“What Do I Want in a Superintendent?” EdLanta Student Leader Weighs in on What a Public School Superintendent Must Be Able To Do.

As a student, I’m thrilled to hear that Gwinnett County Public Schools twenty-four year plus sitting Superintendent, J. Alvin Wilbanks racist rain of white supremacy over GCPS is coming to an end. J. Alvin Wilbanks, has shaped GCPS in a way that favors upper and middle-class white students.

I mean seriously, it is 2021 and we are just now seeing the beginning of Jim Crow ideals being removed from the school board and now Superintendent Office.

See EdLanta Student Leader, Aisha Dukuly’s sit down with Associate Superintendent of Gwinnett County Public Schools, Dr. Clay Hunter

All the while, this school system is continuously disenfranchising not only Black and brown students like me but also poor whites, Jews, Muslims, LGBTQ, exceptional learners and many other students who don’t fit into our current Superintendent’s qualifications of those deemed privileged. 

With that being said, there is a lot of work that has to be done in GCPS to make sure ALL students get equity and better educational outcomes.

And when I say all, I specifically are speaking to the hundreds of thousands of Black and brown students who have been failed, pushed out, overlooked and educated under racial pretenses that align with the Jim Crow, segregationist ideals of the school district leadership.

As a student activist I believe “Students Shall Lead the Way” and thus students have a say in what kind of superintendent we want for GCPS. When I think of what I want in a superintend this is what comes to mind:

  • A person of color, GCPS is a majority-minority school district and we want representation in classrooms, so it only makes sense for us to have representation at the highest level of leadership in our school district.
  • As a young woman, I don’t get the opportunity to see many women in higher-level leadership, so it would be more than amazing if the next GCPS superintendent was a woman.
  • Old and privileged people like Wilbanks are very out of touch with reality of what happens in classrooms and the struggles that Gen Z face, so I would like a millennial leader that’s socially aware and responsive to students’ needs.

GCPS students need equity, so I want someone who is equity minded and will give low-income students from neglected schools like Central Gwinnett High School resources and opportunities that will help them have better educational outcomes.

Improving workforce experience and exposure to various jobs within a wide variety of fields is critical.

Along with the COVID-19 Pandemic, students are also experiencing a mental health crisis, so it is important to me to have a leader that prioritizes student’s mental health and getting students free mental healthcare.

I want a superintendent that will center GCPS around social-emotional learning. SEL is very important because it would curtail some of the “bad” behavior that pushes Black and brown students into the school-to-prison pipeline.

See more of Aisha’s work with the ESC

We always hear that “there’s not enough money for this or that in our district.” So to fix this, I want a superintendent that exhibits excellent leadership skills and integrity. Someone who can properly manage the budget and who is only going to spend Title-I money on Title-I schools.

We need someone who has experience in running a minority-majority school district successfully. I want a superintendent that is going to hold themselves accountable.

Someone that is going to create a space where teachers and students feel safe enough to hold the superintendent accountable without fear of backlash (i.e. losing their job).

But regarding of being the most qualified or even having the most experience. We deserve a superintendent who is truly going to be bold enough to dismantle white supremacy in GCPS. And that is going to be them sincerely and simply doing their job for all students to receive better educational outcomes.

I want someone who wants to do their job because they truly want to see ALL students be successful.  Not someone who wants this job just for a paycheck and clout.

Aisha Dukuly is a EdLanta student leader and activist.

She is a high school senior in Gwinnet County Public Schools.

See more of Aisha here.


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