Volume 40 , Number 3December 6, 2019


Wishing you a joyous
and renewing holiday season
with your family and friends…




Watch
Mr. Wilbanks’ holiday message
on GCPS TV.


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CEO/Superintendent’s Message:

District launches review of discipline code
J. Alvin Wilbanks
CEO/Superintendent
The mission of Gwinnett County Public Schools is to pursue excellence in academic knowledge, skills, and behavior for each student, resulting in measured improvement against local, national, and world-class standards. When we speak of this mission, it is not unusual to focus on the academic knowledge and skills part because that is the essence of our core business. But excellence in behavior also is crucial to the culture and climate of a school and, consequently, our students’ ability to learn. It is incumbent on us, therefore, to make sure we provide safe and orderly schools where teaching and learning can thrive free of disruption.

The Board of Education’s student conduct behavior code is key to our efforts in this regard. Set forth in Policy JCD, the code communicates the high expectations we have in terms of student behavior. It helps protect the learning time of not only the vast majority of our students who never misbehave, but also of the disruptive students who need structure and boundaries around their actions. The discipline code also supports the work of our teachers and administrators as they strive to create positive environments in their local schools throughout the district.

For many years, a primary objective has been to ensure that the student conduct behavior code is firm, fair, and flexible. The Board of Education and I have confidence in our discipline code, in the training our employees receive in implementing it, and in how discipline is carried out in our schools. However, we are hearing from some in the community who have concerns that a disproportionate number of students of color are being disciplined. They also have questions about the consequences given to students who misbehave. We are sensitive to their concerns and want to be sure that we do not have any blinders on when it comes to an issue that affects students in such significant ways.

That is why I am directing staff to begin right away a comprehensive review of Policy JCD, the Student Conduct Behavior Code, and the operational practices associated with implementing the policy. The Board of Education and I feel strongly that our citizens should have confidence in and support for the policy governing and guiding the Student Conduct Behavior Code and its implementation practices, believing that it serves all students and discriminates against none. Although the Board of Education considers updates to the policy each year to incorporate revisions mandated by changes in State law or State School Board rules, we feel it is time for a more in-depth review, similar to ones we have done periodically in the past. We expect the review committee’s work to conclude by April 1 of the current school year.

This review will involve a number of people, including employees, parents, students, and citizens from our community. A process for identifying the members of the committee is in development, and I have tasked Eric Thigpen, executive director of Academic Support, to chair this committee. Dr. Steve Flynt, associate superintendent for School Improvement and Operations, will serve as an ad hoc member of the committee.

We look forward to getting started on the review to ensure Gwinnett County Public Schools is in the best-possible position when it comes to the complex issue of ensuring firm, fair, and flexible approaches to student discipline. This is an important and timely issue that affects not only GCPS, but also school districts and communities throughout our state and nation.


CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks
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GCPS shares priorities with county’s legislative delegation
Need-to-know highlights of this story:
This month, district leaders met with the county's legislative delegation to share key concerns.
GCPS' legislative priorities center on funding, fiscal and school improvements efforts, governance issues, and other key concerns.

On Dec. 5, the Gwinnett County Board of Education and district leaders met with the Gwinnett legislative delegation to share key issues and concerns that affect our schools and programs, students and staff, and finances and governance. Following are highlights in four key categories:

Funding: Ensure no reductions in local or state funding, which jeopardize our ability to provide students the quality and effective education our community demands and expects, and challenges us to maintain a sound financial position and our AAA bond ratings. Specifically, the Board urges the General Assembly to…
  • Ensure any new funding formula…
    — is quantitative, student enrollment-based, adequate, and equitable;
    — maintains a fully funded Equalization Grant;
    — generates no fewer dollars than the current formula; and
    — continues maximum funding levels for capital outlay.

  • Continue allotment of additional funds, and allowing a local school system flexibility in expending these funds, to meet the system’s safety and security needs.
  • Conduct a comprehensive review of the State Health Benefit Plan and considering all possible solutions and cost-saving measures.
  • Review the research on the impact of early learning programs and providing the fiscal resources needed to implement effective programs and practices.
  • Fund pupil transportation at a level that eliminates the gap between state-allotted funding and the actual costs to local districts.
  • Sustain the current Teachers Retirement System of Georgia, recognizing that it is a compelling incentive for recruiting and retaining quality educators.

    Fiscal and School Improvement Initiatives: Sustain the improvements made in these areas:
  • Ensure continuation of the Governor’s School Leadership Academy, funded through the First Priority Act.
  • Support the recruitment and retention of mathematics and science teachers by maintaining the funding for endorsement supplements for teachers in these critical-need areas.
  • Provide funding to hire and train school counselors so students will have greater access to services that address academic preparation, college and postsecondary planning, and career readiness.
  • Support the recommendations of the “Vision for Public Education in Georgia” project.
  • Expand funding for APEX school mental health services.

    Governance/Local Control: Support the Constitutional authority of local boards of education by…
  • Maintaining local school board control over such things as instructional resources, local revenue sources, student discipline, curriculum, school-year calendar, etc.
  • Sustaining Title 20 flexibility for Strategic Waivers School Systems.
  • Supporting the implementation of innovative assessment options at the local, state, and/or federal levels.
  • Ensuring sovereign immunity of local boards of education.
  • Allowing local school systems operational control over social issues that have an impact on school climate and instruction.

    Continuing Positions: Support long-standing positions of the Gwinnett County School Board:
  • Encourage legislation that promotes a safe and secure learning environment through a focus on facilities, staffing, students, parents, and technology as means to maximize school safety.
  • Resist efforts to provide contracts for classified employees.
  • Protect public education funding by opposing vouchers and/or tuition tax credits.
  • Require impact statements for any new legislation before enactment.

    Keep an eye out for updates throughout the 2020 session of the Georgia General Assembly, which starts Jan. 13.
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  • District’s CCRPI scores, overall and by level, above state average
    Need-to-know highlights of this story:
    GCPS' CCRPI district-level scores are well above state averages, overall and for each level, with 20% of schools earning a score of 90 or greater.
    The ES average increased, with a decrease in the MS average, and no change in the HS average.
    CCRPI is Georgia’s tool for annually measuring how well its schools, districts, and the state are helping students achieve their goals.

    In 2019, GCPS schools and the district continued to score above state averages on the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI), with 20% of GCPS schools earning a CCRPI score of 90 or greater. CCRPI is Georgia’s tool for annually measuring how well its schools, districts, and the state are helping students achieve their goals.

    The district’s overall CCRPI score for 2019 is 82.5 compared to 75.9 for the state. Gwinnett elementary schools had an overall score of 86.6 compared to the state’s score of 77.1. Gwinnett’s average middle school score of 78.5 is above the state score of 72.1. And, the Gwinnett high school score of 79.7 remains above the average for Georgia high schools, which was 77.0 for 2019.

    The overall score for Gwinnett elementary schools saw an increase this year, while the overall scores for middle schools decreased, and the overall score for high schools remained the same as the previous year. At the elementary level, Gwinnett saw increases in the components of Content mastery, closing achievement gaps, and readiness. (See sidebar for the five components in the CCRPI calculation.) At the high school level, Gwinnett scores improved in content mastery and closing achievement gaps. Despite the decrease in the overall score for middle schools, the district saw an increase in content mastery.

    According to Dr. Jonathan Patterson, associate superintendent for Curriculum and Instructional Support, the CCRPI results help us tell a part of our story and how each school is meeting the needs of each student. He says, “We are proud of the work of our schools. Instructionally, our teachers are delivering a level of rigor that promotes student learning and prepares students for the future. As a result, our students continue to grow and perform at high levels. That said, the CCRPI data provides us with information to assist in making improvements, and we are committed to doing so.”

    Components in Georgia’s CCRPI calculation
  • Content Mastery: Addresses whether students are achieving at the level necessary needed to be prepared for the next grade, college, or career.
  • Progress: Measures how much growth students are demonstrating relative to academically similar students.
  • Closing Gaps: Addresses whether all students and all student subgroups are making improvements in achievement rates.
  • Readiness: Addresses whether students are participating in activities preparing them for and demonstrating readiness for the next grade, college, or career.
  • Graduation Rate (high schools only)

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    GCPS transitioning to new communication platform
    Need-to-know highlights of this story:
    GCPS is moving to a new platform for email, calendar, and instant messaging.
    The new platform rollout began this fall and continues in January.
    For email, the district has replaced gwinnett.k12.ga.us with gcpsk12.org and now uses dots rather than underscores in names.

    GCPS is moving to a new platform for email, calendar, and instant messaging. Starting this fall, GCPS will migrate its email, calendar functions, and instant messaging from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Outlook in Phase 1 of the school district’s Office Modernization Project. Outlook provides an up-to-date interface and user-friendly features that have become the industry standard. Along with extensive email and calendar features, Outlook will offer mobile access and additional storage. In addition, email and calendar are fully integrated with other Office 365 applications.

    GCPS began piloting Outlook in October. The new platform was rolled out to schools in one cluster in November as a pilot. In January, work will begin to migrate all school personnel from Lotus Notes to Outlook. The migration will be scheduled by school and cluster, with all employees moved to the new application in the spring of 2020. Once email is migrated to Outlook, users will continue to have view-only access to Lotus Notes. Access to Lotus Notes databases will be available until a later phase of this project. Sametime instant messaging will be available until all district staff have been moved to Outlook. Your local school technology coordinator will be prepared to deliver training based on your local school plan. Online “how-to” documents will be provided for common features in Outlook.

    As part of the migration, GCPS email addresses have changed to a more user-friendly naming convention. The district has replaced gwinnett.k12.ga.us with gcpsk12.org and now uses dots rather than underscores in names. For now, both email addresses will work when communicating with employees.
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    GCPS test-takers top peers in Georgia and U.S. on ACT
    Need-to-know highlights of this story:
    In Gwinnett, last year’s ACT test-takers posted an average composite score of 22.4 out of a possible 36, compared to 21.4 for the state and 20.7 for the nation.
    The ACT test assesses high school students’ general educational development and their ability to successfully complete college-level work.

    Gwinnett students continue to outperform their peers in the state and across the nation on the ACT Assessment, based on the 2018-19 scores. The ACT test assesses high school students’ general educational development and their ability to successfully complete college-level work. The four skill areas that are covered with multiple-choice tests are English, mathematics, reading, and science. An optional writing test measures skill in planning and writing a short essay.

    Gwinnett’s scores dipped slightly from last year’s scores, which came in at a five-year high. In Gwinnett, last year’s test-takers posted an average composite score of 22.4 out of a possible 36, compared to 21.4 for the state and 20.7 for the nation. In addition, Gwinnett students continue to outperform the state and nation in English, reading, science, and mathematics. This past year 4,557 GCPS students took the test.

    A review of local school results show that six Gwinnett schools— Central Gwinnett; Discovery; Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology (GSMST); Mountain View; Shiloh; and South Gwinnett— increased their average composite scores from 2017–18 to 2018–19. In addition, ACT scores at Meadowcreek HS remained unchanged even as the number of participants increased. Other schools seeing increases in participation included Dacula, Discovery, GSMST, Gwinnett Online Campus, North Gwinnett, and Phoenix. The ACT is a test used by colleges and universities to predict how well students will perform at the post-secondary level. Students are encouraged to take the ACT as well as the SAT college admission exam to provide a broad range of information for college admissions counselors.
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    Board approves leaders in new roles
    The following leadership appointments were announced in November:
    Name
    New Position
    Current/Previous Position
    Dr. Taffeta Connery
    Principal, Simpson ES
    Principal, Sugar Hill ES
    James “Jay” Nebel, Jr.
    Executive Director
    of Continuous
    Quality Improvement,
    Human Resources and Talent Management
    Principal,
    Sweetwater MS
    Elizabeth
    Moore
    Director of
    Instructional Support,
    Curriculum and Instructional Support
    Coordinator of Assessment,
    Curriculum and Instructional Support
    Dr. Christopher Carter
    Director of School Staffing–MS Schools, Human Resources and Talent Management
    Assistant Principal, Lilburn MS
    Randy Hinton
    Director of IT Business
    and Resource Management,
    Information Management and Technology
    Coordinator of
    IT Fiscal and
    Project Operations, Information
    Management
    and Technology
    Sunyoung “Amy” Song
    Director of
    Federal Programs,
    School Improvement
    and Operations
    Program Manager of Office of Federal Programs, Georgia Department of Education
    Amy
    Washington
    Director of
    Special Education-
    School Support,
    Curriculum and Instructional Support
    Coordinator of
    Special Education,
    Curriculum and Instructional Support
    Dr. Demetria Williams
    Director of Advisement and Counseling,
    School Improvement
    and Operations
    Assistant Principal, Brookwood HS

    Dr. Connery transfers to the leadership post at Simpson with the retirement of Bron Gayna Schmit. Mr. Nebel becomes CQI executive director. Ms.
    Dr. Taffeta Connery
    Jay Nebel
    Moore fills the position held by Emily Keag. Dr. Carter fills a vacant post. Andrea Hendrix’s retirement opens the leadership position for Mr. Hinton. Ms. Song steps into the directorship in Federal Programs with Dr. Kevin Wood’s appointment as Meadowcreek HS principal. Ms. Washington is in a new position. Dr. Williams moves to the central office to fill the leadership post previously held by Dr. Tinisha Parker, now executive director for Student Services.
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    Know district’s response to inclement weather on school days
    Need-to-know highlights of this story:
    GCPS schools and facilities may close in the event of hazardous weather or other emergencies, with full-day cancellations typically announced by 6 a.m.
    When bad weather causes school to be cancelled, dismissed early, or open with a delayed start, the district makes public announcements via local TV, the website, GCPS TV, social media, and SchoolMessenger.
    GCPS announces when schools will be closed, but not when school will be in session as scheduled.

    If the Farmer’s Almanac is to be believed, we could have a mild winter with soaking storms. Who knows? In case predictions are wrong, you’ll want to prepare for winter conditions and their impact on the school day. Here are some things to remember about school cancellations for inclement weather:

  • GCPS schools and facilities may close in the event of hazardous weather or other emergencies, which present threats to the safety of students, staff, or school property. The key factor in all decisions about whether or not to hold school is the safety of students and staff.
  • The superintendent makes the decision about school closing based on information from public safety officials, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, county officials, and the state Department of Transportation. In addition, when inclement weather is an issue, members of the GCPS Facilities and Operations team head out as early as 3:30 or 4 a.m. to drive around the county and assess road conditions. The school system’s Transportation staff also ensures that buses are operable. (Extreme cold can cause operational problems for diesel buses.) Facilities are checked in the early hours, and GCPS works with power providers, as needed. Local school principals gather information for the leadership team about specific school conditions.
  • It’s more likely for school to be cancelled in the early morning— due to hazardous road conditions that formed overnight— than for school to let out early because bad weather is moving in. Full-day cancellations usually are announced by 6 a.m.
  • When bad weather causes school to be cancelled, dismissed early, or open with a delayed start, public announcements are made on GCPS TV, on the school system’s website, on social media (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram), through SchoolMessenger calls and optional texts, and via metro-Atlanta radio and television stations. (If you haven’t yet opted into text messages from SchoolMessenger, it’s easy! Just text the word “SUBSCRIBE” to the number 67587. Add 1-844-248-6644 to your Contacts list as Gwinnett County Public Schools to identify incoming messages.)
  • GCPS will make up any full-day cancellations by using scheduled make-up days, Digital Learning Days, and/or extending the school day or year. Unused inclement weather make-up days will be student holidays.
  • Remember, GCPS announces only school closing information. The school system does not issue an announcement when school will be in session as scheduled.

    Making up missed school days
    The calendar includes two inclement weather make-up days. If school is cancelled for bad weather, students will make up days as follows:
  • First day missed— Make up on Friday, Feb. 14; and
  • Second day missed— Make up on Friday, March 13.
    Note: GCPS will make up any inclement weather days by using scheduled make-up days, Digital Learning Days, and/or extending the school day or year. Unused inclement weather make-up days will be student holidays.

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  • New theme cluster to be anchored by Seckinger HS
    Need-to-know highlights of this story:
    GCPS will launch a new K–12 theme cluster in 2022, anchored by a new high school, Seckinger HS.
    The new high school, set to relieve crowding at Mill Creek HS, will focus on the humanities, international business, and advanced sciences and technology.

    GCPS has had much success creating individual theme schools. (Examples include McClure Health Science HS, Paul Duke STEM HS, Coleman MS, Gwinnett Online Campus, and Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology.) Imagine the possibilities if you expanded a theme beyond one school or one level, providing a K–12 focus on a theme. With that in mind, GCPS is in the planning stages for the launch of a new theme cluster, anchored by a new high school, Seckinger HS. The new high school, which will open in 2022, will relieve crowding at Mill Creek HS. It will have a collegiate atmosphere that allows students to choose areas of focus within schools of study that focus on the humanities, international business, and advanced sciences and technology (think artificial intelligence). Because of the clusterwide approach that will be taken, students will be on a K–12 journey that focuses on preparing them to be globally prepared and competitive in an evolving, technology-rich world.

    Watch for details in the coming months as more information becomes available on this new cluster!
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    Reminders on Winter Break schedule for GCPS staff
    Need-to-know highlights of this story:
    Winter Break starts for most employees on Dec. 23, with 174- and 175-day employees starting their holidays on Dec. 18.
    All central office and most school-based staff return to work on Jan. 3.
    Students and 174-, 175-, 180-, 181-, and 185-day employees return to school and work on Jan. 6.

    All GCPS schools and offices will be closed, starting Monday, Dec. 23, which is the first day of Winter Break for most employees. The exceptions are 174- and 175-day employees who start Winter Break on Dec. 18. All central office and most school-based staff (190-, 193-, 200-day, 210-, 220-, and 230-day employees and 12 month-staff) return to work on Friday, Jan. 3. (It’s a required teacher planning/staff development day.) Students and 174-, 175-, 180-, 181-, and 185-day employees remain on holiday a bit longer, returning to school and work on Monday, Jan. 6. If you have questions about your holiday schedule, talk to your direct supervisor. Find the calendar online and in the Communications Database.
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    2019 Principal for a Day:
    Community leaders step into school leaders’ shoes
    American Education Week (Nov. 18-22) brought 140 members of Gwinnett’s business community into local schools to serve as “Principal for a Day” and, in one case, “Superintendent for a Day.” The annual event puts community leaders into a principal’s shoes for a school day. Participants had opportunities to meet with students and staff, observe lessons, and participate in classroom activities. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta was the presenting sponsor for the luncheon for participants on Dec. 12, with Eastside Medical Center, Peach State Federal Credit Union, and Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) Georgia serving as leading sponsors and Leadership Gwinnett as a table sponsor. Principals and community members first connected at a breakfast event in October.
    Look for a
    list of participants online and, coming soon,
    a GCPS TV video about the 2019 Principal for a Day event.
    Here are a few photos from the annual event,
    co-sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and GCPS.
    Principal for a Day Adam Forrand of Partnership Gwinnett “talks turkey” with Peachtree ES kindergarten students during Thanksgiving play practice.
    Principal Devon Williams introduces a Couch MS student
    to Principal for a Day
    Angie Woo of Cisco Systems, Inc.
    Dr. Yvette Arthur (left) and Principal for a Day Aisha DeBerry
    of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) Georgia
    chat with
    Lilburn MS students.
    Students share their learning with Suwanee ES Principal for a Day
    Annie Valenty of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

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    IMT hosts ‘Ask the Experts’ for school-based tech staff, principals


    The Division of Information Management and Technology (IMT) recently hosted “Ask the Experts,” a technology-focused expo that featured GCPS-supported tech resources as well as external vendors and partners. The event provided local school administrators and tech teams the opportunity to ask technical questions related to technology solutions that is supported in the district. Approximately 300 people attended the two sessions offered.


    Attendees— many of them local school technology coordinators (LSTCs) and technology support technicians (TSTs)— said they appreciated the opportunity to have face-to-face discussions with IMT support staff and vendors and even troubleshoot issues on the spot. Said one participant, “‘Ask the Experts’ is a great opportunity for technical support staff from the local schools to ask questions of ‘experts’ in a face-to-face setting. It helps put a name with a face and gives support staff a chance to get to know one another better, as well as acquire some important information in a personalized setting.”
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    Charter school and other GCPS programs
    announce registration plans for 2020–21 year

    Need-to-know highlights of this story:
    Registration is open for GSMST through Jan. 24.
    New Life Academy of Excellence will begin accepting registration for new students on Dec. 16.
    Registration for the Grayson HS Technical Education Program and Maxwell HS of Technology opens online on Jan. 13.
    Gwinnett Online Campus holds registration in February.
    The school district’s charter school and a number of other special school programs have scheduled information sessions and registration dates for students interested in attending one of the schools in the 2020–21 school year:
  • Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology (GSMST): GSMST registration for next school year is open through Jan. 24. An information session for rising 9th graders and their families is set for Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. at the school. The registration lottery will be held at 9 a.m. on Feb. 11 at the J. Alvin Wilbanks Instructional Support Center. (Find lottery criteria for qualifying students online.)
  • New Life Academy of Excellence: Open enrollment for new students is set for Dec. 16 to Feb. 7. Take a virtual tour or schedule an in-person tour on Jan. 3 (multiple sessions), or a 9-9:30 a.m. tour on Jan. 7, Jan. 14, Jan. 21, Jan. 28, or Feb. 4. If needed, a registration lottery will be held on Monday, Feb. 17.
  • Grayson HS Technical Education Program: Online registration opens Jan. 13, with the Winter Open House set for Feb. 6 from 5 to 7 p.m. Information visits will be held at GCPS high schools between Jan. 13 and Feb. 19. Students may access an application via their Student Portal account.
  • Maxwell HS of Technology: Registration for the 2020–21 school year begins online on Jan. 13, with an Open House set for Feb. 20 between 5 and 7 p.m. at the school. Recruitment visits will be held at GCPS high schools between Jan. 13 and Feb. 19. Dates and times of high school visits will be posted on the Maxwell website. Eligible students may apply from their Student Portal account from anywhere they have internet access.
  • Gwinnett Online Campus (GOC): Students in grades 4-12 interested in attending GOC full time for 2020-21 must complete the registration process during the month of February. Interested families are encouraged to attend an open house and tour at the school’s campus from 10 to 11 a.m. on Jan. 28, Jan. 29, Jan. 30, Feb. 11, Feb. 12, or Feb. 13. An informational meeting is set for Feb. 26, 6:30-7:30 p.m., or check out informational videos online. Once a grade level is full, a waiting list will be established. GOC does not offer mid-year enrollment.
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  • ’Tis the season for phishing
    Need-to-know highlights of this story:
    Cybercriminals take advantage of an increase in online shopping during the holidays to prey on Internet users.
    To protect yourself online, make sure your transaction is secure and you're doing business with established vendors.
    Beware of unsolicited emails and follow other tips to safeguard your financial and personal information.
    All employees must complete required Security Awareness Training via the Employee Portal by Dec. 22.

    Your seasonal shopping habits may put you at risk for a phishing scam if you let your guard down online. Cybercriminals have adopted the same tactics used by some of our favorite retailers so it’s important to be security-savvy and take extra care before you shop online for holiday sales.

    This time of year— especially as we rush to make last-minute purchases — it’s not unusual to see a host of giveaways, discounts, one-day “flash sales,” and other enticements in our email in-box or in all of those advertising pop-ups. And, it’s likely that we’re spending more money online than we do in a typical month. Those factors make this “the most wonderful time of the year” for cybercriminals.

    Computer experts warn that ecards from unknown senders may contain malicious links. Fake ads and shipping notifications may deliver attachments infected with malware. And, spoofed email messages and phony posts on social networking sites may request support for fake causes.

    Here are some suggestions for protecting yourself when shopping online:
  • Do business with reputable vendors. Make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate and established vendor before providing personal or financial information. Malicious sites may appear legitimate so take the time to do some research and check the website certificate.
  • Beware of unsolicited emails. Cybercriminals may try to gather information by sending emails that request confirmation of a purchase or account information. Reputable businesses do not solicit your information this way. If a company with which you do business does send such an email, do not click on the provided links. Instead, log in to their authentic website and inquire about the request. (Learn more about recognizing and avoiding email scams online.)
  • Use a credit card. Laws limit your liability for fraudulent credit card charges, but you may not have the same protection for debit card purchases. In addition, because debit cards draw money out of your account, an unauthorized charge could leave you short for other purchases while you’re trying to get a fraudulent purchase reversed. Also, consider using a credit card when using a payment gateway such as PayPal, Google Wallet, or Apple Pay.
  • Keep records and check statements. Keep track of your purchases, maintain copies of confirmations, and review them against your bank statement. If you do spot a discrepancy, report it immediately. (Find out how to prevent and respond to identity theft.)
  • Know your charities. Cybercriminals also may misrepresent themselves as charities during the holidays, creating a malicious site and using email messages to get your personal and financial information. Follow the same suggestions offered for online shoppers. Make sure the website is legitimate and use a credit card or ask for billing.
    If you fall victim to a holiday phishing scam on your personal accounts, you can fight back with these actions:
  • Contact your financial institution immediately and close any accounts that may have been compromised. Watch for any suspicious charges to your account.
  • Immediately change any passwords you might have revealed and do not use that password in the future. Avoid reusing passwords on multiple sites. (See tips for choosing and protecting passwords.)

    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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  • Donate to our Book Mobiles: The gift of literacy keeps on giving!
    Need-to-know highlights of this story:
    GCPS' two book mobiles provide free books to students during school events.
    You can make a donation to support this literacy effort.
    Donate to the designated Book Mobile fund through the Foundation, make a purchase from the Amazon Book Mobile Wish List, or donate new books with pre-approval.

    Here’s a holiday gift idea that will keep on giving… Support literacy for our students by making a donation to GCPS’ “fleet” of Book Mobiles!

    The two well-stocked Book Mobiles are called Pow! and Explore! to match their brightly colored exterior designs. The converted school buses drive neighborhood routes in six clusters— Central Gwinnett, Discovery, Meadowcreek, Norcross, Shiloh, and South Gwinnett— to encourage summer reading. During the school year, the specially renovated buses visit Gwinnett schools for literacy events, school parades, and other school-sponsored events. For these events, the Book Mobile is stocked with new books— purchased with donations or provided by sponsors— that students can take home for free to add to their own personal library. To date, 53,000 schoolchildren have received a new book through this program!

    You can help put books in students’ hands in one of three ways (or all of them!)…
  • Donate to the designated Book Mobile fund maintained by the Gwinnett County Public Schools Foundation.
  • Purchase books from our Amazon Book Mobile Wish List. Purchased books will be shipped directly to GCPS to replenish the Book Mobiles’ stock of “giveaway” books
  • Donate new, unused books to the Book Mobiles with pre-approval from district staff. Send an email to bookmobile@gcpsk12.org or call 678-301-6431 regarding book donations.

    Here are some book suggestions for the kids on your gift-giving list…
    Check out these book recommendations for elementary students and learn more about reading instruction in grades K-5. Our media specialists also say you can’t go wrong with award-winning books like Newbery (best writing) and Caldecott (best illustration) medal winners and honored books in the Coretta Scott King and Pura Belpré awards. You also might consider picks from “best of” lists like the Notable Children’s Books List curated by the American Library Association and School Library Journal’s Best Books of 2019 list. The lists include picture books, chapter books, books for the middle grades, graphic novels, young adult novels, non-fiction, digital media, and audiobooks and recordings for kids. Reading Rocket shares this list of recommended books arranged by theme for young readers. And, this list of 250 popular books will give you plenty of ideas for little book lovers from birth to age 5.

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  • Some end-of-year benefits and payroll reminders
    Be sure to verify your address and telephone information before the end of the year. For changes, go to the Employee Portal, select the About Me tab, and Name/Contact Changes.

  • W-2 Forms: During the week of Jan. 26, the Payroll Office will mail more than 28,000 W-2 forms for the 2019 Tax Year. W-2s also will be available on the Portal on the About Me>Payroll tab. If you do not have access to the portal and you do not receive your tax statement by Feb. 10, you may request a duplicate tax form by sending an email with your name, employee ID number, and current address to payroll.support@gcpsk12.org or by sending a fax to 678-301-6310.
  • Healthcare Tax Statement: Early in February of 2020, most GCPS employees will receive a 2019 Healthcare Tax Statement for use in preparing individual income tax returns. Your 1095-C— the Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage form— indicates whether, in 2019, you were considered a full-time employee for the purposes of the Affordable Care Act, were offered insurance, and for what months. Please keep this form with other materials you give to your tax preparer. If you prepare your own taxes, you may need to refer to the information on the 1095-C as you prepare your return. For more information about the 1095-C form, please visit the Internal Revenue Service website.
  • Medical, childcare flex spending accounts: Dec. 31 is the deadline to incur expenses against your Health Care and/or Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA). Claims for qualifying 2019 expenses must be made no later than March 31, 2020. FSA funds that are not used by the end of the calendar year (and claimed by the March 31 deadline) will be forfeited. If you have a balance on your Health Care FSA that will go unused, consider purchasing over-the-counter products that are FSA eligible. Find a searchable list of Health Care FSA-eligible products and services online. For more information about FSA benefits, visit the Benefits Center  online.
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  • Employees have access to behavioral health resources
    Need-to-know highlights of this story:
    Benefits-eligible employees have access to free behavioral health and counseling services.
    Counseling sessions are tailored to individuals and their needs— in-person, by phone, or via video chat— for up to five sessions per event.

    The holidays can be a difficult time for those coping with some of life’s challenges— from dealing with the loss of a loved one or a divorce to a terminal medical diagnosis or financial hardship. MetLife, Gwinnett County Public Schools’ provider of life insurance, offers behavioral health and counseling services to all benefit-eligible employees (including retirees), at no charge to the employee. The service— provided by LifeWorks, a nationwide company that employs over 30,000 licensed counselors— includes up to five sessions, per event, available face-to-face, or via telephone or video chat. Additional sessions may be available under an employee’s insurance coverage on a fee basis, with in-network and out-of-network rates. However, this free behavioral health benefit does not cover addiction counseling. Questions? Contact MetLife at 1-888-319-7819, then press 1; or email the Benefits Administration Team at benefits@gcpsk12.org.
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    Schedule an appointment if you plan to retire in 2020
    If retirement is on the horizon for you, it’s time to schedule an appointment with a retirement counselor. The Gwinnett Retirement Services Department is scheduling retirement counseling appointments through March for those employees planning to retire at the end of this school year. In order to complete retirement applications and ensure prompt first payments from the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia or Public School Employees Retirement System, please contact Retirement Services at (678) 301-6267 or (678) 301-6267 6269. Appointments with retirement counselors— located in either Suwanee or Lawrenceville— are available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m.
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    DLI programs seek bilingual and biliterate teachers
    Do you hold early childhood education certification? Are you bilingual and biliterate in French, Korean, or Spanish and interested in teaching Gwinnett’s AKS curriculum in your native language? Dual Language Immersion (DLI) programs currently are available in nine elementary schools in Gwinnett County Public Schools. Annistown ES, Baldwin ES, Bethesda ES, Camp Creek ES, Ivy Creek ES, Level Creek ES, and Meadowcreek ES offer a Spanish program. French is offered at Trip ES. Parsons ES hosts the district’s Korean DLI program. If you’re interested in learning more about what it’s like to teach DLI in GCPS, you are invited to an informational session:
  • Tuesday, Jan. 21, from 4 to 5 p.m. at the J. Alvin Wilbanks Instructional Support Center (ISC) in the Cafeteria Meeting Room #2.021 (Building 200)
  • Monday, Jan. 27, from 4 to 5 p.m. at the ISC in the Cafeteria Meeting Room #2.021 (Building 200)

    Please RSVP to
    Dr. Virin Vedder if you’d like to attend. If you’re not yet certified but are interested in pursuing certification for DLI, you are welcome to attend this meeting or contact Dr. Vedder with questions about what steps to take toward DLI certification.
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  • Special education teachers invited to Jan. 25 career fair
    Pass the word… GCPS is holding a career fair for special education teachers on Jan. 25, and the district will be offering contracts at the event for the 2020–21 school year! Prospective teachers can register online. Candidates eligible to attend must be certified (or will be by July of 2020) in any field of Special Education.
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    Join the fight!
    Fight flu with vaccinations for you and your family

    When children are sick with the flu, they miss school and are at risk for complications, parents may miss work, and others with whom they have contact may get the flu. But you can join the fight against flu with the flu vaccine!

    While flu activity currently is low, health officials warn that the number of flu cases is on the rise. Now is the time to get a flu shot for yourself and your family members, especially those with asthma and other chronic illnesses. It’s not too late to get a flu shot. Flu typically peaks between December and February. But, remember, it takes at least two weeks for vaccine immunity to develop after vaccination.

    Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone six months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine as the first and best way to protect against influenza. Keep in mind that vaccination is especially important for certain people who are high-risk or who are in close contact with those at high risk. This includes children at high risk of developing complications from flu illness, and adults who are close contacts of those children.

    While the flu vaccine can’t prevent every case of flu, it can protect you from more severe illness. (And, getting yourself and your child vaccinated also can protect others who may be more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain long-term health problems.)

    Health officials encourage families to take precautions to limit the spread of illness, including washing hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home and keeping ill children home when flu-like and other cold symptoms appear.

    The flu is different than a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have flu often feel some or all of these symptoms: Fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue (tiredness). Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children. (It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.)

    If your child has flu-like symptoms, please contact your physician or health clinic for recommendations. The flu may last 7 to 10 days. If your child has a fever, they must be kept home. They must be fever-free for 24 hours without medication prior to returning to school. Check out health and wellness resources from GCPS, including our “Healthy Habits” flyer for tips on flu prevention. If you have questions about the flu or flu prevention, you also may contact the Gwinnett County Health Department at 770-339-4260.

    What's on the EB Bulletin Board?
    Need-to-know highlights of this story:
    Check out Bulletin Board items with the latest on… nominations for GCPS' top media specialist, Bring One for the Chipper event, mentoring needs, JA volunteers, the next Spotlight, recent online Communiqué stories, Perks, the latest from GCPS TV, and commute alternatives
    Nominate innovative media specialist for award… Each year, the Gwinnett County Media Specialist of the Year (MSOTY) award recognizes a school library media specialist whose service has resulted in an exemplary media program. If you know an innovative and enthusiastic media specialist who plans collaboratively, promotes literacy, and integrates technology, please nominate him or her for GCPS Media Specialist of the Year. Email nominations by Friday, Dec. 13, to Cindy Weaver in Media Services and Technology Training. Nomination emails should include the media specialist’s name and a brief explanation about why you are nominating this candidate. Nominees will receive an application packet that will offer them the chance to provide additional information about themselves and their media programs.
    After the holidays, Bring One for the Chipper!… Here in a few weeks, when your Christmas tree has seen better days (and is so dry it’s becoming a fire hazard), you have a green alternative to dragging it out to the curb. Tree-cycling turns your old Christmas tree into mulch and saves precious landfill space! Take your old “live” tree— stripped of lights and decorations— to a drop-off site through Jan. 20. Individuals and school and community groups can volunteer to help with “chip” the trees into mulch on Jan. 25 at Bethesda Park. The Chipper program involves hundreds of Georgia communities and thousands of volunteers, recycling millions of trees since the program began. The resulting mulch has been used for playgrounds, local government beautification projects, and individual yards. If you have questions, contact the folks at Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful at gwinnettcb@gwinnettcb.org or call 770-822-5187.
    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' Community-Based Mentoring Program has served hundreds of young men, and now, young women, 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.
    Volunteer for JA Discovery Center… Junior Achievement (JA) Discovery Center at Gwinnett hosts day-long simulations that allow our students to explore the work world and personal finance. Annually, more than 50,000 GCPS middle schoolers take part in day-long simulations as part of the JA BizTown and JA Finance Park programs to learn how to navigate the workplace and manage money. 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 your profession or background, your life experiences qualifies you to be a successful volunteer! 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. Email VolunteerGwinnett@georgia.ja.org to see how your “adulting” experience could support this important program for our students.
    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 latest issue of Spotlight online this month.
    What’s new in Communiqué?… The latest posts to the online Communiqué  include staff honors, a specialized instructional space, plus dates and deadlines on the Bulletin Board and the latest episode of In5ive. Coming up? Photos from Principal for a Day, holiday happenings, and more! Check the magazine frequently for the latest news! Story ideas? Great photos? Feedback? Let us know at communique@gcpsk12.org. 
    Stretch your holiday 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.
    Watch recent Focus Moments on GCPS TV… These are just a few of the recent videos from GCPS TV: Community partnerships are offering expanded opportunities for students at Shiloh HS and Grayson HS Technical Education Program in pharmacy tech and vet science, respectively. A French author/illustrator visited Trip ES. We got a sneak peek at the basketball season. A national award winner was celebrated at Collins Hill HS. The Shiloh ES family celebrated a special birthday with a beloved staff member. Five Forks MS students helped create a kinder world with art. And, some exciting meals are "popping up" at GCPS high schools. #CG

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        Last modified on 01/24/2020