Volume 41 , Number 1August 26, 2020

CEO/Superintendent’s Message:

During difficult times, our work together will benefit children
J. Alvin Wilbanks
At the beginning of every school year, I typically welcome employees with a back-to-school message that focuses on what’s new in GCPS or special initiatives of the district. I think we can all agree there is nothing typical about this year. While new and special initiatives are important, I feel it is important to address other, more pressing issues instead.

During these times of COVID-19, safety and effective instruction are on everyone’s mind. I believe most educators would agree there is no replacement for face-to-face interaction between a teacher and students. And, while we continue to get better at teaching in a digital setting, we are eager to return children to the classroom where they learn best. As you know, we started this school year digitally, and begin to transition to both in-person and digital learning for students this week. The best-case scenario would bring all students who desire in-person instruction back into their schools by September 9.

That goal creates a dilemma as there are teachers and staff who have concerns about returning to the school or worksite. We work in education because we care deeply about young people, the future, and our community. For some, however, that concern for students is in conflict with the fear they feel for their own well-being and that of those close to them. It also raises questions in their minds about the district’s commitment to its employees.

I believe that past behavior is indicative of future behavior. For almost three decades, the Board of Education and administration have gone to extraordinary measures to thank, protect, and reward our teachers and staff and show them that they are valued. In lean budget years, and in uncertain years like this one, we have shielded teachers from staff reductions or furlough days, and raised salaries when other districts did not. We continually recognize and reward outstanding teachers and employees, support them with quality professional development, provide a comprehensive benefits package that is among the best in Georgia, and invest in their future through the robust Gwinnett Retirement System. The school district’s reputation as an outstanding employer draws, every year, thousands of applicants who want to work in a district where “our people are our most important resource.”

The return-to-learning plan we developed may not have garnered unanimous support, but that would have been true for any plan in these uncertain times. So, we are moving ahead with what we believe will deliver both the structure and the flexibility that will allow us to take care of our people— our employees, students, and their families. We put in place safety measures and protections that should reassure the majority of our workforce about returning to service. We also continue to review the current situation, listen to concerns, and adjust our plans where we can, always making decisions that balance what is in the best interest of students, our employees, and this organization.

In early August, I asked for your patience, understanding, and cooperation in helping us achieve a positive, safe start to a school year in which we face vastly different challenges than ever before. I believe we will persevere as long as we face them together. That means each of us doing our part to combat COVID-19 by remembering to…

— Wear a mask properly, covering nose and mouth, when in our facilities and on our buses.

— Maintain physical distancing from others as much as possible.

— Wash your hands frequently.

— Stay home if you are ill or if you have had contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

These are difficult times that could have far-reaching implications for our students, our community, public education, and our nation. I wrote back in March that I believe America’s long-term prosperity depends as much on your work in public education as it does on the work of those in the medical field. Both are essential professions. That statement is as true now as it was six months ago. We have important work to do and I am confident it can be done effectively, enthusiastically, and safely through our collective determination. Thank you for being part of the solution, and for all you do for Gwinnett’s children.

J. Alvin Wilbanks

Throughout the year, watch for staff newsletters— Torch, Education Briefs, and Spotlight— for the latest on district initiatives, education news, staff celebrations, and more.

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Online learning to more closely reflect ‘virtual school day’ this fall
Need-to-know highlights of this story:
This fall, virtual school days will be more structured, with more interaction between students and teachers and among classmates.
During digital instruction, students will follow a specific schedule for live lessons with their teachers (synchronous learning) and complete activities and assignments (asynchronous learning) on their own.
Changes will make it easier for families to jeep up with their student's assignments.

Lessons learned during the spring are helping our schools transform Digital Learning Days (DLD) into a “virtual school day” as GCPS students returned to school digitally last week.

Much like a more traditional school day, a virtual school day this fall will be more structured, allowing teachers and students— as a class, in small groups, and one-on-one— to interact as part of the learning process. Students will participate in digital instruction on a specific schedule for live lessons with their teachers (synchronous learning) and they will complete activities and assignments (asynchronous learning) on their own to meet assignment deadlines. Synchronous sessions will be recorded, making them available to students who occasionally cannot attend a live session or need to review content. Student-teacher meet-ups will use the same kinds of technology that adults are using for virtual meetings, like Zoom, Google Meet, and Teams Meet.

“Our teachers will be finding ways to provide elements of the school day— from opening routines and circle time for young children to small-group reading sessions, turn-and-talks with a partner, and whole-class activities— in a virtual setting,” says Bonnie Brush, executive director for Curriculum and Instruction.

Virtual “brain breaks” will give students down time to digest information. Students will have multiple avenues to provide feedback, ask questions, and interact with their teacher, individually or during class. When it comes to activities and independent assignments, students typically will access their work through eCLASS C&I course pages, but teachers also may use digital resources such as Google Classroom and SAFARI Montage. That said, families should find it easier to navigate online assignments.

“One lesson we learned in the spring is the importance of consistency,” says Ms. Brush. “Teachers within a school and schools within a cluster will have standardized processes for where and how assignments are posted and accessed by students.”

In addition, the updated GCPS Parent Portal makes it easier for parents to see assignments in one place, including missing ones. Gwinnett schools will provide specific information to support students and parents around digital learning processes and protocols, with additional student and parent support resources available in the Student Portal and on the Return to Learning Hub: Fall 2020 on the district web page.

The district has announced the intention to make a gradual return to in-person learning— staggered by grade level— for those families who selected this instructional method as their choice for the fall semester. Those who selected digital learning will continue their virtual school day through the end of 1st semester. The expectations for students participating in digital learning this fall will be the same as for those attending in-person classes in terms of attendance, grading, and accountability.
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About Digital Teaching and Learning in GCPS
In the digital classroom, GCPS teachers will:
Teachers participated in pre-planning activities, both online and in socially distanced groups.
Engage— Norms, expectations, and routines— established and modeled by the teacher— give students a positive and consistent learning environment in the digital classroom and a path to a “regular” classroom when we are able to return to in-person learning.

Connect— Every day, students will have opportunities to hear and see their teacher, whether in a live session or a recorded lesson. These connections will support learning in the virtual setting and help forge ties for future face-to-face learning.

Practice— With a clear, consistent routine, students will benefit from both teacher-led instruction with a live feed (synchronous) and opportunities to use their learning to complete assignments independently (asynchronous).

Personalize— Small-group activities online will mirror learning opportunities in the physical classroom, increasing interaction with and between students and allowing for individualized feedback.

Plan— Digital tools will support teaching strategies for the Academic Knowledge and Skills (AKS) curriculum explored in each unit of study. In approaching online instruction, teachers will pivot from the strategies needed for in-person instruction to those that support digital teaching and learning. Ultimately, instruction will be designed to develop students’ learning experience and offer opportunities to demonstrate their understanding in an online setting by multiple methods.
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Digital learning tools help close ‘technology needs gap’
Need-to-know highlights of this story:
To support digital learning, the district has spent nearly $6 million to purchase Chromebooks, hotspots, and service plans to help close the "technology needs gap."
GCPS is working with community partners and pursuing grants and other funding to purchase additional tech.
Staff and community members are invited to contribute to the GCPS Foundation's "Chromebooks for Kids We CARE Challenge."
Hotspots will give students internet access so that they can participate fully in digital learning.
As part of the district’s back-to-school planning, GCPS asked families about their access to internet-enabled computers (laptop, Chromebook, or desktop model) and reliable internet. Based on parent survey responses and demonstrated need during Digital Learning Days (DLD) in the spring, district leaders determined that some 45,000 Chromebooks would be needed to close the “technology needs gap.”

In official action at the July and August Board meetings, the School Board approved additional funding to support equitable access to quality digital learning. Altogether, GCPS has spent more than $9 million to close the needs gap by acquiring more Chromebooks as well as hotspots for students who have limited-to-no-internet access. In addition to the funds local schools have used to acquire Chromebooks, GCPS has spent approximately $5 million to purchase additional devices and $4.3 million to procure hotspots with service for 12 calendar months.

The Stancil family used proceeds from their online bakery, Pink Confetti, to purchase three Chromebooks for Duncan Creek ES, with hopes of donating two more. The Stancils have sold baked goods, freshly picked veggies, and home-cooked meals and BBQ to raise funds for the tech gear as well as school supplies and other needs in their community.
Between school-based devices and the district-level tech infusion, GCPS has been able to deploy more than 48,000 Chromebooks to support student learning and another 19,342 Chromebooks are on order. Due to supply-chain challenges, GCPS expects the on-order Chromebooks to arrive in 10 to 12 weeks. “This purchase of additional Chromebooks will help the district be prepared for future digital needs,” says Ken McClung, executive director for Enterprise Support Services. In the meantime, the district has spent more than $520,000 to convert 15,000 older Windows devices into functioning Chromebooks. We also have acquired 19,208 hotspots to provide internet access. GCPS’ first priority is checking out available devices, based on need. To date, 4,576 hotspots and 49,638 computers—both Chromebooks and Windows laptops—have been checked out students.

“Distribution of Chromebooks and hotspots is being handled by the local schools as school leaders are most familiar with the needs in their communities,” says Dr. Babak Mostaghimi, executive director for Innovation and Program Improvement. “We appreciate the support from the Board, community partners, and other funding sources for helping us ensure that our students have the opportunity to participate fully in the digital learning experience.”

GCPS’ three-pronged strategy will support a communitywide effort to ensure that students have the tools they need to learn in the virtual classroom:

External Sourcing for Device/Hotspot Funds: By applying for additional grants and seeking other funding opportunities, the district will continue to build up the device/hotspot availability for families.

Strategic Community Partnerships: Strategic partnerships with community organizations across the county are expected to yield additional funds and device supplies to support our families.

Pilots of Wi-Fi Access: GCPS is procuring and piloting a limited number of Wi-Fi hubs to provide free and secure internet access at specific spots— for instance, large apartment complexes— to expand access for families.

Contribute to Foundation's 'Chromebooks for Kids We CARE Challenge'

GCPS Foundation Fund, Inc., is continuing to raise funds for needs in our community, particularly for technology to support digital learning. Your gifts will help ensure that all students have the technology tools that are critical to successful learning from home and in the classroom. Please give today and let’s watch our gifts grow together! To learn more, visit www.gcps-foundation.org, and follow the Foundation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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Hotspots will help close
tech gaps for GCPS students

Staff members added barcodes to hotspots, activated the devices, then boxed them up for distribution to local schools, by need.

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Schools offering curbside meal pick-up for virtual learners
Need-to-know highlights of this story:
During virtual learning, 132 schools will offer curbside meal pick-up.
Both breakfast and lunch are available for pick-up Monday through Thursday, with Thursday’s pick-up including meals for both Thursday and Friday.
Meals will be charged based on a student’s eligibility under the federal Free and Reduced-Price Meal program— free, reduced price, or full pay.
Federal officials are not offering the option to provide free meals for all students for the fall.

As the school year begins, Gwinnett County Public Schools’ award-winning School Nutrition Program (SNP), Café Gwinnett, is ready to serve students healthy and nutritious meals to fuel learning. A total of 132 schools are offering breakfast and lunch for curbside pick-up for our virtual learners.

“While the location and method of meal service may have changed, families can expect the same high-quality meals, national brands, kid favorites, and locally sourced fresh produce,” says Karen Hallford, SNP director.

Meals are available for pick-up Monday through Thursday, with Thursday’s pick-up including meals for both Thursday and Friday. While students do not have to be present to pick up a meal, their parent/guardian will need a student ID card for each meal to validate enrollment and eligibility.

Local schools have shared serving times and pick-up locations with families, with the option to pick up meals at any school in their cluster. Families can find menus online on the Nutrislice app, along with descriptions, photos, and nutrition information. Students enrolled in a Title I school will receive breakfast each day at no charge through the Universal Breakfast Program.

Meals will be charged based on a student’s eligibility under the federal Free and Reduced-Price Meal program— free, reduced price, or full pay. During the spring and summer, our meal program operated under waivers and flexibility provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Department of Education. However, federal officials are not offering the option to provide free meals for all students for the fall.

For contact-free transactions, families are encouraged to load funds to their student’s account through MyPaymentsPlus. However, families may pay cash if they choose. Families will not be able to charge meals or receive an alternate meal without a method of payment.

Help spread the word that families must complete a new Free- and Reduced-Priced Meal Application each school year, even if they applied in the spring or early summer. Those eligible for free- and reduced-priced meals may be able to access other types of public assistance or services available during the pandemic.
Café Gwinnett by the Numbers (2019-20)
8.7 million breakfasts served annually

17.7 million lunches served annually

2.6 million meals served during Digital Learning Days (March to May)

8.7 million servings of locally grown (regional) produce, including 2.1 million servings of Georgia-grown produce

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Schools welcome families for Kindergarten Open House events
Before the school year began, new kindergartners and their families attended
get-to-know-you events at their new schools.

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Board of Education adopts FY2021 budget, millage rate
Need-to-know highlights of this story:
In July, the Board of Education adopted the FY2021 budget in the amount of $2.3 billion, a decrease of 2.7% from the previous year.
With reserve funds, CARES Act funding, and local revenue sources, GCPS was able to balance the budget with no reduction in services, no furlough days for staff, and a salary step increase for eligible employees.
The School Board voted to maintain the current school millage rate of 21.60 mills, as recommended.

At its July 16 meeting, the Board of Education adopted the FY2021 budget in the amount of $2.3 billion, a decrease of 2.7% from the FY2020 Total Budget. Despite a 10% austerity reduction from the state, due to a temporary projected decline in state revenues, GCPS was able to balance the budget with no reduction in services, no furlough days for staff, and a salary step increase for eligible employees. GCPS is using local revenue sources and two other primary sources to address the state cuts. Approximately $32.3 million in CARES Act funding is being used to support the district’s budget as it deals with the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. GCPS also will use approximately $65 million in reserve funds to assist in balancing the General Fund budget for fiscal year 2021.

Earlier this month, the Board held three public hearings to gather community input on the millage rate. In setting the millage rate to support the FY2021 budget, the School Board voted to maintain the current school millage rate of 21.60 mills, as recommended. While the rate is unchanged from FY2020, the total millage will still generate more revenue for FY2021, requiring the announcement of a proposed property tax increase. However, taxpayers whose property values have not increased due to reassessment will see no increase in their school tax bill.

The total millage rate is made up of two parts. The Maintenance and Operations (M&O) millage rate funds day-to-day operations of the school district, while the debt-service millage is used to pay down the School Board’s long-term debt from bond referenda passed over the years to pay for school construction. The M&O millage rate remains at 19.70 mills, while the debt-service rate continues at 1.90. The millage rate is used to calculate the property tax paid by Gwinnett property owners at a rate of $21.60 per $1,000 valuation for a house or business.
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Leaders take new roles in schools, central office
For some GCPS students and teachers, the new year brings a new principal leading their school. The following educational leaders were appointed this past spring and during the summer to lead schools for the 2020-21 school year:

New Position
Previous Position
Dr. Nicole Irish
Principal, Lilburn MS
Assistant Principal,
Couch MS
Mitchell Green
Principal, Baggett ES
Director of Student Language and Learning Services, Academia Cotopaxi (Quito, Ecuador); Assistant Principal, Hopkins Elementary School (previous)

Dr. Irish takes on leadership of her new school as
Dr. Yvette Arthur moves to another role. Mr. Green returns to GCPS to lead Baggett as Dr. Charlotte Sadler retires.

In addition, a handful of district leaders were named as the school year ended and during the summer:

New Position
Previous Position
Dr. Monica Batiste
Interim Associate Superintendent,
Human Resources and Talent Management
Executive Director of
Human Resources Staffing,
Human Resources and
Talent Management
Dr. Yvette Arthur
Principal on Special Assignment,
Grace Snell MS
Principal, Lilburn MS
Elizabeth Blackmon
Interim Director of English Learners Program, Curriculum and
Instructional Support
Director of Assessment,
Curriculum and
Instructional Support

Dr. Batiste’s appointment is the result of
Dr. Frances Davis assuming her previous half-time position. Dr. Davis had stepped in to serve as Associate Superintendent in October of 2019 when Dr. Linda Anderson went out on medical leave. Dr. Arthur returns from leave in a support role. Ms. Blackmon fills her new role, filling a vacancy after the departure of for another district.

Leaders in New Roles for 2020-21 School Year

Dr. Nicole Irish

Mitchell Green
Dr. Monica Batiste

Dr. Yvette Arthur
Elizabeth Blackmon

Leaders in New Roles for 2020-21 School Year
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COVID-19: What should you do if are ill?
Need-to-know highlights of this story:
Employees who are ill with, or exposed to, a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 should follow CDC guidance for quarantine and monitoring.
Report your illness or exposure to your supervisor so that appropriate leave benefits can be applied.
GCPS Health Response Teams conduct contact investigations and consult with the Health Department for recommendations.

Should you or a loved one become ill with symptoms of COVID-19, you may be unsure about your next steps. Health officials advise affected people— anyone who is ill with COVID-19 symptoms, is being tested, waiting for results, or has tested positive— to follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) regarding self-quarantine and recommendations for contacts about self-monitoring at home for 14 days. Visit the CDC website for guidance for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 and for advice to prevent getting ill.

Report your illness (or exposure to someone who is ill) to your supervisor. This information is important for leave purposes and for efforts to contain and stop the spread of illness. GCPS’ Leave Office (leave@gcpsk12.org) is working with individuals to ensure appropriate leave is applied and benefits received. In addition, GCPS’ Department of Health Services will conduct a contact investigation and consult with the Gwinnett County Health Department for recommendations. If testing shows that you are COVID-19 positive, county health officials will be in contact with you to provide additional instructions and support.

If you have any questions or need additional information, please call the Gwinnett County Health Department COVID-19 Helpline at 770-513-5631. The helpline is available on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to noon. Free COVID-19 testing is available by scheduling an appointment at one of two drive-through community testing centers (in Lilburn and Lawrenceville) that are run by the Health Department, or contact another local testing site.

Rely on health partners for information
During this rapidly evolving situation, be mindful that misinformation and rumors can spread rapidly via social media. Please refer to updates and resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Georgia Department of Public Health, and the Gwinnett County Health Department to help keep you and your families safe and well.

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GCPS puts pause on Performance-Based Awards program
Need-to-know highlights of this story:
Due to the disruption of the 2019-20 school year, GCPS was unable to calculate scores for Performance-Based Awards (PBA) so awards will not be distributed in December 2020 as planned.
Based on uncertainty about so many things that could affect the PBA process, GCPS has determined it will pause its PBA program for the 2020–21 school year as well.

In 2015, Gwinnett County Public Schools kicked off the process of implementing a fair, flexible compensation system that provided opportunities for employees to be rewarded and recognized for exceptional performance rather than solely years of service. The Performance-Based Compensation System for Teachers rewards individual teachers who meet expectations on their performance evaluations and rewards top performers with additional financial awards. There are two parts to the compensation system. All teachers are compensated on the district’s Performance-Based Salary Schedule. In December 2019, the district made its first distribution in the Performance-Based Awards (PBA), which are designed to reward and retain teachers who are making the biggest difference in students’ success. These awards were based on 2018-19 data.

Unfortunately, due to the disruption of the 2019-20 school year and the impact this had on data collection, GCPS was unable to calculate scores for PBAs for this past school year. As a result, awards will not be distributed in December 2020 as planned. And, based on current conditions and the uncertainty about so many things that could affect the PBA process, GCPS has determined it will pause its Performance-Based Awards program for the 2020–21 school year as well.

Watch for updates on the PBA program in future issues.
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Use settings to keep Zoom session private, secure
Need-to-know highlights of this story:
Many in GCPS are using the Zoom videoconferencing app for meetings and class discussions during virtual learning.
To combat unwanted participants in Zoom sessions, meeting hosts should follow guidelines for a secure session, available on the Employee Portal.

Zoom is the popular videoconferencing app that many in GCPS are using for virtual meetings, class discussions, and other online gatherings during virtual learning. The free service allows anyone with the meeting ID to gather in a virtual room that offers both video and audio interaction.

Unfortunately, “Zoom bombing” is a new term that we can add to our DLD vocabulary. Individuals— whether they are kids intent on a virtual “prank,” cybercriminals, hackers, or trolls— are hijacking unsecured Zoom sessions to disrupt the meetings with threatening or offensive images and speech.

To combat these unwanted participants in your Zoom session, security experts recommend the following steps for Zoom meeting hosts:

— Use a meeting-specific ID with a password (not your personal meeting ID).

— Make sure participants join the meeting via the Waiting Room (so you can make sure they are expected guests), come into the meeting on Mute, and can’t enter before the meeting host.

— Lock the meeting after all invited guests have joined.

— Make sure you, as host, are the only one who can share your screen.

— If a participant is disruptive, use settings to mute all controls (video and audio) for that person and remove the individual from the session.

On the Employee Portal, find detailed directions on how to use settings in Zoom to keep your session private and secure.
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Parent and student portals offer new features
Need-to-know highlights of this story:
The updated Parent Portal has new functionality, including easier updates, real-time content, details on grades and assignments (including missing ones), and in-portal translation, with teacher messaging available soon.
The updated MYeCLASS Student Portal offers easy-to-use tabs, more detail, and a student-friendly format.
GCPS students can download the StudentVUE mobile app to their smartphone to access all the great features of the portal.

Updated Parent Portal

We know that families want easy access and one, go-to location for need-to-know information about their student's education— from records to resources. Just as important, they want an easy way to stay in touch with the school. With a new look and feel, and more and better functionality, the updated Parent Portal gives parents access to grades, assignments, and communication with teachers. So, what’s new on the Parent Portal? Families will have access to ParentVue (Student Information) so no more logging into a child’s Student Portal account for key information! With the new calendar view, users can see assignments in one place, including missing assignments. A drop-down menu allows parents to toggle between multiple students in the family. It’s easier to update contact information and there’s no more waiting for overnight updates. Content is real-time. In-portal translation is available in multiple languages for users. And, coming soon, families will be able to message with teachers within the portal.

Updated Student Portal

This year, the MYeCLASS Student Portal is easier than ever to use! Students will find grades and schedules in a new location— My StudentVUE— with easy-to-use tabs, more detail, and a student-friendly format. With their GCPS student ID and a password, students will be able to navigate Messages, Calendar, Attendance, Schedule, Course History, Course Request, Grade Book, Student Info, and Documents. In the Grade Book, students can drill down into any class to see a detailed view of current and future assignments, including missing work. And, new for 2020-21, GCPS students can use their smartphone and the StudentVUE mobile app to access all the great features of the portal, including their Barcode Student ID for contact-free meal payments, book checkout, and more. The StudentVUE mobile app is available in Google Play for Android devices and the App Store for Apple (iOS) devices.
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Tutor.com offers tutoring, study skills coaching
Need-to-know highlights of this story:
Again this fall, GCPS students have access to Tutor.com, a free online tutoring service that offers one-on-one tutoring in core subjects.
New this year, students can benefit from personalized coaching to strengthen their study skills.
Live tutoring support is available daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., with “drop-off support,” 24-7.
Students can use their GCPL library card or Branch Out account to access Tutor.com.

Again this fall, GCPS students have access to Tutor.com, an online tutoring service, thanks to a partnership between GCPS and the Gwinnett County Public Library (GCPL). The free service offers one-on-one tutoring in 40 courses, including the core subjects of language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies as well as Advanced Placement courses. In addition, support is available in Spanish and by phone once a user has logged in.

New this year, students can benefit from personalized coaching to strengthen their study skills. Designed to help students organize, prioritize, and achieve their academic goals, coaching includes topics such as notetaking, time management, goal-setting, effective study techniques, and research. In addition, families have access to career resources, including job interview skills and résumé review.

Live tutoring support is available daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. In addition, students can receive “drop-off support,” 24-7, by uploading a document that will be reviewed for a tutor’s feedback and returned at a later time. Students can use their GCPL library card or Branch Out account to access Tutor.com.

Find a menu of videos on YouTube for teachers, students, and families, and watch for additional tutorials from Media Services.
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GCPS launches multi-factor authentication to protect against data security threats
Need-to-know highlights of this story:
GCPS is implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) to further safeguard digital information.
GCPS launched voluntary enrollment this summer, and employees will be promoted to enroll in MFA when they access "About Me" tab in the Employee Portal. Everyone must be enrolled by Dec. 22.
Once enrolled, employees will need their employee ID, password, and a security code to access the Employee Portal.

This fall, Gwinnett County Public Schools is implementing multi-factor authentication to further safeguard the information entrusted to us by students, families, and employees.

Multi-factor authentication, or MFA for short, is an extra layer of security added to the Employee Portal login. MFA ensures that employees are the only ones who can access their accounts, even if someone knows their password. MFA is a proven and effective way to protect against many security threats that target employee passwords, such as phishing.

GCPS recently launched voluntary enrollment as staff returns for the 2020-21 school year. Dec. 22 is the deadline for staff members to enroll in MFA. Until they have completed the enrollment process, employees will be prompted to enroll in MFA whenever they click on the “About Me” tab in the Employee Portal. After the deadline, employees will be unable to access their portal account without completing MFA enrollment.

Once enrolled, employees will need their employee ID, password, and a security code to access the Employee Portal. Employees will be able to retrieve a security code using their mobile device or from an application installed on their GCPS-issued laptop. Note that multi-factor authentication will not be required when accessing the Employee Portal when working within the GCPS network.

Find frequently asked questions about MFA online.

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Compliance training module available Sept. 1
Need-to-know highlights of this story:
All GCPS employees are required to complete online training on ethics, harassment, and other key policies and procedures no later than Oct. 31.
Training will be available in the Employee Portal, starting Sept. 1.
Each month, staff receive a pop-up on the Portal covering ethics topics.

As a GCPS staff member, you are required to complete annual online training on district guidelines and legal requirements when it comes to ethics, sexual harassment, and other key policies and procedures. Starting Sept. 1, employees will have access to the videos and sign-offs in the Employee Portal under the PD&E Tool. Look for “HR Compliance 2020–2021” listed under “My Courses.” The deadline to complete the training is Oct. 31.

Again this year, GCPS staff members entering the Portal will get a monthly review of the ethical guidelines under which district employees operate via a pop-up message. The review will focus on one of the 10 standards that make up the Code of Ethics for Educators adopted by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission. Subjects covered in the standards include professional conduct, conduct with students, legal compliance, alcohol/drugs, honesty, gifts and remuneration, required reporting, testing, confidentiality, and use of funds and property.
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State mandates reporting of suspected abuse by staff, volunteers
Need-to-know highlights of this story:
School personnel and volunteers are required to report known or suspected abuse or neglect.
The mandated reporter has fulfilled his or her lawful obligation upon initial reporting.
Mandated reporters are immune from civil or criminal liability if their report was made in “good faith,” even if unsubstantiated.

Under Georgia law, all school personnel and school volunteers— including community coaches and parents helping in the classroom— are required to report known or suspected child abuse or neglect of children and youth (18 and under) to authorities for investigation. Staff members and volunteers must report suspicions to their principal, supervisor, or volunteer contact who is required to make a report immediately, but in no case later than 24 hours, to the appropriate agency for investigation. A staff member or volunteer who makes an initial report to the appropriate personnel has fulfilled his or her obligation under the law. Failure to report is a misdemeanor and carries a penalty of jail time and a fine. That said, mandated reporters are immune from civil or criminal liability if their report was made in “good faith,” even if unsubstantiated. Staff members can find training for mandatory reporters in the PD&E tool in the Employee Portal. On the Georgia DOE website, find additional resources to help prevent child abuse and combat sex trafficking.

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Earn bonus for recruiting bus drivers for GCPS
Need-to-know highlights of this story:
Current employees may qualify for a referral fee by recommending a prospective bus driver.

The school district is hiring bus drivers for the new school year, and current employees can earn a bonus by helping with recruitment efforts. GCPS will pay a $250 referral fee to any current employee who refers a prospective driver who is hired, completes training, and has worked 60 days on the job. To qualify as a referral, the new driver must list the referring employee on the referral form that new drivers receive on their first day of training. Referral bonuses will be included in the referring employee’s paycheck once the new driver has successfully completed training and has two months on the job. Drivers earn competitive hourly wages, starting at $15.73 per hour, and have excellent benefits, paid training, and a great work schedule. Call 678-225-7670 with questions.

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District seeks pool of substitute teachers
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GCPS is growing its pool of available substitute teachers.
Applicants should have at least 60 semester or 90 quarter hours of college credit from an accredited institution, but teacher certification is not required.
Compensation currently ranges from $98 a day up to $108 per day for long-term subs.

If you have friends and family looking for part-time income with a flexible schedule, point them to www.GCPSjobs.org and opportunities for substitute teachers. Options are available for both digital instruction and in-class instruction. Prospective Gwinnett substitutes should 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 currently ranges from $98 a day up to $108 per day for long-term subs (10 or more consecutive days with the same class). Applicants without teaching experience will complete GCPS’ Substitute Teacher Training Program.
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Take control of your financial future and get FIT!
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Employees can use online tools from AIG Retirement Services to establish and manage retirement accounts.
— 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.

GCPS employees now have access to an online tool to establish retirement accounts, make contribution changes, and more. You can take control of your financial future by engaging with AIG Retirement Services’ retirement-readiness resources. With FutureFIT— “Freedom. Individually Tailored.” — users can get valuable tips about financial security, learn the basics of saving and investing with FutureFIT University, and stay on track to reach financial goals with intelligent online tools. Plan participants continue to have access to retirement manager for loans and distributions.

Employees are automatically enrolled to participate in the defined benefit plans of Gwinnett Retirement System (GRS) and either the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia (TRS) or the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS). Employees may elect to contribute to four types of defined contribution plans— 403(b), 457, and Roth versions of both— to boost their retirement security through AIG Retirement Services. For more information on these plans, or to set an appointment to talk with a GCPS retirement specialist, please call (678) 301-6267.
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Access behavioral health resources online and by phone, video chat
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— Benefits-eligible employees and retirees qualify for free, short-term behavioral health and counseling services during these challenging times.
Five free sessions are offered by phone or via video chat.
Additional sessions may be available for a fee.

During these challenging times, GCPS employees can find help with behavioral health resources provided by MetLife and LifeWorks, a national company that employs more than 30,000 licensed counselors. In addition to access to complimentary webinars on topics related to COVID-19, benefit-eligible employees (including retirees) can use LifeWorks’ 24/7 confidential services to manage stress, anxiety, grief, financial concerns, and more. It’s easy to connect to support by phone or video chat— anytime, anywhere—for up to five free sessions. Additional sessions may be available under an employee’s insurance coverage on a fee basis, with in-network and out-of-network rates. To speak with a counselor, call 1-888-319-7819, press 1. Questions? Email the Benefits Administration Team at benefits@gcpsk12.org.
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Speed tests measure internet performance
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Georgians are encouraged to test internet connection speed and quality on all web-enabled devices, using the Ookla Speedtest.
The test measures ping times, and download and upload speeds.
The collected data will help the state identify infrastructure upgrades needed to improve internet accessibility statewide.

In an effort to assess connectivity options around Georgia, state leaders are encouraging Georgians to test internet connection speed and quality on their web-enabled devices by Aug. 31, using the Ookla Speedtest. The process is quick and easy, and you can participate anywhere and anytime your device is connected to the internet with Wi-Fi or mobile. (Data rates may apply.) Here’s how to help internet service providers and mobile phone carriers know where Georgians need better connectivity:

For smartphones and tablets, download the Speedtest app:

    • Android Once installed on your device, open and click “GO.” You also can turn on the “Speedtest” function in your Settings if you are using an Android device.
    • iOS (Apple) Once installed on your device, open and click “GO.”
For laptops and computers connected to your home or work internet service, go to https://www.speedtest.net/ and click “GO.

The test measures three elements— ping times, and download and upload speeds. Once the test shows the third and final test result— for upload speed— the process is complete and users can close the web page or app.

The collected data is reported by Ookla to state officials, helping to identify infrastructure upgrades that are needed statewide to improve internet accessibility.
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EB Bulletin Board

What's new on the Bulletin Board?
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Check out Bulletin Board items with the latest on… mentoring, Spotlight submissions, recent online Communiqué stories, and Perks.
District seeks mentors for both boys and girls… Studies show that successful mentoring programs help students develop social skills, improve their school achievement and graduation rates, build character, and many other benefits. GCPS has served hundreds of young men and 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.
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 an email to the Spotlight mailbox, or send the information to the Communication and Media Relations Department through the courier. Submissions for the back-to-school issue are due Sept. 3.
Find the latest from Communiqué… Recent and upcoming posts to the online Communiqué include a look at plans for our return to learning, what’s new for 2020-21, calendar notes, and more. Check the magazine frequently for the latest news! Story ideas? Great photos? Feedback? Let us know at communique@gwinnett.k12.ga.us.
Go back to school with employee discounts… 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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Click here to give us your feedback on Education Briefs.

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    Last modified on 10/02/2020