On weekday afternoons, South Gwinnett High School (SGHS) bustles with activity. Students are likely to be found hard at work during their afterschool sports practice. Echoing in the halls is a resounding chant — “We are South!”
The Comets of South Gwinnett High School are on the rise — from the arrival of visionary principal, Ms. Dorothy Jarrett, to the addition of a shiny new gymnasium floor dedicated by NBA player, Lou Williams, the school is being revitalized from the woodworks, and according to Principal Jarrett, it’s just the start of much more to come.
We are hyper-focused on the slogan, ‘We are South!’” Principal Jarrett said. “Every athletic program, every club, and organization counts, and we should all be supporting each other!”
This is Jarrett’s first semester as SGHS’s principal, but she’s no stranger to its corridors. She began her employment with the Gwinnett County Public School System at SGHS, where she worked for seven years, serving as a teacher from 2002-2004 and then as an Assistant Principal from 2004-2009.
Principal Jarrett admits she was surprised to be handpicked by the Board of Education to serve as principal at Summerour Middle School in 2009. She had always envisioned herself working in a high school setting but gained helpful insight in that office. After creating new policies such as the mandatory uniform policy in 2015, Principal Jarrett left behind a legacy based on structure and firm leadership.
She plans to emphasize similar issues at SGHS. “You’ve got to have structure, processes, procedures; you’ve got to get the kids focused on what’s important. High levels of teaching and learning coupled with school spirit is our focus. And that’s what we’ve really done [these first few weeks of the semester],” Principal Jarrett said.
Having worked for Dekalb and DuPage County Illinois schools earlier in her career, Principal Jarrett is aware of the high expectations placed on youth. And that’s why she’s determined to create policies to foster success. “I’m a firm believer that when you really get to the heart of the changes you’re making and explain them, [students will embrace them]. And I am very good at explaining the “why”, she said.
During her first week back at SGHS, Principal Jarrett spoke to students via video broadcasting to explain new policies that prohibit cell phone use outside the commons area. After a thorough explanation, the Principal said she received positive feedback from students and teachers alike. “When I finished that, I got high-fives. Not only do they get it, now teachers are finding they’re not having to ask kids to put them away as much, so when students are stepping into the classroom, teachers are not wasting five minutes of instruction time asking students to put away their devices, students are already in the frame of mind to start learning.”
And as the Principal points out, the school is already being revitalized from the inside out. Thanks to generous sponsorship from NBA player Louis “Lou” Williams, who graduated from SGHS in 2005, the school has a shiny new gymnasium floor where current and incoming students can carry on a tradition of Comet pride. The gymnasium will be dedicated in honor of Mr. Williams at a later date.
“Just look at how the county is investing in our students in terms of upgrading the facilities and people like Lou Williams, who is investing in our students. He was drafted right out of South Gwinnett. And he has been very successful in the NBA, this is his school, and he invests in it, so it is important that we continue to build that pride he helped create when he was a student-athlete here. “We’ve got so much to be proud of!” Principal Jarrett said.
By way of voter-approved E-SPLOST and G.O. Bonds, the county has invested $1,537,799 in SGHS over the past year. Some of those renovations were to retrofit athletic facilities such as the stadium, fieldhouse, baseball fields, press box, and new artificial turf was installed.
In August, a new Stem/ Engineering Lab and an Entrepreneurship Center were completed. Both are key pieces of the Academy at South Gwinnett, designed to help students find career pathways during their high school years.
It is Principal Jarret’s hope that with increased school spirit and enhanced communication between teachers and students, SGHS will continue advancing in the academic arena, as well.
“We are maximizing every single minute [students] are in this building with a focus on teaching and learning, so we can continue to increase our graduation rate,” Principal Jarrett said. “And I believe that South Gwinnett High School is the best high school in the state — I believe it, and if you believe it you will achieve it. They are assessed at a distinguished and advanced level, and that’s how we’re going to teach them. The bar is here, people! And we’re not moving the bar down. We’re going to keep pushing [students] to the bar!”
As a GCPS public high school, South Gwinnett is focused on “becoming a world-class school where students acquire the knowledge and skills to be successful as they continue their education at the postsecondary level and/or enter the workforce”. To learn more, visit “http://southgwinnetths.com”.