Gwinnett school board elects Tarece Johnson as next chair

Tarece Johnson is sworn in to the Gwinnett County Board of Education on Dec. 17, 2020. Johnson was elected board chair for 2022.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

caption arrowCaption
Tarece Johnson is sworn in to the Gwinnett County Board of Education on Dec. 17, 2020. Johnson was elected board chair for 2022. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The Gwinnett County Board of Education on Thursday elected Tarece Johnson as its new chair.

Johnson, a Democrat, is in her second year on the board. She is the first Black woman to serve as chair. Johnson holds a doctorate in education and has worked as an artist, educator and entrepreneur, according to the district website.

When she was elected to the board, Johnson said she wanted to hire more bilingual teachers, increase diversity in the curriculum and expand early education. She’s opposed efforts to limit lessons on race in classrooms.

“Teaching about the stories of all of the people who make America great may also help students develop empathy and understanding,” Johnson said on social media last year.

She succeeds Everton Blair, who is in his last year on the board. Blair said in November that he would not seek re-election to his seat because he was considering a run for state school superintendent. On Tuesday, he launched his campaign.

“As chair, it’s been an honor to serve in a really important year in the county school system that raised me,” he said before nominating Johnson.

Blair, a graduate of Shiloh High School in Gwinnett, was elected to the school board in 2018. He is the board’s first Black and openly gay member.

Johnson was elected by a 3-2 vote. Blair and board member Karen Watkins, both Democrats, voted for Johnson. Republican board members Steven Knudsen and Mary Kay Murphy voted against Johnson.

Knudsen, who joined the board in 2019, was elected vice chair by a 3-1 vote. Johnson voted against Knudsen. Watkins abstained.

Blair nominated Knudsen for vice chair. Last year, it was Knudsen who nominated Blair for board chair.

ExploreMore metro Atlanta education stories

As board chair, Blair led the district through challenges from the coronavirus pandemic to the hiring of a new superintendent. Twice, the board moved meetings to a smaller room because of people who refused to wear masks or wore them improperly.

In March, the board ended longtime Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks’ contract nearly a year early. The vote was split 3-2 with Democrats Blair, Watkins and Johnson voting in favor of the move.

ExploreMore stories about Gwinnett County Public Schools

In July, the board unanimously hired Calvin Watts, a longtime Gwinnett school district administrator and then-superintendent of a suburban Seattle district.

Reflecting on his year as chair at the December board meeting, Blair noted the challenges and commended the board for its collaboration.

“We allowed our differences to be sources of strength,” Blair said. He said the board focused on “constructive issues where we could collaborate and find some common ground versus issues that would only perpetually divide us.”

About the Author

Editors' Picks