Board Summary for May 20, 2021

  • Work Session Budget Work Session Business Meeting
    May 20, 2021, School Board Work Session Stream
    To view the recorded Work Session, please click on the meeting link. 
    May 20, 2021, School Board Budget Public Hearing Stream
    To view the recorded Budget Work Session, please click on the meeting link. 
    May 20, 2021, School Board Business Meeting Stream:  
    To view the recorded Business Meeting, please click on the meeting link.


    The following are highlights of the May 20, 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 holds first public hearing on the FY2022 budget

    Prior to its monthly business meeting, the Gwinnett County Board of Education held its first public hearing on the tentatively adopted FY2022 budget. A second public hearing is scheduled for June 17 at 6 p.m. Following the public hearing on that day, the Board will adopt the budget and set a tentative millage rate. The final millage rate adoption will take place in July.

    Board salutes award-winning students and staff
    Board members congratulated Carmen Benjamin of Mountain View High School on her recognition as the 2021 Robbie Susan Moore Scholarship recipient, presented by the United Ebony Society of Gwinnett. The Robbie Susan Moore Scholarship is a one-time award of $1,000 for one or more college-bound Gwinnett County Public Schools seniors who are planning to attend a two-year or four-year college or university. Selection is based on participation in a leadership role in community service activities or volunteer work as well as a commitment to making a difference in their community. The following individuals, representing the United Ebony Society, were in attendance at tonight’s meeting: Zachary Pratt of Lovin Elementary School who serves as president of the United Ebony Society, Regina HaynesHadyia RouseCassandra Williams, and Marlene Taylor Crawford.

    The Board of Education saluted Taloria Merriks of Brookwood High School who has been recognized as a winner in the August Wilson Monologue Competition. This national competition celebrates the words of the famous playwright, inspiring high school students to find and express themselves through theatre. Students compete in 19 regions across the country for the opportunity to advance to the national competition in New York City. August Wilson was an American playwright who wrote a series of plays, each set in a different decade, depicting the comic and tragic aspects of the African-American experience in the 20th century. Accompanying the student at tonight’s recognition were Brookwood High School Principal Bo Ford and Teacher Laura Lindahl.

    Students Courtney Palmeri and Shobana Santhanam, both of Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology, earned a nod from the School Board for their project “Our Sustainable Future,” which won the Global Sustainability Contest sponsored by the Goethe InstituteThis contest invited project proposals from students and schools across the globe, focusing on sustainable development goals and concepts for sustainable companies. Projects were submitted in German and rubrics included STEM and science-aligned criteria. Teacher Carlos Burse accompanied his students to this meeting.

    The BOE honored Megan Cobley of Archer High School on her recognition as a Georgia recipient of the International Skills Diploma Seal. Awarded by the Georgia Department of Education, the International Skills Diploma Seal is granted to graduating high school students who complete an international education curriculum and engage in extracurricular activities and experiences that foster the achievement of global competencies. It is a signal to employers and higher education institutions that a student is prepared to participate in the global economy. Megan was accompanied to the meeting by her Spanish teacher, Michele Broeg.

    School Board members recognized South Gwinnett High School students Macire Kebe and Seymour Stennett on the Superior Scores they earned in the Foreign Language Association of Georgia’s Spoken Languages Contest.  This annual speaking-proficiency competition provides elementary, middle, and high school foreign language students the opportunity to test their language proficiency through one-on-one interviews with native speakers and language educators. Principal Dorothy Jarrett and Spanish Teacher Silvia Mindrescu accompanied the honored students.

    Board members congratulated Jennifer Kim, a teacher at Parsons Elementary School, on her 1st place finish in the Korean Distance Learning Lesson Development Competition, sponsored by the International Korean Educators Network. This contest invited Korean teachers to submit distance-based lesson plans to support Korean language learning during COVID-19 and beyond. Winners receive a grant, and their lessons are highlighted on the network and shared with teachers internationally.

    Three Dacula-area students earned recognition from the School Board on their top finishes on Le Grand Concours National French Exam. Elida Sanchez Urena of Dacula High School is a Gold Medal winner and earned 2nd place in the stateDacula Middle School student Claude-Henry Pierre won a Gold Medaland Grace Harrison of Dacula High School is a Silver Medal winner. Sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of French, Le Grand Concours is a national competition between students studying French in the United States. In the competition, students demonstrate high-level competency in grammatical concepts, reading and aural comprehension, and cultural knowledge. The following school staff members joined the Board in applauding these students for their achievements: Dacula Middle School Principal Kimberly Bussey; Dacula High School Assistant Principal Michael Nicholson; Dacula High School Teachers Christy Belbey and Deanne King; and Dacula Middle School Teacher Nedra Curtis. 

    The Board honored 26 high school students—12 from Brookwood and 14 from Parkview-- who earned Gold and Silver medals on the National German Exam, sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of German. In this competition, students across the United States demonstrate their German language proficiency in real-world scenarios and by accessing authentic German-language materials. Click here for a complete listing of these award-winning students.

    Kudos to Brookwood High School’s German program on earning the international designation as a Deutsches Sprachdiplom Certified School from the German Education Ministers Conference. The Deutsches Sprachdiplom German Language Diploma is an internationally recognized certificate that qualifies holders to apply for admission to universities in Germany. Only an approximate 1,000 schools in the world are granted authority to offer this diploma, and exams are supervised by the German Central Office for Schools abroad.

    Board members applauded Natasha Reilly, a student at Lanier High School, who was the 1st place winner in a competition sponsored by the Student Television Network. The Student Television Network is a national organization that supports, promotes, and recognizes excellence in scholastic broadcast journalism, creative video, filmmaking, and media convergence. In coordination with high schools, colleges, and industry partners, the Student Television Network provides opportunities for teaching, learning, collaboration, and student competition in various broadcast-related fields.

    The Gwinnett BOE congratulated 18 students on their 1st and 2nd place finishes in the SkillsUSA state competition. SkillsUSA empowers its members to become world-class workers, leaders, and responsible American citizens. They improve the quality of our nation’s future skilled workforce through the development of SkillsUSA Framework skills that include personal, workplace, and technical skills grounded in academics. This Career and Technical Student Organization’s vision is to produce the most highly skilled workforce in the world, providing every member the opportunity for career success. Click here to view the list of Gwinnett’s top honorees in the SkillsUSA competition.

    In other Career and Technical Education news, 23 GCPS students placed 1st and 2nd in the Technology Student Association (TSA) state competitionClick here for the names of students recognized at tonight’s meeting. TSA is a national organization devoted exclusively to the needs of students interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). TSA’s membership includes more than 250,000 middle and high school student members in more than 2,000 schools, spanning 49 states. TSA partners with universities and other organizations to promote various STEM competitions and opportunities for students and teachers. Members learn through exciting competitive events, leadership opportunities, and much more. The diversity of activities makes TSA a positive experience for every student.

    The School Board congratulated 18 recent graduates of Gwinnett County Public School’s Aspiring Principal Program (APP). APP prepares assistant principals for the move into the role of the principal. The program includes a yearlong course of study that incorporates an in-house residency in the form of individualized leadership experiences. There are 18 graduates in this 14th class of the program and more than half of the members in this cohort have been appointed to leadership roles—nine as principals and one as a director. A total of 126 APP graduates are currently sitting principals, leading 90% of our schools. 

    Board members honored 22 Gwinnett high schools that earned recognition from the Georgia Department of Education as 2021 Advanced Placement Honor Schools. AP classes and exams are administered by the College Board. The 2021 AP Honor Schools are named in eight categories, based on the results of 2020 AP courses and exams. Several Gwinnett schools were recognized in more than one category. Archer High, Collins Hill High, Duluth High, Grayson High, and Mountain View High made the list in six of the seven categories in which they are eligible. Click here for a complete list of Gwinnett’s AP Honor School and the categories in which they were honored.

    In an external recognition, State Representative Rebecca Mitchell, who serves as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives for District 106, addressed the Board of Education.

    Gwinnett’s Class of 2021… ready for graduation and ready for the future
    CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks provided Board members with an overview of the Class of 2021, including achievements and their plans for the future. The senior report for the Class of 2021 shows that:

    • Nearly 77% of the students graduating this year report that they plan to continue their education by attending college or postsecondary schools. The vast majority of those graduates continuing their education, or 85%, plan to attend college in Georgia.
    • These seniors have been offered, as of April 2021, more than $161.8 million in academic, athletic, and military scholarships.
    • The majority of the scholarship amount, more than $97.5 million, was earned for academic achievement. Gwinnett students also received more than $61.5 million in athletic scholarships, and nearly $2.8 million due to military appointments. These monetary awards do not include HOPE, or full-tuition scholarships associated with the Posse, QuestBridge, or Gates scholarship programs.
    • Seven Gwinnett students received military appointments.
    • The Class of 2021 also includes 4,022 Honor Graduates, who are graduating with a grade percent average of 90 or better.
    • During high school, 6,757 seniors took Advanced Placement (AP) courses.
    • While members of the Class of 2021 were working on their high school diploma, 1,757 of them also earned college credit through dual enrollment.

    Preparation for the 2021-22 school year well under way
    During the Gwinnett County Board of Education meeting, district leaders discussed plans for Gwinnett County Public Schools to return to in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year. This decision takes into account students’ academic and social-emotional needs, the improving pandemic conditions (lower rates of infection), the availability of vaccinations for teachers and other school staff, and guidance from health experts and organizations. While all students will be scheduled for in-person instruction for the fall, the district is offering families the opportunity to opt out of in-person learning, allowing their children to participate in a modified digital learning option. This modified version—which will have digital students learning from digital teachers, some of whom may be at a different location including Gwinnett Online Campus—is intended to eliminate the need for teachers to teach concurrently. District leaders shared that approximately 98% of students will attend school in the fall in person, with 3,767 students planning to learn digitally (as of May 20, 2021). The first day of school is Wednesday, August 4, for all students, with some students attending in person beginning day 1 and others learning digitally. On the second day of school, additional students will transition to in-person learning, and students at all grades will be learning in person by Monday, August 9. Click here to view the 2021-22 school calendar.

    Federal funds in support of learning
    Mr. Wilbanks provided an overview of the money the school district has been allotted through three rounds of federal stimulus funding.

    Board approves naming of Berkmar HS Fine Arts addition in honor of former teacher

    The Board of Education approved the request of the Berkmar High School’s Local School Council to name the school’s new Fine Arts addition the Alison Crossman Performing Arts Center, in honor of Alison Crossman who had a positive impact on her students and community through her love of music. Ms. Crossman was described by the Council as an unparalleled educator. She spent eight years as a student and all 27 years of her teaching career working in the Berkmar Cluster. Ms. Crossman started as a chorus teacher at Sweetwater Middle School in 1988 and eventually made her way to Berkmar High School where she worked from 1997 to her last days in 2016. Through all those years, Ms. Crossman loved everything about Berkmar and the community it serves. Ms. Crossman passed away in 2016.

    North Metro Academy of Performing Arts to become GCPS theme elementary school

    The Board approved the transition of North Metro Academy of Performing Arts from a charter school to a GCPS theme elementary school.

    School Board continues review of policies

    The Board of Education tabled the following proposed policy changes for two months allowing for further input:

    Policy ABB - Board Powers and Duties/Members’ Legal Status—Proposed changes have been made in accordance with policy guidance and/or mandates in state and/or federal law.

    Policy ABCA - Number of Board Members/Terms of Office—Proposed changes are in accordance with policy guidance and/or mandates in state and/or federal law.

    Policy BA - Board Goals and Objectives—Proposed changes are in accordance with policy guidance and/or mandates in state and/or federal law.

    Policy BBABA - Duties of Board Officers—Changes have been proposed in accordance with policy guidance and/or mandates in state and/or federal law.

    Policy BBBB - New Board Member Orientation—Changes have been proposed in accordance with policy guidance and/or mandates in state and/or federal law.

    Policy BCAB - School Board Meetings—Proposed changes are in accordance with policy guidance and/or mandates in state and/or federal law.

    Board members approved the following policies:

    Policy BCBI- Public Participation in Board Meetings—The approved policy includes adjustments made since the February meeting when proposed policy changes were first presented to the Board and tabled. The Board approved this policy with the understanding that it will
    schedule Area Board meetings within the next two months.

    Policy JCD- Student Conduct Behavior Code—Approved changes were made in accordance with policy guidance and/or mandates in state and/or federal law.

     Citizens addressing the Board

    Hana Martin

    Wendy Lynch

    Steve Smith

    Malon James

    Steve Gasper

    Holly Terei

    Chester Nowak

    Margaret Rudnick

    Michael Rudnick

    Kelly Willyard

    Dina Blair

    Lisa Johnson

    Brian Westlake

    Sherie Green

    Abednego Dahn

    Tammy Noh

    Rachel Ash

    Dina Snyder

    Richard Zeger

    Tanisha Banks

    Michael Tweedy

    Courtney Taylor

    Laurie Farley

    Shanna Cochran

    Liz Greene

    Angela Washington

    Ashlee Smith

    Toni Finke

    Philana Nowak

    Mark Bogar

    Melanie Hatfield

    Valerie Curry

    Viorel Lupu

    Jill Allen

    - Julio Rebollo