The move to make Gwinnett County school board elections nonpartisan and redraw map for the board’s districts without consulting Gwinnett County Public Schools or its school board has drawn a rebuke from GCPS Superintendent Calvin Watts and a letter-writing campaign from parents.

Senate Bill 5EX was approved by the Georgia Senate’s State and Local Government Operations Committee on Wednesday and it is awaiting placement by the Rules Committee on the full Senate’s voting agenda, something that is generally more of a formality than anything else.

“Gwinnett County Public Schools has serious concerns about the manner in which Senate Bill 5EX was introduced, the lack of input by the Gwinnett Legislative Delegation and affected Board members, the confusion the proposal would raise for voters and the impact this proposed legislation would have on the district,” Watts said in a statement on Friday.

“We urge lawmakers to allow our duly elected Board members the opportunity to work within the established process to recommend new Board maps that fairly and appropriately reallocate residents, based on the 2020 Census.”

Gwinnett County parents and other community members, including at least one pastor, pushed back on Friday and Saturday, drafting a form email letter to send senators and members of the media. The Daily Post had been copied on 19 emails containing the letter by Saturday morning.

The letter points out that Dixon, who has cited constituents concerns as the basis for his bill, lives in the Buford area. Buford has its own municipal school system and school board that is separate from Gwinnett County Public Schools and its school board.

“(Eighty-six percent) of the voices, represented by six senators, five school board members, and 13 House representatives have been nullified,” the letter states. “Senator Clint Dixon and all those supporting this bill made a decision to not include my voice, by not including my senator, school board member, nor House representative, when drafting and submitting these bills.”

Gwinnett County Public Schools said on Friday that its officials have still not received a formal copy of the district map, and its supporting data, from the bill’s backers. The district said its own analysis of what data it could obtain show about 280,000 Gwinnettians would be moved to a new school board district under the proposal.

The district’s own analysis of data from the 2020 Census — which is the data redistricting is supposed to be based upon — showed the number of Gwinnettians who actually have to be moved based on population changes is between 15,000 and 20,000 people.

“We hope that the matter of redistricting Gwinnett County Board of Education districts may be deferred until the General Assembly meets in January, and that when it does occur, it is based on a process that is fair and inclusive,” Watts said.

Additionally, district officials said two board members were drawn into the same board district while also renaming districts — something district officials warned will cause confusion among residents.

The current District 4 would become the proposed District 2 while the current District 5 becomes the proposed District 3; the current District 3 would become District 4; and the current District 2 would become the proposed District 5.

The proposed District 2, which is largely similar to the district Chairman Everton Blair Jr. currently represents, would not be represented by any of the current board members under the proposal. Meanwhile, the proposed District 3, which is largely made from the district board member Tarece Johnson represents, would be home to two current board members.

“These bills are an attempt to marginalize the leadership and the voices of people of color currently leading Gwinnett County,” said Johnson, referring to both the bill concerning the school board and another one aimed at expanding the county commission, during a press conference on Friday.

Dixon said he heard from constituents in his Senate district who wanted changes made to the school board after the board voted to terminate former Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks’ contract 11 months early. He said he does not plan to stop at making the school board elections nonpartisan, however.

“Another one of my legislative priorities this next session is banning (Critical Race Theory) statewide,” Dixon said. “We’re vetting several bills and just protecting our children from potential indoctrination.”

School board members have repeatedly asserted that Critical Race Theory is not taught in Gwinnett County Public Schools.

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.

(5) comments

thlywa

Why should a political party run education? People of all and no political parties use the schools. If people want a political party to control education, I can assure you that they have ulterior motives. I have followed the issues with the Gwinnett School Board for some time as an interested party, and they all need to be removed. Where is the other side of the story here? The hundreds of parents who have been silenced, threatened, and banned for trying to express their concerns? Let's see some balance here.

Mom

I applaud Senator Dixon's attempt to make our school board nonpartisan. Anyone that has paid attention knows it has become too political and our kids are being used as pawns. GCPS and media has "spun" the Cognia report as "move along, nothing to see." Don't be fooled readers. It was a big deal. Our board was rebuked for racist social media posts and solicitations for money for personal gain... among other things. Now taxpayer dollars are used to train the board members on roles and responsibilities, norms, ethics, etc. These are leadership "no brainers" but they were on a mission to terminate Mr. Wilbanks. Some board members are clearly in over their heads.

GCPS is the crown jewel of Gwinnett County. People need to wake up. It has nothing to do with race but incompetence and political agendas. Firing Alvin Wilbanks was a colossal waste of money. Some board members complained he earned too much money. Yet they offer the exact same base salary to Dr. Watts, with far less experience. Now taxpayers pay double.

Take the politics out of the school. You are using our children and parents are sick of it. Just wait until Cognia returns. It is going to hit the fan.

AcademicExcellence

Dixon is my senator and does represent my concerns and the best interest for pursuing academic excellence in Gwinnett County. Our tax $ were wasted with the early termination of Wilbanks and the School Board hadsvery little interest in listening to parents and taxpayers. This is the right decision to protect the future of our children and the economic viability of Gwinnett County.

Cheer2988

Dixon doesn't live in GCPS, he's Buford. Maybe so, but his constituents live in Buford and GCPS. He is my senator and I am GCPS, not Buford City Schools. This was drafted in response to concerns by his constituents. They are being heard by someone, and that someone isn't this school board.

The Board has made it a habit of NOT responding to constituents, period. It's ironic they are complaining they weren't given a voice. Even though I email and speak at meetings, I am not given a voice either.

And 3 of the 5 board members make decisions that impact 180,000 students. They routinely silence the 2 board members that make the minority, thereby silencing the districts they represent. Watts said this in his letter:

“(Eighty-six percent) of the voices, represented by six senators, five school board members, and 13 House representatives have been nullified,” the letter states. “Senator Clint Dixon and all those supporting this bill made a decision to not include my voice, by not including my senator, school board member, nor House representative, when drafting and submitting these bills.”

I believe at some time, Blair and Johnson said this is how the process works. They are elected to make these tough decisions. Sometimes those tough decisions aren't popular. Sometimes they need to be made for the better of the community.

hpytravlr

Nope, He lives in Gwinnett and not Buford City.

Welcome to the discussion.

Please log in, or sign up for a new, free account to read or post comments.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.