For more than 15 years I have proudly served as superintendent of Gwinnett County Public Schools, winner of the 2010 Broad Prize for Urban Education. The Broad Prize distinguishes us as one of the best school districts in America based on our students’ academic achievement. We are successful in more than our core business of teaching and learning, however. Gwinnett County Public Schools also is acclaimed for the effective, efficient manner in which we carry out all of our responsibilities, operational and financial. We have earned a reputation as good educators and trustworthy business managers over many years. Our record of success is well documented and our reputation is precious to us.
That reputation may be put in question this weekend. We anticipate that on Sunday, March 6, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution will carry a story about the processes we use in locating and acquiring land for new schools. We expect the story to question those processes and be the first in a series of articles on the subject. Despite the best efforts of school district staff and me to provide the reporter with our records and information in response to his questions, we believe this story may create perceptions that call into question our stewardship.
As I told the reporter, I have the highest degree of confidence in our people and in our processes for acquiring school sites. I know for a fact that during the years when our need for new schools was greatest, our processes enabled us to acquire the land we needed, while saving taxpayers over $37 million in land costs. Our processes are grounded in solid business practices that have served the district and Gwinnett taxpayers well for almost two decades. That said, we are committed to continuous improvement. We will revisit these processes if warranted to ensure that the built-in checks and balances are still appropriate and effective. If improvements are needed, we will make them.
You have entrusted this school district to educate and care for your children and manage the public’s resources responsibly. We do not take that trust for granted. You have my word that we operate with integrity and always strive to be the best possible stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars. I believe our reputation and our record are evidence of that.
I appreciate your taking time to read this message and assure you that I will provide updates as appropriate to keep you informed. Thank you, as always, for your support of Gwinnett County Public Schools.
J. Alvin Wilbanks,