The following are highlights of the June 20, 2013, meeting of the Gwinnett County Board of Education. Board members present included Chairman Carole Boyce, Vice Chairman Daniel Seckinger, Dr. Robert McClure, Dr. Mary Kay Murphy, and Louise Radloff. The official minutes of the meeting will be approved by the Board at its next monthly meeting.
School Board honors students and schools
-- The Gwinnett County Board of Education congratulated nine students, all members of the Class of 2013, who finished their K-12 careers with a perfect record of attendance.
-- Board members honored Dr. Eli Welch, Shiloh MS principal, and the entire Shiloh community on its selection as one of four state winners of the Family-Friendly Partnership School Award. Shiloh was selected because it represents the best in customer service for families-- whether it's on the phone, at the front office, or via the Internet. In presenting the award, the Georgia Department of Education said Shiloh MS and the other recognized schools have welcoming staff members, comfortable waiting areas, clear signage, and engaging student work throughout the building. They also were noted for their easy-to-navigate websites and for forging partnerships with parents to help improve student achievement. Dr. Welch credits his staff and supportive community for this honor and thanked the Board for their support of Shiloh MS and the Shiloh community.
-- The Board also congratulated a team from Shiloh MS, winner of the Community Award at this year's VEX Robotics World Championship. The VEX Robotics World Championship was held in Anaheim, Calif., and it involved more than 600 teams from 24 countries. The middle school level was comprised of 160 teams. Out of 32 honors to be awarded to MS teams, Shiloh Middle brought home the “Community Award.” The Community Award is presented to a team recognized for making a difference in the community as judged by the local VEX Robotics Organizing Committee. Judges felt that the Shiloh team demonstrated strong community-building skills and made many contributions to help support students and teams beyond their own school. This award is given to a team that makes a concerted effort to raise support in their community for technology education programs. Dr. Eli Welch, principal, explained the intricacies of the competition and some of the accomplishments of the robotics team. Joining Dr. Welch in congratulating the students on the team was Camilia Calvert, a teacher at the school who worked with the team.
-- The School Board recognized teams from Grayson HS and Mill Creek HS on their 1st and 2nd place finishes, respectively, in the Electrathon state competition. This award is sponsored by the Georgia Electrathon Association-- made up of teachers, students and promoters-- that sponsors and organizes battery-powered technology competition events. On May 11, several GCPS students participated in the 3rd Annual Run for the Peaches Electrathon series competition. The objective of the Electrathon series is to see how far a student team-designed car can travel in 60 minutes on one Kilowatt Hour of energy. Students have to design the car based on weight and an aerodynamic chassis. During the competition, students are using teamwork and communication skills to make changes to the vehicle speed, based on different variables of the competition. Glenn Burrows, teacher at Mill Creek HS, explained the many teachable moments the students experienced during this competition, applauding the efforts of these award-winning student teams. Grayson HS Teacher Steven Griffing introduced his team, whose car traveled more than 30 miles in the two races to take 1st place.
-- The Board congratulated Maxwell HS of Technology on its students' award-winning performances in the SkillsUSA state competition. Students from Maxwell brought home four 1st place finishes and five 2nd place finishes. SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers, and industry representatives working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. It is a national nonprofit organization serving teachers, high school and college students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical, and skilled service occupations. The students and teams of students recognized at tonight's Board meeting will compete at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference to be held June 24-28, 2013, in Kansas City, Mo.
-- Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) made the list for the first-ever District Sustainability Award by the U.S. Department of Education’s (U.S. DOE). In the inaugural year of the recognition, 14 school districts nationwide were honored for their efforts to be environmentally responsible. The sustainability winners were selected from a group of Green Ribbon Schools and districts first honored at the state level. All were honored for their exemplary efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, promote better health, and ensure effective environmental education, including civics and green career pathways. Dr. Jonathon Wetherington, GCPS' director of Science, reviewed a number of district highlights that helped GCPS win this honor. As the district's "green" efforts are cross-divisional and, in many cases, include community partnerships, a number of people were on hand for tonight's recognition. They included Steve Jaggears and Barbi Ibele of the Facilities and Operation Division; Brenda McDaniel and Connie Wiggins of Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful; Scott Walker of Walton EMC; Brittany Caison and Lee Chapman of Jackson EMC; and Monica Pearson, Mark Brunelle, and Steve Morton of Georgia Power.
School Board approves millage rate to support FY2014 budget
The Gwinnett County Board of Education adopted a millage rate of 19.80 mills for Maintenance and Operations (M&O) and 2.05 mills for Debt Service-- a combined total millage rate of 21.85 mills-- to support the FY2014 budget. School Board members adopted the FY2014 Budget on May 16, 2013, at which time they tentatively adopted the millage rate. The .75 mill increase for Debt Service is required to pay the principal and interest payments on bonds that were already approved and issued in 2008 and prior to that year. Since these annual payments are fixed (just like a mortgage payment), the millage rate must be increased in order to generate the same amount of revenue to make the payments. While the district has lost more than $20 million in debt service tax revenue over the past four years due to the 26% decline in the tax digest value, the required annual payments have remained relatively constant. However, the Board has avoided this required increase for the past four years through using all of the reserve and by refinancing bonds. The .55 mill increase for M&O is required to fund the elimination of the two furlough days and to add 18 additional SROs. The .55 increase simply will generate the same amount of M&O revenue in FY2014 as was generated in FY2013. This increase in the millage rate is the first in eight years approved by the School Board.
Board approves site for new Meadowcreek Cluster ES
The Board authorized staff to proceed with negotiations to purchase property for a much-needed relief elementary school for the Meadowcreek Cluster. Staff may negotiate with the landowners on a price up to the appraised value of the property. The school will open in August 2015.
Board of Education purchases Instructional Support Center (ISC)
The Gwinnett County Board of Education approved the appropriation of funds to purchase the Instructional Support Center on July 1, 2013, in accordance with the first amendment to the lease agreement approved on May 29, 2009. The lease agreement with Gwinnett Instructional SC, LLC, provides the Board the opportunity to purchase the district's central office facility on July 1, 2013, for the buyout price of $52,038,916. Bond proceeds are being used for the purchase. The Board originally bought the ISC facility in 2004. In June of 2005, the Board of Education approved the sale and subsequent lease agreement, using the proceeds from the sale to build two elementary schools and to pay a portion of building costs for a third. Approximately 750 support staff are housed at the ISC. In addition to hosting School Board meetings, the ISC serves as a professional development center with classrooms and computer labs for training of teachers and support staff.
BOE continues updates to policies
The Board approved the following policies:
- Policy JBCB- Awarding Units of Credit and Acceptance of Transfer Credits: Proposed changes to this policy are required due to changes in State Board Rules and will align it with improvements in system processes.
- Policy IHFB- Graduation Requirements: Proposed changes to this policy are required due to changes in State Board Rules and will align it with improvements in system processes.