Superintendent's Update: May 21, 2011

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is likely to run its next article about the district’s acquisition of land in the Sunday, May 22, edition of the paper. Based on questions from the reporter we expect the story to focus on Puckett’s Mill Elementary School in the Mill Creek Cluster. Those familiar with this area of northern Gwinnett know that it has been and continues to be one of our fastest-growing clusters. You may remember the overcrowding of many schools in the area, including Duncan Creek Elementary, and how Puckett’s Mill provided much-needed relief. The reporter’s interest in this school property is puzzling.

Last Monday evening, we received 16 questions from him about the Puckett’s Mill site, purchased in 2006. The reporter’s deadline for receiving our responses was midday on Thursday. Staff had to search

J. Alvin Wilbanks,
Gwinnett County Public Schools
through files from five years ago to provide him complete, accurate answers and rebut some of his seriously flawed assumptions. Once again we answered the reporter’s questions fully in spite of the quick turn-around here in the closing weeks of the school year. In the attachment below you will find the reporter’s questions and the answers we provided.

Here, too, is an update on where we stand in terms of the AJC’s continuing coverage of this topic. To date, the school district has received 24 open records requests from this reporter and has answered more than 260 questions regarding our land purchases. He has conducted four interviews with me, and also talked with the School Board chairman. I can only hope that the reporter’s other sources are held to the same scrutiny as we are and that they are required to provide documentation and data to support their comments.

Over the last 10 years of land purchases, we have paid nearly $38 million under appraised values for the 95 acquired properties. The AJC has referenced the county government's issues with land purchases. These inferences cross the line into misleading speculative links that have nothing to do with the school system.

I have said this repeatedly: I am unaware of any wrongdoing in our land transactions. I have asked the reporter to tell me if he has evidence that would suggest otherwise. He has shared nothing with us to date. I take great pride in our school district and hold myself and all of our employees to high ethical and operational standards. The Gwinnett County Board of Education feels the same way and has taken decisive action to clear this matter once and for all by hiring a third-party to thoroughly review all land purchased by the district since 1999. It goes without saying that we take any suggestion of impropriety or mismanagement very seriously. We will not leave the matter of our school district’s integrity in question because of speculative stories in the newspaper. That being the case, I look forward to reporting to you in the near future the outcome of this third-party review.

I will continue to provide updates as appropriate to keep you informed on this issue.

GCPS Responses to AJC Questions.pdf GCPS Responses to AJC Questions.pdf
Click below for previous messages on this issue:
- Superintendent's Update- April 30, 2011
- Superintendent recommends and Gwinnett County Board of Education approves hiring of third party to investigate land acquisitions by GCPS
- A message from the Superintendent- April 1, 2011
- A message from CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks- March 4, 2011