Everton Blair elected chair of Gwinnett school board

Everton Blair

Everton Blair

The five-member Gwinnett County Public Schools board of education unanimously Thursday chose Everton Blair Jr. as this year’s chair, kicking off a new era after the departure of former chair Louise Radloff, who served nearly half a century on the board.

Blair, 28, two years ago became the Gwinnett school board’s first Black member. No other members were nominated for president at the meeting. His win was met with applause from a socially distanced audience of dozens in the board room at school district headquarters.

Steven Knudsen, who joined the school board at the same time as Blair, nominated him for president, with newly-elected member Karen Watkins seconding the nomination.

The son of Jamaican immigrants, Blair graduated from Shiloh High School in Gwinnett before earning a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics from Harvard University and a master’s degree in leadership from Stanford University. He is national governance director at New American Leaders, an organization that prepares immigrants and their children to run for office. He is also the first openly gay member of the Gwinnett school board.

The board was divided on the choice of vice president after Tarece Johnson, another newcomer, nominated Watkins, while Mary Kay Murphy nominated Knudsen. Blair cast the deciding vote in Watkins’ favor.

Watkins, 45, has two children in Gwinnett schools and is supply chain manager for a commercial real estate company.

The votes occurred without discussion or comment.

The new leadership reflects the increased diversity on the Gwinnett school board. Watkins and Johnson’s installation this month created a majority of members of color. Watkins is Black and Filipina; Johnson is also Black.

Students of color are also the majority in the Gwinnett school district. Of the more than 177,000 students, 33% are Hispanic, 32% are Black and 11% are Asian or Pacific islanders.