for those who teach and those who support teachers
August 5, 2022
#GCPSBTS22 with Dr. Watts
Check out this #GCPSBTS22 video from GCPS TV, featuring Superintendent Dr. Calvin J. Watts as he traveled out and about on Wednesday to welcome students, families, teachers, administrators, and support staff back to school!
Welcome to the 2022-23 school year!
New year, new look and feel for Ed Briefs! In our pursuit of excellence, we are focused on world-class communication and engagement. In support of that strategic goal, we are revamping the district’s calendar of communications with staff, families, and the community to include more regular online newsletters, GCPS TV programming, and news hubs with the latest news, stories, and information about and for GCPS students, families, staff, and community members. For the 2022-23 school year, you can expect a weekly email with need-to-know information on the following monthly schedule:
1st Friday—Coffee with Calvin episode (staff and families), Ed Briefs online newsletter (staff)
2nd Friday—Connected episode (staff and families)
3rd Friday—GCPS Links online newsletter (staff and families)
4th Friday—Connected episode (staff and families)
In September, December, March, and June, on the 5th Friday of the month, watch for a quarterly wrap-up of resources and information about health and safety for students and staff.
But you don’t have to wait for Fridays to catch up on GCPS news… Check out the GCPS Links online news hub for stories, explainers, profiles, featured photos, videos, links to calendar reminders, and more! Content that is specific to staff members can be found on the new Team GCPS website.
And you can help us tell the GCPS story… Use the online news tip form to share your good news and upcoming events!
District reorganizes to support Our Blueprint for the Future
GCPS has the unique opportunity to become a national model of a high-performing district serving an incredibly diverse student population. To meet the moment, district leaders have gathered input from staff, families, and the community to develop Our Blueprint for the Future, GCPS’ new strategic plan that defines the transformational work of the next five years. (The School Board approved the plan at its July 21 meeting.)
Our Blueprint for the Future defines our strategic priorities in four areas: empathy, equity, effectiveness, and excellence. We know that empathy is key to our understanding of others and to creating a powerful sense of belonging in our GCPS culture. Empathy is a gateway to equity, ensuring that each and every child has what they need to reach their full potential. Effectiveness is our ability to achieve the results we desire. Equity and effectiveness form the bridge from empathy to excellence. Our district will demonstrate excellence in our work—that notable standard to which we should all aspire, behaviorally, academically, and operationally.
To support this critical work, Superintendent Dr. Calvin J. Watts has reorganized central office operations while keeping our schools at the heart of the organization. No matter the division, department, or office, the day-to-day work of the district is focused on supporting schools.
“It is important that, as we implement Our Blueprint for the Future, our divisions and departments that support our schools and teachers are aligned to our strategic priorities and goals to maximize the desired outcomes for each and every student in GCPS,” says Dr. Watts. He began sharing his operational plans for leadership changes with the board and public last spring through board work sessions and has continued to partner with the board through the development and adoption of the Blueprint to ensure there is alignment between vision and operational implementation.
The Executive Leadership Team includes Dr. Watts; Dr. T. Nakia Towns, deputy superintendent; Jorge Gomez, special assistant to the superintendent; and division leaders—Chief Engagement Officer Melissa Laramie; Chief Strategy, Performance, and Accountability Officer Natalie Gore; Chief of Schools Dr. Al Taylor; Chief Learning Officer DeNelle West; Chief Human Resources Officer Cathy Hardin; Chief Technology and Innovation Officer Glenn Melendez; Chief Business Operations Officer Walt Martin; and Chief Equity Officer (to be determined). Online, learn more about the Executive Leadership Team and their areas of responsibility, and watch for upcoming profiles as we focus on how the reorganization will help to support success for students, staff, and schools.y
Find COVID-19 information resources on website
While teaching and learning is the core business of Gwinnett County Public Schools, the health and safety of our students and staff is our key focus, particularly during the ongoing pandemic. Here’s some of the latest information on GCPS’ COVID-19 response:
The district continues to update the COVID-19 Dashboard every Wednesday, including the number of new cases as well as the number of people currently not at school/work due to COVID-19.
GCPS requires that staff wear a mask in district facilities when community transmission of COVID-19 is High. Masks also are strongly encouraged for visitors and students. Each week, local health officials update the county’s rate of transmission. If the weekly status update shows a change to “Moderate” or “Low,” GCPS will transition mask guidance to “Strongly Recommended” for staff the next day.
Routine COVID-19 testing (also called surveillance testing) can quickly detect individuals who are positive with COVID-19. Acting as an “early warning system,” the testing program will help lower the risk of transmission in schools so that in-person instruction can continue without interruption. Learn more about voluntary surveillance testing in GCPS, available to staff and students in the Archer, Berkmar, Collins Hill, Dacula, Duluth, Grayson. Lanier, Norcross, and South Gwinnett clusters and district employees at the Instructional Support Center, starting the week of Aug. 8. (If you signed up for the program last year, you do not need to sign up again.)
Learn more about the current state of COVID-19 in Gwinnett County in this update by Dr. Audrey Arona during the Board of Education work session on July 21. Dr. Arona is the district health director for the Gwinnett, Newton, Rockdale (GNR) Health District.
Check out current COVID-19 guidelines in GCPS online.
2022-23 begins with new leaders at 18 schools
School communities across the district started the year with a new principal at the helm, including:
- Joanne Vigilant of Anderson-Livsey ES
- Altonise Henfield of Ferguson ES
- Mike Bender of Lilburn ES
- Dr. Guerlene Merisme of Magill ES
- Dr. Shamarlas Allens of Pharr ES
- Lissette McRea of Rockbridge ES
- Dr. Crystal Cooper of Starling ES
- Dr. Kelly Scarborough of Sycamore ES
- Dr. Sonya Brown of Woodward Mill ES
- Jennifer Vaughn of Grace Snell MS
- Sheri Gilbert of North Gwinnett MS
- Betsy Kelly of Twin Rivers MS
- Dr. Conquisha Thompson of Archer HS
- Dr. Brett Savage of Brookwood HS
- Lee Augmon of Collins Hill HS
- Jeannie Hidalgo of Dacula HS
- Logan Malm of Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
- Memorie Reesman of Seckinger HS
In coming weeks, new principals also will be named to replace Dr. Savage at Crews MS and to fill an opening at Mountain View HS with the Sept. 1 retirement of Keith Chaney.
Staff, volunteers must report known or suspected abuse
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. A module on mandated reporting is part of the required HR Compliance training found 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.
Coffee with Calvin: All About Transportation!
Come on and grab a cup… In the first episode of Coffee with Calvin, take a trip with Superintendent Dr. Calvin J. Watts and the early risers on our Transportation Team.
F&O staff ‘make it happen’ for Relay For Life
“We Make it Happen” has long been the motto of our Facilities and Operations (F&O) team—from building and maintaining grounds and facilities to transporting children to and from school. But recent news from the American Cancer Society confirmed that F&O employees are “making it happen” for our community as well. The 2022 Gwinnett County Relay For Life fundraising campaign is in the books, and the F&O team raised more money for the Gwinnett Relay than any other organization this year! In total, F&O contributed $44,366.08 to help in the fight against cancer! As a result of these contributions from the F&O team and others, the Gwinnett Relay For Life event exceeded its $600,000 fundraising goal, raising a total of $608,196 this year. Other GCPS teams among the top 10 in the county event include North Gwinnett HS ($38,066.20), the Instructional Support Center ($28,952.05), Riverside ES ($28,239.64), Trickum MS ($11,918.06), Woodward Mill ES ($11,000.36), and McConnell MS ($10,932.34). Congratulations and well done to these teams and all the GCPS staff, students, and families who help made this community effort a success! (The 2023 Relay For Life campaign already is underway! Learn more online.)
#GCPSBTS22 in photos
The future is bright for GCPS students as we begin the 2022-23 school year! Enjoy these smiling faces from the first few days of school!
Friends or family looking for a new position? Share the district’s Careers web page and you could earn a referral incentive if you recommend qualified candidates who are hired by the district in high-need areas, including teachers, speech-language pathologists, and school nutrition staff. GCPS also is offering hiring incentives to newly hired staff in select positions. Point prospective members of Team GCPS to upcoming hiring events for teachers and bus drivers. The district also is hiring school nutrition staff, custodians, paraprofessionals, and substitutes!
When you think of self-care, you may assume that you have to engage in the activity for hours in order to obtain some meaningful benefit or results. Not true! Experts say that engaging in activities for even small periods of time helps to build a consistent practice or habit, which helps to promote more long-standing change. Establishing healthy and consistent habits takes a little planning and a commitment to care for yourself—whether you want to take up yoga or an exercise routine, cut back on soda and increase your water intake, or make time for a walk or reading for pleasure. Here are some suggestions for changing an unhealthy habit or making a new one:
Choose one habit that you want to change, add, or break, then ask yourself these questions…
How have you practiced this habit in the past? What helped you to stay consistent with this habit? What kept you from maintaining this healthy habit?
What would it look like to engage in this activity every day for five minutes?
Who would you like to be your partner in changing this habit?
Where and when would you practice this habit?
Whatever habit you hope to make (or break), make a deal with yourself to practice your self-care in bite-size chunks of time until you’ve established a good and sustainable habit that helps you stay healthy and happy.
This “Caring for Team GCPS” tip was adapted from a blog post in the PBS Teachers Lounge. Check out “The 3 R’s for Teacher Self-Care: Reflect. Release. Recharge.”
Tech resources are a click away
Tech question? Great resources are just a click away!
The Information Management and Technology Team has developed a host of great technology resources and support materials for you, including video tech tips, PDF manuals and documents, application-specific support, training opportunities, and new resources to support GCPS’ 1:1 Initiative. Just log into the Employee Portal and click on the Technology Resources icon.
About OneDrive… If you’re new to Microsoft OneDrive, IMT has some great tips to support you. M365 OneDrive is a cloud-based product that organizes, stores, and allows file sharing for your documents. For tech tips on how to navigate your M365 OneDrive, check out this “Microsoft Minutes” video about OneDrive!
Watch for GCPS Tech Tips in every issue of Ed Briefs!
Use Report Phish button in Outlook to report suspicious emails
Just a reminder to report any suspected phishing email to the Phishing Spam mailbox. To report a phishing attempt, select the suspicious email and click the Report Phish button found in the Outlook Ribbon or Actions Bar. After you click the button, be sure to delete the email from your Inbox, Sent, and Trash folders.
Complete Cybersecurity Awareness Training by Dec. 16
School districts across the country continue to be the target of internet scammers and cybercrime organizations. Recent breaches have resulted in data being held for ransom and attacks taking down phones, email accounts, Wi-Fi networks, Google Classroom access, and more.
All of us have a role and responsibility when it comes to keeping district information secure, says Arden Peterkin, who oversees information security for GCPS. “Each day, GCPS employees are challenged with making important cybersecurity decisions on behalf of the school system,” he says. “Whether it’s deciding to open an attachment or click an embedded link within an email, for example, the outcome of their decisions could have severe implications on the security posture of the school system.”
Mandatory training helps school system employees better safeguard the information entrusted to us by students, families, and staff members. All staff members must complete a Knowledge Assessment and two online Cybersecurity Awareness Training courses that provide practical information on how to recognize and respond appropriately to cybersecurity threats. Staff received an email about enrollment in Cybersecurity Awareness Training on July 25, and must complete the training modules by Dec. 16.
Click the Security Awareness icon in the Employee Portal to find cybersecurity resources to help you stay cyber-savvy at work and at home.
Looking Ahead in GCPS...
- You have until Aug. 10 to take part in the ThoughtExchange regarding a proposed policy—“Board’s Theory of Action for Change to Improve Student Behavior and Outcomes.”
- Aug. 12 is the deadline to apply for the GEMS Oversight Committee, a group of community and school system representatives charged with the annual review of the Academic Knowledge and Skills (AKS) curriculum standards.
- Keep Connected with news from GCPS TV… the next episode airs Aug. 12!
- The next regular Board meeting is Aug. 18. (Online, find links to sign up for the public comment sections of the meeting.)
- Stay tuned for our next issue of GCPS Links coming to you on Aug.19!