A face familiar to Gwinnett County Public Schools has been tapped as the finalist in the board of education’s search for a new CEO/superintendent.

During a meeting on July 15, the BOE voted unanimously to name Dr. Calvin Watts, chosen among 27 candidates, as the sole finalist for the position. He is expected to replace Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks.

A former administrator for GCPS for 13 years serving in various leadership roles, Watts has served the past six years as superintendent of Kent School District, the fifth largest school district in Washington state serving more than 26,500 students and operating under a $450 million budget. Gwinnett County Public Schools serves more than 177,000 students and operates under a $2.35 billion budget for FY 2021.

“Our goal was to select the superintendent who would be able to lead Gwinnett County Public Schools during this critical time, building on our legacy of success and working with our outstanding staff to serve our students in our quest to become a system of world-class schools,” BOE Chairman Everton Blair Jr. said of Watts’ selection. “We feel we’ve done that with this outstanding finalist.”

The board is expected to vote to appoint the district’s next superintendent during a special called meeting on Thursday, July 29.

Wilbanks, who has served as superintendent of Gwinnett County Public Schools since March 1996, is set to retire as the board votes in his successor, and his final regularly scheduled board meeting as superintendent was Thursday, July 15, where he addressed those gathered,

“On Aug. 1, I will start a new chapter in my life,” Wilbanks said at the conclusion of that meeting. “On that morning, for the first time in more than 25 years, I won’t start my day with my mind fixed on the roles, responsibilities and expectations that go along with being the superintendent of Gwinnett County Public Schools.”

Wilbanks went on to say he takes pride in the work accomplished during his tenure, under which the Broad Foundation selected GCPS as a finalist for the prestigious Broad Prize for Urban Education three times — in 2009, 2010 and 2014 — and awarded Gwinnett the Broad Prize in 2010 and 2014. Wilbanks himself has been recognized by numerous organizations.

“It has been my pleasure and honor to serve as your superintendent for the past 25-and-a-half-years,” he said. “Education has been my life’s work for 56 years and my work in this school district has been the highlight of my career.”

Wilbanks called GCPS a “remarkable example of what’s right in public education.”

“I know that on Aug. 1, while I may not be sitting in my office doing the work of the superintendent, I will remain an active and interested member of this community who cares deeply about the future of the school district and its employees, mostly its students. Much work remains to be to be done and I feel certain that the GPS team will do that work and do that well.”

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Deanna Allen has served as editor of the North Gwinnett Voice since June 2021. Effective communication and creative design are her passions.

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