Lilburn Mayor Diana Preston took a few minutes from her own busy campaign for re-election to explain why she will vote Yes on Tuesday, Nov. 8 on the proposed extension of the 1 percent sales tax for education.
Preston has first-hand knowledge of the improvements the school system has been able to provide with revenues from the previous sales taxes.
Preston is a retired educator, having retired from the Gwinnett County school system. During her 30-year career, she has worked as a teacher, coordinator and administrator.
Now, she said one of life’s pleasures is seeing her former students who have remained in Gwinnett County rise into leadership positions and work for good things in the community.
Preston said she intends to vote Yes on Nov. 8 to extend the penny sales tax for education.
“Of course,” she said.
Preston said the quality of life in Gwinnett County has been enhanced by the improvements provided by the money raised by the previous sales taxes.
“In my opinion, the voters’ support of previous E-SPLOSTs has had a tremendous impact on the quality of our schools,” Preston said. “An indicator of that impact is last year’s National Broad Foundation Award to the entire school system.
“In Lilburn, we have students who attend schools in the Berkmar, Meadowcreek, and Parkview clusters,” Preston said. “We are proud of the quality of our public schools and know that people choose to locate in communities which have outstanding schools.”
Preston said Gwinnett’s quality school system attracts good employers to the county.
“When a major company looks to locate, they take into consideration many factors such as parks, good roads, housing options and the quality of schools,” Preston said. “They are looking for schools not only for the children of their employees, but also because they want to locate in communities that have a highly skilled work force available for hire.”
Preston remembers the days when many students attended class in trailers. The student population was growing so quickly that the school system couldn’t provide enough space for every child inside the school house.
Now, Gwinnett is in a position to use a greater proportion of revenues from the penny sales tax to improve the quality of instruction through the growing use of technology.
“Having been a teacher, coordinator and administrator, I would say that after being able to put students in well equipped classrooms, rather than trailers, the greatest impact on teaching and learning has been the use and availability of technology,” Preston said.
“When teachers were provided with laptops some years back, the landscape totally changed for the better in being able to track individual student progress and communication with parents,” Preston said.
“I have been retired now a few years and the e-class that is in the proposed E-SPLOST sounds really exciting,” she said. “I have no doubt that it will enhance the effectiveness of what teachers will be able to do to help students learn.”
Preston said she is now fully retired from the school system. But she keeps up with friends who still work for the school district and enjoys watching her former students excel.
“I do stop by at Berkmar from time to time [and] I also visit Lilburn Middle School from time to time,” she said. “It’s great to reconnect with former colleagues.
“Like many retired educators, it is rewarding to encounter former students who have remained in Gwinnett County and are leaders in the chamber, teachers in the school system, and others employed in various capacities,” Preston said.
Preston said the leaders of Gwinnett’s school system are good stewards of the public’s financial investment in the district. She supports the use of a sales tax to help pay for improving the school system.
“If we voters approve the E-SPLOST, the school system is able to avoid asking us to pass a referendum to fund general obligation bonds to build new schools and renovate the older schools,” Preston said.
“Additionally, with E-SPLOST, rather than the cost of a program such as e-class being funded with property tax revenues, which would require an increase in taxes, E-SPLOST allows the school system to use existing technology put in place by earlier SPLOSTS to optimize teaching, learning and parent communication.
“The per-pupil cost of education in Gwinnett County Public Schools is one of the lowest, if not the lowest in the metro Atlanta area,” Preston said. “A nationally recognized school system and low per-pupil cost speaks volumes regarding GCPS stewardship.”