Gwinnett BOE turns to strategy for 2020s

  Gwinnett County Public Schools began work on its next 10-year strategy document Tuesday with the first of five area board meetings. The document, which will give the state’s largest school system direction for the 2020s, will replace a similar document formed in 2010. Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said the older document set the stage for a successful decade, and he expects the same from the product that will replace it. The system not only is the largest in the state, it is one of the most diverse, but it still competes nationally for honors.  Those honors, including twice winning the Broad Prize for the nation’s best urban school district, came because the system followed its plan formulated a decade ago. “The school district made progress educating all students, and I do mean all students,” he said. Tuesday’s meeting at Discovery High School, the county’s newest high school, included students, parents and educators from the Berkmar and Meadowcreek clusters of schools as well. Those two clusters are among the most diverse in Gwinnett. That wasn’t lost on Pam Buckland, a veteran middle school teacher in the Meadowcreek Cluster.  Buckland began teaching there in the middle 1990s, when the schools had a solid white majority of students. Within a few years, the student population spoke many languages and came from a vast array of cultures. “We were learning how to teach a different population,” she said. “They didn’t speak our language, and few of the adults at home had any education beyond middle school.  “These students came to us without previous knowledge. That scenario plays out every week at each...

Stonecrest mayor sees big opportunities

  Jason Lary, who was elected first mayor of Stonecrest on Tuesday, knows his city got the biggest break possible about a month ago when developers announced plans for a massive sports complex in his city.  Now, the city has its identity that is more than a shopping mall.  “It is the best thing that could have happened,” he said of the complex. “Now, we are a city of destination.” Lary spearheaded the drive to make Stonecrest a city. Then, he said the most important thing for the city would be building its identity.  With the identity in place, Lary now wants to turn to other development. He sees becoming a logistics hub as the next natural step.  The city has a mainline of CSX and I-20.  “We have an opportunity to be a robust player in industrial space,” he said. “Our future is really bright.” Lary will take office early next week after the vote is certified. But he will take office without really having an office. Stonecrest does not have a city hall yet.  And because the election field was so crowded, it won’t have a full city council until after runoff elections next month. Jimmy Clanton, Jr. and Jazmine Randall Cobble each won council posts Tuesday by roughly 2-to-1 margins. But the other three seats, all multi-way races, are headed to runoff elections.  That doesn’t worry Lary, who saw his own three-way race turn brutal in the final few days of the campaign.  “I have no issues with the council members we have,” he said. “I have a good relationship with all of those guys.” It...

Pollen spike hits after cool snap

  Atlanta’s pollen count spiked this week, but last week’s cool snap and lower pollen levels will play their share in bringing misery to those with allergies. Dr. Stanley Fineman of  Atlanta Allergy and Asthma said up-and-down pollen levels can lead to a condition called priming, where the body basically is primed for an allergy attack. When the levels go back up, the attack hits, and it usually is a more severe attack.  Pollen counts began to climb earlier this year than in the past, but, until this week, March’s counts were lower than a year ago.  On Tuesday, the count spiked to 1,549, with most of that from trees. And trees, according to Fineman, are the worst for allergy sufferers. “Right now, people are complaining about tree pollen allergies,” he said. “Hardwoods are most of the problem, Pine will be coming up in the next week.”  Tree pollens usually are not an issue until around the first of April, but Georgia’s overall warm winter has trees putting on leaves ahead of schedule.  “It is earlier than normal, no question about it,” Fineman said. “It started in February this year.” Fineman said there is no way to predict how high the pollen count will go, but pollen during a Georgia spring is pretty much a given.  His practice released a statement Tuesday saying the number of patients reporting symptoms was following the pollen count up. “Patients are reporting that their symptoms of nasal congestion, sneezing, itchy nose and eyes are a real problem this week,” the clinic said. “The ‘priming’ effect — high pollen exposure in February, followed by very...

Gwinnett’s Hunter turns away from controversy

  Embattled Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter wants to focus on his district and the county instead of the controversy over Facebook comments he made more than two months ago. For now, his consultant Seth Weathers tells InsiderAdvantage that Hunter has done what he can to make amends for  those comments. Still, Hunter has no idea when, or how, it will all end. Hunter called U.S. Rep. John Lewis a “racist pig” on Facebook after the civil rights icon criticized President Donald Trump about a week before the inauguration. Hunter also made disparaging comments about Democrats in general on Facebook. About a month after the comments, Hunter tried to mend fences. He and other Gwinnett County Commissioners toured a civil rights museum on Feb. 14. That same night, another bridge-building effort end with more bridges burned that built. Hunter attended a Lawrenceville NAACP meeting, but left when the audience continually interrupted him. Since then, he has mostly avoided public criticism of his comments by leaving public meetings before the public comment section. Weathers, who ran Hunter’s campaign and has been his spokesman during the issue, said Hunter wants to focus only on his job as commissioner. “He is going to continue to represent the people of his district,” Weathers said.  That doesn’t mean he will never stay for public comments again, though. “That could change at any time,” Weathers said. “He is just going to do his best to do what is best for Gwinnett.” As for the commissioner’s future, Weathers said resigning was never on the table. Beyond that, Hunter and his team will deal with protests as...

Tournament to cost businesses $2.1 billion

  Businesses in the United States will lose $2.1 billion in productivity to workers focusing on the NCAA basketball tournament rather than doing their jobs, according to an annual prediction by workforce outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. Workers will spend plenty of time early this week researching teams and filling out brackets for office and other tournament pools. The firm estimates those losses could reach $600 million alone. The real losses will come Thursday and Friday when early tournament games start in the middle of the workday. With so many tournament games broadcast online and on mobile devices, many workers will turn their attention from work tasks to tiny screens to try to keep up with the action. The firm’s estimates are bases on an average hourly pay rate of $26. It also estimates that about 23.7 million U.S. workers will spend time following the tournament at the office. That translates to $615 million in losses for each lost hour. “While television viewership for last year’s tournament and for NCAA games overall was lower than previous years, the economy has created more workers and a higher hourly wage, which could equate to higher costs to employers,” Challenger said in the firm’s annual release on the tournament. “In the current political climate, more American workers might welcome this distraction leading to an even higher cost to productivity Challenger said employers should attempt to mitigate the losses and not enforce a no-tolerance policy for all things related to the tournament. “Any attempt to do so would most likely result in long-term damage to employee morale, loyalty, and engagement that would...

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