Work Session Business Meeting Feb. 18, 2021, School Board Work Session Stream:
To view the recorded Work Session, please click on the meeting link.
Feb. 18, 2021, School Board Business Meeting Stream:
To view the recorded Business Meeting, please click on the meeting link.
The following are highlights of the February 18, 2021, meeting of the Gwinnett County Board of Education (BOE). Board members present included Chairman Everton Blair, Jr., Vice Chairman Karen Watkins, Steven B. Knudsen, Dr. Mary Kay Murphy, and Dr. Tarece Johnson. The official minutes of the meeting will be approved by the Board at its next monthly meeting.
Board salutes award-winning staff members
Board members congratulated three GCPS employees who earned state recognition from the Georgia School Counselor Association. Teshia Stovall Dula of Hull Middle School is GSCA’s Counselor of the Year. Laura Spencer of Ivy Creek Elementary School was 1st Runner-up for the State Counselor of the Year honor. And, Ashley Watson, an assistant principal at Norcross High School, was named Counselor Supervisor of the Year. The GSCA awards are bestowed upon deserving individuals every year in recognition of their outstanding commitment to, performance in, and support of school counseling. Mrs. Dula will now represent Georgia as she competes for the American School Counselor Association School Counselor of the Year title.
Members of the Board also saluted Dr. Keith Thompson, principal of Northbrook Middle School, on his recent recognition as 2021 Georgia Middle School Principal of the Year by the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals. Dr. Thompson learned of this honor at a surprise celebration on February 15, 2021. The naming of the “Principal of the Year” culminates a process that began with a statewide search for principals who excel in educational leadership, resolving complex problems, developing self and others, and community service.
Peachtree Ridge Cluster presents update to the BOE
The Board of Education wishes to hear from constituents regarding what they believe to be the accomplishments, challenges, and aspirations for their cluster schools. As part of this effort, each Monthly Business Meeting of the Board includes a presentation from a cluster in one Board member's electoral district. The Peachtree Ridge Cluster, representing District III, was featured at tonight’s meeting. Peachtree Ridge High School Principal Jadd Jarusinski provided a brief introduction for the cluster’s presentation, which included remarks from a parent, a teacher, and a student. As part of the introduction, representatives from the cluster’s six feeder schools— Burnette, Jackson, Mason, and Parsons elementary schools and Hull and Northbrook middle schools— were introduced. Primary themes emphasized throughout the speakers’ remarks included:
- A celebration of the cluster’s diversity and the learning experience in the Peachtree Ridge Cluster prepares students to take their place in our global society;
- The school’s embracing of One Ridge… which signifies the coming together of the many different people who make up the Peachtree Ridge community and their commitment to the children of their cluster;
- Collaboration through vertical teams to maximize student and teacher potential;
- Examples of the many awards and recognitions earned by students, staff, and schools; and
- Examples of the rigorous and engaging learning opportunities for students, including GCPS’ only Korean Dual Language Immersion Program; a variety of STEM opportunities that focus on coding, robotics and engineering, including the SPIRE Program; and Advanced Placement programs
High School Gateway suspended for 2021; graduation requirement waived for Class of 2021
During the afternoon work session, Dr. Clay Hunter, associate superintendent for Curriculum and Instructional Support, updated the Board on the status of this year’s High School Gateway. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 health pandemic, Gateway testing for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year will be suspended. As a result, GCPS will waive the requirement for seniors in the Class of 2021 to pass the High School Gateway. In addition, members of previous classes who met all other graduation requirements except passing the High School Gateway will be eligible to receive a diploma. This waiver is put in place to accommodate students and former students whose additional opportunities to take the Gateway were negatively impacted due to the pandemic.
Board receives update on federal stimulus funding
Chief Financial Officer Joe Heffron shared an overview of federal stimulus funding that the school district has received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Through CARES Act 1, which was signed into law on March 27, 2020, Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) received $32.5 million. In the second round of federal funding, authorized by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, GCPS received $125.7 million. (CRRSA was signed into law on December 23, 2020.) CARES 1 funding has been used to pay COVID-related expenses, including personal protective equipment, internet connectivity for digital learners, technology expenses such as the purchase of Chromebooks, salaries and benefits associated with leave available through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and costs associated with serving free meals during the pandemic. The district is in the planning stages for how it will use the second round of federal funding.
Cross-Functional Action Teams working to address COVID-related concerns
Dr. Steve Flynt, associate superintendent for School Improvement and Operations, reviewed the ongoing work of three Cross-Functional Action Teams (XFATs) with the Board. The three XFATs, which began meeting in mid-January, are focusing their work on these COVID-related areas: Addressing Prior-Year Achievement Gaps, Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Implementation and Training, and Post-COVID-19 Learning Models. The 14 members of the team working to address prior-year achievement gaps seek to develop processes and structures to address academic deficiencies from previous school years to better support students’ learning in the 2021-22 school year. The 11 XFAT members focusing on social and emotional learning are developing a comprehensive framework to address expectations, the development of SEL training, and the implementation of SEL strategies to ensure a positive impact for GCPS students and staff. The 12-member team studying post COVID-19 learning models has been charged with researching the benefits and potential issues associated with producing a learning model that meets the needs of all stakeholders. Once the work of these teams is completed, they will present a report and recommendations to the Board of Education.
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) supports available in GCPS
Dr. Tinisha Parker, executive director of Student Services, updated Board members on social and emotional learning (SEL) supports that are in place for all Gwinnett students. She shared information about the importance of SEL and the SEL competencies students gain—self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making—in the classroom. Dr. Parker also reviewed a broad range of programs, therapeutic supports, and crisis interventions found in Gwinnett schools—from kindergarten classes through graduation—that support students’ social and emotional wellness.
K-12 literacy instruction remains a priority
Dr. Clay Hunter, associate superintendent for Curriculum and Instructional Support, provided an overview of the district's responsive approach to meeting the literacy needs of its K-12 students. His presentation reviewed successful interventions, including those at the kindergarten level and Reading Recovery (1st grade) as well as leveled literacy interventions that occur in all grade levels and the use of Orton-Gillingham Programs to increase phonemic (letter sound) awareness. He shared the district’s commitment to continuing its efforts to align resources to student needs, provide ongoing professional learning for teachers, and offer a reading endorsement program for middle and high school teachers.
BOE members approved representatives to take part in national conference
The National School Boards Association's (NSBA) 2021 Annual Conference is attended by school board members from across the country. The conference, which will be held April 8-10, provides learning opportunities for Board members on topics, including advocacy, equity and diversity, student achievement, technology and digital learning solutions, and school board and superintendent relationships. This year’s conference will be held virtually at no cost to attendees. The Board of Education authorized Dr. Tarece Johnson of District V, Dr. Mary Kay Murphy of District III, and Vice Chair Karen Watkins of District I to represent the Gwinnett County Board of Education virtually at NSBA’s 2021 Annual Conference and Exposition.
Proposed policies placed on the table for review
The Board of Education placed the following proposed policy changes on the table until next month’s business meeting to allow for public input:
Policy JCE – Student Complaints and Grievances— Changes are proposed in accordance with policy guidance and/or mandates in state and/or federal law.
Policy JCAC – Sexual Harassment—Changes are proposed in accordance with policy guidance and/or mandates in state and/or federal law.
Policy BCBI – Public Participation in Board Meetings—Proposed changes address the procedures for citizens addressing the Board.
Citizens addressing the Board
- Marlyn Tillman
- Exquisitive Hundley
- Shamar Hundley
- Michael Rudnick
- Margaret Rudnick
- Clint Fishback
- Daniel Clark
- Chester Nowak
- Steve Smith
- Leslie Schulze
- David Kesinger
- Anyah Jones
- Anthony Downer
- Teandra Storey
- Anya Storey
- Kendall Storey
- Jacquelyn Denick
- Alex Stein
- Sherie Green
- Chris Stephens
- Hana Martin
- Lance Layson
- Liz Kangas
- Kelly Hayes
- Lauren Bischof
- Wendy Lynch
- Cathy Loew
- Rachel Ash
- Samia Abdulle
- Yasmine Ibrahim
- Patricia Lantis
- Brian Westlake
- Joshua Garcia-Barreto
- Samuel Craig
- Aisha Dukuly
- Courtney Taylor
- David Lee
- Robert Christensen
- Valerie Curry
- Clint Dixon
- Zeph Everson
- Aireane Montgomery
- April Huff