Parents who support both keeping J. Alvin Wilbanks as Gwinnett County Public Schools’ superintendent and keeping in-person learning available for families who want it gathered at the district’s offices on Tuesday to make their voices heard.

Nearly three dozen parents, who said they speak for a larger group of families who could not attend the mid-day rally, chanted “We support Wilbanks,” and expressed concerns that the school board could tip into micromanagement and put the district’s accreditation at risk.

“(School board chairman) Everton Blair is a product of this school system, and a damn fine one at that under the leadership of Mr. Wilbanks,” one Archer cluster parent, Holly Terei, said. “How in good faith can you be a product of such a fantastic educational institution, and then in the same breath call the person who rose that institution from the ground up a racist? Or that they get paid too much? Or they’ve been here too long?

“We’ve got to stop with this. We have got to stop. We need our board to come together (and) work fluidly as one. Our accreditation is coming up and our school system is at risk of losing their accreditation.”

Rumors and speculation have begun swirling among parents that the new Democratic Party majority on the school board — made up of Blair as well as new board members Tarece Johnson and Karen Watkins — are planning to fire Wilbanks, who has just over a year and a half left on his contract rather than let his contract, with a salary of more than $600,000 a year, run out.

“Who will lead Gwinnett County (schools) if you remove Mr. Wilbanks?” one woman shouted during the rally.

Wilbanks recently told the Daily Post that he does not plan to resign — as some people have called on him to do in lieu of being fired — and said his future with the district will be up to board members. Wilbanks will be approaching or around 80 when his contract is set to expire in June 2022.

“I’ve never worried about my job,” the superintendent said. “I give 100% every day and I work at the pleasure of the board. If that’s not what they want, if they get three votes, they can change that.”

There are now competing petitions, one calling for Wilbanks’ removal and another urging him to stay through at least the end of his current contract, circulating in the community.

The petition supporting Wilbanks has been signed by 1,894 people while the petition calling for his removal has been signed by 411 people.

A video criticizing Wilbanks, and referring to him as J.A.W.s while accusing previous school board members of not holding him accountable, has also been circulating on the internet.

Supporters of Wilbanks did get encouragement from state Sen. Clint Dixon, who showed up during the rally and thanked the attendees for their support of the superintendent.

“I feel that Superintendent Wilbanks, he’s played a big part in making Gwinnett schools what they are today,” Dixon said. “I think it’s appalling that we’ve got some new board members that take it upon themselves to remove him for just radical reasons that have no basis.”

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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(6) comments

DanM

It is truly amazing how three board members are going to destroy the best public school system in the U.S. All students (of all races and backgrounds) have achieved in this school system. An incredible number of students moved onto college. These board members apparently want Gwinnett County schools to become like the disaster in DeKalb County. I hope the people of Gwinnett County will remember these board members during the next election cycle.

hpytravlr

18 people out of a county of 1million.

jrsoutha

Gwinnett Co school system is a school system we can be proud of. Gwinnett has become the school system it is because of Superintendent Wilbanks. In Gwinnett you have a choice in person or digital. As individual parents let us decide what is best for our children. In person is best for my child. Keep the schools open. Gwinnett does a fantastic job of protecting our children. This is not politics its about our children, teachers and Gwinnett staff. Thank you Gwinnett School District for what you all do each and every day.

MarvinGardens

Did I miss something? Did the school board pass a resolution or policy that we should not be having in-person school right now, and Wilbanks ignored it? Majority of parents want in-person school and are sending their kids. School board could enact a digital-learning-only policy now, at their political peril.

Cheer2988

Thank you to all who were in attendance for their support of Mr. Wilbanks and the students of Gwinnett County! It's a shame that the newest members aren't taking the time to learn the real needs of the school system, and are just following political movements and agendas. They aren't using the role to help the students and staff, they are doing it to further their own political aspirations. Our children need us to continue to advocate what is best for their future. It's said to see elected officials, who were out in the role to advocate for the students, are not.

Questtofind

These people have too much time on their hands and are happy they have the school system for babysitting services. Students are glued to their computers each day whether at home digitally or in person. Parents are sending their sick kids in person and the numbers of students sick with Covid or in quarantine are going up each day. Don’t be fooled by what is reported-those numbers are manipulated just like the rest of the data. Wilbanks is responsible for this as well as not caring about GCPS front line workers and their well being. In fact, he doesn’t care about the students either, only the fat check in his bank account every month. His time has passed, and we need someone with a better understanding of what is going on in our schools!

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