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Gwinnett County Board of Education Chairman Everton Blair Jr. and Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks listen to a motion to go into executive session during a called meeting on Wednesday.

New light is being shed on why Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks’ contract was discussed by the county’s school board on Wednesday, and it appears to be the meeting was the first step in preparing to hire someone to replace him next year.

Wilbanks’ contract to lead the state’s largest school system runs through June 2022, meaning he still has more than a year left as the district’s top administrator. In a statement, Wilbanks said he plans to stay on through the end of his contract — but he is not looking to stay beyond that.

“I have shared that this is my last contract,” Wilbanks said. “I work at the pleasure of the board … should they decide they want me to stay until June 30, 2022, I am prepared to honor my contract.”

Wilbanks’ job security has been the subject of a lot of discussion in recent months with competing petitions, one calling for his firing and one supporting him, circulating in the community. That raised questions about why his contract was up for discussion in executive session at a called meeting this week, sparking fears among some of his supporters beforehand that the board was meeting to fire him.

In addition to his contract, a meeting agenda listed “Superintendent evaluation” and “Leadership Personnel” as items that were to be discussed during the executive session.

The board spent two and a half hours in executive decision, but did not reach any decisions on the items discussed.

“We did not take any action in executive session and will continue conversations over the next several weeks,” board Chairman Everton Blair said as the board came back into open session.

Board members did not say during the meeting why the items concerning Wilbanks were on the agenda. Blair, speaking through District spokeswoman Sloan Roach after the meeting, said he could not comment further on the matter beyond what he said when the board returned to open session.

Roach said Wilbanks told board members in December that he would likely not seek an extension of his contract, which is set to expire in June 2022. Two seats on the board have changed hands since then however, and Roach said Wednesday’s executive session where the contract was discussed was a chance to renew that discussion.

“Having that conversation now means the board will have the time it will need to make decisions and put a plan in place to find his replacement,” Roach said.

Superintendent searches, especially national ones, can take months to complete. Roach said Wilbanks has traditionally notified the board in the September before his contract is set to expire if he plans to seek an extension or not in case a search was necessary.

The school board will have to pick someone to do the search — that could be a local search committee, the Georgia School Boards Association or a private search firm — and come up with a job description, including qualifications and criteria it is looking for.

An advertisement for the position would have to be drafted and published, and then there is an application period followed by a vetting period designed to narrow down finalists that the school board can interview before contract negotiations with a final candidate takes place.

Finally, a new superintendent would be hired after a contract agreement is reached.

When Buford City Schools searched for a replacement for former Superintendent Geye Hamby a couple of years ago, it took nearly half a year to prepare for, begin and complete the process after Hamby resigned in August 2018.

When Clayton County Public Schools was looking for a new superintendent in late 2016 and early 2017, it took nearly seven months to complete that search.

It is possible that laying the groundwork for a search now could allow the school board to hire someone in time for Wilbanks and his successor to go through a transition period.

That’s what Columbia County Schools did when it hired Steve Flynt away from his job as GCPS’ head of school improvement and operations in January to be its new superintendent. Flynt is working with Columbia County’s current, retiring superintendent this spring on a transition, giving him a few months to prepare before he takes over this summer.

Wilbanks has been GCPS’ superintendent since 1996, and he will be in his 80s, or about to enter them, when his current contract is set to expire.

There have been rumors circulating in recent months that the board was about to fire Wilbanks, prompting the competing petitions circulating in the community.

If the school board were to fire Wilbanks before his contract expires, the termination clause of his contract stipulates the board would have to give him 90 days notice of its plans to do so. The board could fire him either with cause, or without it. The district would have to pay him if he is fired without cause.

The amount Wilbanks would have to be paid depends on when he is fired.

If he is fired with more than a year left on his contract, the district would have to pay him the equivalent of one-year’s worth of salary.

If he is fired with less than a year left on his contract, however, the district only has to pay him whatever is left on his contract.

The state’s transparency in government website, open.ga.gov, states Wilbanks was paid $621,036 in fiscal year 2020, which ended last summer. The superintendent’s contract states, however, that his base salary increases on Jan. 1 by the same percentage that the average teacher’s salary increased from the previous fiscal year to the current one.

But, the board could also fire him “for cause” and that section of his contract does not specify how much money, if any, he would be owed.

“If the decision is made for me to leave earlier that is (the board’s) decision to make,” Wilbanks said. “I enjoy coming to work every day and remain committed to serving the students, staff, families, and community of Gwinnett County.”

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I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

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(13) comments

Hallelujah

It has been a long time coming, but finally, a needed change has come. I commend the School Board members who had the courage to do what is best for GCPS. We need someone who is diverse. cares about all, not just his own kind, and willing to support the teachers. I know there are some who are upset, but get over it, the tyrannical rule is over. I pray now the teachers will be heard and their issues seriously addresssed.[beam]

irishmafia116

Yeah "retiring" after it was let out the new BOE wanted much more "diversity", Gwinnett once had a superb school system, soon to be just another inner city rabble collection of student warehousing

happy2chee

Miss Daisy,

I have you a bunch of examples of systemic racism and you respond with ONE anomaly. EB is not the norm. He is ONE person who made it out and did well. Why are the teachers in GCPS primarily WHITE in a minority district? Systemic racism... Check the data. The students at those Title One schools are barely graduating. Anyone who watches the board can clearly see nothing but a clear racial divide. White affluents who are clueless about the fact that Wilbanks does not OWN this district. The DOE governs GCPS, not Wilbanks. The EEOC governs GCPS, not Wilbanks. At my corporate job, the CEO's family can not work all up in HR and in other higher level positions. There would be all kinds of complaints, rightfully so and Wilbanks, his granddaughter, and his other family members would be sued and fired. At my corporate job, the CEO can not publicly threaten an employee for making a statement as a citizen at a school board meeting. That would be called harassment in the workplace. The issue is people in education do not know that there are EEOC violations. GCPS has had so many lawsuits under Wilbanks leadership there were kept hidden. Actually research instead of blindly following your leader.

Gru

Happy2chee,

Your credibility went out the window in your first sentence of “EB is the ONE anomaly”. You continued to capitalize ONE. A bit extremist are we? Gwinnett has educated blacks better than any school system in GA over the last 20 years. There is proof...look at the numbers. You only want to use that “systemic racism” term because it’s an excuse.

happy2chee

Gru, read the chain of conversation & try to follow.

1. Miss Daisy asked for examples of systemic racism & corruption in GCPS.

2. I have Miss Daisy multiple examples of systemic racism in GCPS.

3. In response, Miss Daisy provides the name of ONE, not several, but ONE, example of a Black who graduated & went to Harvard. Compare the number of Blacks/Hispanics to the number of whites from GCPS who have gone on to top schools. That number WOULD intact make EB an outlier. He isn’t the norm.

I know exactly how GCPS educates the Blacks in comparison to other districts. I have access to the state data.

I see you all pick and choose what you want to respond to. What about the corruption, nepotism, multiple EEOC violations, work place harassments, law suits, etc...? At my corporate job, a CEO like that would have been “retired” 15 years ago.

JohnnyJ

"Why are the teachers in GCPS primarily WHITE in a minority district? Systemic racism" So you are saying that we should hire educators based on race only?

happy2chee

Johnny, No, but in a minority district, the faculty should mirror the population.

Any other race would question an 85% Black Faculty, Administration, District Leadership, and School Board leading a district for 25 years. It would never happen. Black/Hispanic/Asian parents have a right to want to see more Black Faculty and Administration.

The same information is presented monthly:

1. Black/Hispanic students are given referrals and suspended/expelled more than any other race in GCPS. Why? Because GCPS is a system where the faculty is "conditioned" to discipline minorities. Hiring more Black/Hispanic educators mean a chance for more understanding. Do "culturally conservative" parents ever ask why aren't more Black/Hispanic Educators and Administrators in the schools like Brookwood, Mill Creek, and North Gwinnett. I mean more than just Special Ed Teachers and Coaches.

2. GCPS schools have more SRO officers than Black Social Workers and Counselors. Why? Because GCPS is a system where it is easier to enforce discipline on minority students rather than understand. The issue is that a "culturally conservative" district like GCPS empowers White faculty to think that they are serving in the best interest of students. Just hire more Black/Hispanic educators who can actually relate. Do you push for schools to hire "Black and Hispanic" Counselors to help improve the mental health of the students attending these schools.

3. Black/Hispanic students are identified less for Gifted and given less opportunities to take AP Honors Classes, especially at NON-Title One schools. Those classes are 95% White and Asian and are taught by 95% White faculty, even at Title One/majority minority schools. Check the data. When Black and Hispanic students gain access to those classes, they often feel isolated, targeted, and like they don't belong. Why? Because those classes are primarily taught by teachers who do not look like them. Students learn well from educators who look like them and can connect with them. Those are facts. Do you ask where are the Black/Hispanic Educators who want to teach the Gifted/AP/Honors classes?

Don't report my posts for presenting facts. If you want to prove me wrong, come back with facts.

MarvinGardens

His contract is up in 1 year an 4 months. If he and the board don't get along, why not just plan to replace him then? Notify him and start looking for a replacement when the time is right. Minimal drama, and save the taxpayers from having to buy out his contract.

JohnnyJ

Because Democrats like to spend taxpayer money like sailors on shore leave. It's woven into their DNA.

Peachie1

Remove provisions targeting and controlling individual speakers. The proposed policy change to limit the length of time, content, and number of times an individual can address the Board on a specific issue will be used against advocates. This past summer the AJC published an article on the “rash of racist incidents” taking place at GCPS. Issues like systemic racism in GCPS that continue to persist in a myriad of ways require advocates to consistently push for change. Repetition is necessary when the district does not resolve the problem. The CEO continues to move within a dictatorship schools system! I recommend updating the data as it's not inline with the schools over all Performance. Bringing the board meeting back to the community in March and April! It's time to vote the CEO out! He's does not speak for the community, 68 title schools does not equal excellence... email your local school board members and Jorge Gomez ASAP! #MoneyMarchGCPS

MissDaisy

Just because something is racial does not necessarily mean that its racist. What is an example of the systemic racism that continues to persist in GCPS? Once the message is delivered once or twice, what is the purpose of repeating it ad infinitum, ad nauseam? Is repetition is a way to achieve something when an intellectual, rational discussion fails? I have had kids in GCPS for 14 years; been on school and district committees. Boards have come and gone, but Mr. Wilbanks has been the steadying force for a great school system all these years. I don't know why he would continue to put up with the political pettiness that has taken over this county, but let him finish out his contact and then head off into the sunset and go fishing.

happy2chee

Miss Daisy, the only population that thrives in GCPS are whites & then Asians. Due to the systemic racism in GCPS, the Blacks & Hispanics (which are the majority) receive a subpar education. They are passed along, primarily because the system is made up of majority white educators, administrators, and district leadership who pretend to care but act on their own agendas. Due to biased assessments created by majority white educators & district leaders, the Blacks & Hispanics fail the unnecessary assessments forced on them that covers a curriculum that does not include them or their heritage.

Wilbanks needs to go. Stop giving him credit. If the Dept is Education investigates GCPS & Wilbanks, as it should, the district would be in big trouble.

Those are facts. Just because a certain population (culturally conservative) won’t acknowledge it, doesn’t mean it’s not facts.

MissDaisy

Mr. Everton Blair seems to have thrived in GCPS; a black guy that went to Harvard and is now Chairman of the Board. The greatest factor in any student's school performance is the family/parent; such as requiring they attend school, do the work, instill a work ethic and the importance of an education. You can have the best physical facilities, technology and teachers in the world, but without support from home the student will still not do well. Anyone who attends or watches a GCPS Board meeting, can clearly see that there is quite a racial diverse array of teachers, principals, assistant/associate superintendants and Board members. I am still awaiting for one verifiable example of systemic racism or corrupt actions of any sort in the school system. If it is truly that wide spread, providing that example should not be that hard.

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