Volume 41 , Number 10May 26, 2021

CEO/Superintendent's Message

Reflections on the last day of school
J. Alvin Wilbanks
The end of the school year is a special time. In fact, while I always am excited about the beginning of a school year, the end of one is much more poignant and important to me. It is a time to look back on the year, to think about all of the students and what they have learned, to celebrate the graduates who are closing one chapter of their life to begin another, and to thank our employees for their hard work and dedication.

This year’s last day of school will be a bittersweet one for me as it will be my last. For 56 years, I have had the privilege to work in schools and with schools. They have been my home away from home, and Gwinnett County Public Schools and its people have been my family. Since day one in my role as your superintendent, I have been proud of this school district and the people who are at the heart of this organization. Working with you, and for this school district, has been the highlight of my career. I have had the opportunity to work with the finest leaders, most dedicated educators, and this outstanding community. Together, we have moved this very good school system forward—toward our vision of world-class—and have served our students well. We have proven that people can come together to make a difference and we have united behind the power of public education.

There will be changes in the coming months… but change can be a good thing. I want you all to know what a pleasure it has been to lead and learn from you, to be a part of the GCPS family, and to be a contributing member of this great community. I look forward to watching the great things my GCPS family will do in the future. I have often said that there are only two types of employees in GCPS… those who teach and those who support those who teach. Know that my support of you and the important work that you do will remain strong.

CEO/ Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks

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District and community partners host
vaccination events for students and families

A collaboration between Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) and Walmart, the Atlanta Gladiators hockey team, and the Gladiators Foundation recently provided vaccination events for eligible GCPS students (ages 12 and up) and families, with more events planned. McClure Health Science HS hosted the May 22 vaccination clinic for students and families in the Duluth, Meadowcreek, and Norcross clusters. The second vaccination event on May 23 at Shiloh HS was offered for families in the Brookwood, Parkview, Shiloh, and South Gwinnett clusters. Information about making an appointment was sent via email to families in these clusters.

In coming weeks, news about additional vaccination events and opportunities will be shared. Plans call for Archer, Discovery, and Mountain View high schools to host the next round of vaccination events.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extended eligibility to receive a Pfizer COVID vaccination to include children ages 12 to 15. Previously, Pfizer was approved for vaccination of young people ages 16 and above. This means most middle and high school students are eligible to receive this vaccination.

“We appreciate Walmart and the Gladiators for their partnership to vaccinate GCPS students and their families,” said CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks. “With recent CDC guidance changing to allow for the vaccination of anyone ages 12 years old and older, it is important to increase awareness of vaccine availability and of opportunities. Increasing the numbers of vaccinated students and community members is a top priority and a key to our community’s efforts to recovery and a return to normal. We are thankful for our community partners for helping to increase access.”
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Superintendent search continues
The Gwinnett County Board of Education is entering the next stage of the search for the district's next superintendent. May 16 was the deadline for applications for the position. An online survey seeking feedback on the qualities the community would like to see in the next superintendent closed that same day.
The Board's search team with the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) is compiling the results of the survey and applications for the School Board's review. GSBA will check references, provide the Board with interview training, facilitate candidate interviews and finalize the selection process.

Timing for interviews is yet to be determined. However, the plan calls for finalists to be named in July. The name(s) of finalists will be made public 14 days prior to a Board vote. Reporting date for GCPS' new superintendent will be negotiated with the candidate who is hired.
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Future awaits the Class of 2021!
Check out the special issue of Communiqué, celebrating the Class of 2021, on our Senior Celebrations
web page!

The best way to predict your future is to create it.~Abraham Lincoln

Whether they attended in-person classes or completed their high school career in a digital format, the seniors in the Class of 2021 have been through a lot over the last 15 months. Milestone events and senior activities have looked much different than what previous classes have experienced. Yet, with resilience and future-focused optimism, our graduates have made the most of their senior year! Graduation ceremonies for the district's 24 diploma-granting high schools started with Phoenix HS on May 24 and wrap up on May 31 with Lanier HS.

Congratulations to our graduates
and their families!

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Show your support for the Class of 2021 with a profile frame!
Celebrate your favorite senior or show your support for all our seniors with a social media frame!
You will need a Facebook profile to find the frame and get started. If you’re on a mobile device, go to your profile and click the camera by your profile picture. A window will pop up with the top option “add frame,” and from there you can search GCPS, GCPSClassof2021, or “GCPS We Love Our Seniors."

Once you've saved your new Facebook profile photo and frame, you can share your photo to Instagram by tapping your profile image and clicking the “view profile picture” option. When your new profile image comes up, tap the three dots in the top right corner and select “save to phone” or “share external.” You will see an option to share your photo on Instagram or you can upload your saved photo from your device.

If you’re on a computer, go to your profile and click the camera on your profile picture that says “update.” A new window will pop up with an option to “add frame,” and from there you can select and position your new profile frame following the same steps listed above. You also can click here to access the frame directly.

Thanks for helping us put the spotlight on the Class of 2021! #SeniorSpotlight #GCPSClassof2021
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Gov. Kemp signs education-related bills
When the 2021 Session of the 156th Georgia General Assembly ended on March 31, Gov. Brian Kemp had 40 days to sign or veto measures that had passed in both chambers. (With bipartisan support, the state’s $27.2 billion budget for FY2022 was passed and signed into law on May 11.) Here’s a roundup of some of the key House and Senate bills related to education that crossed the finish line and were signed by the governor.

Establishes tax credits for teachers who agree to teach in certain types of schools
Sets forth conditions for meetings and public hearings to be held by teleconference in emergency conditions
Establishes paid parental leave for eligible employees (GCPS policy and procedures is in development.)
Limits Teacher Retirement System to 10% threshold for investment in alternative investments (Passes by no action.)
Designates second Wednesday in February as National Swearing-in Day in Georgia (Law allows excused absence for students attending.)
Mandates K-12 instruction concerning alcohol, tobacco, vaping, and drugs
Restricts sales of alcohol within a certain distance of a school
Amends Open Records Law to exempt disclosure of personal mobile/wireless phone numbers of staff
Disallows use of student discipline data for assessment of school climate (star rating), with added provision (SB 51 Dexter Mosley Act, also known as Tim Tebow provision) allowing home study students to participate in extracurricular and interscholastic activities under certain circumstances
Expands students who are eligible to receive the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship
Provides additional funding to charter schools
Mandates Georgia Teacher of the Year serve as ex officio advisor to State Board of Education
Defines improper sexual contact by a person in a position of trust (1st degree/2nd degree)
Allows state to create GOAL Academies that support credit recovery and students who have dropped out
Allows districts to use vehicles other than buses to transport students (If needed, GCPS policy and procedures will be developed, based on DOE guidance.)
Allows pilot program at five technical colleges to grant GED to high school dropouts who complete technical college course of study
Allows districts to use SPLOST funds to install equipment to reduce energy or water waste

Read analysis of the session in these reports from the House Budget and Research Office, Georgia School Boards Association, the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, and Georgia Public Broadcasting.
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Board approves May appointments
The Board approved these leadership appointments at the regularly scheduled May Board Meeting.

New Position
Current/Previous Position
Dr. Keith D. Thompson
Assistant Superintendent–
Middle Schools
Principal, Northbrook MS
Melanie Terris
Principal, Ivy Creek ES
Assistant Principal,
Ivy Creek ES
Lisa Rhodes
Principal, Puckett’s Mill ES
Principal, Pharr ES
Memorie Reesman
Principal, Seckinger HS
(opening 2022-23)
Principal, Jones MS
Dr. Shanti Howard
Principal, Shiloh MS
Assistant Principal,
McClure Health Science HS
Executive Director of Budgets
and Financial Reporting
Director of
Financial Reporting and Accounting
Dr. Thompson will move to his new role, previously held by Dr. Al Taylor, associate superintendent for School Improvement and Operations. Laura Callahan’s retirement opens the position at Ivy Creek for Ms. Terris. Ms. Rhodes transitions to the leadership of Puckett’s Mill with Ruth Westbrooks’ departure from GCPS. Ms. Reesman will begin building the school community for Seckinger, which will open in 2022-23. Dr. Howard steps into the position previously held by Dr. Tereka Williams, who transitions to the Leadership Development team. Ms. Hankins fills the vacancy created by Dan Smith’s retirement.

May Leadership Appointments
Dr. Keith D. Thompson
Melanie Terris
Lisa Rhodes
Memorie Reesman
Dr. Shanti Howard
LaWanda Hankins

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What’s next in the budget process?
The proposed $2.4 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2022 was tentatively adopted by the School Board on April 15 after the Board’s second budget work session. A public hearing was held May 20, with a second hearing scheduled for June 17 at 6 p.m. Following these hearings, the Board will adopt the budget and set a tentative millage rate. The final millage rate adoption will take place in July.
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End-of-year events celebrate top F&O staff
As the year winds down, Facilities and Operations took time to honor top Transportation staff for both 2021 and 2020, and exemplary custodial teams for the 2020-21 school year.

While the top Transportation employees were selected for 2019-20, school closures in March 2020 cancelled the banquet at which the winners would have been honored. To ensure that the award-winning Transportation staff

2021 Transportation Honors
Regular Education
Bus Manager
of the Year
Special Education
Bus Manager
of the Year
Bus Monitor
of the Year

Leianne Barber

Judia Espey

Laura Doughman
2020 Transportation Honors
Regular Education
Bus Manager
of the Year
Special Education
Bus Manager
of the Year
Bus Monitor
of the Year

Laura Bonanno

Marta Angelyne West

Darlena Bumphus

Click here for a list of head custodians honored for their work leading exemplary custodial teams.

Congratulations to these award-winning staff members who ensured that students arrived to and from school each day and that our schools and facilities were safe and clean for students and staff.
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Spread the word…
Register for Kindergarten by May 28 to win prizes!

All new kindergartners registered by May 28 will be entered into a drawing for cool learning prizes, including Chromebooks, floor puzzles, summer reading book bags, craft baskets, LEGO sets, school supplies, and more! Send families of future kindergartners to the Kindergarten Registration web page to learn more!

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Give feedback on proposed supplemental resources
Staff, parents, students, and community members are invited to review and provide input on supplemental resources that have been proposed to support social emotional learning (SEL), suicide prevention, and music technology, through May 28. Supplemental resources are used to support core instructional materials in the teaching and learning of the Academic Knowledge and Skills (AKS) curriculum, or to support a districtwide initiative or priority in a non-instructional capacity. Before implementing supplemental resources for classroom use, Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) holds an extensive review involving a variety of stakeholders. Go to this link to begin the virtual review online. For more about the supplementary resources review process, contact the Office of Instructional Resources and Support at 678-301-6828.
GCPS summer meal program set for June 14-July 2
Gwinnett County Public Schools’ School Nutrition Program is providing free meals for children, ages 18 and under between June 14 and July 2. Families will be able to pick up breakfast and lunch at most Gwinnett middle school sites from 11 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday. (Due to construction, Jones MS and Five Forks MS will not provide curbside pick-up.) A child does not have to be a student at the school site to receive a meal.

Note that GCPS cafés also will provide free breakfast and lunch on school days to K-8 students attending GCPS’ Summer Enrichment and Acceleration (SEA) program (June 14-July 2) and to high school students attending in-person summer classes at Collins Hill HS, Duluth HS, and Parkview HS (June 14-July 7).

In addition, Gwinnett County Government’s Summer Meals Program will be available June 1-Aug. 3. The county’s program serves 25 sites around Gwinnett, with several sites located on transit lines. Registration is not required to participate. Meals can be picked up for children ages 18 and under between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., while supplies last. For additional food resources, families can visit www.GwinnettCares.org or United Way’s 2-1-1 Contact Center.
Lock Down Your Login – Use A Passphrase
Passwords are the most common way we prove our identity in the digital world. We use passwords to access our work and home computers and email, online banking services, and social media accounts. If your passwords are not strong enough, you leave systems and data vulnerable to attack. In fact, compromised passwords are the leading cause of security breaches.

Cybercriminals have perfected the art of guessing passwords. Not only do they have technology on their side, but they’re also motivated. Think of all of the information that is protected by just your password. That’s why security experts recommend using a passphrase when creating a password.

A passphrase is a sentence-like string of words that is longer than a traditional password, easy to remember, and difficult to guess. A passphrase could be several meaningful but seemingly unrelated words such as Tailgate Varsity United Bulldogs. This has meaning to you and is easy to remember, but it would take years for a cybercriminal to guess, even with technology designed to guess and test potential passwords.

So, why use a passphrase? Compared to a simple password, a passphrase is much easier for you to remember and much harder for someone else to guess. When we create a password, we typically think of a single word that is significant to us. We have been taught that just adding special characters or numbers will make the password more secure, but that’s not necessarily the case. A password like Bulld0gz! takes a cybercriminal approximately 3 seconds to guess.

Here are some best practices when creating a strong passphrase:

— Pick a phrase or series of random words that are meaningful to you. Think of three things you like, for instance French fries football beach.

— Add uppercase and lowercase and a special character: French Fries Football Beach!

— Use different or abbreviated spellings of words: French Fries Futbol Beach!

— Don’t use a name or nickname of a pet or relative.

— Don’t use information easily obtained about you such as your address, telephone number, or hometown.

— Don’t use a commonly used password such as P@ssw0rd , qwerty , or 123456.

— Don’t use a password of all numbers, or a password composed of just alphabet characters.
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Book Mobiles hit the road for summer on June 1!
The district’s traveling libraries—our two book mobiles called Pow and Explore—are about to hit the road to bring a summer of reading to Gwinnett students!

Our book mobiles will return to neighborhoods next month to bring library books to our students where they are this summer… at home! Starting on Tuesday, June 1, the two mobile libraries will travel routes that will take them to a total of 100 stops in six clusters every week! The colorful converted school buses will make nine stops per
Did you know… While pandemic concerns kept the district from checking out books last summer, our book mobiles still traveled around the county to keep children reading. Pow and Explore, staffed by district employees and volunteers, visited 88 schools in June and July of 2020, distributing more than 60,100 new books to Gwinnett children and teens during the Books 2 Kids program.
day, checking out school library books to students who may not have easy access to the public library.

“Reading during the summer keeps students’ brains active and ready to receive new information when school begins in August,” says Jan Wilson, GCPS’ coordinator of media instruction. “Beyond academics, we want to remind our students of the power of a great story… to inspire, connect, learn, and develop empathy for others.”

The book mobiles will travel routes in six clusters: Berkmar, Central Gwinnett, Discovery, Meadowcreek, Norcross, and Shiloh. The program started with the Meadowcreek Cluster in 2017 and added stops in the Norcross Cluster in 2018. Berkmar, Central Gwinnett, Discovery, and Shiloh clusters were added in 2019. An average of 13,000 students visit the book mobiles during June and July and typically check out more than 16,000 books during the summer!

The two book mobiles will be stocked with books for all ages and reading levels—Pre-K to 12th grade—pulled from the shelves of each cluster's media centers. The weekly schedule (11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday and 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday) will repeat each week, starting Tuesday, June 1, and ending Saturday, July 24. (Note that the book mobiles will not travel on July 3 and July 5.)

Each day, the Atlanta Community Food Bank will provide snacks at each stop. From June 1 until July 16, the GCPS School Nutrition Program will offer meals to children visiting the book mobiles at the first four stops each day, Monday through Friday.

Find a link to the routes are on www.gcpsbookmobile.org. This summer, you also can follow the book mobiles on Twitter and Instagram @gcpslibraries or through the hashtag #GCPSBookMobile.
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Summer schedule affects schools in July
Remember that local schools will observe shortened work weeks in July between Monday, July 5, and Friday, July 16, returning to a normal Monday-to-Friday schedule on July 19. All schools and central office locations will be closed for the Independence Day holiday on Monday, July 5. In addition, schools will be closed on Friday, July 9, and on Friday, July 16. The school closures affect all programs at the local school, including enrichment camps and other activities. The energy-saving schedule saves money as thermostats are set warmer for the three-day weekends, and lights are switched off. For the two Fridays (July 9 and July 16), affected school employees will work a modified schedule or use vacation time and work a shorter week under the schedule.
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Staff start and end dates for 2021-22
Wednesday, Aug. 4, may be the first day of the 2021-22 school year for GCPS students, but most staff members get an earlier start on the new school year. Here are the reporting dates (and ending dates) for the employee groups that make up the majority of school system staff:

Beginning and Ending Dates for Staff for 2021-22
Employee Group
Start and End Dates
174-day staff
Aug. 4, 2021 to May 20, 2022
175-day staff
Aug. 3, 2021 to May 20, 2022
180-day staff
Aug. 4, 2021 to May 25, 2022
181-day staff
Aug. 3, 2021 to May 25, 2022
185-day staff
July 28, 2021 to May 25, 2022
190-day staff
July 26, 2021 to May 27, 2022
193-day staff
July 20, 2021 to May 26, 2022
200-day staff
July 19, 2021 to June 6, 2022
210-day staff
July 19, 2021 to June 10, 2022
220-day staff–
ES & MS administrative assistants
July 6, 2021 to June 10, 2022
Other 220-day staff
July 19, 2021 to June 24, 2022
230-day staff
July 6, 2021 to June 24, 2022
12-month staff
July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022

Note: Local schools will observe a four-day week during a portion of July. Schools will be closed on July 9 and July 16. All schools and locations will be closed for the Independence Day holiday on Monday, July 5.

Ask your supervisor if you are unsure of your employee group or return-to-work date for the new school year.
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Speaking of calendars…
Should you need a copy of the 2021-22 calendar before you return to school, you can find it on the Calendar page of the school system website, and the staff calendar is coming soon. The booklet-style calendar that includes department and division dates, as well as fast facts, a map, and other helpful information, will be available to full-time employees at the start of the new school year.
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GCPS encourages new families to register students in July
In an effort to ensure new students are present and engaged in learning from the first day of school, GCPS is once again conducting a coordinated summer registration campaign to encourage families who are new to the district (or whose child is changing schools due to a move) to register during the summer rather than waiting for the start of the school year. All schools will be open to register students from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays during July— July 6, July 8, July 13, July 15, July 20, and July 22.
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District United Way campaign raises more than $450K
GCPS employees give of themselves every day to the students of Gwinnett County. And through the 2020 United Way campaign, they showed their giving spirit again! GCPS employees raised $451,791.90 to help families and children in Gwinnett. This includes fundraising efforts from local school employees, students, and central office staff to support service agencies and community programs. The largest school campaigns were Cooper ES (7,517.62), McConnell MS ($17,358.11), and South Gwinnett HS ($11,870), with the largest division campaign by staff in Curriculum and Instructional Support Division ($12,361).

Silence the Growl plateChild hunger is closer than you think… As we enter the summer months, more than 350,000 children in the 13-county metro Atlanta area face food insecurity, including many GCPS students. United Way’s “Silence the Growl” raises funds to support partner agencies in the community working to combat the summer hunger problem. Click here to donate meals to Silence the Growl. If you know of a family facing food insecurity or someone needing housing or utility help, United Way’s 2-1-1 Contact Center can help. If you are looking for ways to help, you can give online, join an advocacy or affinity group, or volunteer at a United Way event.
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EB Bulletin Board

What's on the Bulletin Board?
Need-to-know Highlights of this story:
Check out Bulletin Board items with the latest on…Class of 2021 news, upcoming deadline to register for HS summer classes, summer news sources, retirement issue ICYMI, GCPS TV videos, Spotlight submissions, recent online Communiqué stories, and Perks.
View live streams for graduations at Infinite Energy Center… If one of your favorite seniors is graduating at the Infinite Energy Center, but you don’t have a ticket, make plans to watch a live stream of the ceremony, a service of the venue. Ceremonies scheduled for the Arena of the Infinite Energy Center can be viewed at the scheduled date and time at this link: http://bit.ly/2021Graduations. For graduation ceremonies scheduled for the Exhibit Halls, click here: http://bit.ly/ForumGrads2021. Click here for links for stadium graduation ceremonies at Brookwood, Central Gwinnett, Mill Creek, and Parkview high schools. Find dates, times, and locations for graduation ceremonies online.
Registration deadline nears for HS summer classes… Registration closes soon for high school summer classes through Gwinnett Online Campus (June 7–30, register by May 30) and face-to-face classes at Collins Hill HS, Duluth HS, and Parkview HS (June 14–July 7, register by June 4). To address COVID-related learning gaps, GCPS will pay for up to two summer classes for high school students needing to retake a class previously failed. GCPS students taking a course for the first time pay $250 per course. Rising 9th graders may take Health and/or PE at Duluth HS, online, and through some Community Schools. Summer school graduation is set for July 8.
Watch for summer news… While the majority of GCPS’ employees do not work in our schools during the summer months, the district keeps “making news” during the break between school years. Keep up with the latest school system happenings online as we share recordings and summaries of Board meetings, news releases on honors and back-to-school news, and more. Check out the GCPS home page and Communiqué for the latest news and special spotlight items during June and July. And follow the school district on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. During the summer months and year-round, you also can find information on the Employee Portal.
Retirees say farewell with close of 2020-21 school year… If you missed it, check out the special retirement issue of Education Briefs that was shared with staff on May 21. A total of 450 retirees are celebrating their GCPS careers as they move on to their post-retirement plans. Our best wishes go with all our retirees, along with our thanks for their service to Gwinnett County Public Schools! (Note: The issue acknowledges 2020-21 retirees who requested to be included in the issue prior to the April 30 deadline. Others who submitted paperwork after the deadline or those folks retiring after Sept. 1 will be included in the 2021-22 retirement issue.)
Watch recent Focus Moments on GCPS TV… These are just a few of the recent videos from GCPS TV: Join 2020 GCPS Teacher of the Year (TOTY) Rebecca Carlisle as she is surprised with the news that she is a finalist for state TOTY. Attend the “topping off” ceremony for the under-construction Seckinger HS. And, get a taste of the talent among the faculty for the new School of the Arts (SOTA) at Central Gwinnett HS, opening next fall.
Last chance to submit an item for Spotlight!… Share your good news with your colleagues in Spotlight. If you have earned a state or national award, earned a degree, made a presentation, or had work published, send an email to the Spotlight mailbox, or send the information to the Communication and Media Relations Department through the courier. If you missed it, find the Spring issue online. Submissions for the Fall issue are due Oct. 1.
Find the latest from Communiqué… Recent and upcoming posts to the online Communiqué include important reminders and calendar items, senior celebrations, staff recognitions, and more. Check the magazine frequently for the latest news! Story ideas? Great photos? Feedback? Let us know at communique@gwinnett.k12.ga.us.
Enjoy employee discounts this summer… Get "GCPS Perks" at your fingertips with the Foundation’s mobile app. GCPS employees have easy access to employee perks and discounts via their smartphone! Perks include special offers and discounts from local and national businesses. With the app, users also can make a donation, purchase event tickets, catch up on Foundation news, and contact the Foundation team. Download the app today for your iOS or Android device.

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Hello, summer!
As the 2020-21 school year draws to a close, we hope you have a chance to relax, renew, and refresh with family and friends this summer.

Have a great summer!
We look forward to seeing you in 2021-22!

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Click here to give us your feedback on Education Briefs.

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    Last modified on 05/25/2021