The Gwinnett school board will conduct a national search to find a replacement for Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, board chairman Everton Blair confirmed Thursday night.
The board is gearing up to look for a new school chief after voting Thursday night to terminate Wilbanks’ employment 11 months early, with July 31 set to be his last day as GCPS’ superintendent. The Georgia School Boards Association is being brought in by the board to conduct the search for the district.
“He is the longest serving superintendent in the country and we are a board that has been collaborating with him very diligently,” Blair said. “There is no normal procedure. This is something of incredible significance, something that we’ve never experienced and something that this school system is really excited to go into, so we’re going to do it together and work together.”
The board’s goal is to conduct a superintendent search and have a new school chief in place before Wilbanks’ last day, so the new superintendent can be in place before the 2021-2022 school years begins in August. Blair said the district plans to begin engaging GSBA about the search on Friday.
One of the first steps will be to get a job description in place.
“We’re going to have some input from board members around certain characteristics and opportunities for us to really dig deep on what leadership attributes we’re looking for from applicants and that process will add to what the job description might look like and how it might take shape,” Blair said.
Advertisements for the vacancy will also be published. Blair said he does not know when advertisements could begin showing up in education trade publications and other places, but he said it will be at a time recommended by GSBA.
There are currently four superintendent searches listed on GSBA’s website, for jobs in Paulding County, Emanuel County, Mitchell County and Thomaston city schools, although only the Paulding, Emanuel and Thomaston positions currently have open application windows.
In the case of each of the three positions that applications are still being accepted for, the application windows were only open for just over a month.
“They’ve given a range of likely timeframes, one that could be as short as three months, and then some that could be anywhere depending on how long it would take to do our community analysis, but it does look like we should be able to find some really incredible candidates within a four-month timeframe,” Blair said.
If the board doesn’t have a new superintendent in place before July 31, however, Blair didn’t rule out the possibility that it could extend Wilbanks’ tenure with GCPS beyond that date. The board chairman said starting a search now for Wilbanks’ successor gives board members flexibility in case it does take longer than they anticipate.
“All options are on the table,” Blair said. “That’s the beauty of our ability to do this with such early notice. It’s not a surprise and we’re not scrambling at the last minute at the end of a contract. We’re doing so in advance.”