Gwinnett schools try to fill positions

SUWANEE - With a month to go before classes begin, Gwinnett County Public Schools is well on its way to filling its vacant teaching positions, a district official said.

The school system has hired 887 teachers and has fewer than 100 positions to fill, said Frances Davis, the chief human resources officer.

"I think we're in great shape this year," Davis said. "We're a lot closer (to having all of the teaching positions filled) than we've been in the past at this time. It's good to see the retention of teachers increase."

Last year, the district hired about 1,400 new teachers, Davis said in a presentation Thursday to the Gwinnett County Board of Education. Because fewer teachers are leaving the school system this year, the district has to hire nearly 1,000 new teachers this year.

Davis attributed the stability in part to the district's efforts in retaining its employees and in part to the struggling economy.

Having less turnover in the teaching force is a good thing for the district, Davis said.

"I think it has a huge impact in student achievement anytime you can get continuity of teachers in the classroom," she said.

The district has also made headway in hiring the school bus drivers needed for the new year, Davis said. About 98 percent of the positions have been filled.

"I feel secure we'll have a teacher in every classroom and a bus driver to help get (the students) there," she said.

Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks discussed the district's recent restructuring, which he said centers around the local schools. The changes weren't about changing the direction of the district, he said. They were designed to change how the system delivers its services.

"The most important work in the district goes on in the classroom," Wilbanks said.

In the restructuring, one of the district's divisions was collapsed into another. Steve Flynt, the former principal of Peachtree Ridge High, was named the district's chief academic officer and is now responsible for the Division of Teaching and Learning.

Flynt oversees Dale Robbins, the associate superintendent for teaching and learning, and Bobby Crowson, the associate superintendent for academic support, as well as five area superintendents.

The area superintendents are responsible for providing instructional and operational leadership to principals and management oversight for schools.

Delores Hendrix is the area superintendent for the Berkmar, Brookwood and Central Gwinnett clusters.

Gale Hey is the area superintendent for the Collins Hill, Duluth, Norcross and Peachtree Ridge clusters.

Calvin Watts is the area superintendent for the Meadowcreek, Parkview and Shiloh clusters.

Jean Walker is the area superintendent for the Dacula, Grayson and South Gwinnett clusters. Her area will eventually include the planned Archer cluster.

John Green, the former North Gwinnett High principal, is the area superintendent for the Mill Creek and North Gwinnett clusters. His area will eventually include the planned Mountain View and Lanier clusters.

"I've never had a bad staff," Wilbanks said, "but I believe this is the best staff now that I've ever had - at this time and with these people."

SideBar: At a glance

The following shows the number of teachers Gwinnett County Public Schools has hired for the upcoming year.

Level, total

· Elementary, 375

· Middle, 185

· High, 247

· Special Education, 80

Total Positions, 887

The following shows the number of teaching positions that still need to be filled by Gwinnett County Public Schools.

Level, regular education, special education, total

· Elementary, 20, 26, 46

· Middle, 23, 9, 32

· High, 11, 3, 14

Total positions, 54, 38, 92,