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Various leaders pay visit to Norcross High on 18th annual Bus Trip Across Georgia

Photo by Ralph

Photo by Ralph

NORCROSS -- Two tour buses filled with educators and community leaders visited Norcross High School on Tuesday as part of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education's 18th annual Bus Trip Across Georgia.

Norcross was one of seven achieving, innovative public schools selected as stops on this year's tour, according to a news release. The 2010 theme is "Greater Flexibility, Greater Focus on Results."

The tour, which included a combination of educators, business, government and community leaders from throughout the state, began in 1993 and has been a fixture in state education circles ever since. Schools selected as stops have a proven track record of academic excellence and sustained performance.

This year, there was an emphasis on the flexibility provided in charter schools and charter systems and systems with an Investing in Educational Excellence contract with the state. Gwinnett County Public Schools was the first district in Georgia to enter into an IE2 contract.

"Our visit to Norcross High School will provide our participants a look at a large school that is able to provide its students personalized instruction," said Stephen Dolinger, president of the

Partnership.

One program that promotes student success is mandatory tutoring, principal Jonathan Patterson said. If students' grades start to slip, they go to tutoring during the first part of their lunch period. It's designed to "not let them fail."

The school has also created a culture of excellence with an accelerated curriculum, Patterson said. Students are encouraged to take an Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate class before they graduate.

"We are here to congratulate the staff, students, parents and community for creating a winning environment," Dolinger said. "We are also here to see best practices with the hope that many of these ideas will find their way back to other schools and hometowns across the state."

Sharron Mathis-Wilson, an educator in Bibb County, said she wanted to take the tour to find practices she could take back to her school. Since she's a special education teacher, Mathis-Wilson said she's particularly interested in helping students access the general curriculum.

"It's often good to go to another county to see what they're doing differently," she said. "We're all in this together."

Gio De Le Pena, a junior at Georgia Gwinnett College who is studying secondary education, said he was nominated to go on the bus tour.

"It's eye opening as a student," he said. "It shows you how much work you have to put in as a future teacher."

Herb Garrett, the executive director of the Georgia School Superintendents Association, said he likes the trip because it shows off what is good about public education in Georgia.

"The opportunity from schools across the state to learn from each other is one of the real benefits of this," he said.

After winning the 2010 Broad Prize for Urban Education, Gwinnett County Public Schools was honored to host a stop on the trip, said Gale Hey, an area superintendent.

"It's always an honor and a privilege to show off the hard work that the classroom teachers and especially the students do every day here," she said.