Gwinnett school board unanimously approves new superintendent

Dr. Calvin Watts will take over as the head of the state's largest public school district. (Photo courtesy of GCPS)

A former Gwinnett County Public Schools administrator is stepping in as the district's next CEO and superintendent. 

Dr. Calvin Watts will take over as the head of the state's largest public school district. 

The board approved Watts' appointment 5-0 at its last meeting. The district has not issued an official reporting date. 

Watts succeeds longtime superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks as the superintendent of Kent School District in Washington state.

Watts spent 13 years at GCPS, most recently serving as assistant superintendent of school improvement and operations. He's spent the last six years at Kent School District, managing a system of 26,500 students, 3,600 employees and a budget of about $450 million. 

Watts is taking over a district of more than 177,000 students and a $2.346 billion budget in FY2021.

Watts was named the only finalist for the job after a Georgia Schools Boards Association search pinpointed 27 applicants for consideration. 

The school district said board members utilized a community survey with input from more than 24,000 people — 61% parents/guardians, 37% GCPS employees, 28% community members living within the school district, 11% students, 7% "members of the business community" —  to guide them during the candidate-narrowing process. 

In March, Gwinnett County Board of Education has voted to part ways with Wilbanks. His last day with Gwinnett County Public Schools will be July 31.

According to the school district, the Board will pay Wilbanks the salary he would have earned under his completed or the equivalent of one year’s annual salary, whichever is less.

In a statement, board chair Everton Blair, Jr. wrote:

"After numerous conversations between Mr. Wilbanks and the Board, we have chosen to take this action at this time in order to begin a superintendent search. As this is a pivotal period in our district’s history, we want to ensure we have the time needed to find a candidate of the highest caliber who is ready to build on the many things established during Mr. Wilbanks’ tenure. The timing of this decision also will allow the new superintendent to be in place for the start of the new school year. As a Board, we are committed to doing what is best for the school district and its students and to conducting a diligent and thorough search… One that we know will attract outstanding candidates from across the country.

"We look forward to working with Mr. Wilbanks to ensure a smooth transition and to the many opportunities that we will have in the coming months to celebrate him and his legacy and to thank him for his service to Gwinnett County Public Schools."

Gwinnett County residents have been critical of the board's decision regarding Wilbanks' tenure and other current issues, including critical race theory and the requirement of face masks. The district no longer requires face masks but is the subject of an accreditation review

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