Paul Duke STEM High School

Learn Together. Lead Tomorrow.

Meet the Principal

  • Principal Dr. Wetherington

    Dr. Jonathon Wetherington

    As a passionate educator, I am extremely honored and excited to lead Paul Duke STEM High School.  The vision of Gwinnett County Public Schools is to become a system of world-class schools where students acquire the knowledge and skills to be successful in college and careers.  As we continue to transform teaching and learning in support of this vision in all of our schools, we are committed to providing students with engaging and differentiated learning environments. Paul Duke STEM High School was created to provide a non-traditional, STEM-themed high school choice for the Norcross cluster. Joining the Norcross cluster, as well as the Norcross and Peachtree Corners communities, inspires me to continue the tradition of excellence that has embodied these communities as we launch in August 2018.

    Paul Duke STEM High School has been described as “a small school full of big ideas!” I believe this is an excellent summary of our vision. While there are a growing number of STEM schools in the region, Paul Duke STEM High School will offer its students a STEM-themed learning experience unlike any other that emphasizes both technology and the application of knowledge to prepare students for a high-tech and high-skilled future. Our technology-infused STEM curriculum has been developed with students and their future in mind and emphasizes students learning with and through technology.

    The “T” is bigger in our name because it’s a big deal at our school.  Technology is a large part of our students’ world and it will impact every career opportunity in their future from self-driving cars to robotics to managing our natural resources. Therefore, our goal is to empower our students’ learning in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics through the effective use of Technology.  While we have a technology-infused STEM approach, the big “T” in our name also refers to our school environment that will emphasize Talent, Trust, Thinking, Tinkering, Teamwork, as well as Technology.  These six words describe and inspire the culture that we will create for our students.

    As we embark on this incredible journey, I hope you will join with us because I believe that the vision for Paul Duke STEM High School is one that many students, parents, and community members are looking for.  Please feel free to contact me with any ideas you may have on how we support the students in our community.

    Let’s build a foundation that allows innovation for excellence!

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Principal's Blog

  • Moon Shot - Credit to Friday Forward

    Posted by Jonathon Wetherington on 8/4/2019 6:00:00 AM

    For this week's Blog, I am going to post a blog from Robert Glazer's Friday Forward.  In his blog on July 25th, Robert Glazer captured a collection of thoughts so near and dear to my heart that I thought I was reading my own mind. In addition, I could not say it this well, so I offer his post below as an encouraging reminder at the beginning of this school year. Enjoy! I know I did. 

    https://www.fridayfwd.com/moon-shot/

    In his acclaimed book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, Jim Collins coined the term BHAG, which stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal.

    In studying companies with a remarkable, decades-long track record of success and high-performance, Collins found that each had a consistent presence of a BHAG. In each of these organizations, their BHAG served as a North Star for employees and changed the very nature of their business.

    Collins wrote:

    “A BHAG engages people – it reaches out and grabs them in the gut.  It is tangible, energizing, highly focused.  People “get it” right away; it takes little or no explanation.”  

    From a historical perspective, one of the greatest examples of a BHAG is President John F. Kennedy’s declaration in 1962 that the United States would put a man on the surface of the moon before the end of the decade. At the time, this goal seemed unfathomable to most.

    This week marked the 50th anniversary of that BHAG coming to fruition: the spaceflight Apollo 11 landing humans on the Moon on July 20, 1969 and allowing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to be the first humans to step foot on another planetary body. The third astronaut, Michael Collins, remained in the command module to ensure their safety.

    The media coverage commemorating this incredible event has provided insight into the extensive planning, financial commitment, vision and teamwork that was required to make this extraordinary achievement possible. It’s also shed light on three important takeaways that any organization can learn from.

    1.Where There Is A Will, There Is A Way

    One fact that I’m personally astounded by is that the processing power of an iPhone has 100,000 times more processing power than the computer onboard the Apollo 11. To put this in context, this means that an iPhone today could handle 120 million moon missions at once. So, clearly, it’s not always about having the best technology, or the right tools or the smartest people; it’s about having the individual and collective will.

    2. Specific & Measurable Goals

    BHAGs are a combination of boldness and specificity. Had Kennedy said that the U.S. should “enhance its space capabilities,” by the end of the decade, it is very unlikely that humans would have landed on the moon. Similar to the “painted picture” exercise I wrote about in a recent Friday Forward and our own Vivid Vision creation experience at Acceleration Partners, the more inspiring and time-sensitive something is, the more likely others will rally together toward achieving it.

    3. Dream Team 

    To achieve those first lunar footsteps, everyone needed to understand that they were part of one team with one goal, regardless of their expertise or success in the marketplace.

    For example, the hundreds of private vendors who were awarded the contracts to handle key elements of the Apollo 11 technology were competitors outside of the program. However, inside the program, they were part of one team. This was a remarkable example of industry competitors coming together to create an all-star team for a bigger purpose.

    What was also apparent from the Apollo 11 anniversary media coverage is that experts from all over the world– from mathematicians, engineers, scientists, mechanics, technicians, pilots and thousands of others who worked tirelessly behind the scenes– all set aside their egos in pursuit of that common goal.

    As we celebrate the anniversary of one of the greatest BHAGs in history, it’s worth taking a few minutes to think about our own personal and professional ambitions and what we could accomplish with the right mindset, a clear endpoint and true team effort. The Apollo 11 program proves that, when we don’t allow ourselves or our teams to put personal or team-centered needs above the needs of the organization as a whole, we can accomplish amazing feats.

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  • I choose to go to the moon

    Posted by Jonathon Wetherington on 7/20/2019 6:00:00 PM

    50 years ago today, NASA’s Apollo 11 mission changed our world and ideas of what is possible by successfully landing humans on the surface of the moon⁠—and bringing them home safely⁠—for the first time in history.  This amazing human accomplishment began with the vision and belief that we could go to the moon.  A vision that President John F. Kennedy captured in the famous space linked here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZyRbnpGyzQ

    At Paul Duke STEM, the faculty and staff share the same desire to blaze brave new trails in our own industry: education.  We believe in the power of STEM education for all students, and we seek to open new opportunities for our students and community.  As we demonstrated in our first year, innovative ideas can lead to exceptional results.  Next year, we will build upon these successes and continue to expand the options and opportunities for all students.  in the immortal words of President Kennedy, "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too." 

    The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission symbolizes how anything is possible. We are all explorers who can do our part to expand knowledge and be a part of the next great mission.  We hope you will join us!

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  • Finish Strong!

    Posted by Jonathon Wetherington on 5/13/2019 8:45:00 PM

    The end of the school year is here!  The final stages of a fantastic and wonderful journey is finally here.  I am so proud of all we have accomplished this year: launching our Fine Arts programs, project-based teaching and learning, building a strong community and mindset, and creating STEM programs that open doors for students.  However, at the end of this year lies something equally amazing as all the great accomplishments thus far.  At the end of this year, we begin every other year to come....How cool is that? For this year is not just coming to an end, but it is also giving birth to a new beginning.  We often summarize our work this year in the idea of “Moonshot Thinking.” As President John F. Kennedy, Jr. said, "We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too"

    As we wind down the year and reflect on this year and all we have accomplished, I hope you will also take a moment and look forward. I hope you look forward to the next stage of your journey.  I hope you look forward with renewed energy and optimism because we are building something special here. We are building a school that helps all students dream and achieve. I hope you look forward to the challenges that the next eight days bring because these challenges bring us one step closer to our goal and to our moon! Most of all I hope you look forward, and not backwards, to all the opportunity and greatness that lies ahead.  As we continue to learn together and lead tomorrow, it is tempting to get tripped up on the challenges of today, so I encourage you to look forward and finish strong.

     

    Finish Strong

     

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  • Learning Together. Leading Tomorrow.

    Posted by Jonathon Wetherington on 4/7/2019 4:00:00 PM

    Over the last six months, the students, faculty, and staff of Paul Duke STEM High School have successful blazed new trails together.  Together, we launched the first school of its kind, a cluster-based theme school focused on STEM with an emphasis on technology, and in our inaugural year, we experienced challenges and celebrated successful milestones.  The sense of community and pride that has developed is inspiring and uplifting for all those involved. We have worked together to build the foundation of a truly great school, and we are just getting started.

     

    As we look back over the last few months, our teachers and staff have used technology and project-based learning to bring our vision to life each and everyday.  Each week on Fridays, we learn more and more about using blended learning, flexible learning, and digital learning to insure all students learn and succeed. As the year has gone on, our partners have worked with us to set our course and push our thinking, so that all students are ready for opportunities after high school.  Due to the commitment of both our faculty and community partners, students were able to compete in academic competitions, develop their leadership capacity, and excel academically. We have learned a great deal together, which will help us lead tomorrow!

     

    With six weeks left in the school year, we still have much to learn.  However, our learning does not occur in isolation. We have established a unique and supportive community that promotes and encourages learning for both students and adults.  This community of learning is our most unique and special characteristic, and it will serve us well as we look to the future. One day, I know that we will all look back on this year with great pride for what we accomplished and the future that we unlocked together.  As Trailblazers, we pursued a “moon shot” vision because we believed that our students deserved a unique experience that prepared them for their future….a future that is worth the challenges and the work. As President John F. Kennedy said in his moon shot speech at Rice University, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

     

    At Paul Duke STEM, we chose to chase our own big, hairy, audacious goal because it is hard and because this goal will serve to lead the future for our students and countless others.  As principal, I am honored to be a part of a school that learns together, so we can lead tomorrow!

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  • Managing our Most Valuable Resource - Time

    Posted by Dr. Jonathon Wetherington on 2/17/2019 5:00:00 PM

    As I sit down on a Sunday afternoon to prepare for the week ahead like so many teachers and administrators around the country and world, I find myself reflecting on the time ahead of us in the school year (12 weeks as of today) and the time gone by.  Just like other educators, I wonder if we have used time in the best way possible and how we might be able to use the next few days and weeks ahead to help our students learn and grow. I wonder how I can help teachers and students use time in better and different ways that lead to high levels of student achievement.  While this reflection on time and how it is used is a source of angst for many educators, it is a source of hope for me, and time is a source of hope for Paul Duke STEM High School!

     

    This weekend, I read this article (“Time Is an Essential Teacher Resource, So How Can Schools Be More Creative With It?” in MindShift, February 2019, https://bit.ly/2C9TIXJ) and the quote below struck me.

    “Time is one of the most powerful levers for change in a school. Everything about how a school runs, from where staff go, to when they have breaks and collaborative time, to what classes students can take, is based on how leaders schedule the limited time within a school day, week, and year.” - Katrina Schwartz in “Time Is an Essential Teacher Resource, So How Can Schools Be More Creative With It?” in MindShift, February 2019, https://bit.ly/2C9TIXJ

     

    This article and quote served as a reminder of how important time is for both teachers and students, and how schools are responsible for how we schedule and use that time. At Paul Duke STEM, we leverage a very unique schedule to maximize time spent learning in the classroom, and nowhere is that more evident than on our Fridays.  On our Flexible Learning Fridays, we have the opportunity to allow our students to truly focus on their learning in personalized ways. We provide digital lessons, face-to-face tutoring, hands-on experiences and so much more. As I reflect back upon the school year, I am excited about what we have accomplished, and I am hopeful about what lies ahead, especially on Fridays.  With the flexibility our Flexible Learning Fridays provide, we can take our students to new heights, and it’s it about TIME for that!

     

    Thanks for #TrailblazingTogether!

    Dr. Wetherington

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  • Welcome 2019: New Year = New opportunities

    Posted by Jonathon Wetherington on 1/1/2019 5:00:00 PM

    As we say good-bye to 2018 and welcome 2019, all of us will choose how we will use this year.  Some people will live their days like nothing has happened, like the beginning of a new year is nothing special.  Some will make resolutions and struggle to keep them. Others will find areas of passion and create memories, opportunities, and experiences for themselves and others.  This is the opportunity of the new year.....an opportunity for us all. 

    In this new year, the opportunities for us at Paul Duke STEM may never be greater. There will never be another year like 2019 for us.  Opening a new school is a wonderful and challenging experience. Expectations are high, and the school community must come together quickly to serve its students.  Not every school has a successful opening, and even fewer schools have the remarkable opening that Paul Duke STEM did this Fall.  Our school has quickly gone from a dream to a successful reality in a matter of months.  Yet, while 2018 brought our school to life, 2019 offers so much more than a starting point. 

    As we look to 2019, I am excited about our school and opportunities for students that we are building.  For us at Paul Duke STEM, 2019 will be a year of building and creation for students and faculty alike.  It will be a vector type of year for us. A year that determines our trajectory and impact for years to come.  For you see, a vector is defined as a quantity having direction as well as magnitude, especially as determining the position of one point in space relative to another.  As principal, I am excited to see the direction and magntude that we will have on students in 2019.  I encourage everyone with connections to our school to follow this blog that I will be updating regularly. 2019 is going to be a big year because we are building something big! #whatwillyoubuild?

     

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  • The Power of Choice

    Posted by Dr. Jonathon Wetherington, Principal on 2/9/2018 11:35:00 AM
    As the principal of Paul Duke STEM High School, the most frequently asked question I hear is “Why would a student want to attend Paul Duke STEM High School?” This is such an interesting question because it is often asked by the parent of a student or a student carefully considering our school. Their question comes from a genuine desire to select the best educational experience for a particular student, and they are considering both their present and future options. Their question is driven by past experiences, social interactions, friendships, personal interests, and future aspirations. This question represents their desire to select the best option from several high-quality options. 
     
    While I am able to answer their question with a description of our comprehensive multi-year STEM experience focused on learning through and with technology within a small school environment, I am most excited about the question itself because the question represents an opportunity for students and their families to “unlock their future.” The opportunity to consider the strengths of a student and match it with the strengths of a school is an exciting opportunity for students in the Norcross cluster. This opportunity to consider and select from either Norcross High School or Paul Duke STEM High School is an exciting opportunity for students and their parents to explore, inquire, and ultimately exercise their power of choice. In the Norcross cluster, choice is key that allows students to unlock options. 
     
    Every day for the last two months, I have had the pleasure to see how this power of choice empowers students and helps them think about school in a different way. President Theodore Roosevelt said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.” With this in mind, I encourage students to exercise their power of choice as they think about their high school for next year.
     
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  • Digital Learning Days

    Posted by Dr. Jonathon Wetherington on 1/16/2018

    Monday, January 8, 2018, was an historic day in Gwinnett County Public Schools. This marks our first districtwide Digital Learning Day due to an inclement weather scenario.  The use of digital learning days are an exciting opportunity for both students and teachers as we look to the future of teaching and learning. Digital learning allows teachers to deliver lessons specific to the needs of individual students in the form of different learning experiences, such as videos, reading assignments, etc.) as well as different assignments that students turn in. The key to effective digital learning just like traditional learning is in the design and delivery of the lesson. If done well, digital learning days give our students a unique way to learn, and it provides teachers the opportunity to personalize teaching and learning. At Paul Duke STEM, we are excited to unlock the potential of digital learning days once a week beginning in August 2018.

     Students at Paul Duke STEM High School will have extensive opportunities to learn with and through technology. Technology continues to shape the world around us, and our students will learn to apply technology throughout their lives and learning. I know that devices and digital learning cannot replace the dynamic classroom interaction between teachers and students. However, it can provide students with multiple practice opportunities, unique multimedia experiences, and real-world experiences. Thus, our approach to the use of technology in STEM education is highly focused. We believe that technology is one of many tools available to teachers to engage students to take ownership of their learning experience. As educators, we will use technology to address the needs of our students and to ensure that our decisions are driven by data. In our modern academic, professional, and personal lives, all students need to develop technological proficiency with industry-standard resources to be prepared for college and careers.

    As the career opportunities of the future are constantly changing due to various economic drivers, students need to be prepared to lead and serve in a variety of different work environments. We believe that digital lessons done right can be more individualized and more powerful through this individualized nature. As Paul Duke STEM High looks to incorporate digital learning days on a weekly basis, we are excited to see how teachers can provide students with great learning opportunities online and still allow students to come into school for one-on-one instruction and designated time to work collaboratively with their peers on projects. I am looking forward to how digital learning and flexible days on Fridays will help our students unlock their future.

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  • Building a New School

    Posted by Dr. Jonathon Wetherington on 12/8/2017 9:15:00 AM
    Welcome to my first blog post about Paul Duke STEM High School. Things are really hopping here at Paul Duke STEM HS. Norcross HS Principal Will Bishop and myself have been making the rounds to our cluster middle schools ensuring that students and parents have a good understanding of their options when it comes to high school. We also have been meeting with current Norcross students. As a result, interest in our new school has ramped up and we are fielding lots of questions as we also have been collected letters of intent from prospective students. And don't forget that now that our website... be sure to check back often for school updates and important dates.

    Another key event that recently took place involves our Advisory Team... a group that has been guiding the school district's work in developing this school. I was so proud to take this group on a tour of the new school on December 6. Although it is still under construction, I wanted to be able to share a preview of all that we will offer to students with some of the community and business leaders who have taken such an active role in our new school. This group includes the mayors of both Norcross and Peachtree Corners, as well as business and community leaders who have a vested interest in Norcross and in the technology field. Working together we are creating a curriculum and culture for Paul Duke STEM HS that will benefit students for years to come. Below are pictures from the tour that will give you a sneak peak at this world-class facility. I can't wait until the keys are handed over and we can hold an open house for our community!
     
     
    Advisory Team on tour of PDS HS

     

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