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Charter school will challenge best and brightest of Gwinnett

The Gwinnett County "School of the Future" welcomed 203 ninth-grade students and their parents gathered in Duluth High School's auditorium a few nights before the official opening of the 2007-08 academic year.

It was an opening night befitting blockbuster touring attractions at the Gwinnett Arena, Suwanee's Town Center, Philips Arena or Turner Field. It was an opening of "Infinite Possibilities," the theme of the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology.

On that night, Founding Principal Pat Blenke and Dean of Academics Banks Bitterman welcomed the inaugural ninth-grade class and its parents to the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology. Students were selected from each of the county's 20 middle schools, with 110 having achieved gifted identification in at least one area.

For its first three years, the school will be located on the campus of Duluth High School. Gwinnett County will break ground in June for the school's permanent home. The new multi-story facility will be centrally located in Lawrenceville adjacent to the Maxwell High School of Technology.

The mission of the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology is to nurture the talents and high potential of students through a challenging, unique and integrated curriculum that links primarily to mathematics, science and technology.

Bitterman welcomed the students and their parents to a world-class school, with the focus of advanced instruction in engineering, biosciences and emerging technologies.

"Our academically challenging curriculum will push students to higher levels of learning and the application of that learning," Bitterman said. "I truly believe that the education our students attain will empower them to succeed at the world's most prestigious universities and in rewarding high-tech careers."

According to June S. Sweat, director of program planning, over the next three years, additional classes of 200 students each year will be recruited to enter the ninth-grade class at the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology. By the academic year 2010-11, the school will operate at its peak enrollment.

Gwinnett County master teachers and representatives from area colleges and universities developed the school's curriculum. Industry leaders and educators reviewed the curriculum to insure that it is challenging, integrated and interdisciplinary.

Ninth-grade course offerings include advanced physics/chemistry and advanced geometry/algebra II. Also, students will study language arts and social studies as well as fine arts electives that include visual arts and music education. Music courses will include classical piano, and wind and strings. Health and fitness education also will be offered.

Foreign language study will include Chinese and Spanish. All students will take part in research and formal project presentations. Applications and research will be offered through I-SET (Integrated Science, Engineering, and Technology.) Laptop computers will be assigned to students during their four years of study and research.

As Gwinnett County's first district charter school, its customized, advanced course of study will be taught by a carefully assembled faculty to foster inquiry-based and discovery learning and to challenge students to achieve their full potential.

Fourteen faculty members and three support staff at the School of Mathematics, Science and Technology are experts in their classroom and fields. They have worked in private industry, authored textbooks, earned advanced degrees and built reputations for educational vision and a commitment to innovative methods of teaching.

An advisory board and more than 50 partners in business and industry, government and higher education have supported Gwinnett County Public Schools and provided assistance in helping to achieve the school's vision of "infinite possibilities."

What a privilege it is to observe the "infinite possibilities" that our community's business, government and educational leaders have provided so that students in our public schools can benefit from the programs and opportunities offered by the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology.

Mary Kay Murphy is a District III School Board Member.