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BOE approves Investing in Educational Excellence extension

School Board also signs agreement with Junior Achievement for BizTown experience

SUWANEE — The Gwinnett County Board of Education on Thursday extended a contract with the state Board of Education for one year for an agreement called Investing in Educational Excellence.

Stacey Schepens, principal of Crews Middle School, and Brian James, a parent and community member, both spoke in support of the agreement at a public hearing before the regular business meeting at the district office.

The contract is to provide flexibility from specified Georgia laws and State Board of Education rules, identify additional areas of accountability and define consequences for schools not meeting the targets of accountability as defined in their contracts.

“We have had a strong historical commitment of strengthing achievement and closing the achievement gap,” said Steve Flynt, the district’s chief strategy and performance officer.

The district needed an amendment to the agreement because it was last signed in December 2008, and the district has built more than 30 schools and had re-districting, CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said.

“This is one of the things that we believe has served the school district well over the years,” Wilbanks said. “It would have been a tremendous benefit in normal times, but during recessionary times, I can’t tell you how much of a benefit it was to our business of teaching and learning.”

Added Schepens, “We believe the increased accountability that IE2 provides has increased student achievement. We sincerely hope we’ll be able to continue offering rigorous course work to as many students as possible.”

Other unforeseen changes since the last contract agreement have been changes to curriculum, graduation or end-of-course tests, standardized tests and a new accountability system, the College and Career Ready Performance Index.

Among the areas of flexibility were class-size and reporting requirements, expenditure controls, Quality Basic Education financing, categorical allotment requirements, salary schedule requirements, attendance and conditions of employment as it relates to duty-free lunch.

The state Board of Education is expected to act on the matter at its June meeting.

District signs agreement with Junior Achievement

The School Board also approved a Memorandum of Understanding with Junior Achievement to partner on a business entrepreneurship and financial literacy program at the new Central Gwinnett/Berkmar relief high school in Lawrenceville, scheduled to open in August 2015.

The program, broken into segments called “Finance Park” and “BizTown,” is designed to teach students how to manage life events typically expected to be handled by adults, such as budgeting tools, credit scores, car breakdowns and bank loans. The students also experience what it’s like to work at a job or run a business with dozens of storefronts of well-known companies.

In another section, students are given a life profile that includes a job, annual income, marriage or single status and asked to manage that profile when purchasing items and growing a family, such as how to buy a car, or rent or buy a house.

Scholarships awarded

Keri Barrientos of Collins Hill High and Mehul Bhagat of Peachtree Ridge High were awarded the J. Alvin Wilbanks Scholarship at the board meeting.

The Wilbanks scholarship was established in 2007 by the Peach State Federal Credit Union in honor of the more than four decades of service to public education by CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, and in recognition of his leadership in guiding the district since 1996. The fund provides a one-time scholarship to an outstanding GCPS senior pursuing a career in education. The amount of the 2014 award is $2,500.

William Donald Zimmer of Mill Creek High and Duane Thomas Lee of Archer High were awarded the Louise Radloff Scholarship.

The purpose of the Louise Radloff Scholarship Program is to provide funds for a Gwinnett County high school senior who has overcome a significant challenge in order to graduate and with a desire to pursue post-secondary study. This fund was established in 2004 by the Peach State Federal Credit Union in honor of the more than three decades of service by Gwinnett BOE member Louise Radloff, and in recognition of her tireless work on behalf of those most in need. The amount of the award is $2,500.

Jonathan Peraza of Meadowcreek High, Pete Schlueter of Mountain View High and Corey Crain, Jr. of Central Gwinnett High were given the Alton C. Crews Scholarship.

Established in 2001 in memory of Alton C. Crews, who was the GCPS superintendent from 1977-1989, the Crews Teaching Scholarship gives a one-time scholarship to an outstanding GCPS senior pursuing a career in education. The amount of the 2014 award is $1,500.

Olivia Chong of Brookwood High was awarded the Jim Maran Scholarship for STEM studies.

Established last year in honor of former Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce President Jim Maran, the Jim Maran Scholarship for STEM Studies is for one GCPS graduating senior with plans to enroll full-time in an undergraduate course of study in science, technology, engineering, or math. While at GCPS, applicants should have excelled in academics, demonstrated leadership, and performed service, including school and community activities, volunteerism and work. The scholarship will be awarded for four consecutive years providing the recipient maintains a minimum cumulative college GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. The amount of the 2014 award is $2,000.

Lovette Chinyere Ekwebelem of Dacula High was awarded the King Memorial Mathematics Scholarship, which was established last year in honor of math instructor William King. It is a one-time award of $500 to a GCPS graduating senior with financial need, an interest in mathematics, and a desire to pursue a mathematics related field.