Gwinnett County Public Schools will soon have a new chief of staff working alongside Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks.

Longtime Chief of Staff Berney Kirkland, who has worked with Wilbanks since he became superintendent in 1996, is set to retire in November. The county’s school board met to approve the appointment of Pam Williams as Kirkland’s successor at a special called meeting on Thursday.

Kirkland has worked for Gwinnett County Public Schools she joined the district in 1987 publications specialist in the district’s Office of Information Services, and has worked directly with Wilbanks since he became superintendent, according to her profile on the Gwinnett County Public Schools Foundation website.

She worked in educational public relations with the Georgia School Boards Association, Fulton County Schools and Clarke County Schools before joining GCPS.

Williams is currently one of the district’s five assistant superintendents overseeing elementary schools.

She has held that role since last year. Prior to that, she was the principal at Bethesda Elementary School for six years, as well as an assistant principal at Nesbit Elementary School for three years and a teacher at Norton Elementary School for four years.

She has been with GCPS since 2006. She previously taught in Palm Beach County schools in Florida and owned an operated a child care home.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Florida Atlantic University, a master’s degree in teacher leadership from Walden University, a specialist’s degree in educational leadership from the University of West Georgia and a doctoral degree in educational leadership from the University of Georgia.

Meanwhile, Clay Hunter was appointed as the associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction support. He had been appointed to fill the role on an interim basis earlier in the month. Hunter replaces Jonathan Patterson, who left GCPS earlier this fall to become a superintendent in another metro Atlanta school system.

Hunter has been with GCPS for most of the last 20 years. He was a social studies teacher at Norcross High School and later an assistant principal at Meadowcreek High School and at McConnel Middle School before he became the principal at Stripling Elementary in 2006. He later served as principal at South Gwinnett High School before he was appointed as assistant superintendent of school improvement and operations in 2014. He later became the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instructional support in November 2018.

Outside of GCPS, Hunter served as the regional K-12 executive director of schools for Atlanta Public Schools and as the deputy chief of schools for Chicago Public Schools in Illinois and as a teacher at Milton High School in Fulton County Schools. He has also served as an adjunct professor at Clark Atlanta University, Thomas University and the University of Georgia.

Hunter has a bachelor’s degree in international studies from Morehouse College, a master’s degree in social science education from the University of Georgia and a doctorate in educational leadership from Clark Atlanta University.

Babak Mostaghimi was appointed as the new assistant superintendent for instruction, curriculum and innovation.

He has been GCPS’ executive director of innovation and program improvement since 2018.

Prior to that, he was a facilitator at Harvard University’s Public Education Leadership Project as well as a facilitator and teaching fellow in the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

He has also served as a consultant, the deputy director and director of community, family and school engagement at The Center for Education Innovation. He has also been a consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton and the co-director of the Community Development Project as well as a science and social studies teacher in Mississippi.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and international Relations from Johns Hopkins University, a master’s degree in public policy and a doctoral degree in educational leadership from Harvard University.

All three appointments will go into effect Nov. 2.

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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.

(6) comments


Still waitinhg for Wilbanks to resign so a national search can be made to hire the best from outside GCPS. In which case Williams promotion may very well be moot as we need fresh leadership wthin GCPS.


Seriously, clear house starting from the top! You should not be promoted when you have done nothing less than run good educators out of the county. This board needs a complete turnover as well!

Jim Taylor

Hmmm. What's the sense of urgency? Why did the board have a called executive meeting to make these appointments BEFORE instead of AFTER the elections? Just wondering...


Interesting sudden move-someone moves “up” because they are not performing, classic GCPS style.


Hmmm. The Board doesn't stop being the Board in the last year of their term.



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