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Dr. Calvin J. Watts named as sole finalist for Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent

July 15, 2021Dr. Calvin Watts

     On July 15, 2021, the Gwinnett County Board of Education took the next step in its search for the district’s next superintendent, formally announcing Dr. Calvin J. Watts as its sole finalist for the position.

     Dr. Watts serves as superintendent of Kent School District (KSD), the 5th largest and 2nd most diverse school district in Washington State. With more than 26,500 students, KSD also employs 3,600 staff members and operates a $450 million budget.

     During the past six years, Dr. Watts developed a bold strategic planning process; maintained an intentional focus on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging; and improved organizational effectiveness so that all students may thrive. KSD’s four-year adjusted cohort graduation rates have risen to record levels for all students as a result.

     Dr. Watts is member of The Broad Academy Fellowship (2018-2019), and he has demonstrated a strong track record of success as an instructional, operational, and community leader. Before taking the position in Kent, Dr. Watts served in Gwinnett County Public Schools for 13 years in varied leadership roles with increasing levels of responsibility.

     In his bio, Dr. Watts indicated he is thrilled to re-establish residency in Georgia, and for his family to become rooted in the Gwinnett County community.

     The decision regarding the finalist came after a nationwide search conducted by the Georgia Schools Boards Association (GSBA) that yielded 27 qualified applicants for consideration. As part of the search process, GSBA conducted a community survey in multiple languages in which more than 24,000 individuals provided input regarding the strengths and qualifications they hoped to see in the district’s next superintendent. Of those 24,281 respondents, 61% were parents/guardians of a GCPS student, 37% were a GCPS employee, 28% were community members living within the school district, 11% were students, 7% identified themselves as members of the business community, and 7% did not indicate a group or specified another group. (This totals more than 100% as respondents could choose more than one category. For example, an employee who is a parent may have selected both as their stakeholder status.)

     Gwinnett’s School Board members reviewed the feedback from the survey, the applications received, and GSBA’s analysis of the candidates in determining the field of candidates to be interviewed. The candidate interview process, which included two rounds of interviews—conducted June 25 and 26 and July 9 and 10—yielded a sole finalist, who brings an accomplished background with a wide range of experiences and many years of service to large school systems, including within Gwinnett County Public Schools.

     Board Chairman Everton Blair, Jr., said, “We received 27 completed applications from extremely qualified candidates from around the country, including several highly qualified internal candidates. We used the feedback provided from parents, employees, students, and stakeholders to help guide us as we interviewed candidates.

     “Through this process, we have had the opportunity to learn about the applicants, their experiences, and their interest in leading Gwinnett County Public Schools. I am confident that with our selection we have identified the right person to lead our school district.

     “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. We feel we’ve done that with this outstanding finalist.”

     In compliance with Georgia law, the School Board must wait a minimum of 14 days between announcing finalist(s) for the position of superintendent and making the appointment official. Once Board members make their selection from among the finalists, negotiations will begin regarding the reporting date and salary. The Board is expected to vote to appoint the school district’s next leader at a meeting on Thursday, July 29, during a Special Called Board Meeting.

     CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks is retiring on July 30. The Board and Superintendent are committed to ensuring a seamless and effective transition for the start of the next school year.