scores on AP math and AP science exams earning scores of three or higher: Apalachee, Archer, Berkmar, Brookwood, Buford, Collins Hill, Duluth, Grayson, GSMST, Lanier, Mill Creek, Mountain View, Norcross, North Gwinnett, Parkview and Peachtree Ridge.
Monday, February 24th, 2014
Twenty eight of thirty STAR students gather for a photograph after being recognized during the annual Gwinnett County Student-Teacher Achievement Recognition luncheon at Sonesta Gwinnett Place in Duluth Friday. (Gwinnett Daily Post Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
With admissions counselors clamoring to be their top choice, some of the brightest high school seniors across Gwinnett County were honored on Friday at an annual luncheon.
The only thing that may have been more impressive than the list of potential college destinations were their path of study for the 30 students from 27 high schools. Duke University, Columbia University, Yale University, Harvard University, Brown University, Notre Dame University were just some of the prestigious institutions students have been accepted to with plans to study areas such as neurobiology, mechanical engineering and biosciences.
And at least six plan to attend Georgia Tech.
They moved from other countries as toddlers or when they were in elementary school, such as Berkmar’s Mati Nemera (Africa), Meadowcreek’s Quang Vo (Vietnam) and Shiloh’s Rebeka Zahirovic (Bosnia).
The students were honored at the Sonesta Gwinnett Place hotel for having the highest SAT score at their school. The Student Teacher Achievement Recognition program was created to recognize Georgia’s outstanding high school seniors and the teachers who have been most instrumental in their academic development.
The top sectional honorees were Deion King from Buford, Willie Jin from the Gwinnett School of Math, Science and Technology, Apoorva Gangavelli from North Gwinnett and Michael Yu from Parkview.
King plans to attend Princeton University, while Jin plans to attend Harvard. Gangavelli and Yu are undecided about their college destinations.
Parkview’s Michael Yu, left, and teacher Richard Magner, right, pose for a photograph with President and CEO of the Gwinnett Chamber Dr. Dan Kaufman, center, after being recognized during the annual Gwinnett County Student-Teacher Achievement Recognition luncheon at Sonesta Gwinnett Place in Duluth Friday. (Gwinnett Daily Post Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
Yu, who scored a perfect 2,400 on the SAT, called it an honor to be recognized in front of many great students.
He credited his mother for helping him succeed in school and earn high grades. But she gave him the credit.
“He’s a really good boy, and self-motivating,” his mother, Linda, said. “I didn’t really push that hard.”
Yu is the drum major of Parkview’s marching band, vice president of its school’s chapter of the National Honor Society and a member of the science bowl.
Yu’s earned acceptance letters from Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia, but has applied to Harvard, University of California at Berkeley, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“Just trying to be the best I can,” Yu said. “I definitely consider my biggest competition to be myself. I can kind of see how I can make myself better than my peers, but trying to better myself and be better than who I was yesterday is increasingly harder.”
Billy Jones, a physics and chemistry teacher at Mountain View, is in his 40th year of teaching in Gwinnett, and was selected as a STAR teacher for the 25th time, most recently by Stephen Jenkins.
“He teaches on all levels, has something for every student, and really cares about his students,” Jenkins said.
Archer’s Odemi Pessu, is congratulated by Gwinnett County Public Schools CEO/Superintendent, J. Alvin Wilbanks, for being one of the thirty STAR students and teachers recognized during the annual Gwinnett County Student-Teacher Achievement Recognition luncheon at Sonesta Gwinnett Place in Duluth Friday. (Gwinnett Daily Post Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
Added Jones, “It’s just been a joy to have the ability to teach kids like this and know what wonderful things they can do, and keep up with them in college.”
Sponsored by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators Foundation, the STAR program honors Georgia’s outstanding high school seniors. The STAR program has recognized more than 23,000 high school seniors since 1958.
Thursday, February 20th, 2014
Set to launch later this month, the new Mill Creek cluster mobile app is a free download available in the iTunes store and the Google Play Store. The logo for the app was developed by a Mill Creek student in the digital art program. It’s called “MC3,” which stands for the Mill Creek Cluster Connection. (Special Photo)
Communication spreads so fast these days that one Gwinnett principal admitted that some parents knew school was closed recently before he did.
That same principal, Paul Willis of Fort Daniel Elementary in Dacula, said parents at his school who have other children at a middle school and Mill Creek High, all within the same cluster, may get a different form of communication from each school.
“One parent may get an email from me, a text from Osborne (Middle), and a Twitter from (Principal) Jason (Lane) at Mill Creek,” Willis said.
The cluster, with nine schools is among the largest in the Gwinnett County Public Schools district, will launch on Feb. 28 what it hopes to be a solution: a mobile application for the entire cluster.
“I do think it is a sign of the times and leveraging the technology that is in our kids’ hands, and our parents’ hands,” Lane said.
The entire development cost $1,500, Lane said, and each school will have a yearly fee. The app is a free download available in the iTunes store and the Google Play store. The logo for the app was developed by a Mill Creek student in the digital art program. It’s called “MC3,” which stands for the Mill Creek Cluster Connection.
“This is an attempt to pull us all together and brand ourselves,” Willis said. “We have many parents who have kids at all three levels, so to receive the same communication is really important to us.”
Patrick Elementary Principal Tyese Scott-Oates said the app was designed to make communicating more convenient.
“As they move from one school to the next, making sure that information is common, so they’re not learning a new web page, a new tool, every year,” she said.
Eventually, the app could be used to provide access to the district’s eCLASS initiative assignments.
Last month, South Gwinnett High was the first Gwinnett school to launch a mobile app that features a school calendar, basic general information about the school and a directory of employees with their phone number and email address.
Principal Eric Thigpen said during last week’s winter storm, the app was used for push notifications to alert families about school closings. Thigpen said he’s told his students to be proud that they’re pioneers and trailblazers in this area.
“I see this as not only the wave of the future, but right now our students communicate with apps,” Thigpen said. “This is just a way to better engage our young people.”
Thigpen said the app has been downloaded about 900 times on the Apple platform, and about 500 times for Android products.
The mobile app trend has spread across the country as schools continue to look for new ways to communicate with parents and families. District officials have also begun preliminary research for a district-wide app.
Other examples of app features that schools use are attendance records and grades, newsletters, lunch menus, bus-stop schedules and portals where parents can replenish a cafeteria account.
GCPS already announces school closings on social media sites, and in recent weeks has gained thousands of “likes” and followers.
It’s another form of communication that follows robo-calls, backpack fliers, mass emails and text message alerts.
Lane also said the app could have been handy during the recent winter storm that closed school last week.
“We could have used the app to send a push notification to their phone, like a one way text message, informing them of the news,” he said.
That app stream lines the information, and makes it more efficient because Willis, for example, cannot send a mass email outside of his school’s computer network.
“If it’s never used, it’s not going to be paid attention to, but if it’s over used it’s not going to be paid attention to,” Willis said. “So you have to strike a balance.”
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Monday, February 3rd, 2014
Fred Carter had everything a winning campaign needs: Stickers, a campaign poster and a slogan of respect, accountability, choices and excellence.
Lawrenceville Elementary fifth-grader Fred Carter II shows a letter and picture he received from President Barack Obama recently. Carter wrote the White House seeking advice after he lost a student council president race last fall. (Gwinnett Daily Post Staff Photo: Keith Farner)
Carter, a fifth-grader at Lawrenceville Elementary, also noted that his fall campaign for student council president included changing homework expectations and touting a longer recess period. Carter said he ran because he wanted to make the school better.
“My friends who were here last year,” Carter said, “they told me when they ran, you have to speak up and don’t be shy.”
But Carter lost the election at the start of the school year.
Undaunted, Carter decided to find someone who could offer tips about winning an election. So he wrote to President Barack Obama at the White House.
“I wanted him to know that I lost, but since he won twice, give me some tips about next year,” said Carter, who has aspirations to run again in middle school. “Should I put my picture on a bulletin board, or (use) buttons?”
Lawrenceville Elementary fifth-grader Fred Carter II received this letter and a picture from President Barack Obama. Carter wrote the White House seeking advice after he lost a student council president race last fall. (Gwinnett Daily Post Staff Photo: Keith Farner)
Carter’s mother, Charlene Lawrence, said her son took it upon himself to write the letter after she suggested it in passing.
“‘Mommy I lost, but I’m going to run next year, what do you think I should do?,’” she recalled him saying. “He said, ‘You know what, I need some tips.’ I said, ‘Write the president, ask him.’ And we left it at that. And he did.”
Lawrence said she thought Carter would go to his room and move on from the conversation, but actually wrote the letter. Then she looked up the White House address, and proper directions to send a letter.
During the government shut down, Carter feared that he wouldn’t get a return letter. But about two weeks ago, a letter from the White House arrived in the mail.
Signed by Obama, the letter stated, “Always remember that nothing is beyond your reach as long as you are willing to dream big and work hard.”
Carter then read the letter to his classmates on the morning school news, where this week he became an anchor. On Monday, he said receiving the letter hasn’t sunk in yet.
The letter also provides some confidence when Carter runs for school council next year, his mom said.
“It boosts his self-esteem that the most powerful man in the world is writing him and giving him tips on what to do,” Lawrence said. “Going to a new school, big school, different environment, this will help him.”
Principal Lisa Johnson said several teachers congratulated Carter, and especially noted that he took the initiative to do it.
“It wasn’t a class assignment,” Johnson said. “I think that’s the neatest thing, that he took the initiative, and then he got results from it.”
Lawrence said she follows politics, and often watches cable news with Carter. When Obama won his first presidential election, Carter was in the second grade, and told his mom that he would be the third black president.
Mother and son have talked about a summer trip to visit the White House. In the mean time, the letter will sit framed on Carter’s desk at home where he does homework.
“So every time he does his homework, he can glance at it,” Lawrence said.
Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
A decorated art teacher at Osborne Middle has received another award from a national organization.
Dallas Gillespie was named the National Junior Honor Society Sponsor of the Year by the National Art Honor Society. Gillespie received the award for his dedication to an outstanding student chapter, and service to students in fine arts.
Gillespie is scheduled to receive the award in March during the National Art Education Association Conference in San Diego, Calif.
Gillespie joined the district in 2003 at Dacula Middle, and helped open Osborne Middle in 2004.
Gillespie, who also works with students on the school’s yearbook, earned education degrees from Floyd College and the University of Georgia.
In 2010, he was named the Middle Teacher of the Year by the Georgia Art Education Association.
Thursday, January 9th, 2014
First Lady Sandra Deal, the Governor’s wife introduces herself to STEP Academy student Makhsud Nuriyev during the Children’s Cabinet STEM tour at Moore Middle School in Lawrenceville Wednesday. (Gwinnett Daily Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
When Makhsud Nuriyev first learned about the STEP Academy, he was hesistant about it, and didn’t think it would effect his future.
Now the student at Moore Middle School raves about the program, and has plans to enroll at Georgia State University.
“I thought it was going to be really hard and I wasn’t going to make it,” he said. “It turned out to be really easy, and my teachers also helped me out with my classwork. When you get into it, it gets better, you get more out of it, and it helps you in the future.”
The program received a visit on Wednesday from the First Lady of Georgia, Sandra Deal, who toured several classrooms, and then went to Gwinnett Technical College with students and administrators. Deal’s visit was part of her statewide tour this month on behalf of the Georgia Children’s Cabinet, the Governor’s Office for Children and Families and the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement to spotlight programs that focus on science, technology, engineering and math.
First Lady Sandra Deal, center, the Governor’s wife takes a tour of Moore Middle School during the Children’s Cabinet STEM tour with Principal Lamont Mays, Ember Bishop and Dr. Gwen Tatum in Lawrenceville Wednesday. (Gwinnett Daily Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
The STEP program, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Targeted Education Program, is in its second year at Moore Middle, and was also piloted at Sweetwater Middle. It’s a credit recovery program for over-aged eighth-grade students who are working to get back on track academically. This year, the program introduced a blended curriculum of eighth- and ninth-grade material after it separated the curriculum by grade into separate semesters last year.
“Hopefully there will be hands-on efforts to help them stay in school and be progressive with their lives,” Deal said. “We’re hoping this will lead them into going on to technical training maybe at Gwinnett Tech, to get them the opportunity to improve their lives and do something they love to do, because we’re always happier when we do something we really enjoy.”
The reasons students fall behind are nearly as varied as the number in the program. Some came from other countries and weren’t on grade level, some were held back starting school, or failed a grade in elementary school, or experienced a prolonged illness.
Moore Middle counted 78 students last year who started the program, while 59 ended the program and 42 went on to Central Gwinnett High as sophomores. This year, 73 started the program and 61 students are currently it, said Moore assistant principal Analisa Wendt.
First Lady Sandra Deal, the Governor’s wife visits with STEP Academy students Brad Fulcher and Ashleigh Medley during the Children’s Cabinet STEM tour at Moore Middle School in Lawrenceville Wednesday. (Gwinnett Daily Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
“They come in many not having goals, and they leave having an idea of where to go,” Wendt said. “As long as they stick to that through high school, there’s a much better chance that they graduate.”
The pilot program was established by a $600,000 federal Race to the Top grant, and surpassed all initial benchmarks with students regaining, on average, two or more semesters of academic credit.
“It’s great to hear them articulate and connect with what they’re doing now, and say, ‘Here’s my goal, here’s what I’m doing now,’ and see the importance and significance of being successful,” Moore Principal Lamont Mays said. “It’s not something where, ‘I’ll wake up in 12th grade and say, ‘Oh, I’ll get serious about school.’”
In addition to helping students graduate on time, the program sets a career pathway for them as GCPS has partnered with Gwinnett Tech and the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce. The partnership introduces participating students to dual enrollment opportunities and certificate programs.
While the program is in its infancy, Mays credited teachers’ hard work.
“We have teachers who work far above and beyond what the minimum requirements are,” he said. “They’re doing something that there’s not a lot of others they can go to and say, ‘How does this work.’ So they’re pioneers and trailblazers.”
While two Gwinnett schools use the program, Mays said their success is critical so that the program can grow to other schools and clusters.
“The ripple effect year after year, that’s how you change a community,” he said. “Every dropout is a tremendous burden on the system and we feel like we’ve failed as educators.”
Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
Julie Hitt’s dream was to bring a miniature Fernbank Museum to Puckett’s Mill Elementary.
On Tuesday morning, the Mill Creek Cluster Foundation made that dream a reality with a $7,500 grant for Hitt to expand her resources to teach students about Georgia’s habitats and creatures. Starting with third-graders, the grant is designed to expand throughout the school as Hitt’s room features animal skulls, skins and two acquariums.
“We’re going to get everybody to help out research and provide information,” Hitt said. “As each grade level can use this lab as a hands-on habitat, and really get excited about it.”
The donation is the largest individual grant in the foundation’s nine-year history as it’s donated nearly $110,000 to benefit about 11,800 students in the Mill Creek cluster, MCCF vice president Julie Cunningham said.
Because the habitats and creatures are popular with students around Puckett’s Mill, Hitt said she looked forward to sharing the grant with them.
“I know that they’ll be excited,” she said. “I have kids dropping in my room all the time, that’s why I’m so excited I can share it, because it really touches the science and social studies curriculum of every grade level.”
Osborne Middle School Principal John Campbell awarded “Partner in Education” as a local pioneer for educational foundations that now stretch across Gwinnett County.
The foundation also awarded Osborne Middle Principal John Campbell with its “Partner in Education” award as Campbell was a local pioneer for education foundations that now stretch across Gwinnett County. In his 38th year in education, Campbell said education is his passion, and these foundations are an extension of that.
“I wanted to make sure the spark for creativity and innovation stays alive in our schools,” Campbell said. “The teachers have lots of good ideas, and many times they don’t have the funds to implement those ideas. The Foundation not only gives the funds, but it gives the courage for teachers to step outside the box and try innovative and different things that keep the spark of learning alive in our schools.”
The president of the MCCF, Steve Agee, said Campbell is an inspiration for future teachers, and had a direct influence on the foundation.
Other award recipients were Dee Debold and Rick Milleman of the Jones Middle Robotics Department, which received $867.90, and Whitney Young of Ivy Creek Elementary to use $282.50 for science dissections.
Organizers of the breakfast said the grants and donations were made possible because of events like the recent MCCF Gala at Chateau Elan, which raised about $28,000.
Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
Lawrenceville Elementary Principal Lisa Johnson points to original windows of the school from when it opened in 1962. This afternoon, current and former students, teachers and administrators will gather to celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary. (Gwinnett Daily Post Staff Photo: Keith Farner)
The golden anniversary of Lawrenceville Elementary has hearkened back memories of smoking rooms, hair bouffants and crank copy machines. But one thing remains: the school is still the center of the community.
Fifty years after the school opened with 12 classrooms and a first and second grade, about 400 people are expected to attend an anniversary celebration this afternoon with current and former students, staff and administrators. The anniversary celebration will feature appearances by Gwinnett County Public Schools CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson, Gwinnett County Board of Education chairwoman Carole Boyce, and several former principals.
The school has had four expansions, most recently in 1993 with a lunchroom and 23 classrooms, but the original windows remain on the kindergarten wing.
“There are members of this community who recognize, love this school, have come through this school, their grandchildren have come through this school,” said teacher Tracy Brooks, who is in her 25th year at Lawrenceville.
In its infancy, the school was called Lawrenceville Primary until 1974 when the sixth grade was added. Originally, there was no lunchroom, so students were bused back to the “school on the hill” for lunch.
“This school and (the) high school had very little competition,” said Jimmie Mae Sosebee, a former teacher from 1966-90. “We had low enrollment and parents got to know each other, and teachers got to know parents and staff.”
Alumni of the school have become principals of schools across Gwinnett, while others have gone off to college and returned to work in the community. One of those is attorney Tony Powell, who was in one of the first classes at the school, and is scheduled to speak at the celebration.
“So many people went to Lawrenceville,” the school’s current principal Lisa Johnson said. “I’ll see them and they’re 50-years-old and they’ll say, ‘That’s where my kindergarten class was.’ They still remember where their classroom was and they remember where their first grade and second grade classroom was.”
This picture of Lawrenceville Elementary was taken when it was known as Lawrenceville Primary School in the late 1960s. This afternoon, current and former students, teachers and administrators will gather to celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary. Right, J. N. Timms was the first principal of Lawrenceville Elementary when the school opened with first and second grades in 12 classrooms. He served from 1962-80. (Special Photos)
Memories of the school include the Halloween carnival, which was a favorite of Sosebee’s son, and the days when teachers would make copies using jellied hectograph pans.
“Happy was the day we got that hand-crank thing that you couldn’t print but one piece of paper at a time,” Sosebee said.
Over the years, the school has mirrored changes in society, Sosebee said, in that mothers began to work outside the home, so grandmothers picked up students, and the exterior doors were eventually locked for security. Paddling of students was done until the 1980s, and teachers’ job descriptions also became more specialized.
Sosebee said when she started teaching in the 1960s, the school nurse also handled office duties, so at times she held a phone in one hand and a thermometer in the other.
The school’s population has also become more diverse.
“It’s multicultural,” former student Mary Long said. “We didn’t even know that word back then. I think it’s important that we recognize that.”
As the school prepared for the anniversary celebration, teachers had students write assignments of what they thought school was like 50 years ago, and what they think it will be like in the future.
“It’s funny the stories they’re writing,” Johnson said. “They don’t understand what 50 years is, 50 years is a long time.”
The church community, particularly Baptists and Methodists, has consistently supported the school with volunteers, room mothers and a mentor program.
And even as the county has grown from having 15,000 students in 1968, to nearly 170,000 today, the school remains the place where people meet, and the philosophy of the school remains the same, Johnson said.
“The teachers continue to show that they’re great teachers and they love the children, and that has not changed,” Johnson said.
Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
Tim Hur, left, a local real-estate agent and new member on the GCPS Foundation Board of Directors who serves as the Principal for a Day at Duluth High School talks with Principal Anthony Smith in Duluth Tuesday. Schools all around the county will participate with hosting a member of the community as the Principal for a Day sometime this week. This is Hur’s third year as the Principal for a Day in a Gwinnett County school. (Gwinnett Daily Post Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
Tim Hur’s work day began at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning, but for most principals around Gwinnett, that’s about an hour late.
At least that’s the case for Duluth High Principal Anthony Smith, who answered his first phone call of the week at 5 a.m. Monday morning, and shepherded Hur around Duluth on Tuesday as part of the annual Principal for a Day program. Long days and seemingly limitless hours are synonmous with being a principal, and CEO-level leaders around Gwinnett are learning a glimpse of that this week through the partnership between the Gwinnett Chamber and Gwinnett County Public Schools.
The 10th annual Principal for a Day program is how the local school district commemorates American Education Week.
Hur and about 130 other business and community leaders are taking part in the initiative to better understand the principal’s job description, what’s new in local schools, and how to be a better advocate for schools in the community.
“There’s really a lot of work,” said Hur, CEO of International Business Accelerator and Broker and President of Point Honors and Associates. “I don’t think we give enough credit sometimes to what it is to be a principal. There’s always an expectations that public schools serves the students. But principals go beyond their call of duty to make sure the students are taken care of.”
Smith, for example, arrived at work at about 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday, and following the school day, he planned to attend a school council meeting and a pair of basketball games before returning home around 11 p.m.
“We’re not in a position to count hours,” he said. “It takes a certain level of commitment, but in terms of a community aspect, we become part of our school, we become part of our community. (This program) allows our community to have an authentic view of what our school’s all about.”
What’s more, Hur said that he learned Smith does activities after hours or outside the school day that may not be sanctioned by the school district, but are for the greater good of the community.
Tim Hur, center, a local real-estate agent and new member on the GCPS Foundation Board of Directors speaks to members of the Gwinnett Student Leadership team, Abhirup Ramachandiran, left, Ashima Gauba, Maria Matthews and Rebecca Graham at Duluth High School in Duluth Tuesday. (Gwinnett Daily Post Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
Hur, a real estate agent and new member of the GCPS Foundation Board, met with students and teachers around Duluth High in a series of meetings including a multi-tasking lunch with Duluth’s Student Leadership Team in what Smith called a typical work day.
Leading nearly 200 staff members and 2,653 students is a lesson in planning and anticipation, but also preparing for unknowns or surprises each day.
“When I’m driving the truck into work, I’m not sure what I’m doing today,” Smith said. “It’s a balance of planning and flexibility that makes a good principal. The better we are communicating, the more confidence, credibility and trust our community has about the work we do, because we are proud of the work we do, and have some great things going on here.”
This is the third straight year that Hur has participated in the program, and he said each school demonstrates its own unique challenges and objectives, which dictates how the school should be run.
At Duluth, diversity and the arts stand out. Smith said the school is the most diverse in Gwinnett, and boasts 340 students in its orchestra, which is among the largest in the state.
Hur even said there were lessons he learned to take back to his own office.
“One of the things I’m embracing is seeing how they interact with each other,” he said. “You are as strong as your team. Everyone is close like a family here, but you can see it, you can feel it, it’s a lot more evident here.”