The school board and superintendent scheduled three training sessions to address Cognia’s concerns, said Mary Kay Murphy, a board member with 24 years of service, including four accreditation reviews.
“We respect Cognia and appreciate the role that they play in supporting school districts, especially in the area of governance, and I believe that it’s a very helpful forum for our community and our school board,” Murphy said. “It helps us get an appreciation of what we need to do to fulfill the community’s expectation of us.”
Cognia is also conducting a special accreditation review of the Cobb County School District. The investigation was requested by that board’s Democrats, who said they were being silenced by the Republican majority.
Gwinnett County Public Schools is the largest school system in Georgia, with an estimated enrollment of 177,000 across 139 schools.
Since two new members were elected in November, the school board and Wilbanks have gone through trainings that included in-depth conversations about board and superintendent responsibilities, according to the response letter. More training is planned, Wilbanks said.
The school district has moved toward restorative discipline practices and started implicit bias training, Wilbanks said. The district is also implementing social and emotional learning supports for students, he said.
A Discipline Code Review Committee made recommendations in April to reduce inequities. Gwinnett also runs mentoring programs for Black and Hispanic students identified as “at risk.”
Wilbanks said data does not support the concern about declining student achievement and the graduation rate has increased almost four points over the past 5 years. The district provides plans and resources to the lowest-performing 20% of schools and monitors them every 45 days, Wilbanks said.
The Georgia School Boards Association trained the five-member school board and Wilbanks on Thursday on board norms and protocols.
A Cognia team last visited the Gwinnett school district for a review four years ago. That team praised Gwinnett’s process for monitoring teaching practices and told the district to develop and implement a system for learning support services.