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Join us for the Lanier Education Foundation's Fourth Annual Blue Jean Ball on Saturday, February 28, at 6:00pm, Lake Lanier Islands Legacy Lodge.
An evening to celebrate excellence in education! Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center. Friday, February 13, 2015, at 7:00pm

Peachtree Ridge Alum Leading Emory Team in $1 Million Competition

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

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.

Gwinnett County Schools Announces Name for New High School

Monday, January 26th, 2015
Construction workers at the new high school on Old Norcross Road in Lawrenceville have completed the athletics facilities, while the main building classroom portion is about 95 percent complete with the balance of the building in the finishing stage. The school is expected to open in August with between 700 and 900 students. (Gwinnett Daily Staff Photo: Keith Farner)

Construction workers at the new high school on Old Norcross Road in Lawrenceville have completed the athletics facilities, while the main building classroom portion is about 95 percent complete with the balance of the building in the finishing stage. The school is expected to open in August with between 700 and 900 students. (Gwinnett Daily Staff Photo: Keith Farner)

It’s what they hope students take away after walking through its doors, and now it will be on the front of the building.

The new high school in Lawrenceville, scheduled to open in August, will be called Discovery.

“This is a very unusual school and many of the programs going on at this particular school will have a different look about them,” Gwinnett School Board member Carole Boyce said. “The building itself does, and we anticipate that our students will have exciting and unusual and very progressive type programs through their learning environment.”

It was announced in November that the principal of the new high school, which will relieve Berkmar and Central Gwinnett high schools, is John Campbell, the principal of Osborne Middle and the longest tenured principal in Gwinnett.

The new high school has a list of entrepreneurial and personal finance programs and curriculum not seen in Gwinnett, and only sparingly offered in doses across the state. It will also host students from across the county to learn about personal finance and business principles.

The school will be the district’s 19th cluster high school and will feature an entrepreneurship center, two Junior Achievement of Georgia programs for middle school students called JA BizTown and JA Finance Park.

That “free enterprise vigor” that causes people to provide jobs and entrepreneurial spirit is one of the founding principles of this country, said CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks.

The building covers 650,000 square feet and is a former warehouse once occupied by Bridgestone Tire, but was not in operation when the district purchased the property in 2005 for $6.7 million. Construction cost to make the new school is $63.5 million.

The school is projected to eventually host 2,000 students, but next school year will have between 700 and 900 students.

NG3 Organization Provides Character Building for Five Gwinnett County Schools

Monday, January 26th, 2015
NG3 Sponsors

NG3 staff members Javier Munoz, Thomas Jannett, Matt Williams, Jon Stinchcomb, Michael Woelfl, and Dustin Mattox pose for a portrait at Archer High School on Tuesday in Lawrenceville. With Stinchcomb handling the group’s operations, the other five men help build the character of students in five Gwinnett County schools through mentorship and serving the community. (Gwinnett Daily Post Staff Photo: David Welker)

Very rarely in life is one afforded the opportunity to feel like they’re the right person in the right situation at the exact right time.

Yet that’s exactly how NG3 president and founder Matt Williams feels about a 2005 meeting with then Brookwood football head coach Mark Crews. Williams, a former Brookwood defensive back, was asked by his old high school coach to spend some time with the football team and give the players a third-party outlet that wasn’t part of the coaching staff.

It was that initial opportunity to work with student-athletes that showed Williams the path he’s currently on. Now almost 10 years later, he leads NG3, which stands for Next Generation: Character, Community and Change. He works with five others as their organization provides a faith-based character development outlet for five Gwinnett County schools.

“It has grown a little more every year,” Williams said. “Grown a little more into character programs to developing deeper relationships to getting more kids involved in community service projects, which is really our heart at this point. Obviously it’s come a long way since those early years, but those are the areas we really want to target in NG3, and that’s across schools and campuses. The character, community and the change aspect is what we really want.”

Jon Stinchcomb, who played football for Georgia and won a Super Bowl as an All-Pro offensive tackle with the New Orleans Saints, is the organization’s operational director. The Parkview grad, the lone staff member who isn’t placed at a school, joined the staff two years ago.

Williams is still working with Brookwood, while Javier Munoz works with Berkmar, Dustin Mattox with Grayson, Michael Woelfl with South Gwinnett and Thomas Jannett with Archer.

NG3 Founder Matt Williams, right, and operations manager Jon Stinchcomb, right, pose for a portrait at Archer High School on Tuesday in Lawrenceville. With Stinchcomb handling the group’s operations, Williams leads four others in helping build the character of students in five Gwinnett County schools through mentorship and serving the community. (Gwinnett Daily Staff Photo: David Welker)

NG3 Founder Matt Williams, right, and operations manager Jon Stinchcomb, right, pose for a portrait at Archer High School on Tuesday in Lawrenceville. With Stinchcomb handling the group’s operations, Williams leads four others in helping build the character of students in five Gwinnett County schools through mentorship and serving the community. (Gwinnett Daily Staff Photo: David Welker)

NG3 pays the salaries of the school directors, who work with multiple sports on each campus, with their roles varying widely from sport to sport. They go through the required Gwinnett County certifications to be able to work with the different sports, but the county doesn’t pay any portion of their salary — NG3 does through donations and fundraisers for the non-profit organization.

The staff members are generally listed by the schools as character coaches who work with as many sports as they possibly can. Volunteers also serve at each school to work with the other programs that each school director is unable to make it to.

A typical day for an NG3 school director could range from just being at a practice for student-athletes to talk to, or they could find themselves helping run drills.

“NG3 staff has no say in who starts and who gets playing time, who gets the C captain letter on their jersey,” Stinchcomb said. “That’s liberating. (Students) can come to us and share things and know that it’s not going to affect their playing time, and vice-versa. We can teach them and share with them in ways that teachers and coaching staffs can’t, just because they’re employed by Gwinnett County.”

While on campus, NG3 respects the separation of church and state, providing mostly character building to student-athletes. But their hope is that as the relationship builds they can eventually get the students to want to be more involved off the field and join what they call huddle groups, which are Bible studies and support groups. Read more…

Wilbanks among appointees to governor’s education reform commission

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Wilbanks-smallGov. Nathan Deal’s new education reform commission will have a significant Gwinnett presence.

Deal announced in a Wednesday news release the names of the 33 members of the commission, which will be tasked with studying the state’s education system and providing “recommendations intended to improve the system, increase access to early learning programs, recruit and retain high-quality instructors and expand school options for Georgia’s families.” Funding reform will be also be addressed.

Commission members are from throughout the state, but three of the group’s most high-profile participants have local ties: Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks, Brooks Coleman (a state representative from Duluth’s District 97 and chairman of the House Education Committee) and Fran Millar (a state senator from District 40, which includes part of Gwinnett, and chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee).

Dick Yarborough, a syndicated columnist whose work appears in the Daily Post, will also serve on the commission.

“My vision for K-12 education in Georgia is a system driven by student need that provides local school and district leaders with real control and flexibility,” Deal said in the news release. “With this commission now in place, it is my hope that we will work together to make education more accessible and effective in preparing our state’s students for the rigors of college and the workforce.”

The commission will convene throughout the year and send recommendations to the governor’s office by Aug. 1. Some recommendations could go into effect as early as the 2016-17 school year, officials said.

GCPS Foundation awards Innovating Learning Grants totaling $50,000

Friday, December 19th, 2014

groupInnovating Learning Grants totaling $50,000 were awarded to Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) educators at  the 2014 holiday gathering of the Gwinnett County Public Schools Foundation.

The list of recipients of the December 2014 grants appears below. Under the Innovating Teaching initiative, grants totaling $175,200 have been issued in two years benefitting 18 clusters, 39 elementary schools, nine middle schools, 25 high schools, and three multi-level facilities. A complete list is available at

Recipient School Cluster Project Amount
Donna Davis Cooper ES Archer Cluster STEM Enrichment $1000
Sharon Amolo Gwin Oaks ES Brookwood Cluster STEAM, science technology, engineering, arts & math in 3D $2000
Trisha Conner Harbins ES Archer Cluster STEM Learning to code with Robotics $1000
Catherine Williams Pharr ES Grayson Cluster Activity Trainer, Discrete Trial $4000
Terilyn L. Smith Rockbridge ES Meadowcreek Cluster Engineering kits for project based STEM $3000
Matthew Smith White Oak ES Lanier Cluster Project Based Learning Team $4000
Dana Carol Booker Shiloh MS Shiloh Cluster Care Team Success in the Classroom Support $2000
Monica Brown Five Forks MS Brookwood Cluster Collaborative Learning Media Centers $7000
Leslie Greer Dacula MS Dacula Cluster Collaborative Learning Media Centers $7000
Nicole D’Antonio GSMST Charter AP Vertical Articulation Initiative $7000
Sheila Harmony GSMST Charter STEM FEST $5500
Mary Rutland Peachtree Ridge HS Peachtree Ridge Cluster Girls in Technology $6500

Broad Prize Celebration!!

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014
Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Willbanks, right, shakes hands with Bruce Reed, the Broad Foundation Present, during the Gwinnett County Public Schools Broad Award celebration at the newly renamed J. Alvin Willbanks Instructional Support Center on Tuesday in Suwanee. (Staff Photo: David Welker)

Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Willbanks, right, shakes hands with Bruce Reed, the Broad Foundation Present, during the Gwinnett County Public Schools Broad Award celebration at the newly renamed J. Alvin Willbanks Instructional Support Center on Tuesday in Suwanee. (Staff Photo: David Welker)

SUWANEE — When Celeste Wilbanks, the five grandchildren and great-granddaughter showed up, it was officially a big deal.

A big party reached another level at the very end of an evening celebration that turned out to be unscripted for almost all of the 1,400 attendees. In a suprise announcement on Tuesday evening when the latest Broad Prize was awarded to Gwinnett County Public Schools, the Gwinnett County Board of Education named the Instructional Support Center in honor of CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks.

Wilbanks, who has led the school district since 1996, knew it was coming at some point, but the timing was a surprise. Most of the senior district leaders were not aware. Only Chief of Staff Berney Kirkland and Chief Operations Officer Danny Jardine were aware that the naming would happen on Tuesday.

“I was thrilled,” said Celeste, Alvin Wilbanks’ wife of 50 years, who doesn’t attend many public functions. “This kind of sums up every thing about him. … I thought it was just perfect.”

The Board members said they considered naming a new school after Wilbanks, but chose the ISC because it represents the district overall — a sort of umbrella effect.

Wilbanks said he was honored and humbled by the honor.

“I love this school district, I love this county,” said Wilbanks, who called it a ‘wow evening’ even before his naming announcement was made. “My family means everything to me. I didn’t know my wife and my two daughters were here. I should have realized that when the grandchildren were here. When you get to be a grandparent, grandchildren are special, and they know they’re special to me, and I certainly appreciate them being here.”

Before the Wilbanks announcement, the evening featured remarks from an alumnus, teachers, administrators, local and state elected officials and U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson.

State School Superintendent John Barge called Gwinnett a “shining star for the state of Georgia,” and the best thing he could do at the state level is, “get out of Alvin’s way.”

State Rep. Brett Harrell read a commendation from Gov. Nathan Deal before a video message from Isakson was played for the crowd.

“I’ve never known a more dedicated, committed, humble public servant than Alvin Wilbanks,” Isakson said. “I think winning this award is a tribute not just to him, but the entire public school system, the community and Board of Education.”

It was a celebration not often seen in the Board Room at the ISC. Some said they’ve only seen the room converted to serve appetizers and light refreshments when the school district wins the Broad Prize.

It was the second time since 2010 that GCPS won the award, and it was also named a finalist in 2009.

The Los Angeles-based Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation annually awards the Broad Prize for Urban Education, considered one of the largest education prizes in the country, to honor school districts that demonstrate educational improvement, especially for low-income students and minorities.

This was the first year since the prize’s inception in 2002 that the review board named only two finalists, instead of either four or five. Districts cannot apply or be nominated for the award, and winners are not eligible for three years following a win.

Gwinnett is the second two-time winner of the Broad. The Houston Independent School District won in 2002 and 2013. It was announced last month that GCPS would share the $1 million in prize money for college scholarships for graduating high school seniors with Orange County (Fla.) Schools.

Gwinnett’s total prize winnings since 2009 is now $1.75 million toward college scholarships.

The scholarships pay $5,000 a year for four-year schools and $2,500 a year for students attending two-year schools and are aimed at students who have shown improvement in their grades over time. When GCPS was a finalist in 2009, 13 Gwinnett seniors received scholarships, while in 2010 that number was 52.

Members of the selection jury in September said Gwinnett was chosen because of steady, sustainable gains. Some of the main reasons that Gwinnett was in the running were achievement and college entrance exam participation by low-income and minority students.

The foundation determines 75 of the nation’s largest urban school districts based on Census data of urbanity. At least 40 percent of students in those districts must be low-income, meaning they receive free or reduced lunch. In Gwinnett this school year, 57 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

“This is your prize, you’ve earned it and you deserve it,” said Bruce Reed, president of the Broad Foundation. “You make it look easy, but let me tell you it’s not. You’re competing against the biggest cities and districts who spend twice as much per student as you do. This is a victory that means something, and it means everything to the students you teach and families you serve.”

In 2013, 88 percent of Gwinnett’s seniors participated in the SAT, including 90 percent of the district’s African-American students and 70 percent of Hispanic seniors. This compares to an eligible district average participation rates of 43 percent for African-American students and 40 percent for Hispanic students.

A greater percentage of low-income students are reaching advanced academic levels in Gwinnett than in other districts in Georgia. In 2013, the percentage of Gwinnett’s low-income students at all education levels (elementary, middle and high school) performing at the highest achievement level (Exceeds) in reading, math and science ranked in the top 20 percent statewide compared to other low-income students.

For example, 33 percent of Gwinnett’s low-income middle school students reached the advanced academic level on the state math assessment compared with 19 percent of low-income middle school students in the rest of the state.

School Board Chairman Dan Seckinger credited the students for making the event possible, and also said the board members were in awe and humbled about the accomplishment. Then he looked ahead.

“While today is truly incredible, tomorrow is another day,” Seckinger said. “We can’t rest on the successes of the past. Yesterday is in our rearview mirror, and while we would be foolish not to enjoy this moment, likewise we would be foolish to think we have arrived.”



Win Field Trips to Stone Mountain Park!

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014


Fall 2014

THE 20TH CENTURY BEGINS: 1899-1939 Program

STONE MOUNTAIN PARK offers many interactive and engaging educational opportunities in both the social studies and sciences this school year that align with GCPS AKS.   For information on this program please visit:   FREE SCIENCE KITS for on-sight science field trips!    


This fall enter your class in the “Write Your Own Ticket” contest.    DEADLINE: September 12, 2014

Spring 2015


Win a Free Georgia History Field Trip of your Choice at Stone Mountain Park Plus Bus Transportation!
Details: Enter your class in the “Write Your Own Ticket” GCPS Contest for a chance to win your choice of a FREE Civil War in Georgia, Colonial Georgia or Antebellum Life field trip including bus transportation to Stone Mountain Park in the spring. Your choice of one of these three free educational field trips is being offered exclusively to GCPS and is courtesy of Gwinnett County Public Schools Foundation and Stone Mountain Park! 
 History field trips correlate with GCPS social studies 1st through 8th grade AKS.  DEADLINE:  JANUARY 30, 2015

Ask about Snow Mountain Snow Day for schools on December 12, 2014! 770-498-5636

Maureen Slawitschka
Education Coordinator
Stone Mountain Park

GSMST student receives $1,500 scholarship from film distribution company

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology senior Samuel Zinga stands with Prinicpal IV Bray after receiving “The Boxtrolls” Innovator Award on Tuesday.

LAWRENCEVILLE — A senior at the Gwinnett School of Math, Science and Technology was surprised several days ago with a $1,500 scholarship from a film distribution company that named the scholarship after a new release on the big screen.

Samuel Zinga accepted the scholarship in front of more than 500 students, family, faculty and staff at the school. Focus Features presented the scholarship ahead of the nationwide release of “The Boxtrolls” on Friday.

GSMST faculty and administrators selected Zinga for the award based on his creativity, inventiveness and dedication to the school and his community. His passion for helping others within the school is similar to a lead character in “The Boxtrolls” movie, Eggs, as he tries to save his troll friends.

Eggs decides to take on the town’s villian, Archibald Snatcher, and teams up someone named Winnifred to save Eggs’ family.

Earlier in his career at GSMST, Zinga started a tutoring program for 50 ninth-graders called the “Freshmen Mentoring Program.” He’s also the president of the school’s National Honor Society and was the GSMST representative at the International Federation for the Teaching of English conference in Atlanta this summer.

Two School Districts Awarded 2014 Broad Prize for Urban Education

Monday, September 22nd, 2014
2014 image

Educators in both Gwinnett County, pictured, and Orange County use student data to improve teaching and learning.

Gwinnett County in Georgia and Orange County in Florida are the first districts to share the award.


For the first time, two school districts have won The Broad Prize for Urban Education, a prestigious annual award. The prize is given to large, urban districts that boast strong overall student performance and success in reducing achievement gaps among low-income and minority students.

Gwinnett County Public Schools in Georgia and Orange County Public Schools in Florida were awarded the prize today.

“Both of these districts show that it’s possible to make sharp, sustained progress with a large, diverse population,” says Bruce Reed, president of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, which sponsors the competition.

The districts will evenly split the $1 million prize – the largest award given in public education – and dole the money out as college scholarships for high school seniors.

“We were impressed with Gwinnett County’s steady, sustainable gains and with Orange County’s urgency and commitment to improve student achievement quickly,” former Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, a member of the selection jury, said in a statement. “In the end, we decided that both finalists deserved to win the 2014 Broad Prize.”

The two districts share very similar demographics, Reed says. Both are diverse and among the largest districts in the country in terms of enrollment.

Gwinnett County won the 2010 Broad Prize and was a finalist for the award in 2009. Reed says the district’s stable leadership, focus on developing good teachers and principals, and commitment to challenging its students have contributed to the district’s success.

A greater percentage of low-income students, as well as black students, are reaching advanced academic levels than in other districts in Georgia, according to The Broad Foundation.

​​”The two positions in the school district that really determine whether or not you are going to be successful are your teachers and your principals,” says J. Alvin Wilbanks, who has been chief executive officer and superintendent of Gwinnett County Public Schools since 1996.

He attributes the district’s success to effective educators. Gwinnett County has focused on leadership development and providing teachers with data, such as student achievement and attendance information, ​to improve their instruction.

The district’s high school seniors​ also have the highest SAT participation rate among eligible districts for The Broad Prize. Seventy-five of the largest urban school districts in the country are automatically eligible for the prize each year. [See rankings of the Best High Schools.]

First-time finalist and winner Orange County in Florida ​has made remarkable gains in student achievement in recent years, says Reed, of The Broad Foundation.

​​”We can’t afford for every school to be an individual entity because our children move in and out of our schools too regularly,” says superintendent Barbara Jenkins, on the realities of managing an urban school district.

The ​district has focused on centralizing curriculums and programs throughout the district, she says, so that educators spend less time catching new students up, which often actually slows them down.

Officials also try to adhere to a strategic, long-term plan created nearly five years ago​, she says.

“I think you have to purposely discard practices and efforts that have not been working and get more toward what is working for your children,” she says. Like Gwinnett County, officials in Orange County place a strong emphasis on using student performance and other data to inform decisions.​​

​The district has narrowed income and minority achievement gaps, improved college readiness and, in recent years, raised achievement among low-income middle school students, according to The Broad Foundation. [Learn why some think prospective teachers should have more rigorous testing requirements.]

The two winners of the 2014 Broad Prize were also the only two finalists for the award.

In years past, four or five districts were selected as finalists, Reed says, but the review board, which selected the finalists​, was disappointed with the overall performance of the eligible districts. They decided that only these districts had done sufficiently well to become ​finalists.

“Both these districts show that able, aggressive leadership is important to raising student achievement,” Reed says.

Jenkins, of Orange County, notes that urban educators have the challenge of educating students of many different backgrounds.

“That’s what makes urban education so exciting,” she says. “You serve all of those children, wherever you find them, and get them all to high levels of achievement that we believe that they are capable of.”

GCPS is a finalist for the 2014 Broad Prize!

Monday, September 8th, 2014

BroadPrizeStatueGCPS is a finalist for the 2014 Broad Prize!

Share what you love most about our schools and why GCPS should win on FB/Twitter. Include @GwinnettSchools, #broadprize, and a picture.