Congratulations to the teachers, students and administrators of Gwinnett schools. In a ceremony in New York, Gwinnett was just declared the nation’s top urban school system by the Broad Foundation, earning the district a million dollars in student scholarships and its controversial superintendent validation of his strong leadership style.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the award in front of an audience that included a large Gwinnett contingent.
The Broad Prize for Urban Education honors the urban system that has the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement while reducing the achievement gap. It is the largest education prize in the country.
“This is a great trip to New York,” said Dr. Alvin Wilbanks, Gwinnett superintendent, thanking his board of education and his central staff. “Let me present to you the real heroes – the two people who make a real difference in the success of students, the teachers and principals. It is not us in the district office — you are the ones who carry out what we are supposed to do. We learned a long time ago that our mission is teaching and learning and that has caused a sea change in what we do.”
While I know that Wilbanks has his critics, I have to share a conversation I had last week with a former DOE official. He said that he dealt with the leadership teams of all the districts, and he understood why DeKalb and Atlanta had so many more problems that Gwinnett.
He said Wilbanks assembled a leadership team that was sharp, responsive and together, while the other two systems’ teams were disorganized and non-responsive.
When I need photos of top students or a statement, Gwinnett is the first to respond. From an outside point of view, Gwinnett is well run, efficient and responsive.
So, while Wilbanks may be demanding and, according to his critics, imperious, I have to offer that he is also effective in what matters most: Educating children.
So thought a jury that included former U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige, former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt and former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros.
An 18-member review board selected the five finalists. Other finalists are Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, N.C., Montgomery County Public Schools, Md., Socorro Independent School District, El Paso, Texas, and Ysleta Independent School District, El Paso, Texas.
Here are some of the statements in support of Gwinnett today:
Gov Perdue: “This national recognition for Gwinnett County Public Schools is well deserved. The school board, Superintendent. Wilbanks and the staff and faculty in Gwinnett have made student achievement their singular focus. Gwinnett was the first Georgia system to sign an IE2 contract, and the system is one of 26 participating in the state’s Race to the Top program. Gwinnett has consistently embraced innovative education policies, and today’s announcement of the Broad Prize award is a direct result of all the hard work put in over the years to raise student performance.”
State Superintendent Brad Bryant: “Congratulations to Superintendent Wilbanks and Gwinnett County Public Schools on receiving the 2010 Broad Prize for Urban Education. This award is a testament to Gwinnett’s commitment to provide every student with an opportunity for success. Gwinnett is a shining example of how high expectations can lead to outstanding student achievement. ”
GAE President Calvine Rollins. “On behalf of the Georgia Association of Educators, we wholeheartedly congratulate Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks and the teachers and education support professionals of Gwinnett County on receiving the prestigious Broad Prize for Urban Education. We especially congratulate our colleagues of the Gwinnett County Association of Educators for their hard work and dedication in ensuring their students receive the great public education to which they’re entitled.”