The 2020 elections brought change to Gwinnett county. No longer the Republican stronghold it once was, voters in Gwinnett elected Democrats to many state and county level offices. The county Board of Education was not insulated from these changes. In the Democratic primary earlier in the year, longtime incumbent Louise Radloff (who had switched to the Democratic party a few years earlier) was toppled by fellow Democrat Dr. Tarece Johnson. In the November General Election, longtime Republican Board member Carole Boyce was defeated by Democrat Karen Watkins. Watkins’ election gave Democrats a 3-2 majority on the Board, Democrat Everton Blair having flipped that seat in 2018.
Almost immediately upon assuming the majority, Democratic members talked of firing longtime Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks. Numerous stakeholders fought back and thought they had succeeded in preventing Wilbanks’ firing when he announced he would not ask the Board to renew his contract in June of 2022. Many thought the Board would announce a national search to find a new Superintendent who would assume the position when Wilbanks’ contract expired.
However, earlier this week word of a move to fire Wilbanks’ surfaced once again. Sure enough, tonight the Gwinnett County Board of Education, in a 3-2 party line voted, relived Wilbanks of his duties.
The county’s school board members began the process of replacing Wilbanks on Thursday by exercising a clause in his contract that allows it to terminate his employment with at least 90 days notice. Wilbanks’ contract was set to expire in June 2022, and he had already announced that he will not seek an extension on that contract. Wilbanks’ last day will be July 31.
Elections have consequences folks, and the consequences of firing a respected Superintendent after he had already announced his retirement will, I fear, be felt in Gwinnett for a long time.