Celebrating Another Year of Academic and Operational Excellence

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J. Alvin Wilbanks, CEO/Superintendent Gwinnett County Public Schools

Approaching the end of the school year always gives me occasion to look back and take stock of the prior nine months in Gwinnett County Public Schools. That exercise this spring tells me that 2014-2015 was another year of academic and operational excellence for us! Here is just some of the evidence.

In a history-making announcement, the district was named winner (with Orange County Public Schools, Florida) of the 2014 Broad Prize for Urban Education. We became the second two-time Broad Prize winner ever, and the only winner to be named a finalist in the first year of eligibility after winning the Prize. What a proud achievement for our schools, our people, and our entire community!

We also saw in 2014-2015 the successful rollout of the “academies model” at five high schools and the Dual Language Immersion (DLI) program at three elementary schools. Based on the promising year-one results, we will add Berkmar HS and Discovery HS to the academies next year, and add another grade level to the DLI program, doubling it for year two. Additionally, progress continues in implementing our eCLASS instructional initiative, with online registration the latest innovation for parents.

Consistent with the GCPS tradition of winning numerous accolades each year, significant awards went to schools and individuals in 2014-2015. For example, Maryanne Grimes of Central Gwinnett HS was named Georgia’s “Secondary School Principal of the Year” and competes for the national title this fall. Georgia’s Counselor and Counseling Advocate of the Year both hail from GCPS – counselor Stacey Miller (Roberts ES) and principal Linda Boyd (Twin Rivers MS). Three of our schools’ STAR Student/Teacher winners were regional finalists in the state competition.

Four elementary schools (Berkeley Lake, Harris, Knight, and Lovin) were recognized by the Georgia Department of Education as 2014 “Highest Performing” Reward Schools. Several Gwinnett teams made it to the state playoffs in various sports, with state championships won by Peachtree Ridge HS in Competitive Cheerleading and Archer HS in Dual and Traditional Wrestling.

We celebrated the district retaining its triple-A bond rating by two major investment services, something only two large districts in the nation can claim. A civic engagement outreach led to revision of the district’s vision and goals, along with how we define a world-class school. We also began installing almost $4 million in school safety systems (for emergency response and visitor management), projects included in the county’s 2013 sales tax referendum.

These few examples of individual and organizational success are evidence that 2014-2015 was another terrific year in the school district. As always our challenge is to keep getting better in this system of world-class schools. It’s our commitment, too, and 2015-2016 is just around the corner!