Wilbanks: Schools moving forward

SNELLVILLE - In these uncertain times, Gwinnettians can rest assured their schools are sound, successful and improving, Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said Tuesday evening.

"We're moving forward with optimism and resolve," Wilbanks told the attendees of the first of five area board meetings, designed to allow school board members to share information with the community and hear from their constituents. "Gwinnett County Public Schools has a good story to tell. ... I believe the challenges of today will make us better and stronger tomorrow."

Wilbanks said he didn't want to diminish the enormous budget challenges the district faces. Including the $25.2 million the district expects to lose this year in state revenue cuts, the school system will have lost about $177.5 million since austerity cuts began in 2002. Additionally, local revenues have declined.

"The economic situation is what it is," Wilbanks said. "We will continue to do our best amid the downturns. ... In the face of challenges that could paralyze an organization, it's important to remain positive yet realistic."

School employees, their communities and the district's financial stewardship will help move the school system forward, Wilbanks said.

Gwinnett County Public Schools is continually working on its vision for the future, and later this year, the school system plans to revise its Strategic Vision for Results, Wilbanks said. He said he envisions changes in areas such as curriculum and instruction, specifically how "rigor" is defined.

Wilbanks will deliver his message at the four remaining area school board meetings, scheduled as follows:

· 7 p.m. April 21 at Central Gwinnett High (Central Gwinnett, Dacula and Grayson clusters)

· 7 p.m. April 23 at Norcross High (Duluth and Norcross clusters)

· 7 p.m. April 28 at Parkview High (Berkmar, Meadowcreek and Parkview clusters)

· 7 p.m. April 30 at Mill Creek High (Collins Hill, Mill Creek, North Gwinnett and Peachtree Ridge clusters)

SideBar: New Beaver Ridge principal named

NORCROSS - The Gwinnett County Board of Education appointed Jose DeJesus as principal of Beaver Ridge Elementary School, effective immediately.

The veteran educator most recently served as an assistant principal at Berkeley Lake Elementary. DeJesus served in the U.S. Navy before becoming a teacher in 1994.

DeJesus succeeds Esther Adames-Jimenez, who tendered her resignation March 27, just more than a week after the school system launched an internal investigation into how she handled a student disciplinary matter. Adames-Jimenez will work in the Division of Human Resources through the end of June.