Taylor’s Perspective

Three members of the Gwinnett Board of Education (BOE) demonstrated courageous leadership on March 18 when they voted to terminate Alvin Wilbanks’ reign as CEO/superintendent of Gwinnett County Public Schools.

Admittedly, I was caught off-guard by the board’s action. However, I support the decision. It’s time for change.

Whenever change occurs, people tend to react with fear, fight, flight or frolic. And people’s reactions are often fueled by misinformation and raw emotions. This has been the case in Gwinnett County.

Our highly-diverse community has begun to show divisions that run along racial and political lines. And, sadly, much of the vitriol is coming from the adults — not the children!

Frankly, I’ve seen enough “cultish” behavior during the past few years. No person is indispensable or irreplaceable. This includes Alvin Wilbanks.

According to the American Association of School Administrators, the average tenure of a superintendent is five to six years. Mr. Wilbanks has been at the helm of GCPS for 25 years, and his performance as the school system’s leader has declined rapidly.

Here are a few facts:

♦ GCPS has been on a downward spiral and, per the 2021 Niche rankings, currently ranks No. 25 among all school districts in Georgia.

♦ GCPS continues to underreport the annual discipline data it is required to submit to the state. Last year, 338 serious infractions were not reported.

I personally reviewed the data from the Department of Education and made Wilbanks and his team aware of the 338-case discrepancy on at least three separate occasions.

♦ GCPS refuses to implement a Five-Year Strategic Plan with measurable goals and input from the community.

Many ill-informed pundits pose a weak argument that the termination of Wilbanks’ contract is too costly. Hardly. The cost of his contract could be totally offset by simply eliminating some of the numerous unnecessary positions he has created in the district’s central office to curry favor with his friends and allies. Most importantly, his departure will mitigate further fiscal damage to the school system.

GCPS is in desperate need of a superintendent who fully embraces diversity, focuses on students, builds relationships across the community, has new ideas and respects all members of the BOE, irrespective of their race or political affiliation.

Barton’s Perspective

Alvin Wilbanks led this community well for most of his 25 years of service, and he will leave a legacy of helping Gwinnett County grow. We thank him for his dedication.

Unfortunately, Mr. Wilbanks served as CEO/superintendent longer than he should have. In fact, the school board itself should have undergone a transformation, too.

This is not a racial issue. I am talking about the need for strategic leadership. A real CEO and board possess strategic leadership and they don’t avoid making tough decisions. They lead in developing solutions; they don’t sit idly while the world evolves.

They lead the evolution! The previous board and superintendent did not meet those standards.

Gwinnett is at the crossroads of a significant transformation. We have the opportunity to be a model for the nation. As we continue our unprecedented growth, we must embrace our diversity and not give it political cover. Personally, all I see is political cover.

Here is an example of how the board and superintendent failed to exhibit strategic leadership:

♦ On Oct. 10, 2019, the Black Men United for Children & Humanity, an advocacy group for all children, addressed Wilbanks and the board regarding indisputable data that showed an ongoing disparity in discipline for children of color.

The board sat silently while Wilbanks said he would look into the matter. Later, he issued a press release in which he acknowledged the disparity existed, and he pledged to form a committee to develop solutions to address it.

To date, that 30-person committee has not presented any recommendations and children of color continue to receive disparate treatment. My point is this: Strategic leadership would have addressed this issue head-on instead of ignoring it and hoping it would disappear.

Clearly, it’s time for a strategic change in the leadership of GCPS.

Joint Conclusion

While we thank Mr. Wilbanks for his years of service, we have come to a joint conclusion: The three members of the BOE listened to the voices of their constituents, heard their concerns and took appropriate action.

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James “Jim” Taylor earned his Ph.D from the University of South Carolina and has worked in K-12 public education for more than 30 years in various administrative positions, including senior associate superintendent.

Lavoska Barton is a graduate of Rockhurst University’s MBA School and has worked in corporate America as an executive for more than 30 years.

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(10) comments

Peachie1

It appears that tax payers have been funding a Fraudulent school systems that manipulates data or property taxes are not even in line with the school's wake up connect county and smell with the superintendent has been dishing out! If your white it's OK to gaslight data! Gcps has not been Performing for years the last reward received was for a large urban school system he word urban! Read the details of the Reward that the governor of the state chose The standards are set so low but the only people who are fooled are the tax payers! When achieving state allows a school system to app data following all state laws and allow them to manipulate school data by not reporting accurate student headcounts overall populations classrooms are so crowded the teachers can only do crowd control versus teaching the marketing is not a reality of what's really going on in the school system poor performing schools! Wilbanks and the old school all need to be Audited! Let's Keep it Real! 💯Facts! The new board actually has more experience than the previous board which is why they were voted in district one was a domestic housewife what experience did she have none which is why she was voted out , Mrs Carol Boyce 7 kids no prior experience! Radloff Another domestic housewife who entire district is declining! 40% latino students did not have Internet and 30% did not have chromebooks while the school system receives millions of dollars from corporations All donated to the foundation which is lined with Leaders of churches, like 12stone to say a few, that paid off more the 30k School lunches that went bright to the foundation. While Wilbanks used our tax dollars of over 30 million To remodel "" His headquarters his throne with his friends the builders give me a break Gwinnett County wake up this man is getting over on every taxpayer in Gwinnett County! Fire the corruption and audit the town!

Truth Seeker

Everyone is replaceable but Courageous Leadership? This decision made by Everton Blair (2 years experience), Karen Watkins (2 months experience) and Tarece Johnson ( 2 months experience) should be described as inexperience at it's very best. They showed up their first day of work to tell the CEO how to do his job. Jim Taylor was hired by Mr Wilbanks. He is a disgruntled ex employee who gets a fat retirement check from the school system each month. This affords him the time to write opinion pieces like this. Oh and BTW, he was head of the discipline system for 10 years. I guess he forgot to mention these important facts in the piece.

Cheer2988

The new school board members came in with one agenda: to rid Mr. Wilbanks. This is going to cost Gwinnett County residents dearly. Half a million already to buy out the contract. A million for the search firm, then another million or so in a new salary for his replacement. But the cost goes beyond reaching into the pockets of their constiuents. The students are already experiencing learning loss and loss of socialization with peers. We will see excellent educators flee to other school systems. We will drops in enrollment because parents are tired of being viewed by the new board members as racist and white supremacists. Parents send their kids to school for an education, not political indoctrination. This board has flexed muscle, shown immense greed for power and fiscal irresponsibility at the expense of taxpayers. They will continue to prove these statements correct through their actions, now that Mr. Wilbanks doesn't stand in their way.

ProfessorP

An absolutely ridiculous decision warranted in deep convictions toward personal agendas. Your vote matters and no issue more important than schools.

concernedparent

The decision to remove Mr. Wilbanks was a political hatchet job that coincides with the current political environment that is going on in the United States today.

James Taylor is a bitter man who was removed from his leadership position with Gwinnett County public schools because of bad performance. He has been looking to "stick it to" Mr. Wilbanks and the board since that time.

Shame on you Gwinnett daily post for not choosing a counter position from the thousands of people who support the great work Mr. Wilbanks has done during the 25 years he has been superintendent with GCPS.

Mom

The second I read data was gathered from Niche, was the second this article lacked credibility. Dr. Taylor, a PH.D. should quote a more credible source. Niche gathers their "data" from the OPINIONS of students and parents. Even a mom knows that.

Terminating Mr. Wilbanks was a poor decision. I speculate it was written to neutralize the backlash. People are really angry.

Cheer2988

Using opinion as fact are the only ways they can support their arguments. The cost of this decision is going to be felt for some time, both financially and in our children's education.

Jeff Daniels

Gwinnett County seems to be eroding quickly. Another stellar county employee leaving?! Sad. The great talent has been leaving Gwinnett.

hpytravlr

children of color continue to receive disparate treatment??? Do you have any facts or is this just in your dreams??

Peachie1

Key Words GCPS system’s leader has declined rapidly, the schools continue to not perform.. Overcrowded classrooms. Top heavy administration! Bankrupt School system with high Paid Ceo Superintendent secretary and treasurer of the GCPS Foundations. But I guess this is ok if your an old white Man..

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