Volume 40 , Number 2October 7, 2019


CEO/Superintendent’s Message

Never doubt that teaching matters
In Gwinnett County Public Schools, we routinely say that we have just two types of employees… those who teach and those who support those who teach. It’s no surprise that, as an educational organization, we place such a high value on our teachers. And, while as a community and district we celebrate our educators with events like the Teacher of the Year
J. Alvin Wilbanks
CEO/Superintendent
banquet and Teacher Appreciation Day, many lament that they wish we could do more to show teachers what a difference they are making and how valued they are. I am pleased to say that, in Gwinnett County Public Schools, we are moving beyond platitudes and are taking action to reward and recognize our teachers.

Earlier this year, our local Board of Education passed along Governor Kemp’s $3,000 pay increase for teachers, something that did not occur in all Georgia school districts. Teachers deserved the pay increase and I appreciated that the Governor gave it to all teachers, new as well as veteran. In addition, the Gwinnett County Board of Education funded a salary step increase for employees in its FY2020 budget, which meant additional money for the 95% of our teachers who were not at the top of the salary scale. And, Board members approved a one-time salary adjustment of $300 in June that was paid to all full-time, benefited employees.

Another big step in our efforts to reward and recognize our teachers will occur in December as the district issues its first Performance-Based Awards for teachers. These awards, based on last year’s data, give Gwinnett teachers the opportunity to earn money above and beyond their salaries. They take nothing away from the pay of any of our teachers, but serve as a way to reward those who made the biggest difference in students’ success.

I’ve had some people question why our district has developed and is providing Performance-Based Awards for our teachers. The simple answer is that they deserve it! We have worked hard to develop a fair system that rewards the efforts of as many teachers as possible. With that in mind, the awards will be distributed to teachers at the district level and at every single school. Why is that important? Because we know that there are great teachers in every school in the district. We also realize that schools have different characteristics that make them unique and recognizing the top-performing teachers at every school acknowledges that, despite their differences, all schools have teachers who deserve to be celebrated.

With that in mind, I salute all of our local teachers of the year— the semifinalists featured in this publication as well as those recognized at each of our local schools. However, I also want to give a nod to every single educator in our employ. Each and every day you do a great service for our society, helping to prepare our youth for success in this ever-changing world in which we live. That job… your job… is more important today than ever before. Never doubt that teaching matters and that you matter. Thank you for all that you do and thank you for your service in Gwinnett.


CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks
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District names 25 semifinalists for 2020 TOTY honors
Need-to-know highlights of this story:
GCPS named a group of 25 teachers as TOTY semifinalists, narrowing the field from a pool of 139 local school TOTYs.
Six finalists will be announced later this month.



With a focus on excellence in the classroom, judges have trimmed our field of 139 local school Teachers of the Year (TOTYs) down to 25 semifinalists! Our semifinalists can be found at every school level, in core subject areas and electives and “specials,” with decades in the classroom years and just a few years. Starting Oct. 20, watch for these honored educators to be featured on the “Promise” staff page. The next stage of the competition is selection of six finalists later this month. Stay tuned!

Congratulations to our
2019–20 Gwinnett Teacher of the Year Semifinalists!
Vivarine Argilagos
of Lovin ES,

1st Grade Teacher

Rebecca Carlisle
of North Gwinnett HS,

AP World History Teacher
(Grade 10)

Alice Carscaddon
of Burnette ES,

Art Teacher (Grades K-5)

Kelsey Case
of Chattahoochee ES,

Special Education Teacher –
Autism Spectrum Disorder
(Level 1) (Grade K)

Anthony Dramis
of Hull MS,

Mathematics Teacher (Grade 8)

Celisa Edwards
of Dacula MS,

Mathematics and Science
Teacher (Grade 7)

Jamie Gowen
of Winn Holt ES,

Gifted Education Teacher
(Grades 1-5)

Matthew Green
of Berkeley Lake ES,
Music Teacher (Grades K-5)

Michelle Green
of Grayson HS,

Chorus Teacher (Grades 9-12)

Ellen Hill
of Dyer ES,

5th Grade Teacher

Colleen LaPerre
of Brookwood ES,

Gifted, Advanced, and
Accelerated Mathematics
Teacher (Grades 5 and 6)

Christy Lueke
of Patrick ES,
Music Teacher (Grades K-5)

Lee Newman
of Norcross HS,

Band and IB Music Teacher
(Grades 9-12)
LeTricia E. Parks
of Meadowcreek ES,

3rd Grade Teacher

Abbey Quintero
of McKendree ES,

3rd Grade Teacher –
Language Arts

Carrie Rajek
of Harbins ES,

Physical Education and Health Teacher (Grades K-5)

Gulannar Rattani
of Moore MS,

Algebra I Teacher – Gear Up for Graduation Program (Grade 8)

Alyson Reilly
of Craig ES,

English to Speakers of Other Languages Lead Teacher
(Grades K-5)

Amber Simmons
of Brookwood HS,

Language Arts, AP Language and Composition, and AP Capstone Teacher (Grades 11 and 12)

Ashton Simpson
of Walnut Grove ES,

4th Grade Teacher

Kelly Sloan
of Osborne MS,

Social Studies Teacher (Grade 8)

Elizabeth Summerlin
of Mill Creek HS,

AP U.S. History Teacher
(Grade 11)

Lori Tschan
of Riverside ES,

Language Arts and
Social Studies Teacher (Grade 4)

Shemika Turner
of Chesney ES,

4th Grade Teacher

Brad Zickefoose
of Radloff MS,

Science Teacher (Grade 6)


Pictured left to right:
Front Row: Shemika Turner, Jamie Gowen, Carrie Rajek, Lee Newman, Celisa Edwards, Gulannar Rattani, and Michelle Green
2nd Row: Alyson Reilly, Kelsey Case, Lori Tschan, LeTricia Parks, Vivarine Argilagos, and Amber Simmons
3rd Row: Elizabeth Summerlin, Christy Lueke, Anthony Dramis, Rebecca Carlisle, Ellen Hill, Abbey Quintero, and Ashton Simpson
Top Row: Alice Carscaddon, Kelly Sloan, Matt Green, Brad Zickefoose, and Colleen LaPerre
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GCPS by the numbers

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GCPS four-year grad rate at 81%,
jumps to nearly 85% for five-year

Need-to-know highlights of this story:
GCPS' four-year graduation rate for 2019 decreased slightly— from 81.7% to 80.9%— compared to 2018.
However, the graduation rate jumps to 84.27% for the five-year cohort of students who needed additional time to complete requirements.
Ten schools saw gains and several subgroups also saw improvement.

GCPS continues to deliver on its commitment to ensuring students who need extra time and opportunity receive the support they need to successfully graduate. For 2019, GCPS experienced a slight decrease in its four-year graduation rate, moving from 81.7% to 80.9%. However, continued improvement marked the district’s five-year graduation rate— 84.27%— as additional members of the Class of 2018 successfully met all graduation requirements. (The five-year rate includes students who graduated after summer school or spent additional time in school beyond their cohort’s May graduation date.)

“While the vast majority of our students graduate within four years, we are committed to supporting those who need additional time” says Dr. Steve Flynt, the district’s associate superintendent for School Improvement and Operations. “We want to graduate students, but not at the expense of not educating them to the levels they need to be successful in the future.”

He notes that a diploma from a Gwinnett high school states that a student has not just met, but surpassed, the graduation requirements of the state. “It is not just about our students completing high school or our schools raising graduation rates,” Dr. Flynt says. “Our work and the programs offered in Gwinnett high schools are designed to help prepare our graduates for college and careers.”

Ten high schools saw gains in their four-year rate, with the largest gains seen by Berkmar HS, Dacula HS, Gwinnett Online Campus, and Norcross HS. In addition, looking across the district, GCPS saw improved graduation rates with several subgroups of students with gains for Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, English Learners, and Students with Disabilities.

Gwinnett schools with the highest graduation rates in 2019 were Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology (GSMST), North Gwinnett HS, and Brookwood HS, followed closely by Grayson, Mill Creek, Parkview, Peachtree Ridge, and Lanier high schools. In all, 12 Gwinnett schools posted four-year graduation rates that surpassed the state average of 82%.

Gwinnett’s Academy model in seven of its high schools ensures that students graduate with skills and certifications that put them ahead of the game in terms of career readiness. In addition, Gwinnett graduates are doing better than their peers nationally when it comes to completing college once they enroll. According to the National Student Clearinghouse, the six-year completion rate for students who started college in the fall of 2012 was 58.3% nationally. The rate for Gwinnett graduates attending college was 67% for the same cohort.
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Board approves leaders in new roles
The following leadership appointments were announced in September:
Name
New Position
Current/Previous Position
Dr. Brett C. Savage
Principal, Crews MS
Assistant Principal, Creekland MS
Gabriel “Gabe” Zaragoza
Principal, Hopkins ES
Assistant Principal,
Baldwin ES
Dr. Kevin R. Wood
Principal,
Meadowcreek HS
Director of
Federal Programs,
School Improvement
and Operations
Dr. Tinisha
Parker
Executive Director of Student Services,
School Improvement
and Operations
Director of Advisement
and Counseling,
School Improvement
and Operations
Dr. Kimberly “Kim” H.
Moore
Director of
Instructional Resources,
Curriculum and
Instructional Support
Assistant Principal, Brookwood HS
Karen L.
Phillips
Director of School Staffing–
Elementary School,
Human Resources and Talent Management
Assistant Principal, Freeman’s Mill ES
Dr. Ryan W. Vamplew
Director of School Staffing–High School,
Human Resources and
Talent Management
Assistant Principal,
Mill Creek HS

Dr. Savage moves into the principalship at Crews as Dr. Stacey Schepens accepts a leadership position at North Gwinnett MS. Mr. Zaragoza takes on his new role as Dr. Tamara Candis has left Gwinnett for another school district. Dr. Wood returns to Meadowcreek as the principal as Dr. Tommy Welch moves to the central office in a new position. Dr. Parker takes on additional responsibilities in her expanded role.

In other leadership news, Miranda McLaren was named to serve as interim executive director of Accountability and Assessment with the recent retirement of Leslie Aiken.

Dr. Brett Savage
Gabe Zaragoza
Dr. Kevin Wood

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Milestones results for 2018–19 show overall improvement
Need-to-know highlights of this story:
A review of 2019 Milestones results shows that, overall, Gwinnett students demonstrated higher achievement than the previous year.

The Georgia Milestones Assessment Program measures how well students in grades 3–12 have learned the knowledge and skills outlined in state content standards in the core content areas of language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. It is designed to provide information about student achievement and readiness to move on to the next level of learning.

A review of scores from the 2018–19 administration of the End of Grade (EOG) assessments in grades 3–8 and End of Course (EOC) assessments in selected high school courses shows that, overall, Gwinnett students demonstrated higher achievement than the previous year.

At the elementary school level, across all subject areas and grade levels, GCPS had a greater percentage of students perform in the top two performance levels (Proficient and Distinguished) on EOGs compared to the state average. Middle school results were similar with the exception of 8th grade math and science as many GCPS 8th graders took more rigorous high school courses— Algebra and HS Physical Science— and were assessed by the high school EOC assessment. On EOCs, the percentages of GCPS students scoring in the Proficient and Distinguished performance levels were above the state in all subjects.

The information gained through assessments is key to the teaching and learning process. “We will review the 2019 results, looking to drive opportunities for improvement, paying particular attention to what we can do to raise achievement among our students— those who struggle as well as those who have shown advanced proficiency,” says Dr. Jonathan Patterson, associate superintendent for Curriculum and Instructional Support.
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Local SAT results continue to top state, national averages
Need-to-know highlights of this story:
On the SAT, Gwinnett’s average score of 1094 was 55 points higher than the national average of 1039 and 46 points higher than the state’s average score of 1048.
Seven Gwinnett high schools saw an increase in average score, and three GCPS schools had the most test-takers in the state.
GSMST’s average score of 1375 came in at #1, topping SAT scores in the state. Seven other Gwinnett schools ranked in the top 50.

On Oct. 1, Gwinnett County Public Schools released SAT scores for the Class of 2019 showing that Gwinnett test-takers continue the trend of outperforming their peers in Georgia and the nation. Gwinnett’s average on the SAT topped state and national averages on both sections of the test— Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Mathematics. Gwinnett’s average score of 1094 was 55 points higher than the national average of 1039 and 46 points higher than the state’s average score of 1048. The district’s average on the popular college-admissions test decreased slightly, mirroring decreases at the state and national levels.

Gwinnett SAT Highlights
— Gwinnett’s average composite score on the SAT is 1094, a combination of the average score of 549 for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and the average score of 545 for Mathematics. (Possible scores range from 200 to 800 on each section. The highest possible composite score is 1600.)
— In Gwinnett, 8,977 students participated in this past year’s test, a slight increase over the number of test-takers in 2018. Brookwood (739), Mill Creek (675), and North Gwinnett (634) high schools had the most test-takers in the state.
— Seven GCPS high schools— Collins Hill; Gwinnett Online Campus; Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology; North Gwinnett; Peachtree Ridge; Shiloh; and South Gwinnett— saw an increase in their average score.
— GSMST’s average score of 1375 came in at #1, topping SAT scores in the state. Seven other Gwinnett schools ranked in the top 50— North Gwinnett, #12; Gwinnett Online Campus, #26; Brookwood, #31; Peachtree Ridge, #35; Mill Creek, #37; Collins Hill, #45; and Parkview, #49.

Individual school averages can be greatly affected by the unique characteristics of each year’s test takers. Students can improve their SAT scores by doing well in rigorous courses, reading challenging books and articles, and writing concise essays that include compelling details to support a persuasive argument.
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Staff invited to review proposed AKS through Oct. 15
Need-to-know highlights of this story:
The annual AKS review is underway through Oct. 15.
This review is addressing AKS for career and technical education, foreign language, health and PE, and core academic courses.

AKS logoThe annual review of the Academic Knowledge and Skills (AKS) curriculum runs through Oct. 15. Through the review process, staff, parents, and community members can give feedback on new AKS standards developed to align with the Georgia Standards of Excellence and/or Georgia Performance Standards. The AKS spell out the essential concepts students are expected to know and skills they should acquire in a given grade, subject, or course. This review is addressing AKS for career and technical education, foreign language, health and PE, and core academic courses. Participants may give their input on these courses via the online survey.

On Nov. 7, the GEMS Oversight Committee— a group of community and school system representatives charged with the annual review of the AKS curriculum— will review the suggestions and curriculum director comments before making recommendations to CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks for adoption by the School Board.

Participants in the AKS review should note the following information in their narrative comments:
Proposed AKS Information to include File Name (for example, Proposed Introduction to Digital Media), Grade Level, and AKS Number
Comment about course in general or specific AKS
Suggested change
Rationale for suggested change
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All GCPS staff have free access to Education Week
Need-to-know highlights of this story:
GCPS users now have full access to Education Week online, including everything that appears in print plus special reports and blogs.
Access is free and employees can sign in from their work computer or a personal device.

Education Week is considered by many to be a “must read” independent news source for leaders, educators, and policy experts in pre-K through high school and now this resource is available to Gwinnett County Public Schools’ leaders and educators through a new districtwide site license. GCPS users now have full access to Education Week online, including everything that appears in print plus special reports that focus on teachers and digital directions, as well as blogs on a variety of education topics.

Here are two easy ways to take advantage of this districtwide access to Education Week:
— The first and easiest way is to simply go to edweek.org on a GCPS computer using a district IP address to connect to the internet. On the site, you will be welcomed as a site license user and have all of Education Week’s news and information at your fingertips. You will enjoy access anytime you’re on a GCPS campus!
Secondly, if you are interested in signing up for a unique user ID, register at https://fs24.formsite.com/edweek/Gwinnett/index.html for a username and password to access your district membership to edweek.org from any device, no matter your location. You unique ID also allows you to sign up for e-newsletters, including a daily Edweek Update, a weekly Teacher Update, and the twice monthly Curriculum Matters.
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Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey coming soon
Need-to-know highlights of this story:
Again this year, GCPS is partnering with the Gallup Organization to conduct the Q12 Engagement Survey for teachers, leaders, and other school and district staff members.
The week of Oct. 14, every GCPS employee will receive an email invitation to participate in the Gwinnett County Public Schools Q12 Employee Engagement Survey.
The three-minute survey is taken online via a secure website maintained by Gallup.
The district receives school and division level data only, which ensures individual employee confidentiality.
The participation window for the survey is Oct. 14–28.

Great places for educators and other staff members to work are naturally great places for students to learn. It follows that engaged teachers, leaders, and staff are essential to student success. In fact, studies show that K–12 employees are more productive and more engaged when they are able to learn and grow in their work, have a long-term career plan, and see how their work contributes to the success of our students.

Again this year, GCPS is partnering with the Gallup Organization to conduct the Q12 Engagement Survey for teachers, leaders, and other school and district staff members. The survey is designed to create a stronger workplace by identifying areas of strength and growth within our schools and at the district level. It will measure the connection employees feel to their job and the results will provide a scientific snapshot of the way staff members feel, behave, and interact every day.

The week of Oct. 14, every GCPS employee will receive an email invitation to participate in the Gwinnett County Public Schools Q12 Employee Engagement Survey. The invitation includes an access code and a link to Gallup’s website where employees will complete the online Q12 survey. The survey consists of 12 general engagement questions and two questions specific to GCPS.

The three-minute survey is taken online via a secure website maintained by Gallup, a trusted and independent research organization that has been around for more than 70 years. The survey is accessible online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from work or home. The participation window for the survey is Oct. 14–28.

Gallup collects all the responses, analyzes the data, and compiles a series of reports for GCPS, overall and for our schools. The district receives school and division level data only, which ensures individual employee confidentiality.

Participating in the survey allows employees to express their opinions and help make a difference in their school or department, but it is not mandatory. However, district leaders are hoping for 100% participation so that we will have the most accurate and complete picture of employee engagement in our district.
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Passphrase offers more secure protection for systems, data
Need-to-know highlights of this story:
Cybercriminals have perfected the art of guessing passwords.
Security experts recommend using a passphrase instead of 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.

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 3,244 centuries 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

Remember, all employees must complete required Security Awareness Training by Dec. 22. This series of online courses will provide employees with practical information on how to recognize and respond appropriately to cybersecurity threats. The training series should take approximately one hour to complete. Access the courses via the Employee Portal by clicking on the “Security Awareness” icon.
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Data Governance: ‘Free’ applications aren’t necessarily free
Need-to-know highlights of this story:
Free tech applications can be helpful in the classroom, but they pose a threat to data security for the district.
Prior to downloading and using any application, make sure to submit it to Data Governance for vetting and approval.

Many education technology start-ups market free online applications directly to teachers. These free applications can be helpful in the classroom, allowing teachers to personalize learning and deliver instruction they would not be able to otherwise.

That said, these free online applications also pose challenges to a school system focused on data security. It takes just one person to download one bad application to wreak havoc on our network. Guarding against the potential pitfalls— data breaches, identity theft, unauthorized student profiling— is a huge endeavor.

Rarely is a “free” application truly free. For-profit companies find some way to monetize your patronage. So-called free applications are almost always paid for through advertising or information gathering. If you are using an application that does not charge an up-front fee or show any advertising, that application is getting something from you another way. You’re paying for it with data.

To ensure the security of our data and the safety of our network from malicious activity, all applications should be vetted and approved by the Data Governance division prior to downloading and using any application. Just remember, when the product is free, you and your data are the product. Don’t put our information and systems at risk.
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National Retirement Security Week:
Prepare now to meet retirement goals

Need-to-know highlights of this story:
National Retirement Security Week (Oct. 20–26) is a national effort to raise public awareness about the importance of saving for retirement.
Enrollment in traditional defined-benefit plans (GRS, TRS, and PSERS) is automatic.
In addition, GCPS offers four types of defined contribution plans in which employees can participate to boost their retirement security.

National Retirement Security Week (Oct. 20–26) is a national effort to raise public awareness about the importance of saving for retirement. And it’s the perfect time for you to reflect on your personal retirement goals and determine if you’re on target to reach those goals. Started in 2006, National Retirement Security Week works to elevate public knowledge about retirement savings and to encourage employees to save and participate in their employer-sponsored retirement plans.

Gwinnett County Public Schools offers four types of defined contribution plans— 403(b), 457, and Roth versions of both— in which employees can participate to boost their retirement security. GCPS-approved representatives from AIG/VALIC, the district’s exclusive investment provider for Retirement Savings Plans, will be available to meet with employees at schools during this week about these optional plans. These plans are in addition to the traditional defined-benefit plans of Gwinnett Retirement System (GRS) and Teachers Retirement System of Georgia (TRS) or Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) in which enrollment is automatic.

For more information, contact the Gwinnett Retirement Services Department at (678) 301-6286. If you are nearing retirement or have questions specific to your situation, please call (678) 301-6267 to set an appointment to meet with a GCPS Retirement Specialist.
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Alert: Be aware of TRS phishing scam
Members and retirees of the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia (TRS) have reported attempts by cybercriminals to gain their TRS login credentials. These phishing emails indicate an account has been compromised and ask the recipient to follow a link to change their account credentials. Do NOT follow this link! An email from TRS will never include a link asking you to change your login credentials. The only time members might receive an email from TRS is when they have submitted a work request, if they login to their account and change information associated with it, or if TRS needs to alert members to important information. Should you have concerns about the legitimacy of an email you receive, contact TRS directly.

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GCPS to hold job fair for substitutes on Oct. 16
Need-to-know highlights of this story:
GCPS is conducting a Substitute Teaching Job Fair on Wed., Oct. 16.
At the event, participants can learn more about being a substitute and complete an application.

If you have friends or family members who are interested in becoming a substitute teacher, make sure to share this upcoming opportunity. GCPS’ Substitute Teaching Job Fair is set for Wed., Oct. 16, from 4 to 6 p.m. at Meadowcreek HS, located at 4455 Steve Reynolds Blvd. in Norcross. At the event, participants can learn more about being a Gwinnett substitute and complete an online application. All applicants are required to have at least 60 semester or 90 quarter hours of college credit from an accredited institution, but teacher certification is not required for substitutes. Compensation ranges from $93 a day up to $103 per day for long-term subs (10 or more consecutive days in the same classroom).
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Need-to-know highlights of this story:
Check out Bulletin Board items with the latest on… Open Enrollment, the need for mentors and donations, Foundation scholarships, Career Connections, JA volunteers, the next Spotlight, recent online Communiqué stories, the latest from GCPS TV, Perks, flu season reminders, and commute alternatives
Reminder: Open Enrollment begins Oct. 21… Choose the benefits package that's right for you when Gwinnett County Public Schools’ Open Enrollment (OE) window for adding and changing benefits opens between Oct. 21–Nov. 8. Changes will be effective Jan. 1 and will be in effect for the 2020 calendar year. Employees will see no changes to providers, plans, or rates for 2020. Watch for more information about OE from your Local School Benefits Representative (LSBR).
Could you be the One?… In Gwinnett County Public Schools, we believe in the Power of One…
One caring adult can change a child’s life;
One hour a week can make a difference in a student’s future; and
One-on-one support can help a student on his or her path to becoming a successful and responsible young adult.
Studies show that successful mentoring programs help students develop social skills, improve their school achievement and graduation rates, build character, and many other benefits. Now in its 11th year, GCPS has served hundreds of young men, and now, young women through its Community-Based Mentoring Program, with a number of GCPS staff members serving as mentors. The district is seeking both men and women to serve as mentors. Prospective mentors can learn more about how to become a mentor and find an application online.
Help support mentoring with your donation… GCPS' Community-Based Mentoring Program is seeking donations for its upcoming silent auction at the 10th Annual Golf Tournament. This fundraising event will help with college scholarships, resources, enrichment activities, and background-building experiences for students in the mentoring program. Contact Nury Crawford at 770-277-4489 by Friday, Oct. 11, if you'd like to donate.
Window opens for Foundation Scholarship applications… College Fairs and campus visits, essays and applications… such is the life of a high school senior looking ahead to postsecondary plans. Remember to put scholarship applications on the to-do list. The GCPS Foundation Fund is now accepting scholarship applications from members of the GCPS Class of 2020. Annually, the Foundation awards thousands of dollars in scholarships to GCPS seniors, funded through the support of local businesses and organizations and contributions from generous staff and community members. Last year, more than 130 graduating seniors earned $142,000 in district and school-specific scholarships administered through the Foundation. Find the 2020 GCPS Foundation Scholarship Catalog online. Scholarships range in value from $500 to $2,000 and most are one-time awards. The deadline for scholarships managed by the Foundation is Dec. 6. (All scholarship deadlines are included in the scholarship information and clearly noted on each application.) The Foundation will announce scholarship recipients in May.
Help connect students to their futures… To better prepare our students for a smooth transition from school to college and career, the district hosts the annual Career Connections event to promote career awareness. This year’s event is set for Oct. 22. More than 5,000 9th grade students from the district’s seven College and Career Academy high schools will learn about career fields through “show and tell” interviews and activities with community members from across the career spectrum. Point prospective exhibitors to the Academy web page for information about the event and a sign-up form online. There’s no cost for exhibitors to participate in the event. To learn more, they can contact Dr. Kyle Jones in the Office of Academies and Career and Technical Education at 678-301-7050 or by email.
Dacula HS softball complex named to honor former coach… The Board approved a recommendation from Dacula HS’ Local School Council to name the school's softball complex the Tracy Keefer Softball Complex. The new name of the facility honors Ms. Keefer who recently retired. She started the fast pitch softball program in 1996 and was the head coach at Dacula for 22 years. During her tenure, Dacula won four regional championships and made 13 state playoff appearances and two quarterfinal appearances.
Volunteer for JA Discovery Center… Junior Achievement (JA) Discovery Center at Gwinnett hosts 6th and 8th graders for day-long simulations to explore the work world and personal finance, respectively. The center is located on the campus of Discovery HS in Lawrenceville. JA is looking for volunteers to help create a more authentic simulation for our students. No matter someone's profession or background, their life experiences qualify them to be successful volunteers! Volunteers receive training during their shift, which typically runs 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Share this opportunity with friends and family or consider volunteering yourself. Questions about volunteering at the JA Center? Send an email to VolunteerGwinnett@georgia.ja.org.
Something to celebrate?… 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 the information to the Spotlight mailbox  via Lotus Notes, or to the Communication and Media Relations Department through the courier. Look for the back-to-school issue of Spotlight online later this month.
What’s new in Communiqué?… The latest posts to the online Communiqué  include TOTY semifinalists, opportunities for feedback, a new leader, staff honors, a new space for instruction, plus dates and deadlines on the Bulletin Board and the latest episode of In5ive. Coming up? The next round of TOTY honorees, Green & Healthy Schools, opportunities in cybersecurity, and more! Check the magazine frequently for the latest news! Story ideas? Great photos? Feedback? Let us know at communique@gwinnett.k12.ga.us. 
Watch recent Focus Moments on GCPS TV… These are just a few of the recent videos from GCPS TV: Constitution Week celebrations; a cybersecurity partnership between GCPS, Mercer University, and FBI-Atlanta Division; award winners in the Kids Heart Challenge for 2019; Friday Night Food Fights (for a good cause); a golden anniversary celebration for Snellville MS, the district’s first middle school; a get-to-know-you session for mentors and mentees; and the district’s first-ever Creative Leadership Institute.
Get your flu shot!… The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are gearing up for the flu season. Most seasonal flu activity occurs between October and May, and peaks between December and February. Healthy habits recommended by the CDC include getting a flu vaccination for yourself and your family members, especially those with asthma and other chronic illnesses. For more on seasonal flu, check out news and information from the CDC and find resources about infection prevention, flu preparedness, and more on the Health and Wellness page on the GCPS website, including Healthy Habits for cold and flu season.
Stretch your budget with employee discounts… Put ‘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.
Check out Georgia Commute Options… Sign up for Georgia Commute Options programs, find carpool partners, and log your commute trips to earn cash and win prizes online. On the Commute Options website, you can:
Find out how much you’re spending on your commute by using Georgia Commute Options Commute Calculator.
Manage everything, from ride-matching to incentives;
Use easy “drag and drop” features to log your commute;
Set text or e-mail log reminders for any day of the week and any time;
Set alerts via text or e-mail when new carpool or vanpool matches become available;
Check current enrollment status in any of the Georgia Commute Options incentive programs;
Find Park and Ride locations and transit routes in the Atlanta region; and
View or share public pages through Facebook or Twitter log-in.

A mobile-friendly version of the system is available so users can log commute trips on the go. Go to the website to learn how to improve the way you get to and from work. If you have any questions, call 1-877-9-GA-OPTIONS.

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    Last modified on 12/06/2019