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Four-year college, 'gas holiday' prominent education topics of 2005

A hurricane ushered in a wave of new students and employees to Gwinnett schools. Higher education got a boost as Gwinnett established a new four-year college. Parents and students rallied behind two veteran teachers they believed were unfairly discharged. Whether or not the news was good, it was a dramatic year for education in Gwinnett. Before schools open this week for the new year, here is a look at the stories that mattered in 2005.

1. Georgia Gwinnett

College established

Gwinnett County will soon be opening doors for the first four-year college established in Georgia in more than a century. Many current students agreed that the name of the new school, Georgia Gwinnett College, doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. But it is an exciting new beginning for the county, and the college will likely help the region gain prominence in higher education.

After a rigorous selection process, the Board of Regents named Dan Kaufman president of the new college. He is a decorated Vietnam War veteran and the former chief academic officer of the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.

The college will be based where the Gwinnett University Center is located in Lawrenceville. Starting in August 2006, students will be able to enroll in business, teacher education, information systems and health


2. Enrollment spikes

in Gwinnett schools after Hurricane Katrina

Public schools reached record high enrollment rates as more than 1,300 students fled to Gwinnett County from the hurricane ravaged Gulf states. Administrators and teachers scrambled to expedite the process of getting them in the classroom. Gwinnett County had already higher numbers than expected, and the new students put them above what they had anticipated for the school year. Several teachers also left behind their old lives to teach in Gwinnett after


The schools stepped up to welcome the new students. Each hurricane evacuee received a complimentary backpack and supplies. Most Gwinnett schools also put on fundraisers for Hurricane Katrina relief, raising thousands of dollars to support families. Many of the students have made Gwinnett their new home.

3. Veteran South Gwinnett teacher resigns after

showing R-rated film

A popular English teacher, Ed Youngblood, resigned after teaching for 37 years at South Gwinnett High School. He said he was forced to resign for showing the award-winning film "Elizabeth" in a class. The school system said Youngblood did not follow proper procedures to request showing the film, which is rated R. A coalition of current and former students united in an effort to get him reinstated. Their efforts culminated in a series of speeches at a Gwinnett Board of Education this month. Despite their appeals, it is unlikely that Youngblood will get back his position.

4. Redistricting begins

for elementary schools

The school board approved proposed redistricting boundaries for elementary schools in the Brookwood and Meadowcreek clusters. Over the past three months, a planning committee used meetings with community members, oral and written input and a public hearing with the board to determine the new boundary lines.

Gwin Oaks Elementary School will be most affected by the changes. Approximately 220 students who would have gone to Gwin Oaks will instead attend Craig Elementary, while 90 students will go to Brookwood Elementary.

5. Perdue declares

a "gas holiday"

While it was in the 70s and sunny, Gwinnett students got two early "snow days" in September. Gov. Sonny Perdue requested that school districts across the state cancel classes to reduce fuel and electricity costs. The gas holiday angered parents who had to scramble to find childcare or take off work to stay home with their children. Later, the school district had to add an additional make-up snow day to the academic calendar. As the Braves and the Atlanta zoo gave discounts to kids off school, Gwinnett parents drove downtown to entertain their kids for the day, somewhat defeating the purpose of the gas holiday.

6. School headquarters

move to the Instructional

Support Center

Many school system employees moved in December to a new facility, the Instructional Support Center in Suwanee. The move brought employees from five departments - human resources, business and finance, educational leadership, organizational advancement and information management - under one roof.

It takes up about 46 acres and 370,000 square feet.

Starting this month, school board meetings will be held in an impressive new room that can accommodate more than 600 people.

7. Dacula teacher fired

for disciplining student

by lowering grade

Larry Neace, a 23-year veteran teacher at Dacula High School, was dismissed by the Board of Education for disciplining a student using grades. He had lowered the grades of students who appeared to be sleeping in class or wasting time. Though punishing students by changing their grades is prohibited by the school district, the decision to fire him enraged many former students. He appealed to the Georgia Board of Education, which upheld Gwinnett's decision. Neace is now a science teacher at Apalachee High School in Barrow County.

8. Gwinnett County Schools support Relay for Life

The county raised $2,216,021 for the American Cancer Society, the highest amount raised by any Relay for Life event in the world. The school system raised almost half of the total with $1,037,284 and 95 percent of schools participating. Norcross High School raised the most money of any Georgia school with a contribution of $60,250. The Gwinnett Relay also received nearly a dozen national, division and state awards for most money raised per capita, largest cancer survivor participation and Best Online Relay for the $104,000 collected over the Internet.

9. Gwinnett students start taking new, longer SAT

The College Board significantly changed what is commonly considered the most important test a student will take. Suddenly, Gwinnett high school juniors and seniors had to adjust to a new model that added an essay component and got rid of the oft-dreaded analogies. The test was also scored out of 2400, rather than 1600. The new SAT, which takes about 3 hours and 45 minutes, was longer than the old version. The length prompted complaints from thousands of school counselors and admissions professionals across the country. All Gwinnett high school students did have access this year to a free online SAT prep course, making the transition slightly easier.

10. Collins Hill educator

is Teacher of the Year

Mai Yin Tsoi, a chemistry teacher at Collins Hill High School, won the top teacher award for Gwinnett County. She was selected for the award from a pool of 105 local school honorees through a rigorous selection process. Tsoi was praised by students and fellow educators for her enthusiasm and ability to bring science to life. Melissa Lawley, a kindergarten teacher at K.E. Taylor Elementary, was Gwinnett's Elementary School Teacher of the Year. Reading Specialist Anne Crain Beatty of Lanier Middle School earned the top award in the middle school division.