School District History
The history of the schools in Gwinnett County is at times diverse, yet it contains strands of similarities; at times controversial, yet it contains incidents of humor; at times filled with traditions, yet it is never dull.
Gwinnett County and its public school system are named for Button Gwinnett, one of the three Georgians who signed the Declaration of Independence. Since the early 1800s, the schools of Gwinnett County have been organized by people who value education and who desire to provide young people with opportunities to learn as much as possible in preparation for life’s endeavors. Because schools are not mere buildings, but rather the community supporting the value of education, this history of Gwinnett County schools is about people. The local school historians who gathered facts on the history of each school researched diligently to provide the most accurate and thorough information possible.
Since the first school commissioner’s report showing an 1871 enrollment of 2,204 students with 41 teachers employed, Gwinnett County Public Schools has grown to an enrollment of more than 180,000 students with approximately 22,000 employees. The history of the public schools of Gwinnett County is, however, more than a comparison of numbers; it is a resource exhibiting how much the public values education. It serves as a reminder of the work our public schools have done and continue to do in its efforts to prepare students to take their place in society as leaders and successful citizens.
Gwinnett Schools of the Past
Gwinnett Schools Today
- The earliest date assigned to organized education in Gwinnett County is 1821.
- Ten acres of land on the hill northwest of Lawrenceville at what is now the corner of Oak and Perry streets had been reserved for a county academy by order of the Inferior Court in 1822, but not until January 1, 1826, did the academy actually open after state tax money had been combined with previously issued state funds of $500 to erect the Lawrenceville Academy. The first superintendent of the Lawrenceville Academy was John S. Wilson, who was also pastor of the Fairview Presbyterian Church. Tuition was charged for instruction in orthography (spelling), reading, writing, arithmetic, surveying, English grammar, geography, Latin, Greek, philosophy and rhetoric. Tuition fees ranged from an annual $10 for reading and writing to $24 for Latin and Greek.
- Within the next 13 years, several other academies opened for instruction: Washington Academy in 1827, the Gwinnett Manual Labor Institute in 1835, the Female Seminary in 1837 and Center Academy in 1839.
- Washington Academy was located in the Pinckneyville district on the site of Shiloh Baptist Church on Spalding Drive.
- The Gwinnett Manual Labor Institute was located on a farm near Fairview Presbyterian Church along what is now the Duluth-Lawrenceville Highway (State Road 120).
- The Female Seminary was rebuilt in 1855 after a fire destroyed the first building and still stands on Perry Street in Lawrenceville.
- Center Academy was located in the Berkshire district.
- While many Gwinnett County students were educated in the academies, others were able to gain an education because their parents contracted with a teacher to hold classes in their homes or in a nearby church. George Harrison Hopkins signed an agreement in 1830 to teach 25 students spelling, reading, writing and arithmetic for a sum of $8 per pupil per year. From 1832 to 1860, Hopkins held classes in the Goshen meeting house located at what is known today as the corner of Indian Trail and Beaver Ruin roads in Norcross.
- The education of a number of young men in Gwinnett County was interrupted in 1836 when volunteers were enrolled all over the state to fight the Creek Indians, who were attacking settlers along the Georgia-Alabama border.
- Another event of national importance drew young men of Gwinnett away from their studies in 1838, when the county was required to furnish two companies of volunteers to escort the Cherokee Indians to an assigned territory beyond the Mississippi.
- The census of 1850 listed the existence of 31 one-teacher schools and a total attendance of 1,186 students in Gwinnett County.
- The system of education prior to the outbreak of the Civil War continued to be provided through the academies or one-teacher schools.
- Not until after the Civil War did the Georgia General Assembly provide for a system of public schools in the state. Even then, in 1870, the funds were diverted to members of the General Assembly to satisfy other obligations.
- The first Gwinnett County school commissioner (superintendent) was J. N. Glenn, who served from 1871-1873. According to the annual report of 1871, Gwinnett County had 38 school houses and 41 teachers. The average monthly salary for male teachers was $48.70, and female teachers received a monthly average of $36.51. Student enrollment was 2,204. The number of days spent by Commissioner Glenn on official duties was 43.
- When no state funds were available in 1872, schools were suspended for the year; however, by 1873, a new commissioner, J. L. King, was in charge. A two-story boarding school of eight rooms was built in Norcross. Soon 48 public schools were flourishing along with 20 private schools in the county. Four of the public schools were for black students.
- In 1878, during Thomas E. Winn’s service as commissioner, the commissioner’s salary was increased from $150 to $156 for four months of work per year. Textbooks were adopted by the board of education for a three-year period.
- The boarding school administered by Norman Favius Cooledge continued to operate in Norcross in 1877, and Duluth followed with its high school in 1880 known as the Duluth Academy.
- By the end of the 1800s, remarkable changes had taken place in the area of education in Gwinnett County. The method of paying teachers was changed by Commissioner William T. Tanner in 1897 from a system based on daily attendance to a salary system. Eighty-five public schools and four private high schools were operating. Lawrenceville had established itself as a local system in 1893.
- Gwinnett County was first organized into school districts when James A. Bagwell was commissioner in 1900.
- During the many years that C. R. Ware served as school commissioner, 1907-1920, he supported compulsory educational legislation. Not until 1919 did the compulsory attendance law become effective; however, the law was not enforced. Mr. Ware was responsible for changing the official title of school commissioner to school superintendent. Also during Mr. Ware’s administration, the board of education took the position that it was not more schools that were needed in the county, but better schools.
- In 1924, K. E. Taylor was elected school superintendent and served from January of 1925 until his death in While Mr. Taylor was in office, four employee positions were added to the school system: a home demonstration agent, an attendance officer, a supervisor of primary education and a visiting teacher. Both salaries and requirements for teachers were raised in 1931. The term for some schools was increased from six and a half months to nine months.
- A major change that occurred during the mid-1930s was the consolidation of schools and the erection of better buildings. When R. S. Simonton became superintendent in 1933, there were 71 schools; however, when he retired in 1940, there were 18 schools for white pupils and 12 schools for black pupils. The accredited schools in 1934 were Norcross, Dacula, Duluth, Grayson and Snellville. Lawrenceville and Buford had accredited, independent school systems.
- Many Gwinnett County residents had their high school educations interrupted in the 1940s due to World War II. Construction continued, however, in the 40s with the building of a new Suwanee School during 1942-43, the opening of Lilburn High School during 1942-43, the erection of a new facility in Dacula in 1947 to replace two buildings that were destroyed by fire in 1944, and the rebuilding of one of the Grayson School buildings after it burned in 1944. Howard Pool was the superintendent for most of the decade from 1941 to 1948, when the Lawrenceville system became part of the county school system.
- Major conveniences added to several schools in the 1950s were indoor restrooms and cafeterias.
- While R. C. Wilbanks was superintendent, a 1955 bond issue provided funds to erect four high school buildings: Central Gwinnett-Lawrenceville, South Gwinnett at Snellville, West Gwinnett at Norcross and North Gwinnett at Suwanee. The bond issue provided for the building of Hooper-Renwick School in Lawrenceville and Hull Elementary School in Duluth, which were for black students and which replaced several one-teacher black schools in the county. Construction of new schools at Harmony and Sugar Hill was also funded along with additions to Dacula, Lilburn, Duluth, Centerville, Norcross, Snellville, Grayson, Bethesda and Suwanee.
- By 1956, Gwinnett County changed its method of selecting the board of education by adopting the current plan of electing five board members from five districts, with the superintendent being appointed by the board.
- When B. B. Harris became superintendent in 1957, citizens of Dacula were taking court action to prevent Dacula High School from consolidating with Central Gwinnett, and citizens of Duluth were asking to have their children moved from West Gwinnett High School in Norcross back to Duluth. Both groups were successful in their pursuits, and a 1958 bond issue provided funds for a new high school at Duluth as well as additions at Dacula and Lilburn.
- The schools serving African American students during the late 1950s (according to annual reports filed with the Georgia Department of Education) were Hooper Renwick (grades 1-12), and Hull Elementary, New Bethel Elementary, Norcross Elementary, and Shiloh Elementary (all serving students in grades 1-7). Records show that New Bethel, Norcross, and Shiloh closed in 1957.
- Also under the Harris administration, Lilburn and Bethesda high schools consolidated to form Berkmar High School in 1966.
- In 1962 there were roughly 11,000 students in the county and only 300 of these were black.
- The late 1960s marked the period of consolidation of many white and black schools in Georgia, and in Gwinnett County. Actual integration in Gwinnett schools did not come until the 1966-67 school year.
- The superintendent in Gwinnett at the time of integration was B.B. Harris. Harris was the principal at Duluth School from 1945 to 1952 and then served as assistant superintendent from 1952 to 1957 before being appointed superintendent, a position he held from 1957-1967. Harris played a unique role in integration in that he was a system leader during the integration effort and later actually served as a principal at an integrated school. Under Harris, a new elementary school called B.B. Harris Elementary was opened in Duluth. The school was constructed to implement a new curriculum which included moveable walls to make learning areas large or small and opened in 1966.
- The all-black elementary school Hull Elementary in Duluth was closed the same year (1966-67) and as part of integration efforts its students joined the existing elementary schools in the area including Duluth Elementary and the new B.B. Harris Elementary. The following year, Hooper-Renwick School, which served black students in Lawrenceville, was closed and these students integrated into the already existing high schools. When Hooper-Renwick High School closed in 1968-69, it mostly consolidated with the existing Central Gwinnett High School.
- Brooks Coleman was the principal at B.B. Harris Elementary and Duluth Elementary when they were integrated in 1966. Student enrollment at B.B. Harris Elementary at the time was about 400, while as Dr. Coleman noted, only a handful of these students were black. In addition to these few black students in attendance, four black teachers were appointed in the new elementary school.
- In 1967, B.B. Harris resigned as superintendent and became principal of B.B. Harris Elementary.
- In 1970, the Duluth Elementary facility became Duluth Middle for grades six through eight.
- W. Benefield served as superintendent from 1967 to 1977. This was a time of more new construction with the opening of the Parkview Complex in Lilburn, composed of Camp Creek Elementary, Trickum Middle, Parkview High and the Gwinnett County Vocational Education Center at Parkview. The method of grouping sixth, seventh, and eighth graders-- known as the middle-school concept-- was put into effect with Snellville Middle being the first Gwinnett County middle school. Middle schools constructed during Mr. Benefield’s administration were Lanier, Lawrenceville, Sweetwater, and Trickum. Also, the following elementary schools opened: W. C. Britt, Camp Creek, Centerville, J. G. Dyer, Gwin Oaks, Knight, and Peachtree.
- The decade of the 1980s was a time of phenomenal growth in Gwinnett County. The county drew national attention as it moved to the ranks of the top five fastest growing counties in the nation. Keeping up with the growth was a demanding task for the school system. Twenty-two schools opened during the administration of Alton C. Crews, who became superintendent in 1977. Additionally, Gwinnett County opened an alternative school, called Open Campus High School (the name was later changed to Phoenix High School), and a postsecondary school, Gwinnett Technical Institute (now called Gwinnett Technical College).
- Under the administration of Dr. Crews, the community became involved in all aspects of education. Local school advisory committees, which were organized in every school, helped set school goals and priorities. The business partnership program officially evolved and grew, as did the community school program that offered enrichment courses to the public, thereby utilizing school buildings after regular school hours.
- Crews’ retirement in 1989 heralded a decade of change for Gwinnett County Public Schools. The district was recognized as a very good school system with a good reputation and many things were working in its favor to help it adapt.
- Stable leadership had become a hallmark of the district, in fact, over a 32-year period, the school system had known only three superintendents (B.B. Harris- 1957-1967, J.W. Benefield- 1967-1977, and Alton C. Crews- 1977-1989). The new superintendent, George Thompson, was familiar with the district’s legacy of leadership. He had been a part of Gwinnett’s leadership team, having served as a teacher and principal in Gwinnett schools and then as administrative assistant to Dr. Crews.
- Gwinnett County Public Schools’ biggest challenge during the early 1990s was growth. Gwinnett citizens approved bond referendum after bond referendum, literally every other year, to build new schools and additional classrooms. However, in February of 1990, the system lost a bond referendum to build schools—this was a first in the county. The loss at the polls was in large part due to the community’s concerns over the constant redistricting that resulted from the new schools coming online. In the wake of the bond referendum’s defeat, Superintendent George Thompson led a public engagement effort allowing the community to discuss its concerns and ideas. Nine months later, a much larger bond referendum was approved by voters. It was a building program that called for the creation of school clusters and the subsequent redistricting of over 15,000 students.
- Another system initiative of the early 90s was the launch of a strategic planning effort. A team of educators, employees, parents, and citizens worked for almost a year to craft a new strategic direction for GCPS. The strategic plan was broad-reaching, touching virtually every aspect of the district’s operations, and it resulted in some significant benefits to the organization, some that are still felt today.
- The strategic planning team recommended restructuring curriculum and instruction around what was called “outcomes of significance.” This was met with pushback in large part due to a national movement opposing “outcome based education,” or OBE. To Superintendent Thompson’s credit, he called for further assessment of the recommendation. Formal and informal research was conducted that showed clearly that the proposed restructuring was too-much, too-fast for a community and a teaching force that were solidly conservative and traditionalist in their views. After many months of listening and analyzing the feedback, the strategic planning team was called together again to revise the original plan.
- In 1994, Superintendent Thompson announced he had accepted a position with the Schlecty Center, a private, non-profit center. With his departure, the school district began 1995 with an interim CEO (Chief Financial Officer David Crews), two new School Board members, and significant funding challenges. Mr. Crews had led the school system’s financial operations for a number of years and served as interim superintendent for five months.
- After a nationwide search, the Board selected Dr. Sidney Faucette, the superintendent of Virginia Beach Public Schools in Virginia, to become Gwinnett’s school chief. In July 1995, Dr. Faucette came on board, bringing with him a reputation as a change agent. Dr. Faucette’s time with Gwinnett was short but significant nonetheless. During his tenure several critical reforms were launched that laid the groundwork for improvements that would be implemented, nurtured, strengthened, and applauded under the leadership of the district’s next superintendent. When Dr. Faucette resigned after 8 months as superintendent, the School Board immediately turned to a proven internal leader to take the helm… J. Alvin Wilbanks. That was in March 1996.
- Gwinnett County Public Schools in 1996 was very different from the system it had been just six years earlier. The growth was continuing at a staggering pace, and diversity was increasing at record levels, both ethnically and economically. Gwinnett was becoming much larger, more diverse, and more poor.
- Within that climate, efforts were underway to establish a standard, rigorous, and comprehensive new curriculum (the Academic Knowledge and Skills or AKS) for Gwinnett’s schools. Performance standards, called the Gateway Assessment Program, were developed based on the new curriculum. These measures were a part of the Board of Education’s commitment to eliminating social promotion, basing advancement to the next grade or school level on the student’s achievement. In addition, the School Board began funding interventions (free summer school for elementary and middle school students) and additional staffing to better support students who needed extra help to learn the curriculum.
- At the same time, the system implemented an accountability system, called the Results-Based Evaluation System (or RBES) to ensure true accountability for all schools and the system in terms of results in student achievement. The system’s work to become a standards-based school district, as well as its focus on accountability better prepared GCPS for changes from national and state leaders as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) -- the main federal law affecting education from kindergarten through high school. NCLB is built on four principles: accountability for results, more choices for parents, greater local control and flexibility, and an emphasis on doing what works based on scientific research.
- Gwinnett County Public Schools struggled to address its need for classrooms. It was not simply a matter of addressing its growing population; the district was playing catch up as bond referenda were the only funding mechanism for capital projects. There was just so much voters would tolerate at a time when it came to approving projects. In 1996, the state of Georgia provided a funding alternative that would help school systems fund capital improvements. In the November 1996 general election, the Constitution was amended to add a new Paragraph IV to Section VI of Article VIII (the “educational purposes sales tax amendment”) so as to authorize the boards of education of county school districts and independent school districts to impose, levy and collect a one percent sales and use tax for certain educational purposes. Paragraph IV(b)(1) of the amendment provides that the proceeds of the tax may be expended for “capital outlay projects for educational purposes.”
- On the heels of the state referendum, Gwinnett voters went to the polls in 1997, approving funding for the first-ever education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST or E-SPLOST) in Gwinnett County. Revenue from the five-year penny tax was used to build classrooms, provide instructional technology, and pay down existing debt from a 1993 bond referendum. Five new elementary schools opened in 1998 and 1999, one new high school opened in 2000, and a replacement high school opened in 2001. These new schools were paid for with SPLOST funds; no money was borrowed to build them. These schools are Meadowcreek, Freeman’s Mill, Riverside, Rock Springs, and Stripling elementary schools and Grayson and Norcross high schools. In addition, land was purchased for 20 sites that would be included in the next five-year building program.
- In 2002, Gwinnett County voters extended the sales tax for schools for another five years, providing funding for new classrooms, technology and land for future schools. Under the 2002-07 building program, the district delivered a number of new schools along with additions at existing schools. Within the program, two new clusters were established—Mill Creek and Peachtree Ridge. New schools built included: Alcova ES, Alford ES, Chesney ES, Cooper ES, Corley ES, Duncan Creek ES, Ivy Creek ES, Level Creek ES, Parsons ES, Sycamore ES, and Winn Holt ES; Berkmar MS, Jones MS, Osborne MS, Radloff MS; Mill Creek HS and Peachtree Ridge HS; and three replacement schools—Duluth MS, Trickum MS, and Oakland Meadow. In addition, three elementary schools were added to this list… Mulberry ES, Patrick ES, and Lovin ES. In both sales tax building programs, the school system was able to honor the promises made to citizens, actually providing more than was originally promised.
- On November 7, 2006, voters approved another extension of the E-SPLOST. SPLOST III went into effect July 1, 2007, and provided funding through June 30, 2012. This funded the first phase of “The Plan,” the district’s long-range plan to provide classrooms and instructional technology. Due to Gwinnett County Public Schools’ continued enrollment growth over the past two decades, and the projected continuation of that growth for the foreseeable future, new schools and other capital improvements for the additional students are an ongoing, pressing need. SPLOST III was projected to generate, at best, $1.1 billion – enough funding to cover 40 to 50 percent of the known classroom and capital needs. Additional funding from general obligation bonds, approved by voters in November 2006, were used to complete Phase I and Phase II of the five-year building program. This building program called for a number of new schools as well as additions to existing schools. As part of the new school construction, the district created three new clusters—Archer, Mountain View, and Lanier. New schools built in the first two phases of “The Plan” were Trip ES, Puckett’s Mill ES, White Oak ES, Rosebud ES, Woodward Mill ES, Starling ES, Jenkins ES, Burnette ES, Ferguson ES, Roberts ES, Anderson-Livsey ES, North Gwinnett MS, Twin Rivers MS, Bay Creek MS, Couch MS, Grace Snell MS, Moore MS; and Archer HS, Lanier HS, and Mountain View HS. In addition, a permanent building was provided for Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology—the district’s first system charter school and replacement facilities were built for Lanier MS, Benefield ES, and Dyer ES.
- The naming of a number of these schools drew great interest. In fact, two of these schools—Anderson–Livsey ES and Grace Snell MS—were named in March of 2009 and then were renamed by the Board in December of 2009. The new elementary school in the Shiloh Cluster was initially named Snell Elementary, after Grace Brooks Snell, and the new middle school in the South Gwinnett Cluster was named Midway Middle, a geographic name recognizing the Midway community. The school system had followed its traditional school naming process but felt the situation warranted further review. As part of its school naming process, the district received several possible names for the new elementary school, including suggestions to name the facility after the Anderson and Livsey families or the Promised Land community. Gwinnett’s Promised Land is a community south of Centerville where the new school is located. The Anderson and Livsey families are two of the area’s original African American families. Gwinnett Historian Elliott Brack’s modern history of Gwinnett County— “Gwinnett: A little above Atlanta”— mentions both families. It notes that Robert Livsey acquired 110 acres in the “Promised Land” area in the early 1920s, paying $2,500 for the parcel. His ancestors lived on this land prior to the Civil War, and many of his descendants still live in the area. With input from both the Snell and Livsey families, the Board of Education voted to rename the elementary school located on Centerville Highway, changing its name from Snell Elementary to Anderson-Livsey Elementary. The Board also moved to change the name of the new middle school in the South Gwinnett Cluster from its proposed name of Midway Middle to a new name, Grace Snell Middle. It was determined that these name changes were an appropriate way to recognize the families and the communities in which they lived.
- To date the district has been able to retain support for the E-SPLOST with renewals approved in 2001, 2006, 2011, and 2015. Key to the renewal of this critical funding source was the leadership and support of citizen committees that led the promotional campaigns. Citizens who chaired these committees, including the Gwinnett Kids Count Committee that promoted several campaigns, include: W. Benefield, Woody Woodruff, Mike Levengood, and Sean Murphy.
- Another significant facility initiative that has helped the district better serve students and teachers occurred in 2004, when the Gwinnett County Board of Education approved the purchase and renovation of an existing manufacturing facility to house the school system’s instructional and support personnel. The district began the move into its new headquarters in the fall of 2004 and had all staff relocated by spring of 2005. (In 2014, the Gwinnett County Board of Education renamed the facility in honor of long-time CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, officially naming the building the J. Alvin Wilbanks Instructional Support Center.)
- In 2006, CEO/Superintendent Wilbanks established The Gwinnett County Public Schools Foundation Fund, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to providing financial resources to enrich and enhance education in Gwinnett County Public Schools. A Board of Trustees that is representative of the Gwinnett community governs the Foundation, fostering the belief that community involvement in public education is essential to promoting an educated, healthy, responsible citizenry and desirable quality of life in Gwinnett County. Since its inception, the Foundation has funded hundreds of scholarships to graduating seniors helping to continue the education for the next generation of teachers, scientists, mathematicians, and leaders. In addition, Foundation grants have helped hundreds of teachers to expand learning opportunities for students by providing money for special projects and resources.
In 2007, GCPS launched its Quality-Plus Leader Academy (QPLA) with the Aspiring Principal Program (APP) addressing the most-immediate need. In addition to APP, the QPLA includes the Aspiring Leader Program (ALP) which focuses on recruitment, development, and retention of assistant principals; the District Leader Program focused on the development of central office leaders; Certified Quality Leader Training; ongoing leadership seminars; and just-in-time training and mentoring for current leaders.
- Over many years, Gwinnett County Public Schools has earned the reputation as a high-performing school district that provides a quality and effective education for every student. Key to that success is the district’s focus on its vision, mission, and strategic goals. These foundational components have served the district well over the years, helping to keep the focus on the main thing— teaching and learning. However, in order to sustain this record of success, system leaders have conducted reviews of these components, making slight changes to ensure the vision, mission, and goals remain relevant and resonate with stakeholders. The last review and revision of the vision, mission, and strategic goals occurred in 2014. In March of 2016, the members of the School Board adopted an updated version of the Gwinnett County Board of Education Core Beliefs and Commitments.
- As part of its review of its progress, the district also envisioned what the school district needed to be in the future to educate and prepare students for the demands of the 21st century. The Strategic Priorities for 2010–2020 played an integral role in that work, communicating the direction in which the district was moving and keeping the district focused on its core business of teaching and learning.
- The district’s focus on becoming a system of world-class schools has resulted in recognition at the local, state, and national level. Most notable is the district’s recognition as a three-time finalist of The Broad Prize for Urban Education (2009, 2010, and 2014) and two-time winner (2010 and 2014), designating GCPS as one of the nation’s top urban school districts.
- In 2009, GCPS began working to develop a new evaluation system for teachers and leaders— the Gwinnett Teacher and Leader Effectiveness System. Both GTES and GLES were fully implemented in 2014–15, with plans for the new evaluation system to apply to all categories of employees. The continued implementation of the new evaluation system is moving the district toward a revised compensation system where employees will be rewarded and recognized for performing at high levels. In the fall of 2015, GCPS kicked off a three-year process to design and implement a fair, flexible compensation system to provide opportunities for employees to be rewarded and recognized for exceptional performance rather than solely years of service. The district moved to a Performance-Based Teacher Salary Schedule in 2017–18 which acknowledged performance— not time on the job— as the impetus for advancement on the salary schedule. In 2018–19, the district gathered data for its Performance-Based Awards (PBAs) for teachers. The first monetary awards were distributed in December of 2019. However, due to the disruption of the 2019-20 school year related to the pandemic that closed schools and the impact this had on data collection, GCPS was unable to calculate scores for PBAs for the 2019-20 school year, so awards were not distributed in December 2020 as planned. Based on continuing uncertainty and conditions surrounding the start of the 2020-21 school year and about so many things that could affect the PBA process, GCPS determined it would pause its Performance-Based Awards program for the 2020-21 school year as well.
- In 2011, the school district launched eCLASS, a digital Content, Learning, Assessment, and Support System initiative that will help it achieve the future outlined in its Strategic Priority… a future that includes a robust online environment to meet the evolving needs of students and staff. The goal… to implement an integrated enterprise solution to enhance student engagement and the learning process. In August of 2012, GCPS piloted parts of eCLASS in five clusters of schools, expanding it to more schools the following year, and eventually to all schools. This multi-year project provides digital instructional resources and tools that result in optimized achievement for all learners; promotes student engagement through collaboration, problem-solving, decision-making, creativity, innovation, and other interactive applications of knowledge and skills; develops and administers valid, reliable, timely, and cost-effective assessments of student learning; and uses analytics to improve student achievement and operational systems; etc. In January of 2018, GCPS used eCLASS to implement Digital Learning Days to make up days missed due to inclement weather. The work done to establish Digital Learning Days and to promote online learning were essential to the district’s success when it had to shift to digital learning for all students and teachers on March 16, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What was initially thought of as a closing that would last a few weeks ended up being eight-and-a-half weeks of digital learning as GCPS and other Georgia districts completed the school year online.
- The district’s focus on innovation and transforming teaching and education resulted in a number of other changes that benefitted Gwinnett students during this time period, including:
- The development and implementation of a variety of instructional delivery models (blended instruction, dual language immersion, career academies)
- The launch of innovative programs at new schools (Entrepreneurship Center, Junior Achievement’s BizTown and Finance Park, and Middle School STEM/STEAM programs)
- Different school structures (academies, school within a school models, theme schools, magnet schools, charter schools)
- STEM and STEAM engages all types of students in integrated math and science, which prepares them for college and career opportunities. By expanding STEM and STEAM learning opportunities, schools are encouraging students at all levels to apply their learning as they creatively solve real-world problems, think in innovative ways, and engage with their community. In 2017–18 GCPS had the largest number of state STEM/STEAM-certified schools and programs in Georgia. Furthering its work in this area, the district also expanded robotics programs to all elementary schools that year.
- In 2018, the Gwinnett County Board of Education experienced a shift in membership as two long-serving members decided not to run again for office. Dr. Bob McClure and Daniel Seckinger had served on the School Board for over 24 years having joined the Board in 1995. Joining the Board as its first new members since 2005 were Stephen Knudsen, representing District II, and Everton Blair, Jr., representing District IV. Mr. Blair became the youngest member and the first African American to serve on the Gwinnett School Board.
- In 2018–19, the district opened its first theme high school— Paul Duke STEM High School— which places a heavy emphasis on the technology component of a STEM education. Another theme school—McClure Health Science High School— opened in 2019–20 in the Meadowcreek Cluster. This school focuses on preparing students for careers in the Health Sciences. Plans are underway for a theme cluster that will be anchored by Seckinger High School, which is slated to open in 2022. The new high school will relieve crowding at Mill Creek High School. It will have a collegiate atmosphere that allows students to choose areas of focus within schools of study that focus on the humanities, international business, and advanced sciences and technology (think artificial intelligence).
- In December of 2018, the Georgia School Boards Association named the Gwinnett County Board of Education and Gwinnett County Public Schools as the recipient of its 2018 Governance Team of the Year Award. This prestigious award is presented annually to one Georgia public school district’s board of education and superintendent, honoring the governance team that has achieved all-around success in its district. GSBA’s validation and selection team, highlighted a few exemplary areas found in Gwinnett, including partnerships, branding, and overall governance.
- In addition to its Broad Prize recognitions, the school district and its employees and students continued to earn awards and accolades during this period. In 2016, GCPS was named a College Board Advanced Placement District of the Year. The superintendent and school district were honored by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators in 2016 at its PAGE Turning Event. GCPS won the 2017 Excellence in Literacy Leadership Award from the Reading Recovery Council of North America. And, our staff members racked up numerous state, regional, and national awards including, 2020 National School Librarian of the Year, 2020 National School Counselor of the Year, and 2020 National Principal of the Year.