Return to Headlines

Gwinnett Board of Education approves school and district leadership appointments

January 21, 2022Dr. Guerlène Merisme

     At its January 20, 2022, business meeting, the Gwinnett County Board of Education appointed a new principal for Magill Elementary and a new district leader.

     Dr. Guerlène Merisme, currently the principal of Lilburn Elementary School, will transition to the principal position at Magill Elementary. Dr. Merisme served as an assistant principal at Lilburn Elementary prior to being named as the leader of the school in 2016. She is a graduate of Gwinnett County Public Schools’ 2015 Quality-Plus Leadership Academy, Aspiring Principal Program.

     Dr. Merisme will become the principal at Magill as the school’s current principal, Dr. Tonya Burnley, moves to her new role as principal of Head Elementary.

     In addition, the Board named Dr. T. Nakia Towns as the district’s new deputy superintendent. Dr. Towns mostly recently served as interim and deputy superintendent at Hamilton County Schools (HCS) in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where she led the executive cabinet to ensure that the district’s strategic goals and objectives were met. Dr. Towns championed a focus on literacy and whole child support to improve studentDr. T. Nakia Towns outcomes, resulting in HCS becoming the fastest improving district in the state. Prior to joining Hamilton County, she served as Assistant Commissioner at the Tennessee Department of Education and Chief Accountability Officer at Knox County Schools.

     Dr. Calvin J. Watts, superintendent of Gwinnett County Public Schools, is excited about the addition of Dr. Towns, who is an alumnus of the Chiefs for Change Future Chiefs program and the Broad Center Residency in Urban Education, to his executive cabinet.

     He says, “Dr. Towns’ experiences and leadership will benefit our students and schools. In particular, her work in closing achievement gaps, while leading with empathy, equity and excellence, will contribute to sustainable improvements throughout the organization, particularly in the areas of instructional and operational support.”

     As the district’s new deputy superintendent, Dr. Towns will provide direct support and service to two divisions—the Division of Curriculum and Instructional Support and the Division of School Improvement and Operations—that are at the heart of the district’s core business of teaching and learning.

     A Georgia native, Dr. Towns attended public schools and graduated from Clarke Central High School in Athens. A Duke University graduate, she began her career in the fields of technology and finance, assuming roles of increasing responsibility at IBM, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo Bank. While in the private sector, she co-founded a nonprofit afterschool tutoring and intervention program in rural south Georgia, where her service as a volunteer teacher in the Saturday-school program inspired her to pursue the field of education as her full-time passion and profession. She also earned an M.Ed. in educational leadership from The Broad Center for Education Management (now at the Yale University School of Management) and a doctor of education in K-12 leadership and policy from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University.

     She will begin her new role in Gwinnett County Public Schools on February 7.

Dr. T. Nakia Towns, Deputy Superintendent
Gwinnett County Public Schools

Employment in Education:

2018-2022     Interim Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, and Chief of Staff, Hamilton County Schools in Chattanooga, Tenn.

2015-2018     Assistant Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Education

2010-2015     Chief Accountability Officer, Acting HR Executive Director, and Director of Human Capital Strategy, Knox County Schools in
                      Knoxville, Tenn.

Additional Professional Experience:

2007-2010    Vice President/Senior Relationship Manager, Wells Fargo & Company (formerly Wachovia Bank)

2001-2007    Vice President/Client Manager and Associate, Bank of America Corporation

1996-1999    Technical Sales Specialist/Senior Product Specialist, IBM Corporation

1995-1996    Corporate Associate, SEI Corporation


Doctorate in K-12 Educational Leadership and Policy—Vanderbilt University
Master’s degree in Educational Leadership—The Broad Center
Master’s degree in Business Administration—Duke University
Bachelor’s degree in Engineering—Duke University