posted by King Minos in In The News

School Spirit Ebbs In Gwinnett

November 11, 2012

And with falling growth and tighter budgets come closer scrutiny from the media; lately, it was revealed that Gwinnett Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks had personally approved a multi-year private payment to the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce for $75,000/yr; according to Wilbanks, the school district was paying to help "beef up" development in Gwinnett that could, in turn, help school budgets by pushing-up property tax revenues;

The state Attorney General’s Office is reviewing the legality of Gwinnett County Public Schools contributing taxpayer money to help fund the local chamber of commerce’s business recruitment efforts.

His bid to avoid scrutiny over the payments, however, like his bid to continue growth in the public schools of Gwinnett, may be facing new-hard times;

Currently, the state attorney general is reviewing the to see if Wilbanks payoffs (using school money) were legal and proper;

Even more significant may be criticism from some Charter-yes supporters who have already criticized Wilbanks for using school monies and facilities to try and "deep six" the Charter amendment. Importantly, Wilbanks has maintained -- all along -- his contention that the Charter amendment may undermine school finances;

Apparently, however, blowing lots of dough on "non-school" items does not even "compute" in Wilbanks calculator!

And, in a nutshell, may be revealed what's wrong with public education in GA's biggest system (Gwinnett; annual budget $1.7 Billion), and in other counties and cities throughout GA: Spending that exceeds incomes and spending that goes for things other than educating students; and an ever-present almost contempt for public and media scrutiy of spending and administrative actions;

STILL, especially in the Gwinnett "miracle county" -- where population growth shot-up by a factor of 8 from 1980 to 2012 and where property tax revenues seemed an ever-erupting volcano -- one wonders if the superintendent, other administrators and even the Gwinnett Board of Education has yet woken up to ... smell the coffee!

Throughout its "growth" years the Gwinnett system attracted some of the brightest and best educators from across the Georgia, and throughout America; they added county "supplements" to teacher pay so that dynamic educators conflated Gwinnett with "support" for the best teachers, administrators and schools.

SADLY now, with increasing scrutiny, it seems clear BOE members and administrators may be guilty of eating a little too much oftheir "own cooking." (Believing, for instance, all the information and tidbits in school system "insider" newspapers, websites and public relations campaigns all, basically, to generate the message saying the "higher ups" in Gwinnett really know what they are doing; and perhaps the message, too, that they are above questioning and reproach.) (Unless they are sworn and before a Grand Jury or in Court.)

LIKELY, BOE members do not routinely question the superintendent nor human resources personnel about "personnel matters" within the system; in this way, they are unlikely to really know "what is happening" (and who it is happening, to!) or whether or not Principals, APs and other administrators are treating teachers with dignity and respect; are the APs and Principals bullying and intimidating teachers while the BOE members think everything is going just great?

Perhaps, like many others, they just assume the "higher ups" are supporting teachers with consistency and equality; rather than pursuing secret, petty power-politics, and establishing lame "cults of personality" within their own little fiefdoms!

How can citizens look into the Gwinnett Public School system to see if, still, "Success Lives Here!" Can they, at all?

Any member of the public, for instance, wishing to get a meeting with Wilbanks may feel as though they had requested an audience with the newly elected American President; Wilbanks is generally not available to meet with citizens or accept phone calls from anyone but a small core of folks who understand the "great pressures and time constraints" he faces! He handles almost every aspect of the entire huge public system by relying on a very extensive and complex network of administrators along with a very robust and aggressive department of human resources;

Then, likely, some in the system may feel its largess makes it unmanageable, and makes its administrators, some times, arrogant and unaccountable. Perhaps the Gwinnett System has grown too big for its britches! Is the system, now, reversing course, and sending AWAY the "brightest and the best," and instead retaining a new corp of cunning, self-interested survivors who are best at office politics, gossip, and feathering-one's-nest?

In any event, the positive dynamic surrounding Gwinnett and its public school system is fast fading under an almost continuous list of revelations about actions of "higher ups" and principals that are far from what most parents and citizens expect from our betters! In the pell mell days of growth, leaders could "get away" with almost anything if it was for the public good, or something no one would ever detect; but now the press and citizens are asking questions and sometimes finding things they do not like.

For those teachers and administrators who "stayed away" from Gwinnett because it was "too big," perhaps they feel reassured now with reports of hard-ball intimidation tactics aimed at many general and special education teachers; and "star chamber" disciplinary actions backed-up by a lumbering and brutal department of human resources; chances are, more ugliness will leak from the system, and more will be glad they stayed away or got out "while the getting was good!"

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