Gwinnett County Public Schools will convene 12 focus groups to help formulate its Strategic Priorities 2020-2030. AJC file photo.

Gwinnett schools seeks input for 2030 plan

With the year 2020 quickly approaching, Gwinnett County Public Schools is gearing up to set a vision for its next decade. The school system is forming community focus groups to help craft Strategic Priorities for 2020-2030.

Similar to what the district did a decade ago, these goals are not a plan, but will be used to “communicate the direction in which the school district is moving.”

Twelve focus groups, consisting of small groups of high school students, parents and guardians, district employees and community members, will meet Feb. 19-21 to assemble a document the district will use to guide the district’s work in the coming decade.

Participants will be asked to share feedback on 10 categories the priorities will be divided into: Students; employees; parents and guardians; governance and leadership; curriculum, instruction, and assessment; facilities and operations; financial stewardship; information management and technology; communication; and public image and community pride.

Read Gwinnett schools’ Strategic Priorities 2010 - 2020 document: https://bit.ly/2Ggh95Z

“The Strategic Priorities for 2010-2020 document has served us well, and we want to continue that positive momentum with our 2020-2030 version,” said J. Alvin Wilbanks, CEO/superintendent of Gwinnett County Public Schools. “Only by listening to the perspectives of our community members can we understand their wants and needs. Our goal is to update these priorities to reflect the qualities and characteristics our stakeholders believe are desirable for their school district.”

With the demographic makeup of the school system going from an overwhelming majority of white students (80 percent) in 1995 to a more diverse mix (26 percent white, 31 percent black, 29 percent Hispanic and 10 percent Asian) in 2015, community leaders have expressed concerns that the priorities should reflect all racial and ethnic groups.

“Strategic priorities are not a strategic plan,” said James Taylor, president of Black Men United for Children & Humanity, a Gwinnett-based advocacy group.

Taylor cited Fairfax County Schools in Virginia as a system with action steps and well-defined goals.

“GCPS’s strategic priorities are nothing more than ‘belief statements’ with no real course of action attached to them,” he said. “They will develop a list of so-called ‘priorities’ and there will not be an action plan to effectuate change — just a bunch of busy work.”

Penny Poole, president of the Gwinnett branch of the NAACP, agreed.

“I guarantee that their handpicked proletariats will be among the crowd,” she said. “This process is not acceptable.”

For the first time, the school district will employ an outside agency, K12 Insight, to manage the process. By sending invitations to parents and other community residents as well as enlisting the media to spread the word, Gwinnett schools hopes to assemble a cross-section of the population.

“School district staff are not involved in the selection of participants,” said spokeswoman Sloan Roach.

The sign-up doesn’t ask questions about race, ethnicity or gender, but does seek to separate groups — parents will be in their own group as well as community members, high schoolers and school district staff, she added. Daycare and translators will also be provided for those who indicate they need those services.

K12 Insight will randomly select participants from people who go online and fill out the survey. The agency will also facilitate the focus groups and compile the results to ensure confidentiality. Final reports will include only overall themes and will not identify individual participants.

To take part in the survey, go to https://survey.k12insight.com/r/GCPS2030.

Registration is open through Feb. 11.

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