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Gwinnett County Schools completes $342M of construction in four years

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

Gregory Jackson, an assistant principal at Baldwin Elementary School, far right, give a tour to members of the GCPS Board of Education and senior district leaders from Gwinnett County Public Schools. The school is expected to open on August 8, 2016. (Gwinnett Daily Post Photographer Keith Farner)

Aiming to keep pace with the swelling enrollment across the county, construction projects in Gwinnett County Public Schools are moving at a fast-paced clip.

Chief Operations Officer Danny Jardine last week told the Gwinnett County Board of Education that he was very happy to report that by the start of the upcoming school year, the district will have completed 163 projects in four years that represent $342 million of construction work that fell below the $380 million budget.

“We’re finishing basically within a year early and within budget. There’s a lot of school districts that can’t say this,” Jardine said. “Again, we’re very fortunate to have a team that understands the process, and how to plan and how to manage that plan.”

In his annual oversight report, Jardine reviewed the 2012 building program, and previewed the 2017 version that is funded from Special purpose local option sales tax proceeds.

“In a nutshell, we feel like we’ve had another great year because we have an incredible team that supports the school district,” said Jardine, who was named to this role about three and a half years ago.

The school district has already spent nearly $84 million in planning, design and construction since Gwinnett voters approved SPLOST V in November. Continue reading

Gwinnett School Board tours new schools set to open

Monday, July 25th, 2016

Coleman Middle School Principal J.W. Mozley, right, begins a tour of the new Duluth school for members of the Gwinnett school board. The school will open August 8, 2016. (Gwinnett Daily News Photographer Keith Farner)

J.W. Mozley gave a sheepish grin when asked about Brooks Coleman’s appearances at his new school.

Honestly, they’re about as often as one might expect from the longtime state representative who spent his career in education.

“You never know when he’s just going to pop in,” Mozley said of Coleman. “But he’s very ecstatic and is very honored … he’s still very, very emotional about it every time he talks about it. … He’s still on cloud nine.”

Mozley, the principal of the school, stood in the media center of the new Coleman Middle School — named after Coleman — on Main Street in Duluth after he gave a tour on Thursday afternoon to the Gwinnett County Board of Education and senior leaders of Gwinnett County Public Schools. Coleman Middle and Baldwin Elementary in Norcross, which the group also toured earlier Thursday, are set to open for the first time on Aug. 8.

Coleman will be the smallest middle school in Gwinnett with about 600 students, while Baldwin expects about 1,100 students. Baldwin is on the property of the former Summerour Middle School on Price Place that was renovated in the last 13 months. Continue reading

Meadowcreek High School receives $40,000 grant

Monday, July 25th, 2016

Meadowcreek-logoRobotics and STEM at Meadowcreek High School and in its cluster this week received a $40,000 boost.

The school received a grant to increase access to science, technology, engineering and math for underrepresented and underserved students. The money came from a national STEM advocacy nonprofit called For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology or FIRST.

The money is meant to help the Meadowcreek community develop new and innovative approaches to address equity, inclusion and diversity inequalities in STEM fields.

One way to do that is with the Meadowcreek High School Cluster Robotics and Computational Thinking Program, which is a clusterwide robotics initiative to align robotics, mechatronics, and coding instruction within the Meadowcreek High School cluster through First LEGO League Robotic Competition Teams. The program will expand Meadowcreek High School’s “Colts to Mustangs” program where student interns specializing in robotics mentor elementary and middle school First LEGO League teams. Continue reading

Gwinnett Schools receives regional award for academies work

Monday, July 25th, 2016

Mountain View HS students Katelynn Reece, Sally Smith and Nicole St Clair, who are members of the school’s chapter of the Family Career and Community Leaders of America, joined more than 8,500 students leaders, members and advisers at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, CA.

Gwinnett County Public Schools has promoted its work with career-themed academies for three years, and now the hardware is beginning to roll in.

Earlier this month in Louisville, Ky., the school district received the Using Career-Themed Academies to Transform Large High Schools Award from the Southern Regional Education Board. Jonathan Patterson, Gwinnett’s associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction, accepted the honor at the 30th annual High Schools That Work Staff Development Conference.

Two years ago, the district transitioned five high schools into college and career-themed academy high schools. It added two more schools last year.

They are designed to improve instruction, make it more relevant for students and connect them with local and regional workforce demands at local businesses. The career themes include international business; media, arts and communications; health sciences and human services; and STEM.

The SREB works with states and educators to improve public education at every level, from early childhood through postsecondary education. Continue reading

GCPS raises referral incentive for special education teachers

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016
Francis Davis

Francis Davis

Special education continues to be an area where it is difficult to hire teachers. Because of that, Gwinnett County Public Schools has raised its referral incentive to find teachers to hire.

At its new teacher orientation on Tuesday, and on flyers across the district, a referral incentive was advertised at $250 to a GCPS employee who refers a special education teacher candidate for the 2016-17 school year. That’s up from last year’s $200 level. Once the teacher is hired, the employee will receive the money in their paycheck. To qualify, candidates must have a bachelor’s degree or higher, preferably in special education.

The issue of hiring and keeping special education teachers is discussed regularly with Associate Superintendent Frances Davis and the Gwinnett County Board of Education. Last month, Davis said GCPS had 93 vacancies in special education and that was why the district scheduled a job fair for special education on June 29th. In June of 2015, the district had 37 vacancies in special education.

School Board member Louise Radloff noted the special education shortage is a national issue.

“If we keep going down this same trail that we’re going down and there’s a shortage of more and more teachers, and more kids are diagnosed as special ed, we’re going to have to do something,” she said. “Or the state or the country is going to have to do something.”

Davis said the salary is not as much a complaint as paperwork and legal work along with the nature and needs of the students.

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Gwinnett Schools welcomes 1,300 teachers to orientation

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

Frances Davis, Associate Superintendent of GCPS, greet Citlali Mota’s mother Xochitl Mota on the stage after Citlali Mota gave her speech at the GCPS New Teacher Orientation at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth. (Gwinnett Daily Post Photo: Cole McCauley)

The speech so moved Frances Davis that she sprung around the stage, gave hugs and posed for pictures.

“We just need to do a benediction right now,” said Davis, an associate superintendent with Gwinnett County Public Schools.

What excited Davis was the message shared at the new teacher orientation on Tuesday morning by Citlali Mota, a rising senior at Peachtree Ridge High School. Speaking to more than 1,300 teachers at the Infinite Energy Center who are new to Gwinnett or started with the school district after the first day of school last year, Mota shared her life story.

It was about overcoming statistics and was meant to inspire the teachers who are less than three weeks from the start of the new school year.

Speaking without notes, Mota began her speech listing off identifying traits that otherwise might have kept her from succeeding: female. Hispanic, English as a second language student, low income.

“I was not raised in a family setting that consists of a father, mother, 2.3 children and a dog,” she said.

She was raised by a single mother from a family where that was the norm.

“For five generations, honeymoons were followed by divorce,” said Mota, who said she originally grew up in an area in California where the poverty level was higher than the national average. “Based on these facts, my possibilities immediately shrunk and my future became questionable. Society predicted that I would become a high school dropout.”

Now Mota is a member of her school’s chapter of Family, Career, Community Leaders of America. In her introduction, Nikki Mouton, the district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction, said Mota was state president and student of the year for FCCLA. Mouton said Peachtree Ridge Principal Jeff Mathews has said Mota gives him confidence that her generation possesses the leaders who will be necessary to move the country forward.

After Mota’s speech, Davis had a wide smile and invited Mota’s mother on stage for pictures and hugs.

“This is the greatest example we can give of what is the promise of Gwinnett County Public Schools,” Davis said. “This was so powerful … There is not greater picture I can paint for you today of what the culture of this organization is all about.”

Mota was among a host of speakers at the event, and followed CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, Gwinnett Chamber President Dan Kaufman, School Board Chairman Robert McClure and reigning Teacher of the Year Trisha Connor.

Connor shared how she buried a time capsule with a fifth-grade class seven years ago and how those students sought her out this spring as graduating seniors.

“I couldn’t help but think my decision to use my knowledge, talent and heart to become a teacher had made a difference,” she said.

While Connor has 16 years experience in Gwinnett, Craig Edwards of Dacula High School and Nick Chonko of Archer High are starting their first year after previously teaching in Walton County.

Chonko said he’s looking for a change after teaching in Walton for 11 years. Gwinnett is where his children go to school, and he wants to be involved in the community.

Edwards, who has taught for six years, said the general reaction for most new teachers, especially people straight out of college, is shock.

“They try to prepare you for what you will experience in the classroom,” he said. “But you just have to jump in feet first and get at it.” Continue reading

New Gwinnett schools to host events for students, parents

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

GCPS Logo_color_rgbTwo new Gwinnett schools set to open in August have announced events to welcome students and parents.

Coleman Middle School in Duluth and Baldwin Elementary School in Norcross have each scheduled days to meet teachers and staff and explore the new buildings.

Both schools will hold the traditional “Meet Your Teacher” event on Aug. 4. Parents of students who will attend these two new schools should visit their school’s website for times and additional information about these events.

Coleman is scheduled to have a community open house from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday as Principal J.W. Mozley said attendees will see some of the things that sets Coleman apart as a STEAM-focused middle school that integrates science, technology, engineering, fine arts, math and humanities.

At Suwanee Elementary, Camp Invention mixes STEM with creativity

Friday, July 15th, 2016

Michael Piper, a rising fourth-grader at Pharr Elementary School, participates in a Camp Invention Exercise at Suwanee Elementary School. (Gwinnett Daily Post Staff Photo: Keith Farner)

Jaden Brock came to Camp Invention for the first time this summer, and was surprised by what he learned in four days.

“I’ve learned how to make putty, coding, teamwork,” said Brock, a rising fifth-grader at Roberts Elementary School. “It teaches us how to use creativity and to be creative about all the things around you.”

Brock was among 41 children this week who range in age from first grade through sixth grade who took part in the camp at Suwanee Elementary.

The STEM-focused camp is designed to teach kids about inventiveness and entrepreneurial spirit in the framework of learning science, technology, engineering and math. Similar camps have already happened this summer at Cooper Elementary, Chattahoochee Elementary and Roberts Elementary.

Camp Invention was created by the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and focuses on innovation and real-world problem-solving and the spirit of invention. The company partners with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the Collegiate Inventors Competition and all of the lessons are inspired by inventors. Continue reading

Two Gwinnett schools awarded grants worth $25K

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement recently awarded a grant of $25,000 each to Knight Elementary and Berkmar Middle as part of its Success in Schools project, which highlights schools around the state as part of a partnership with Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Two Gwinnett schools have a lot more money to spend on some of the more popular areas of education these days.

The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement recently awarded a grant of $25,000 each to Knight Elementary and Berkmar Middle as part of its Success in Schools project, which highlights schools around the state as part of a partnership with Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Since 2013, GOSA has identified exemplary teachers across the state through the Innovation in Teaching Competition. The competition has allowed GOSA an opportunity to film highly effective teachers and give teachers, and their schools, a grant stipend.

The program allows the lessons and expertise of these teachers to be shared through video with other teachers across the state. It includes unit plans, lesson plans, resources and interview clips so that other educators from around the state can utilize the instructional strategies they saw those exemplary teachers using. Continue reading

Cooper O’Brien, ‘Q’ Crane stories help GCPS TV win 3 Emmys

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Cooper O’Brien waved to fans in the stands with his father Kevin prior to a varsity football game in the Georgia Dome.

Two well-known and uplifting stories helped the Gwinnett County Public Schools’ television department add some hardware to its collection.

Overall, the Broadcast and Distance Learning team with the school district won three Emmy awards at a recent event from the Southeast chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

GCPS TV won two EMMY Awards for “Q’s Story,” and another for the Cooper O’Brien Courage Award.

Arquevious “Q” Crane, a South Gwinnett High School and Georgia Gwinnett College graduate, was paralyzed playing football in high school. He has said that the love of his South Gwinnett high school coaches, friends, and family gave him the strength he needed to overcome adversity and achieve success. The video shows his perseverance and belief to “just keep moving.”

Cooper O’Brien was diagnosed with a rare cancer while attending North Gwinnett Middle School.

O’Brien died at age 14 on July 5, 2014 after battling clear cell sarcoma. To honor him, the Cooper’s Crew Fund and the Cooper O’Brien Scholarship Fund were created. Each year, the scholarship fund awards college funding for two local seniors. Continue reading