Richard Caldwell Simonton gave more than his name to Simonton Elementary. Indeed, the Barrow County administrator and Lilburn Elementary School teacher, who would eventually serve as Gwinnett County Superintendent, left a legacy. His love for learning and determination to succeed would permeate the walls of an elementary school not even built until 28 years after his death.

Simonton Elementary School has known five principals since its 1993 founding. Betty Robinson served from 1993 to 2002; Dr. Carolyn Ford from 2002 to 2004; Dr. Dot Schoeller from August 2004 to 2010; Dr. Chandra Young 2010 to January 2013. Mr. Clifton Alexander was appointed principal in January 2013. For all of these leaders, the commitment to a quality education for all children has been of paramount importance.

Simonton is located on 17 acres just outside Lawrenceville’s city limits. It is on this property that a story of great change and opportunity has unfolded within the past 13 years. From a beginning enrollment of 900 students in 1993, the population increased 24 percent to 1,183 by 1998. The resulting lack of space meant 10 classrooms had to be situated in trailers. By 2002, the school’s enrollment had skyrocketed 29 percent to 1,657 students. Additionally, a 63 percent increase in the number of modular units took the school from 10 trailers to 27. That year, a 10-classroom building addition inclusive of a computer lab and resource classrooms reduced the number of trailers from 27 to 15. While a 1996-97 rezoning relocated approximately 40 students to another cluster, a continuous influx of people into the community resulted in a 2003-2004 enrollment of 2,100 students with 46 classes located in portable classrooms. A new elementary school, Margaret Winn Holt, opened in August 2004, and redistricting relieved Simonton of 900 students. With the August 2010 opening of Jenkins Elementary School, redistricting relieved Simonton of approximately 200 students.

The Simonton community is highly diverse, both demographically and professionally. Parent education levels vary from those with high school degrees to those with graduate degrees. Since 1999, the number of ethnicities comprising Simonton’s student population has changed considerably. Indeed, the increase in ethnic and cultural diversity is a hallmark of the school Simonton has become. In 1993, 88 percent of the students were Caucasian, with the remaining 12 percent of African-American and Asian descent. Since 1998, the school has experienced substantial demographic changes. Simonton’s international population speaks 47 different languages. In 1998, Simonton served 65 ESOL students with one full time and one part teacher. By 2001–02, 173 ESOL students were served by four teachers. This trend continued in 2006 with six ESOL teachers serving 283 students.

To foster community involvement, Simonton offers a variety of opportunities for parents. Parents are invited to participate in conferences, parent groups, and workshops that are offered at varying times of the day and evening. Monthly community nights foster relationships with families and assist them as they acquire new skills to help their children. Simonton’s motto is “helping every child learn.” A canvas of possibility, the school that bears the name of a dedicated educator cherishes each child that passes through her portals. At the end of the day, no matter the inevitable challenges, if the children have been helped, nurtured, and educated, that’s what matters.

Ah, yes. Teach the children well. Mr. Simonton would be proud.
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