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Eight GCPS students receive National Merit scholarships

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Eight Gwinnett County high school seniors, including two each from Duluth High and the Gwinnett School of Math, Science and Technology, have been awarded National Merit Scholarships.

The students come from six high schools, and are among the first group of winners in the 60th annual program where more than 1,000 students are selected. The scholarships are financed by about 200 corporations, company foundations, and other business organizations.

Scholars were selected from among 15,000 students who advanced to the finalist level in the National Merit Scholarship competition and met criteria of their scholarship sponsors. Corporate sponsors provide National Merit Scholarships for finalists who are children of their employees, residents of communities the company serves, or students who plan to pursue college majors or careers the sponsor wishes to encourage.

The competition began when more than 1.4 million high school juniors from 22,000 high schools took the 2013 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which served as the initial screening for program entrants. The highest-scoring participants in each state were then selected as semifinalists.

From the semifinalist group, 15,000 met the very high academic standards and other requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition. About 7,600 will be named scholarship winners, with additional winners named throughout the spring and into summer.

National Merit Scholars from Gwinnett:

From Brookwood High School:

Kwadwo Korang Obeng-Marnu
Probable career field: Physics
Honorary Merit Scholarship

An honorary merit scholarship award signifies that the scholar’s educational plans or other awards preclude receipt of a monetary scholarship. The student’s name is included in the public announcement in recognition of distinguished performance in the competition.

From Duluth High School:

Vikram S. Varadarajan
Probable career field: Medicine
National Merit Norfolk Southern Scholarship

Norfolk Southern has an educational aid program which furthers educational opportunities by supporting higher learning. In addition to these scholarships which are supported by Norfolk Southern Foundation, Norfolk Southern has an employee tuition assistance program and a matching gifts program.

Michael Xu
Probable career field: Materials Engineering
National Merit Cardinal Health Foundation Scholarship

The Cardinal Health Foundation annually supports Merit Scholarship awards for the sons and daughters of Cardinal Health employees to recognize their academic excellence and assist in their pursuit of higher education.

From Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology:

Mitesh D. Bhalani
Probable career field: Bioengineering
National Merit James E. Casey Scholarship

National Merit James E. Casey Scholarships and James E. Casey Scholarships for children of United Parcel Service employees are supported by the UPS Foundation, in honor of the founder of United Parcel Service.

Artur D. Tarasenko
Probable career field: Computer Science
National Merit Automatic Data Processing, Inc. Henry Taub Memorial Scholarship

Merit Scholarship awards are funded by the ADP Foundation for the children of ADP employees.

From Norcross High School:

Matthew Gary Chen
Probable career field: Finance
National Merit Southern Company Scholarship

The Atlanta-based Southern Company owns electric utilities in four states and a generation company, as well as fiber optics and wireless communications.

From North Gwinnett High School:

Hasib Muhammad
Probable career field: Statistics
National Merit Norfolk Southern Scholarship

Norfolk Southern has an educational aid program which furthers educational opportunities by supporting higher learning. In addition to these scholarships which are supported by Norfolk Southern Foundation, Norfolk Southern has an employee tuition assistance program and a matching gifts program.

From Peachtree Ridge High School:

Blake T. Best
Probable career field: Economics
National Merit Georgia-Pacific Foundation Scholarship

The Georgia-Pacific Foundation supports Merit Scholarship awards for sons and daughters of employees of Georgia-Pacific Corporation and its subsidiary companies.

http://www.gwinnettdailypost.com/news/2015/apr/22/eight-gcps-students-receive-national-merit/

GSMST Again Tops Georgia Schools in National Rankings

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015
Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology

Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology

The Gwinnett School of Math, Science and Technology should make room for more hardware.

The Lawrenceville charter school remained on top of a ranking by The Washington Post’s list of “most challenging” high schools across the country. GSMST was named the top school in Georgia on the list, 19th in the South and 26th in the country out of 2,300 schools.

Last year, GSMST was ranked No. 1 in Georgia and No. 17 in the country.

The list, compiled by staff writer Jay Mathews, is measured by a “challenge index” that considers the number of students who enroll in Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Advanced International Certificate of Education courses.

Schools qualify only if they give at least as many AP, IB or AICE exams in a year as they have graduating seniors. They are then ranked by their tests-to-graduates ratio. The index also includes a sampling of private schools. While the ranking considers the number of AP, IB and AICE tests given, it doesn’t weigh how well the students do.

The index score is the number of college-level tests given at a school in the previous calendar year divided by the number of graduates that year. Also noted are the percentage of students who come from families that qualify for lunch subsidies and the percentage of graduates who passed at least one college-level test during their high school career, which is a category called equity and excellence.

Thirty-five percent of GSMST students receive lunch subsidies.

GSMST Principal IV Bray said that as an accelerated school, AP courses are a critical component of the curriculum at GSMST, so school officials expect to do well in a ranking like this as it mirrors what the school focuses on: “giving students an opportunity to ‘go deep’ in a number of STEM areas.”

“I am pleased that the hard work and dedication of our faculty, our students, and our school community can be acknowledged by external evaluators,” Bray said in an email to the Daily Post.

Bray said the school didn’t have any celebrations planned, but students and teachers are pulling hard for the math team to repeat as state champions on Saturday in Macon.

The only other Georgia school in the top 100 nationwide is St. Andrew’s, a private school in Savannah, which ranked 97th. Meadowcreek High was listed fifth in Georgia and ranked 140th nationally. Eighty-six percent of Meadowcreek students receive lunch subsidies.

In an analysis of the ranks, Mathews wrote, “Very few campuses have adopted the heavy load of college-level courses in ninth and 10th grades that characterize the top 30 schools.”

Mathews also wrote that survey results he compiled to develop the list revealed that many schools still keep average students out of their best courses even though research shows they do better in college when given that opportunity.

Thirty-four percent of the 1,403 high schools that responded to the question said they had traditional rules barring enrollment in AP, IB or AICE if a student lacked the necessary grade-point average, teacher’s recommendation or good grade in a previous course. This suggests that many U.S. schools still have such rules, since Mathews surveyed only the top 11 percent of schools as measured by participation in AP, IB and AICE.

“One reason why 89 percent of U.S. public schools don’t make The Post’s list is that rules limiting access are still widespread,” Mathews wrote.

http://www.gwinnettdailypost.com/news/2015/apr/21/gsmst-again-tops-georgia-schools-in-national/

GCPS, Quality-Plus Leadership Academy and Aspiring Principal Program

Friday, April 17th, 2015

Business MeetingAs the state’s largest school system, Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) values leaders who have the skills and training to lead world-class schools to increased levels of academic achievement for all students. Because of the changing demographics in our schools, school leaders must be knowledgeable about instruction, should articulate the school’s vision and mission, and promote a positive school environment in an era of accountability. Quality-Plus Leaders model high expectations for teachers and students, and execute a vision so that these expectations may be realized.

The Quality-Plus Leader Academy (QPLA) is a locally created initiative that serves as an umbrella to cover all activities associated with training and development of leaders in GCPS.

http://gettingsmart.com/2015/04/5-exemplary-leadership-programs/

Gwinnett Students Named State Champs in Georgia’s Odyssey of the Mind State Finals

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015
Odyssey-of-the-Mind-Winners

(Top row L-R) Mill Creek High ninth-graders Emma Beguhn and Bailey Martinez, GSMST ninth-grader Benjamin Breer and (Bottom row L-R) 10th grader Kyle Patel, along with Osborne Middle eighth-graders Joshua Bingham and Danielle Williams

Several Gwinnett students recently were named state champions in Georgia’s Odyssey of the Mind state finals. Mill Creek High ninth-graders Emma Beguhn and Bailey Martinez, GSMST ninth-grader Benjamin Breer and 10th grader Kyle Patel, along with Osborne Middle eighth-graders Joshua Bingham and Danielle Williams all were crowned.

The students will now compete against teams from around the country and up to 26 countries around the world at Michigan State University in May.

They competed for Geekspace Gwinnett, “a nonprofit, member operated makerspace.”

Their problem to solve was a “Runaway Train,” where they designed, built and operated multiple vehicles that traveled on complex tracks, making stops at different stations without touching the floor. While traveling between stations, the vehicles overcame obstacles. The theme of the required performance explained the vehicle’s difficulties encountered on the track. The team’s solution included several engineered vehicles and tracks and involved multiple skills (3-D Printing, Welding, Electronics/Soldering, CNC and AutoCAD). One of their props included more than 2,500 cut coffee stirs to form a “Mozart” portrait.

http://www.gwinnettdailypost.com/news/2015/apr/04/good-news-from-schools-gsmst-student-wins-top/

GSMST Student Wins Top Award at Gwinnett Science Fair

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015
Photo detail

Jeffery Yang, a junior from GSMST, shows his project recently at the state science fair at the University of Georgia. Yang was presented with the Pinnacle Award, which is the highest award given at the fair, and was among four students selected as Green Power EMC ISEF trip winners.

A student from the Gwinnett School of Math, Science and Technology set himself apart from more than 700 students recently at the state science fair, and will soon travel to Pittsburgh next month for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Jeffery Yang, a junior from GSMST, was presented with the Pinnacle Award, which is the highest award given at the fair, and was among four students selected as Green Power EMC ISEF trip winners. Green Power EMC, a nonprofit corporation that buys and markets electricity from green Georgia sources and generates awareness about environmental products and services, sponsors the state competition and provides travel funds and cash awards to students selected to advance.

The recent competition at the University of Georgia was attended by middle and high school students who competed for cash awards and prizes at the 67th annual Georgia Science and Engineering Fair, administered by the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education.

At the Gwinnett competition last month, Yang advanced to the state with a project that showed the effects of different diets on the food preferences of ants.

http://www.gwinnettdailypost.com/news/2015/apr/04/good-news-from-schools-gsmst-student-wins-top/

GSMST STEM Festival 2015

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

2015-GSMST-STEM-FESTIVAL

At area board meeting, Wilbanks trumpets GCPS success, discusses ongoing challenges

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

WilbanksDACULA — As Gwinnett County Public Schools trumpets its success with highly produced videos and up-tempo music, officials with the school district admit they are facing challenges to sustain the reputation it has developed in recent years.

CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks told a mostly full theater at Dacula High School on Thursday night during an area school board meeting that while the school district is a two-time winner of the Broad Prize, which a prestigious national education award, increasing diversity, poverty and a slow recovery from the recession are also concerns.

“We have challenges, and just can’t wait around and figure out what to do,” Wilbanks said.

One strategy the school district plans to use, Wilbanks said, is partnering with foundations, churches, day cares and early learning centers to make sure children are prepared for school before they arrive for kindergarten. Wilbanks said there’s never been a time when the community has had better parents, but there’s also never been a time when students don’t have the support they need at home, which manifests itself when “children are having children.”

“I’ve never seen a poor school in a good community,” Wilbanks said. “This business of educating children takes more than the people in the school. Takes more than the administrators and teachers. What we really need is support from the community and parents, of course they’re our first teachers, to support not only their children but care about the well-being of all children.”

In about an hour-long presentation of the school district initiatives and priorities, Wilbanks pointed to focuses on college and career priorities, the academy model — which will be expanded to Berkmar High and Discovery High in August — the dual language program and science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

Wilbanks and the school board are in the midst of their annual spring tour around Gwinnett, when they visit a school in each electoral district for an evening program. The final area board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on April 14 at North Gwinnett High.

Financially, Wilbanks said the average teacher in the proposed budget will receive a 4.38 percent raise, while beginning teacher salaries will be raised to $41,028 — up from $38,383 — to lift the district up from last on a list of seven metro Atlanta school districts. Wilbanks outlined the $1.858 billion budget proposal that the school board is considering.

The decline in Gwinnett’s local property tax digest, which is out-pacing the statewide average, means GCPS has dropped to 113th in wealth per student out of 180 school districts. That ranking has steadily declined in recent years from 41st in 2007 and 87th three years ago.

In a brief comparison with Fulton County Schools, Wilbanks said Gwinnett educates roughly twice the number of students with the same level of money.

Wilbanks said the district expects to have about 176,000 students in August when it will open four new schools. Because of that growth, the district expects to hire 137 new teachers on top of the 800 it projects to hire due to retirements and other departures.

School board member Carole Boyce, who presided over the meeting, acknowledged the pending retirements of principals at Mulberry Elementary and Dacula Elementary. Mary Lou Enright at Dacula and Vivian Stranahan at Mulberry are closing their careers after 28 and 32 years, respectively. Enright has led her school since 2008, while Stranahan has led Mulberry since it opened in 2007.

http://www.gwinnettdailypost.com/news/2015/apr/02/at-area-board-meeting-wilbanks-trumpets-gcps/

Gwinnett County Schools Honors Counselors

Friday, February 6th, 2015
Counselors

Roberts Elementary Principal Dion Jones poses for a picture with, from left, Dianne Thompson, director of advisement and counseling with Gwinnett County Schools, Roberts counselors Stacey Miller and Marian Kalvert. Jones on Thursday was given the district’s Advocate of the Year award for school counseling. (Gwinnett Daily Post Staff Photo: Keith Farner)

SUWANEE — It’s time to make more room for another counseling award at Roberts Elementary.

Principal Dion Jones on Thursday was named the Advocate of the Year during a celebration of school counselors at the Gwinnett County Public Schools district office. Last year, Jones presented his own counselor, Stacey Miller, with a Counselor of the Year award.

Jones called the award a reflection of the work his school’s counselors do every day. This is the second full school year Roberts has a second counselor after Marian Kalvert joined the school on a part-time basis.

“It feels that our counselors won the award, they do the work, and I support what they do,” Jones said. “I give all the credit to them.”

Jones was among eight award recipients, including Danielle Graff of Jenkins Elementary, Vanita Moon of Snellville Middle, Kim Tepker of Duluth High and Robin Zorn of Mason Elementary.

Zorn, who won the Writer of the Year award, won last year’s National School Counselor of the Year award.

Miller and Kalvert said Jones gives them the time and resources to do their job, and he’s supported them adding programs that are dedicated to college and career or interventions, and develops his own ideas.

When Roberts realized he had the resources to add an assistant principal or a counselor, he chose a counselor because he knew about Miller’s vision for the program, and she couldn’t do that by herself.

Roberts Elementary Principal Dion Jones, left, poses with Gwinnett County Schools Associate Superintendent Kevin Tashlein after Jones was given the district’s Advocate of the Year award for school counseling. (Staff Photo: Gwinnett Daily Post Keith Farner)

Roberts Elementary Principal Dion Jones, left, poses with Gwinnett County Schools Associate Superintendent Kevin Tashlein after Jones was given the district’s Advocate of the Year award for school counseling. (Staff Photo: Gwinnett Daily Post Keith Farner)

“If we had some help, here are all the programs we can add on, we can expand what we’re already doing and help our attendance and improve test scores,” Miller recalls advocating to Jones. “At that point, he decided to add a school counselor, which in our school I know is very tough because we don’t have a lot of staff.”

Added Kalvert, “I just feel from him that he really believes in Stacey and I, and I really believe that we have his heart-felt trust. He has buy-in into what we’re doing. What sets him apart is this feeling of trust and support.”

Miller added that often students bring ideas to her, and Jones is usually open to them and signs off on them.

“We just make it happen,” said Miller, who is in her fifth year at Roberts and helped Jones open the school. “He just allows us to do our jobs.”

The school counts 15 counseling programs and plans to add another next year. That number is virtually unheard of on the elementary level, Miller said.

“We talk about where we are and where we’re headed,” Jones said. “What is the next thing we can add this year so we’re not overwhelmed, that’s going to help our kids. We want sustainability in the program. We try to add slowly.”

Adding Kalvert enabled the counselors to serve more students in smaller groups and divide the grade levels to have a greater impact, Jones said.

At Jenkins Elementary, Principal Dot Schoeller said Graff has organized a mentoring program with Georgia Gwinnett College students to work with fifth graders on their college plans.

She also has a knack for figuring out when to encourage a child to carry their load, and when to wrap her arms around them and ease their burden.

“She’s the kind of counselor every student wants, every administrator wants, every parent wants, and all of our students just love her,” Schoeller said.

At Snellville Middle, Moon created a PEP Club, which stands for People Encouraging People, which supports struggling students. Students in the club work with peer leaders, chart their academic growth and get the additional support.

She also has worked with the director of her school’s Junior Leadership Corps to facilitate a schoolwide anti-bullying program called SOAR, Self-esteem Occurs from Acceptance and Respect, which is aligned with other school goals.

“There is a high energy when she works with students,” Principal Katise Menchan said. “Whether she is in the classroom or just interacting with students in the hallway. Her smile provides encouragement and calmness in situations in which only her magic touch can heal.”

At Duluth High, Principal Anthony Smith said Tepker brings strength, discernment and expert skill into every situation.

“She builds strong relationships with students and instills within them the confidence that they can meet their potential and realize their dreams,” Smith said.

Counselors from Mulberry Elementary, Jones Middle, Parkview High and Shiloh High also received the 21st Century Comprehensive Counseling Award. It’s the second year the district has given the award, which recognizes outstanding, innovative programs that show evidence of counseling program advocacy and goals that use data to guide program design, delivery, and evaluation.

Counselors across Gwinnett have filled trophy cases in recent years with state and national awards.

Recent honorees include Jennifer Diaz, a finalist for 2015 National Counselor of the Year; Andrea Hodgin, a semifinalist for the 2015 national honor.

“When you think about some of the most difficult and delicate situations our schools face, counselors are almost always in the mix,” Smith said. “They’re always present in times of crisis, whether it be student crisis, teacher crisis or school crisis.”

http://www.gwinnettdailypost.com/news/2015/feb/05/gwinnett-county-schools-celebrates-honors/

Fourth-grader takes top spot in Gwinnett County Spelling Bee

Monday, February 2nd, 2015
Spelling Bee Winner 2015

Arica Gholston receives her 1st place trophy during Saturday’s GCAE/GCPS spelling bee at Central Gwinnett High School in Lawrenceville. (Photo: Kyle Hess)

LAWRENCEVILLE — Arica Gholston rises from her chair and walks across the stage to the microphone. The tiniest contestant of the spelling bee lowers the mic so that she’s able to speak into it. She must correctly spell two words before she can walk away a champion.

She looks calm and collected as she correctly spells the first word, “glasnost.” Only one word left, she spells v-e-r-b-o-t-e-n, “verboten.” It’s correct. The audience applauds as Gholston, the only fourth-grader among the 13 finalists, is named the winner of the 2015 Gwinnett County Public School Spelling Bee.

The young spelling champ said she was a little nervous because the words were more difficult than the ones she spelled at her school’s qualifying bee. Also, the words grew more difficult as the competition progressed.

“After the finals came, it went to all these wacko words, just harder and a lot harder to understand. It’s English and you never really know how it’s spelled unless you look at it. English has all these crazy rules and exceptions, ” Gholston said. “I just spell it like it sounds, if I don’t know.”

Gholston was cheered on by her mom Treva, grandfather Leslie Eure and her twin sister Lindsay, who was a finalist with Gholston during Head Elementary’s qualifying bee. According to Treva, Gholston has always been a good speller and learned to read when she was only 2 years old. Also, she has an exceptional memory.

“She probably has the best memory of anyone I’ve met in my life,” Treva said. “We’ve all been encouraging her and trying to help her study and get prepared, now we’ll just double up for the District Spelling Bee.”

The spelling champ is still an avid reader, recently becoming a fan of the “Harry Potter” series. She said reading helps enhance her spelling skills but she still has to practice to learn each word’s pronunciation. She also believes having a “photographic memory” is a big help.

It’s hard to believe that Gholston almost didn’t make it to the stage. She was one of three students that competed in an three-way tiebreaker for a spot on stage.

The GCPS spelling bee, sponsored by Gwinnett Daily Post, began at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday at Central Gwinnett High School. Eighty-seven students in grades fourth through eighth representing schools across the county first took a written spelling contest. The 13 students with the top scores then moved on to the oral spelling contest, but not before the tie breaker took place for the last 13 spot. Three students, including Gholston, were given five additional words to spell in order to break the tie.

“I didn’t even know if I was going to make it past the tie breaker because I only got two words,” said Gholston, adding she felt more confident once she made it to the oral spelling contest because she recognized and had practiced many of the words.

The spelling bee lasted about an hour with students spelling words like contiguous, abysmal and obfuscate for seven rounds. Three students were knocked out in the first two rounds, and by round seven there were only four students left — eighth-grader Abigail Obeng-Marnu, seventh-grader Gautum Desai, eighth-grader Shawn Im and fourth-grader Arica Gholston.

Desai and Im were knocked out in the sixth round, leaving Obeng-Marnu and Gholston to battle it out for the win. After Obeng-Marnu misspelled the word “jeremiad,” Gholston spelled the next two words correctly, earning the top spot. All the contestants were given a trophy and cash prizes, with runner-up Obeng-Marnu receiving $75 and Gholston being awarded $200.

All 13 finalists will need to keep their spelling skills sharp as they move on to the District 3 Spelling Bee, which will take place on Feb. 28 at Barrow County Schools Professional Development Center.

FINALISTS

  • Winner — Arica Gholston, 4th, Head Elementary School
  • Runner Up — Abigail Obeng-Marnu, 8th, Crews Middle School
  • Rucker Robinson, 7th, North Gwinnett Middle School
  • Ryan Tay, 8th, Trickum Middle School
  • Martin Lachev, 6th, Pinckney Middle School
  • Imiri David, 8th, Osborne Middle School
  • Gautum Desai, 7th, Duluth Middle School
  • Fotikhjon Karimov, 8, Radloff Middle School
  • Rebecca Shaefer, 7th, Creekland Middle School
  • Shawn Im, 8th, Hull Middle School
  • Nimra Khan, 8th, Shiloh Middle School
  • Albert Doan, 5th, Suwanee Elementary School
  • Colyne Massey, 8th, Twin Rivers Middle School

http://www.gwinnettdailypost.com/news/2015/jan/31/fourth-grader-takes-top-spot-in-gwinnett-county/

Peachtree Ridge Alum Leading Emory Team in $1 Million Competition

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015
Mehul-Bhagat

Peachtree Ridge High School alum and GCPS Foundation Brannan Scholarship recipient, Mehul Bhagat.

A Peachtree Ridge High alumnus is one step closer to winning $1 million by representing Emory University in a competition in Dubai.

Mehul Bhagat is a first-year Robert W. Woodruff Scholar at Emory and leading a team from the College of Arts and Sciences and Goizueta Business School in the sixth annual Hult Prize Challenge. Bhagat’s team recently advanced to the regional finals of the competition, which is considered the world’s largest student competition and start-up platform for social good.

The Hult Prize gives entrepreneurs from around the world a platform to innovate and revolutionize the way society thinks about servicing the poor. Each team selected was chosen from more than 20,000 applications received from more than 500 colleges and universities in over 150 countries. The Hult Prize regional final competitions will take place on March 13 and 14 in Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai and Shanghai.

The competition is in partnership with President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative, the innovative crowdsourcing platform identifies and launches disruptive and catalytic social ventures that aim to solve the planet’s most pressing challenges.

“For so long I have been drawn to the idea that education is the silver bullet,” Bhagat said in a press release. “It’s such a beautiful idea. But it needs to be more than just an idea. That means we need to invest in education, to prioritize innovation, to tap into the entrepreneurial spirit of people all across the globe.”

Bhagat’s team will work over the next two months to prepare their pitch to expand access to early childhood education.

The 2015 Hult Prize will focus on building start-ups that provide sustainable, high quality early education solutions to ten million children under the age of six in urban slums and beyond by the year 2020.

Following the regional finals, one winning team from each host city will move into a summer business incubator, where participants will receive mentorship, advisory and strategic planning as they create prototypes and set-up to launch and scale their new ventures. A final round of competition will be hosted by Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative at its annual meeting in September, where CGI delegates will select a winning team, which will be awarded the prize by Clinton himself.

http://www.gwinnettdailypost.com/news/2015/jan/24/good-news-from-schools-peachtree-ridge-alum/