The Gwinnett County Public Schools Accreditation Agency has received several complaints about the county school board, and at least the matter of the agency’s concern is one that critics of the district have been raising for years, according to a copy. of a letter sent to GCPS. Superintendent J. Wilbanks.
The letter Cognia sent to Wilbanks on March 1 – more than half a month before the board voted 3-2 to terminate the Superintendent’s contract, effective July 31 – did not specify the number of complaints received by the accreditation agency, but she said there had been “many” complaints at that time. These complaints ultimately led Cognia to decide to conduct a “special examination” of the district which will include a visit by a review team from June 13-16.
“The complaints relate primarily to the Gwinnett County Public School Board which is exercising its functions as a governing body and selected members adhering to their roles and responsibilities as members of the Board,” wrote Annette Bohling, head of the worldwide accreditation of Cognia, in the letter.
The issues with the school board that Cognia said it has received complaints about range from the use of social media by board members to members who do not understand their roles and responsibilities.
An issue raised against the council, however, is an issue that critics of the district have raised for years, indicating that the issues can go back years, when the council, which is now majority Democrat, was still majority Republican. . That question is whether students of color are disproportionately more disproportionate than white students in Gwinnett County public schools and whether the board has done enough to address it.
The list of questions that Cognia presented as examples of what the agency heard in complaints against the board includes allegations that members:
♦ “Show a lack of understanding regarding their roles and responsibilities as board members. “
♦ “Do not be collegial about their differences or work cohesively to promote student achievement and district achievement. “
♦ “Do not adhere to a code of ethics. “
♦ “Have allowed discrimination against students of color regarding… disciplinary offenses. “
♦ “Make decisions that seem unethical and discriminatory about using social media. “
♦ “Have not been sensitive to a downward trajectory in student achievement within the district. “
Wilbanks responded on March 24 by saying that the board, which gained two new members after the 2020 election, has been in regular training since December. The most recent training session, which focused on board standards, took place last Thursday.
“Whenever a change in the composition of the board of directors occurs, opportunities for growth are foreseen as the new governance team learns to work together on how best to fulfill their roles and responsibilities – individually and collectively. – as members of the education board, “Wilbanks told the agency.
“Leaders of Gwinnett County Public Schools and the Gwinnett County School Board will continue to engage in professional training and learning opportunities to facilitate an appropriate governance structure and ultimately improve performance. student results. “
Regarding allegations that board members have not done enough to address inequalities in student discipline – an issue the district has been criticized for for years – Wilbanks said to Cognia that GCPS had taken steps to resolve the issue, including a disciplinary code review committee. which was launched in November 2019.
“Gwinnett County Public Schools are committed to addressing disproportionate disciplinary data through progressive disciplinary best practices, reviewing our disciplinary code, collecting feedback from our internal / external stakeholders, reviewing and enforcing employing proven disciplinary research methods and using a wide range of behavioral interventions while balancing our responsibility to address inappropriate student behavior, ”Wilbanks said.
“This commitment has already led to a shift towards restorative practices, training on implicit prejudices and the implementation of supports for socio-emotional learning. “
And, regarding a “downward trajectory” in student performance, Wilbanks said he disagreed with the claim that there had even been a drop. He highlighted the systems put in place by the district to monitor trends in success so that corrective action can be taken if problems arise.
“Gwinnett County Public Schools have a strong research and assessment office that uses various models to display student achievement data, allowing the district not only to know which schools are not performing well, but also to determine trends by subject, subgroups, and comparison data for other schools with similar demographics across state, nation, and the world, ”Wilbanks wrote.
“District and school leaders review school performance using data from state assessments, national assessments, and international assessments to provide a comprehensive picture of student performance in GCPS. In addition to the District Balanced Assessment System, other tools such as a cohort analyzer and the District Outcome Based Assessment System provide key data. Our success data does not support Concern (No.) 6. “
Cognia told Wilbanks on April 19 that Gwinnett County Public Schools would be responsible for covering all costs associated with the special examination. This includes paying Cognia a “special examination fee” of $ 9,000.
GCPS is not the only school district in the Atlanta metro area currently undergoing a special review by Cognia. The agency informed the Cobb County School District that it plans to conduct a special examination of that district’s school board after three Democrats on the board filed a complaint with Cognia over political disagreements with their Republican counterparts.