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Schools superintendent speaks at first of five area meetings

DACULA - Gwinnett Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks asked educators and community members Thursday to be advocates for public education.

Wilbanks, speaking at the first of five area school board meetings, said public education is taking a beating on many fronts. He pointed to media reports he said plant and perpetuate the perception that schools are unsafe and legislation that treats charter schools and vouchers as "silver bullets to fix the failing state of public education."

But Gwinnett County Public Schools has sustained a culture of success, and the school district has an effective instruction program and an improvement strategy to build on its accomplishments in the future, Wilbanks said.

"Gwinnett County Public Schools has the enviable reputation for academic and extracurricular success," Wilbanks said. "Our staunch community support reflects that."

While the school district has a great relationship with the business community, Wilbanks said its most vital relationship is with the parents. He said the school system will soon be launching a campaign, "Be There," to remind parents to be actively engaged with their children at home and at school.

"From sitting down and reading with your child and helping with homework to attending a parent-teacher conference and participating in the PTA ... there's no doubt about the positive impact involved parents have in a child's success at school," Wilbanks said.

Public education deserves more than its getting, he said, and advocates can help the school system continue its commitment to sustaining success.

"Building a system of world-class schools begins with believing," he said. "Believe in Gwinnett County Public Schools. It's worthy of your trust and support and that of all Gwinnett County citizens."

After Wilbanks' presentation, several parents, teachers and students addressed the board members. The messages included everything from a parent requesting that the board look into the inequities of funding between the band and orchestra programs at a middle school to a Mulberry Elementary School student who said she ran nearly a mile during a fun run at her school.

Several people thanked the board for its support, including a Phoenix High School student who said the nontraditional campus will allow her to be the first person in her family to graduate high school.

Four more area board meetings will take place this month, and community members can sign up to speak at any of the events.

SideBar: If you go

· What: District IV area board meeting (Brookwood, Shiloh and South Gwinnett clusters)

· When: 7 p.m. April 15

· Where: South Gwinnett High School, 2288 E. Main St., Snellville

· What: District II area board meeting (Collins Hill, Mill Creek, North Gwinnett and Peachtree Ridge clusters)

· When: 7 p.m. April 22

· Where: Peachtree Ridge High School, 1555 Old Peachtree Road, Suwanee

· What: District V area board meeting (Berkmar, Meadowcreek and Parkview clusters)

· When: 7 p.m. April 24

· Where: Berkmar High School, 405 Pleasant Hill Road, Lilburn

· What: District III area board meeting (Duluth and Norcross clusters)

· When: 7 p.m. April 29

· Where: Duluth High School, 3737 Brock Road, Duluth