BOE praises district for winning Broad Prize

SUWANEE -- The Gwinnett County Board of Education took some time at the beginning of its meeting Thursday to laud the district for winning a prestigious national education award.

The school board members praised the work of the teachers and other district staff and the support of the community in helping Gwinnett County Public Schools win the 2010 Broad Prize for Urban Education. The announcement of the award was made earlier this week in New York City.

The annual prize, funded by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, is awarded to large school systems with urban makeups that demonstrate best practices and have improved the achievement of minority and poor students.

School board member Daniel Seckinger said he appreciates the recognition the school system is receiving, but he's most pleased that winning means $1 million in scholarships for students graduating from high school this year.

Seckinger said the school system has made great strides in improving student achievement but noted there is still work to be done.

"It ain't over," Seckinger said. "We feel really good right now, but we've got a long way to go. In this business, we keep pushing."

During a work session earlier in the day, the school board members talked about how it will be difficult to continue to propel student achievement forward in an economic climate with massive budget cuts.

In this current fiscal year, the school system lost $107.3 million in state austerity cuts. A portion of that loss was offset by federal stimulus funding, with a net loss of $94.8 million. No stimulus money will be available in the next fiscal year, so the cuts are expected to be deeper.

In its evening business meeting, the school board voted to adopt its legislative priorities for the upcoming year. The first priority is that the board opposes any legislation that would erode existing revenue sources at the state or local level.

School board vice chairman Bob McClure said the school system has weathered austerity cuts for seven years while improving student achievement.

"We've done more with less for seven years. ... There will be a time when we can no longer continue to do more with less, and that time will come if this continues," McClure said. "Somewhere along the line, you can only go so far. You would think that if you were asked to adhere to a higher standard, inherit to that would be a need to add more resources.

"Sooner or later, less will get you less."