Accrediting agency raised concerns about Gwinnett school board behavior, student discipline and achievement
Gwinnett County Public Schools’ accrediting agency has received several complaints about the county’s Board of Education, and at least one topic the agency is concerned about is an issue critics of the district have been raising for years, according to a copy of a letter sent to GCPS Superintendent J. Wilbanks.
The letter that Cognia sent to Wilbanks on March 1 — more than half a month before the board voted 3-2 to terminate the superintendent’s contract, effective July 31 — did not specify the number of complaints the accrediting agency has received, but it did say there had been “numerous” complaints by that point. Those complaints ultimately resulted in Cognia deciding to conduct a “special review” of the district which will include a visit by a review team June 13-16.
“The complaints primarily center on the Gwinnett County Public Schools Board upholding its duties as a governing body and selected members adhering to their roles and responsibilities as members of the Board,” Cognia Chief Global Accreditation Officer Annette Bohling wrote in the letter.
The issues about the school board that Cognia said it has been receiving complaints about range from board members’ social media use to members not understanding their roles and responsibilities.
One issue raised against the board, however, is an issue that critics of the district have been raising for years, indicating the issues may go back years, to when the board, which is now majority-Democrat, was still majority-Republican. That issue is whether students of color are being disproportionately disciplined more than white students in Gwinnett County Public Schools and whether the board has done enough to address it.
The list of issues Cognia presented as examples of what the agency has been hearing in complaints against the board include allegations that members:
♦ “Exhibit a lack of understanding regarding their roles and responsibilities as members of the board.”
♦ “Do not demonstrate collegiality with respect to their differences or work cohesively to promote student achievement and the success of the district.”
♦ “Do not adhere to a Code of Ethic.”
♦ “Have allowed discrimination to take place against students of color regarding … discipline infractions.”
♦ “Make decisions that seem unethical and discriminatory regarding the use of social media.”
♦ “Have not been responsive to a downward trajectory in student achievement within the district.”
Wilbanks responded on March 24 by saying that the board, which gained two new members after the 2020 elections, has been undergoing regular training since December. The most recent training session, which focused on board norms, was held this past Thursday.
“Whenever a change in Board membership occurs, growth opportunities are scheduled as the new governance team learns to work together on how best to fulfill their roles and responsibilities—individually and collectively—as members of the Board of Education,” Wilbanks told the agency.
“Gwinnett County Public Schools leaders and the Gwinnett County Board of Education will continue to engage in training opportunities and professional learning to facilitate a governance structure that is appropriate and ultimately allows for increased student achievement.”
As for the allegations that board members have not done enough to address inequities in student discipline — an issue that the district has faced criticism over for years — Wilbanks told Cognia that GCPS had been taking steps to address the issue, including a Discipline Code Review Committee that was launched in November 2019.
“Gwinnett County Public Schools is committed to addressing disproportionate discipline data through progressive disciplinary best practices, reviewing our disciplinary code, gathering feedback from our internal/external stakeholders, reviewing and implementing proven research disciplinary methods, and by employing a wide range of behavioral interventions while balancing our responsibility to address inappropriate student behavior,” Wilbanks said.
“This commitment already has resulted in a move toward restorative practices, implicit bias training, and the implementation of social emotional learning supports.”
And, as for a “downward trajectory” in student achievement, Wilbanks said he disagreed with the assertion that there had even been a decline. He pointed to systems the district has in place to monitor achievement trends so corrective action can take place if issues arise.
“Gwinnett County Public Schools has a robust Office of Research and Evaluation that uses various models to view student achievement data, allowing the district to not only know which schools are not performing well, but to determine trends by subject, subgroups, and comparison data to other schools with similar demographics throughout the state, nation, and world,” Wilbanks wrote.
“District and school leaders look at the performance of schools using data on state assessments, national assessments, and international assessments to provide a complete picture of student achievement in GCPS. In addition to the district’s Balanced Assessment System, other tools like a Cohort Analyzer and the district’s Results-Based Evaluation System supply key data. Our achievement data does not support Concern (No.) 6.”
Cognia told Wilbanks on April 19 that Gwinnett County Public Schools will be responsible for covering any costs associated with the special review. That includes paying Cognia a $9,000 “Special Review fee.”
GCPS is not the only metro Atlanta school district facing a special review by Cognia right now. The agency informed the Cobb County School District that it planned to do a special review of that district’s school board after three Democrats on the board filed a complaint with Cognia over political disagreements with their Republican counterparts.
Gwinnett County Public Schools says face masks are ‘strongly recommended but not required’
Gwinnett County Public Schools announced it will no longer require people wear face masks in its facilities, in light of a recent order by Gov. Brian Kemp. But the district is pleading with visitors to continue wearing them for the time being.
In a new set of guidance announced on GCPS’ social media, the district said face masks are “strongly recommended but not required” in district facilities. Kemp issued an executive order on May 28 that, among other things, barred school districts from issuing mask mandates.
“The district is mindful that while masks will not be required there will be individuals who will continue to wear masks for a number of reasons (e.g. underlying health conditions, not eligible or unable to be vaccinated, personal choice, etc.),” GCPS officials said in an announcement. “In consideration of these individuals who continue wearing masks, schools will continue to plan for appropriate mask breaks.”
District officials said their stance on how to handle face masks in light of Kemp’s order is intended to take into account not only the governor’s order but also COVID-19 case rates in Gwinnett County and the face that children ages 12 and older can now get vaccinated against the disease.
The Georgia Department of Public Health reported on Tuesday that Gwinnett County’s two-week rate of new COVID-19 cases was 45 cases for every 100,000 residents. State health officials also reported 351,433 Gwinnettians, abotu 38% of the county’s population, have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and that 292,579 people, or about 32% of the county’s residents, are fully vaccinated.
“District leaders will continue to monitor for new guidance from health partners and the state, using it to inform decision-making about mitigation strategies that might be needed for the 2021-22 school year,” GCPS officials said.
Gwinnett County Public Schools to face special accreditation review over complaints about district
Gwinnett County Public Schools is facing a review from its accrediting agency a year earlier than scheduled because of complaints that have been filed against the district.
Cognia spokeswoman Mariama Tyler confirmed the accrediting agency has received “several” complaints about the district, with at least one of them being about governance, which refers to the Board of Education. That has prompted a special review of the district which is expected to be conducted this month, where the district will have to answer questions from a team assembled by Cognia.
“If a special review is warranted, that means there is something that came up outside of the regular five-year cycle of review, and it usually is initiated by a complaint,” Tyler said.
Gwinnett County school board members have faced criticism in recent months over the decision to terminate Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks’ employment contract, effective the end of July, which is 11 months before the contract was set to expire. Wilbanks had already said he did not plan to seek a renewal of his contract.
District officials have also faced backlash in recent months over a face mask mandate, which led to a 40-minute standoff between the board and parents who refused to wear masks that led to a delay in the start of last month’s board meeting. Gov. Brian Kemp has since issued an executive order which prohibits schools from requiring students and employees wear face masks in school.
The issues have touched off sensitive racial and political tensions — two new board members took office and joined board Chairman Everton Blair to create a new majority on the board that is majority Democrat and majority minority.
There were petitions both in favor of Wilbanks’ removal and calling for him to remain in position earlier this year. Although GCPS parents started the petition supporting Wilbanks, it was eventually circulated by the United Tea Party of Georgia and the Conservative Republic Women of North Atlanta on social media.
Wilbanks addressed the special review in a statement released to the Daily Post on Tuesday afternoon.
“Gwinnett County Public Schools has been notified and is preparing for a special review by its accrediting agency, Cognia,” Wilbanks said. “While we were disappointed to learn that Cognia felt a Special Review was necessary, it did not come as a surprise. I had warned our School Board that this was a possibility.”
The superintendent said the district tried to answer questions from Cognia officials in an attempt to ward off the review, but additional complaints received by the accrediting agency prompted Cognia to proceed with the review.
“It is our understanding that the complaints primarily center on our board upholding its duties as a governing body and selected members adhering to their roles and responsibilities as members of the board,” Wilbanks said. “The special review, which will be conducted in June, will include interviews with a wide range of community members, including our Board members, the superintendent, teachers, administrators, students, parents, and other community members.”
Accrediting reviews that are prompted by complaints about a district and are done outside the regular review time window can result in various outcomes. One is that the review team could determine the allegations in the complaints don’t merit punishment, while another option is to put a district on probation.
A third option, which is rarely used and often only against districts that have gotten into trouble with their accrediting agency more than once, is to revoke the district’s accreditation.
Clayton County Public Schools, for example, was placed on probation for two years in 2003 after a new majority on that county’s school board ousted the district’s superintendent within the first month of that year. The district eventually came off probation and eight of the school board’s nine members were replaced through resignations of elections.
The new school board in Clayton County got into its own troubles with its accrediting agency in 2007 and early 2008, however, for nine issues, including: board members sharing confidential executive sessions discussions with members of the public; financial oversight involving a land purchase; disfunction on the board; the lack of a permanent superintendent; board members allegedly not living in the county; and schools allegedly falsifying attendance records used to determine state funding among other issues.
Clayton schools was placed on a six-month probation in early 2008 to give the district time to fix its issues. The accreditation was later revoked in September 2008 when the district showed it had still not met all of the mandates placed upon it — including not having a permanent superintendent.
After the review team finishes its look at the district, it will prepare a report which will include recommendations for improvement and possible recommended sanctions, if the team feels any sanctions are warranted.
Gwinnett County Public Schools officials could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.
Gwinnett Commissioner Ben Ku announces plans to seek re-election
Gwinnett’s first Asian-American and openly gay county commissioner will seek another term on the county’s governing board.
Commissioner Ben Ku told a small group of people at a dinner party Wednesday night that he will seek re-election next year before making an official announcement on social media later that night. Ku has represented District 2 on the commission since he was elected in 2018.
“I am officially seeking re-election for the Gwinnett county commission next year,” Ku said in a message to constituents and supporters on his Twitter page. “I want to hear if you like what I’m doing or if there’s something you think could be done better.”
Ku and commission Vice-Chairwoman Marlene Fosque became the first Democrats to serve on the Board of Commissioners since the 1980’s after they were elected in 2018. They were also the first minorities elected to serve on the commission.
They were joined by three more Democrats — Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson and Commissioners Kirkland Carden and Jasper Watkins — who were elected in 2020, creating a commission made up entirely of Democrats.
But, that also means Ku and Fosque will be the first members of that new majority to face the voters in what may be a referendum on how the all Democrat commission is doing in addition to how the pair, as individual commissioners, are doing.
It’s also unclear what their districts will look like next year because redistricting is expected to happen, once population data is available from the U.S. Census Bureau, before the 2022 election cycle.
Gwinnett Police Chief Brett West: Department needs expanded and new facilities
Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson had one clear message this past week for people who might be concerned the county’s leaders could be planning to “defund the police” by reducing spending on police services: That isn’t happening in Gwinnett anytime soon.
The county is preparing to do the opposite of cutting its police-related spending. It is looking at undertaking a building spree that would result in facilities for the Gwinnett County Police Department either being expanded or newly constructed from the ground up.
“We do need the space,” Hendrickson said. “We’re going to need every bit of expansion as we continue to grow as a county in needs of services for police, so there is no defunding going on here.”
The police department has been conducting a study of its spacing situation and what its needs are currently, and what they will be in the future. Gwinnett Police Chief Brett West briefed county commissioners on many of the plans for expanding the department’s space this past week.
County commissioners already approved a nearly $6.18 million contract for the construction of a two-story expansion of the 14-year-old Police Training Center last month, but that is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what officials have planned in the coming years.
One particular need is for additional headquarters space, with a headquarters campus project. The police department’s headquarters in Lawrenceville houses its administration, human resources, records, crime scene investigations unit, property and evidence storage area and major crime units, such as the homicide, robbery and special victims units.
The police department currently has 68,456-square feet of space at its headquarters, but needs 102,981 square feet of space at this time. West provided commissioners with projections that indicate the department will need 118,67 square feet of space at the headquarters 10 years from now and a total of 132,202 square feet of space at that facility 20 years from now.
“Currently, based on the folks we have right now, we need an additional 34,525 square feet today based on our staffing levels,” West told commissioners Tuesday. “Now, we’re not fully staffed yet. Right now, if we had (additional staffing) in positions, we’d really have no physical place to put someone.
“We struggle to find a physical place to put someone.”
West said cost estimates for the headquarters campus were around $65,000 to $67,000 in 2018, when the facilities and space needs plan was being drawn up.
One of the biggest areas taking up space at the department’s headquarters is its evidence area. There are currently about 85,000 pieces of evidence stored at that facility, according to West.
“With the retention requirements for evidence you can’t just get rid of it,” West said. “It requires court orders and, depending on what type of crime it is, how long we have to keep that evidence. I mean we’re talking even couches. We’re not talking about just little things. Sometimes, things are very big that we have to keep.
“So, that need for that space continues to grow as well.”
West said additional space would also allow the department to take on some investigation-related activities that it currently has to go to the Georgia Crime Lab or other outside labs to do. One example of something the department would like to bring in house, if it had the space to do so, would be ballistics, he said.
“We’re looking to expand what we can do for ourselves without having to rely on outside labs, or the Georgia Crime Lab,” West said. “So, we’re also looking to expand their capabilities, but we can’t expand their capabilities now because they have no space to move into.”
The parking would also be redesigned at the police headquarters to provide “covert” parking for undercover officers.
“Believe it or not, we’ve got screening around our fence now,” West said. “Bad guys come stake us out, trying to take pictures of our undercover cars, take pictures of our undercover officers, so with this new design there’s covert parking where they park underneath the building and stuff like that and they have an internal entrance for all of our undercover folks so they don’t have to be exposed when they’re going out.
“Just like we do surveillance, (criminals) do counter surveillance as well.”
In addition to the expansion of the training center and the headquarters campus project, there will also be a new SWAT and Hazardous Devices Unit (i.e. the bomb squad) facility at the training center, a facilities maintenance and police fleet services facility and a parking deck for non-undercover officer staff members at the headquarters.
West said all of those projects, with the exception of the headquarters campus project had already been budgeted for.
And, the commission’s chairwoman said the department has the board’s backing to tackle its spacing needs.
“We are fully in support of it,” Hendrickson said. “Our board is 100% in support of the expansion projects and having the capital and the space to grow our police force.”
Gwinnett School Board Chairman Everton Blair: Critical Race Theory opponents are ‘manufacturing outrage’
Gwinnett County Board of Education Chairman Everton Blair pushed back against opponents of teaching Critical Race Theory in schools in a statement published on Facebook early Friday morning, saying opponents are missing its point.
The post came after Georgia’s State Board of Education adopted a resolution on Thursday effectively rejecting the teaching of Critical Race Theory in Georgia schools. The theory, which is centered around the idea that systemic racism exists in the U.S., stems from the 1619 Project — whose name is based on the year the first slaves from Africa arrived in the Jamestown settlement — that was attacked by then-President Donald Trump last fall.
“There have been abundant, recent discussions and even adopted resolutions from statewide elected officials regarding the teaching of race in America and the concerns over critical race theory,” Blair said. “But, it’s confusing as there is already nothing remotely racially critical in Georgia’s social studies or history curriculum.
“We’re manufacturing outrage around a problem that isn’t even present, over a concept that most of us haven’t even understood.”
Critical Race Theory has faced heavy criticism, including from Republican elected officials such as Gov. Brian Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr, in recent weeks.
The backlash grew after the U.S. Department of Education unveiled, in April, new federal grant priorities that used the 1619 Project as an example of how “American History and Civics Education programs can play an important role in this critical effort by supporting teaching and learning that reflects the breadth and depth of our Nation’s diverse history and the vital role of diversity in our Nation’s democracy.”
Kemp sent a letter to the State Board of Education last month calling on it to ban the teaching of the theory in Georgia schools. Meanwhile, Carr was one of 20 Republican attorney generals from around the country who co-signed a letter to the U.S. Department of Education last month, asking it to reconsider its stance on programs such as the 1619 project.
ATLANTA — An approach to teaching that emphasizes the existence of systemic racism in the United States that has caught the attention of the Biden administration is coming under attack in Georgia and other Republican-led states.
The State Board of Education’s resolution says, among other things, that districts cannot teach students or train teachers that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex” or that “an individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.”
ATLANTA — The state Board of Education voted Thursday to essentially endorse Gov. Brian Kemp’s opposition to teaching “critical race theory” in Georgia schools, despite criticism it would muzzle open discussion of America’s history of racism.
There have also been local opponents. Last month, a group calling itself “Gwinnett Parents For Quality Education” took out a full-page ad in the Daily Post on May 23 which, in addition to calling on the district to stop requiring face masks in schools, called on the district to not teach Critical Race Theory in Gwinnett schools.
Several parents denounced the theory at last month’s Gwinnett school board meeting, and a speaker at a pre-school board meeting public comment period on Feb. 18 told the board he believed the theory was created by Satan.
But on Friday, Blair — who became the first African-American elected to the school board in 2018 — said, “To be candid, America is a country with an inextricable history of racism. Because of this fact, vestiges of our racially discriminatory past show up across discrepancies in economic security, healthcare, educational access and more.
“And I get it, we’re very ashamed. We don’t want our children to feel bad for things they did not do. It is also uncomfortable and difficult to reconcile — even for Black Americans.”
Blair went on to say that focusing the debate over Critical Race Theory on whether or not racism exists misses the point of the theory. He said it also prevents an acknowledgement of slavery and racism that occurred in the past and finding ways to move forward from what happened in the past.
“Masking our fear of confronting the truth by rejecting only the elements of which we are ashamed teaches our children that they can cherry-pick data, falsify evidence and fabricate reality,” Blair said. “It further fails to recognize their potential as learners who are capable of complex, intersectional thought. We can do better than that.
“But we will only do better when we acknowledge where we must improve. And if only we spent a fraction of the time working to address and reckon with our history as we do trying to sanitize or deny intractable aspects of it, perhaps we would get there sooner. Interestingly, this is exactly why critical race theory exists.”
It remains to be seen how big of an issue Critical Race Theory will ultimately end up being in the 2022 election cycle, but Gov. Brian Kemp — who is running for re-election next year — did highlight the controversy over it in a fundraising email on Friday.
“Let me be 100% clear: I reject this Critical Race Theory movement outright,” Kemp said in the email. “I know that the vast majority of Georgians do too, and for very good reason. This is a partisan left-wing scheme, plain and simple. It’s divisive, anti-American, and dangerous.
“The Critical Race Theory curriculum does not represent an objective look at our nation’s history. Far from it … It has no place in our Georgia classrooms!”
Gwinnett school board has received superintendent application packets, now beginning to sort through candidates
Gwinnett County school board members have received information on the 27 people who applied to be the district’s next superintendent, but it isn’t clear yet when they expect to begin interviewing candidates or get down to a finalist or group of finalists.
Gwinnett County Public Schools’ Board of Education met with Georgia School Boards Association officials in executive session to discuss the search after a training session on board norms Thursday. The board hired GSBA to do its superintendent search, and the deadline for candidates to submit their information for consideration was last month.
It is not yet clear how many of the 27 applicants will be brought in for interviews with the board, or approximately when interviews could take place.
“You can say they have 27 complete packets and they’re going to have to do their due diligence with their review to ensure which of those candidates they want to bring to the table for further discussion, aligned with their priorities that they pinpointed in the (job) announcement,” GSBA Director of Superintendent Search Services & Board Development Sam King said.
Gwinnett’s school board is racing against a self-imposed deadline of July 31 to hire a new superintendent. That is what they set as the final day for the employment of Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks’ — who the board opted to let go 11 months before his contract expired.
Before he went behind closed doors with the board to discuss the search Thursday, King said part of the reason for that meeting was to begin fleshing out a timeline for when the board hopes to begin whittling down the list of candidates and picking people to bring in for interviews.
“Once they do walk through their steps, then they’ll be able to have an announcement that would consist of up to three finalists, which means they could announce one, two or three,” King said.
King said that he expected the board to still have a new superintendent by the end of July, although that would be based in part on whatever the board decided behind closed doors Thursday night. The board was not expected to take any votes out of the executive session.
Whether the number of people who applied for the Gwinnett jobs is small depends on which metro Atlanta superintendent search it is compared against.
The pool of applicants that Gwinnett — which is Georgia’s largest school system — attracted is considerably smaller than the 92 people who applied for Buford City Schools’ superintendent position in 2018 or the 84 applications Atlanta City Schools reportedly received in 2020.
At the same time, it is not that far off from the 40 applications Fulton County Schools reportedly received when it was searching for a new superintendent in 2019.
There is not much information available at this point on what the pool of applicants looks like for Gwinnett.
King said he could not disclose how many candidates are internal GCPS candidates and how many are from elsewhere — or how many have previous experience as a superintendent — without potentially revealing information about who has applied for the job.
“That’s the reason the discussion is in executive session,” King said. “You’ve got 27 candidates. Some of them could be sitting superintendents. Some of them could be central office people. Some of them could be non-traditional. It could be any of those and the process is designed, deliberately, to maintain their confidentiality for obvious reason.”
Gwinnett’s new noise ordinance — with new restrictions on fireworks — goes into effect on Tuesday
Gwinnett County residents will need to be a little more careful about how much noise they make when they set off fireworks.
The county has a new noise ordinance going into effect Tuesday that changes how officials will determine whether a noise can be considered a violation of the ordinance. The ordinance was adopted May 18.
“To balance the needs of both residents and businesses in our county, staff has completely rewritten the Noise Control Ordinance,” Deputy County Attorney Theresa Cox told commissioners on May 18. “Like the (previous) ordinance, the (new) ordinance uses the plainly audible standard for determining wether a sound is a violation.”
The new ordinance replaces the noise ordinance that county officials put in place in 2015, when consumer fireworks were first made legal in Georgia. After that ordinance was put in place, lawmakers went back and placed some restrictions on when fireworks could be used since the original law legalizing them lacked any restrictions on when they could be used.
Under Gwinnett’s new noise ordinance, officials will use location, time of day and the distance from which the noise can be plainly audible to determine whether residents are in violation. The only exemptions for fireworks are those days that are exempt under state law.
That means the ordinance does not apply to fireworks that are set off between 10 a.m and 11:59 p.m. on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, on the last Saturday and Sunday in May (i.e. the Saturday and Sunday immediately preceding Memorial Day), July 3 and July 4 and Labor Day. There is also an exemption from midnight until 1 a.m. on New Year’s Day.
As far as the “plainly audible” standard that officials said they will use, the new ordinance states, “Plainly audible shall mean any sound produced by a source, which can be heard by any person of ordinary sensibilities using his or her unaided hearing facilities. Measurement standards shall be the auditory senses. Words and phrases need not to discernible and low frequency sound reverberations are included.”
The distance a sound is allowed to travel before it becomes a violation depends on the time of day.
In nonresidential zoning districts, it is 500 feet from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays and from 7 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 200 feet from 11 p.m. until 7 a.m. on Sundays through Thursdays and 11:59 p.m. until 7 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Meanwhile, in mixed-use zoning districts, it is 300 feet from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays and 7 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 150 feet from 11 p.m. until 7 a.m. on Sundays through Thursdays and 11:59 p.m. until 7 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
In multi-family residential zoning districts, it is 25 feet from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays and 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 10 feet from 10 p.m. until 8 a.m. on Sundays through Thursdays and 11 p.m. until 8 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Elsewhere, in single-family residential zoning districts, it is 300 feet from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays and 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 50 feet from 10 p.m. until 8 a.m. on Sundays through Thursdays and 11 p.m. until 8 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
On privately owned outdoor property, it is 300 feet from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays and 7 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 100 feet from 11 p.m. until 7 a.m. on Sundays through Thursdays and 11:59 p.m. until 7 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
If that privately-owned out property’s primary use is as a performance venue, however, the same distance rules for non-residential districts will apply.
Sounds made at publicly-owned stadiums, arenas, civic center or ballpark, Gwinnett County Public Schools properties or events, or places of worship, as well as government employees who are making sounds that are produced in their line of work are exempt under the ordinance. Sounds made by aircraft at Briscoe Field, radios or music players in cars on streets or highways, domestic animals and warning sirens are also exempt.
County officials will also establish a process where people who expect to hold events that will exceed the allowed sound limit to apply for a noise permit to hold the event. The permits will be issued by the county’s planning and development department.
County Commissioner Marlene Fosque pointed out the ordinance, and the new permit process, could apply to other events beyond those which involve fireworks, however.
“With a lot of graduation parties getting ready to start, or happen, if someone knew that they were going to have a large party — and they are social distancing — but if they are going to have a large party, they can get a permit for noise for a certain time frame or like in the evenings or something like that,” Fosque said during a discussion before the commission’s vote on the ordinance in mid-May.
Johns Creek police searching for driver after 23-year-old man killed in hit and run
Johns Creek police are searching for a driver who struck and killed a man on the side of McGinnis Ferry Road Wednesday evening.
Johns Creek police said the incident occurred around 9:30 p.m. in the eastbound lanes just before the bridge at the Chattahoochee River. Police said 23-year-old Richard Bartlett III had gotten out of his vehicle to secure a mattress and box spring that was tied to the top of his vehicle when he was struck by a passing vehicle.
“… He crossed the road to secure it. After he secured it he went back around to the driver’s side of the door to speak with the driver,” Johns Creek Police Captain Todd Hood told Daily Post news partner Fox 5 Atlanta. “At that point a vehicle approaching from the rear swerved slightly striking the back of the vehicle hitting the pedestrian hitting and killing him.”
Bartlett died as a result of his injuries.
Police said the driver of the car then did something unexpected.
“The vehicle turned around on the roadway and come back to the scene,” Hood said. “I’m guessing the driver saw what he or she had hit and then fled the scene into Gwinnett County.”
Police said the car is dark in color or a black four-door sedan, possibly a BMW. It will have damage to the front-right bumper and hood area, front windshield damage, and minor damage to the passenger side doors.
“We don’t know why they fled the scene at this point,” Hood said. “We don’t know what the charges would have been if they had stopped. But because they didn’t stop, they have a felony hit and run and a vehicular homicide so now they are very serious.”
Johns Creek police are asking anyone with information on the crash to call 470-774-3358.
Peachtree Corners officials: Paying additional compensation to tax commissioner for billing services was “the only fiscally prudent option we had”
Peachtree Corners officials are speaking out about a proposed contract between the city and Gwinnett County to have Tax Commissioner Tiffany Porter’s Office do billing services for the city — while likely paying a supplement to her salary.
They said they didn’t have any other choice after she told the city she wouldn’t do billing for non-tax fees without additional compensation. City officials said they looked at creating the city’s own billing department or hiring a third-party agency to do the billing, but increased costs to Peachtree Corners would have ranged from $500,000 to $1 million per year.
“Using her office to continue billing and collecting on behalf of the city was a simple business decision,” City Manager Brian Johnson said. “It was the only fiscally prudent option we had.”
The county commission is set to vote on June 15 on contracts for Porter’s office to do billing services for Peachtree Corners, Dacula and Berkeley Lake, with those contracts expected to call on the cities to pay fees that will serve as a supplement to Porter’s salary, which the tax commissioner proposed earlier this year.
While Peachtree Corners does not have a city property tax, it does use the tax commissioner’s office for billing of special assessment fess, such as streetlight, stormwater and sanitation fees.
After news of Porter’s proposal to eight cities, with the additional compensation, was made public in March, state Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula, and state Sen. Nikki Merritt, D-Grayson, worked on an amendment to a bill moving through the legislature to block tax commissioners in counties with more than 14 cities from negotiating billing services with municipalities. It is structured in a way that it only applies to Gwinnett and Fulton counties.
It was intended to stop the salary supplements by making it so that the contracts were between the cities and their local Board of Commissioners instead of with the tax commissioner.
“However, the new law, signed by Governor Kemp on May 10, 2021, does not refer to special assessment (“non-tax”) fees, which are also collected on tax bills,” city officials said in a statement. “Commissioner Porter has stated that she will not collect these fees unless she is paid to do so.”
An internal Gwinnett County memo sent to media outlets in late May showed county officials expected Peachtree Corners to agree to pay $1.80 per parcel to the county for reimbursement for producing and sending bills, as well as collecting fee payments. The memo also showed county officials expect the city to agree to pay an additional $2 per tax parcel directly to Porter, which will create a $27,532 supplement to her annual salary.
Under the new contract, city officials said they expect the cost of using the county to do the billing to double from about $25,000 to $50,000 per year, but Peachtree Corners leaders said they do not expect that cost increase to be passed along to residents.
“The city will absorb the additional costs,” city officials said.