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vol. 2

october 2013

Fulton County School System

INSIDER It’s a new day for professional learning in Fulton County Schools It’s an exciting time to be a member of Fulton County’s Professional Learning Department. With this year’s launch of PD 360 and new staff members on the team, the stage is set for this department’s rebirth. And Executive Director Dr. Lydia Conway is ready for the challenge. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at our department and the services we offer, trying to determine what needs tweaking,” she explains. “We’re confident that now we have the tools and resources available to offer professional development for all employees in a variety of formats.” In order to accomplish this goal, Professional Learning is focusing on four areas – Utilizing PD 360; establishing a professional learning facilitator at each school; exploring options for professional development content and delivery methods (face-to-face, blended, and online) that will suit the needs of all employees; and revising policies and procedures for earning PLU credits.




Langston Hughes freshman spends day as college student

Meet the drivers behind the wheels of FCS school buses

What you need to know for next year’s payroll changes




FACE OF FULTON Meet this month’s award winner from Lake Forest ES p8

a publication of Fulton County Schools


PD 360 New to Fulton County Schools this year is PD 360, the world’s first and largest virtual, on-demand professional development platform for educators. Fulton employees have access to a library of more than 1,500 videos on 97 topics from 120 experts. PD 360 offers a variety of professional learning opportunities. Within the platform users can access videos, participate in book studies, search courses offered by the district, create “groups” to virtually collaborate with colleagues or participate in “communities” dedicated to discussing various topics. The content within PD 360 can and should be utilized as a model, for personal exploration, and/or as a best practices conversation starter within a PLC, between peers, or from manager to employee. Perhaps the best way to think of PD 360 is to think of it as a 21st century tool for greatly expanding the professional development opportunities available to FCS employees. Since the videos are offered “on demand,” employees can essentially access them anytime and anywhere to help grow professional practices. For example, a new math teacher who may be teaching a particular lesson for the first time can use any computer to log on to PD 360 and watch a few videos showing teachers from other schools working with their students on the concept. This learning can then be used in planning and implementing standards-based instruction. In addition, PD 360 offers an extensive selection of resources that support both the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards and the TKES/LKES/PKES process. According to Conway, it’s a new way to look at professional development. “What we’re really doing is offering a resource,” she says. “You can get professional development when you need it instead of waiting for the district to offer a session that fits your interests or needs.” The roll out of PD 360 will be a two-year process beginning this year with district

leadership. A series of roadshows to all 100 schools is already under way and offers training for all employees. Coordinator Lisa Steele is excited about the opportunities this new platform will offer. “PD 360 really focuses on building your Professional Learning Network,” she says. “You can watch a video and connect with other PD 360 users in your school, in the state of Georgia or across the country. With more than two million users, the opportunities for collaboration really are endless.”

Professional Learning Facilitators The new school-based Professional Learning Facilitator role has been created to support an innovative approach to professional development throughout the district. A PL facilitator has been selected in each school building to streamline communication and lead staff in identifying and achieving their goals for ongoing learning and development. The facilitators are an eager group of classroom teachers looking for opportunities to explore new initiatives, facilitate adult learning opportunities and collaborate with the PL department to customize learning experiences that support building needs for professional growth. Therefore, facilitators will ensure that learning is job-embedded and occurs regularly inside the walls of their building.

Professional Learning for Everyone Fulton County Schools has historically only offered professional development for teachers and administrators. However, due to the vast resources available through PD 360, as well as additional content added by the Professional Learning staff, all employees will be able to participate in professional development activities. No matter what position employees hold within the organization, they all have the ability to be life-long learners. One of the PL program specialists, Heather Wise, is working to ensure that all noninstructional employees are also provided

with quality learning experiences. She has recently loaded courses such Transportation Emergency Evacuations, 2014 Benefits Open Enrollment tutorial, Managerial Leadership Styles and Time Management into PD 360. Wise feels that PD 360 will provide rich development opportunities to all employees and is excited to be part of an inventive team that is expanding PD 360 beyond its normal bounds. By using PD 360 for instructional and noninstructional employees, Fulton County Schools is becoming a trailblazer for harnessing the learning and development capacity of the platform.

New Policies/Procedures for PLUs The Professional Learning Department is now implementing new policies and procedures regarding course requirements. The process for course approval and PLU earnings is more tightly aligned with state requirements to ensure quality, equitable professional learning across the district. Implementation of the new guidelines began October 1 of this year. So that all employees receive the highest quality of learning, courses that receive PLU credit should demonstrate evidence of applied learning, be research-based and measurable, show alignment to the district and/or school goals and indicate change in practice, as well as provide at least 10 hours or more of learning per PLU credit. Learning opportunities that don’t meet all of the requirements for a course can always be delivered as workshop content. Workshop sessions are equally valuable to ongoing learning. To submit a course or workshop proposal, visit the employee portal and go to the PL website (now located under Human Resources) to click on Course Proposal.


Langston Hughes HS program prepares students for college On a Thursday afternoon this fall, DeAndre Wideman took notes in his freshman Advanced Placement human geography class at Langston Hughes High School. Life couldn’t have been more different the next day when he sat in an organic chemistry class at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Students in the APEX program at Langston Hughes High School were given the opportunity to visit the Georgia Tech campus as a part of the program’s focus on the importance of education throughout and after high school. As a member of the program, he was able to attend Shadow Day on October 18 at Georgia Tech where he was escorted by second-year college student Cassee Cain. Wideman was one of approximately 30 metro Atlanta area high school students who participated in Shadow Day. The event was hosted by FirstGen, a Georgia Tech student-run organization that focuses on first-generation students (students who are the first members of their family to attend college). The organization was created in 2012 to help current and future first generation college students make the transition from high school, provide extra tutoring and offer support to help the students succeed. Shadow Day began with information sessions about admissions, major decisions and a student panel. High school students then followed a Georgia Tech student to

a lecture and around campus on a tour. Wideman had something in common with his college counterpart; Cain is a secondyear chemical engineering student, and he is interested in pursuing a career in science. “I am interested in biology; however, as a result of my visit to Georgia Tech, I now have an interest in chemical engineering,” Wideman says. “I figure that will likely change over the years as I learn more about all of the options out there and more about the subjects that I enjoy.” According to Wideman, the experience he had at Georgia Tech was a positive one. Although his life has already returned to normal as Langston Hughes High School student, he is still reflecting on the experience. “It makes me want to work harder to get into those types of colleges,” he says. He’s only a freshman but is already evaluating colleges. During the time he spent at Georgia Tech, he’s already gotten a glimpse into what it will take to be successful in college.

“You have to be very independent and focused,” he says. *Article modified from the original which appeared in Georgia Tech’s Daily Digest.

What is the APEX program? Twenty-two students started their freshman year at Langston Hughes High School as proud members of the first class of the Advance Placement Scholars Academy (APEX). According to assistant principal Anthony Newbold, APEX is essentially an honors program designed to advance students while helping the school reach the goals of 90% graduation rate, 85% college readiness and 100% career readiness. “The idea is to wean kids into the rigors of AP classes,” he says. “Ultimately, this program will also help our students compete with the top students in the country.” Students take their first AP class as freshmen. By the time they graduate (if they stay on track) they will have an impressive eight AP classes under their belts.


Who’s driving the bus? Transportation Services lives by the mission of delivering students safely to their destinations on time and in a frame of mind ready to learn. Who are the people behind the wheel, making sure that Fulton County students enjoy a safe commute to and from school each day? Meet four drivers who exemplify this mission and who are having the time of their lives doing it.

Spencer Bean When bus driver Spencer Bean drops his students off at school each day, he always tells them the same thing - “Remember, you have the grooviest bus driver in town.” They think he’s just being funny, but he’s also telling the truth. While Bean drives a school bus during the day, he spends his evenings working as a professional musician. And he has an impressive resume - he has played guitar for the likes of Barry White, Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight & the Pips. But he says the rewards he gets as a bus driver just aren’t the same ones he finds as a musician. “The best part of my job is the kids, plus being able to say at the end of the day that I safely transported my kids to and from school,” he says. “I feel good about that, about taking care of the kids that parents are entrusting to my care.” Bean first began working as a driver 10 years ago at the encouragement of family and friends. “I knew a lot of people who were school bus drivers,” he recalls. “They told me it would be a great job for me because it would provide me with benefits while allowing me to still work as a musician.” According to Bean, he has driven every type of route Fulton offers. When offered the chance to choose a permanent route, he says the decision was easy. “I drive students with special needs because I have a lot of compassion for the kids and it’s a very rewarding job,” he says. “I enjoy getting to know the kids, as well as their parents and teachers.”


Christian Bernhardt You might say that being a bus driver is a career that chose Christian Bernhardt, rather than the other way around. “I just love driving big vehicles, and I have always been infatuated with buses,” he says. “Also, you get attached to the kids - they’re an integral part of the job.” Bernhardt first started driving as a nineteen-year-old for Cherokee County Schools. He then spent some time teaching language arts and managing a limousine business before making his way back to the big yellow rig as a driver. He came to Fulton with 15 years of experience, and spent a year as a driver before being promoted to a certified instructor at the beginning of this year. “I hope my kids remember me as a driver who taught them safety and was tough in that regard, but that I was also reliable and always there for them,” he says.

Jack Wyche After retiring from a 30-year career as a national sales manager for a paper company, Jack Wyche began a second career in 2009 driving a bus for Fulton County Schools. “I like the job because I like people,” he says. “The little kids are more fun than anything.” Wyche takes safety seriously. “Those kids are mine when they get on the bus, and I’ll do whatever it takes to keep them safe,” he says. While safety may be his top priority, Wyche also enjoys getting to know the kids and having fun with them. That’s why he knows each one by name. “The people I deal with - both students and coworkers - make it fun,” he says.

Heide Prouse Heide Prouse runs a tight ship on her bus. Girls on one side, boys on another and you sit according to grade level. But they live for “Freedom Fridays” when they can choose where to sit. “I only give them that freedom if they’ve followed all of the rules for the whole week,” she says. “That means following the rules bottom to bottom, back to back and backpacks on your laps.” Prouse has been a bus driver since 2000, but started driving for Fulton last October. Last summer she completed a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management and works in hospitality on the weekends if she doesn’t have any sports activities for her children. For her, being a bus driver is a job that provides benefits for her family while allowing her the flexibility to pursue other interests. Plus, she just enjoys the job. “The best part of my day though is when one of my little babies hugs me and tells me I’m a great driver and they love me,” she says. “Or, when a high school student tells me I’m the coolest person in the world. What’s better than that?”


Changes are coming to payroll in 2014 Payroll changes are coming in 2014. What can you expect? What do these changes mean for you?

New Payroll Frequency Beginning in January 2014, all employees will begin being paid semi-monthly, or twice a month. This is different than bi-weekly, or every other week, which is the way many of our employees are currently paid. The first semi-monthly payment will be on January 15, 2014. For monthly employees, this will initially bridge the traditionally difficult time between the payroll in December and the end of January. Following the payment on January 15, the next payment will come on January 31, and then the 15th and last day of the month going forward. When the 15th or last day of the month falls on a weekend or holiday, the payment will be made the Friday or day before the holiday. Please be assured that there will not be a “gap” in anyone’s payroll due to this change.

New Payment year for 10-month employees Beginning in July 2014, if you work less than a 12-month calendar, the basis for your payroll calendar will change from September through August to August through July. This means that you start receiving your pay for the work performed in the new year sooner (August versus September). A transition will occur in July 2014, and your July 31 semi-monthly check will include any monies still owed to you from the prior school year. If you have questions, send an email to, or call 404-763-6849. A partial list of frequently asked questions is below, but you can access a complete Q&A on the employee portal.

Frequently Asked Questions Q: What will be the payment dates for the semi-monthly payroll? A. Your semi-monthly payments will occur on the 15th and last day of the month. When the 15th or last day of the month falls on a weekend or holiday, the payment will be made the Friday before the weekend or the day before the holiday. Q: How can a Semi-monthly payroll help me with my budget? A: Because a semi-monthly payroll occurs on the same days of the month, the 15th and the last work day, you can use that to schedule payments, for example, on the 2nd of each month. Q: How will this affect my deductions, like health insurance? A: The total amount of premium paid each “month” will remain the same. Presently, all premiums are calculated starting with a monthly amount, and that won’t change. Therefore, whatever your premiums are for the different coverage you have, that total will be spread evenly over 24 deductions, versus 12 (or 26 for bi-weekly) deductions currently. Q: I’m presently on the monthly payroll and I have numerous automatic deductions set up for the first of every month. What changes will I have to make with a semi-monthly payroll? A: The decision was made to implement this transition so that anyone who has deductions set at the first of every month could continue to do so. Therefore, the semi-monthly payments are scheduled on the 15th and the last day of the month, beginning January 15, 2014. In some ways, this represents an “advance” compared to the previous practice.


Strategic Plan Update Effective Assessment and Feedback The instruction area of Strategic Plan 2017: Building Our Future includes initiatives that will ensure all students are engaged in learning that enables them to reach their full potential for college and career readiness. Specifically, Initiative #2 within the instruction area is to design a comprehensive assessment and feedback program to provide timely, critical information about ongoing student progress. This initiative supports the expectation that teachers consistently and systematically use data to differentiate and plan instruction. A balanced comprehensive set of assessments aligned to standards will provide timely feedback to students on their progress toward mastery of curriculum and give parents timely information about their child’s progress. Connie Maggert, Director of Assessment, led a broad-based team last school year to define what balanced assessment means for Fulton County and developed a plan for what resources will be available to schools over the next three years. The

team facilitated several focus groups of elementary school curriculum support teachers and analyzed surveys of all middle and high schools to determine what resources schools “Our goal is to support teachers by providing wanted and needed. High quality assessment item banks were found to be high priority for all grade levels. To meet this need, a team of members from Assessment, Learning and Teaching, Exceptional Education, Data Utilization, and the learning communities has spent the past three months involved in a RFP process to choose assessment item banks for teachers.

a variety of assessment resources that they can use in their classrooms to create an academically challenging environment for their students.”

The team also looked for high quality items that contain the rigor that the CCGPS requires to enable Fulton teachers to challenge students to their full potential. The team screened for assessment item banks that include a balance of selected response and constructed response items that assess a deeper understanding of

Connie Maggert Director of Assessment the standards. The final selection will be presented to the board in November for approval. Pending school board approval of vendors, assessment item banks will be phased into FultonConnect starting second semester. Providing rigorous items will help teachers effectively assess student learning and allow for customized instruction for the individual student.

$ Financial fun FACTS $

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It’s never too late to get your financial records organized. Here are some tips to help you sort through all your documents. Keep a home file in a fire-safe box to maximize the efficiency of your financial records. Items include: 9 Information on credit cards, debit cards, checking accounts, savings accounts, and copies of contracts 9 Copies of insurance policies 9 Information on home mortgages, land, and other property 9 Information on motor vehicles and driver’s licenses 9 Copies of birth, marriage, death, divorce, and citizenship papers 9 Copy of will, last instructions, and safe deposit box keys

9 Tax records for the last six years 9 Records of pension plans, education, health records, and employment 9 Current household inventory. List everything you own, how much it cost, and approximately how old it is. Add pictures of major items in each room and keep receipts. 9 Copies of all warranties and guarantees

Keep a safe deposit box for financial records that are difficult, costly, or impossible to replace. Items include: 9 Birth, death, marriage, divorce, adoption, and citizenship papers 9 Deeds to property 9 Titles to motor vehicles 9 Stock and bond certificates 9 U.S. savings bonds

9 9 9 9 9

Important contracts Military discharge and veteran papers Patents and copyrights Important disks or CDs Negatives or the actual pictures of your home inventory

Remember to revisit your filing system from time to time to update any new information or documents!


I am the

Face of Fulton I embody all of the Leadership Essentials: Leads by Example, Embraces Change to Drive Improvement, Develops Capacity, and Creates Value for our Customers. Every day I am integrating new instructional strategies and ideas into my own practice as well as supporting my teachers to do the same. I am the ultimate lead learner and always improving my own practice through the integration of technology including Twitter, Remind101, and PD 360 just to name a few. I also lead a variety of professional development sessions for my teachers to improve literacy instruction at Lake Forest Elementary School. I go above and beyond to improve teacher instruction and student learning.

Denise Haltrecht Curriculum Support Teacher Lake Forest Elementary School

I AM the Face of Fulton County Schools.

Do you work with someone who deserves to be next month’s Face of Fulton? Nominate him or her today by sending an email to Be sure to give examples of why your nominee deserves this honor. All nominations due the last day of the month.

786 Cleveland Avenue S.W. • Atlanta, Georgia 30315-7229 404-768-3600 • Equalopportunityemployerandserviceprovider.Reasonableaccommodationsandmodificationsmadefordisabled.404-763-4585TTY1-800-255-0135


A magazine for employees of Fulton County Schools