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Gwinnett Schools CEO To Address Mercer Leadership Academy;
Wilbanks to Address Leadership’s Role In Student Learning

March 7, 2006

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ATLANTA — The Superintendent of Georgia’s largest public school system will address aspiring school leaders at Mercer University’s E.L.I.T.E. Leadership Academy at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 11, on Mercer’s Cecil B. Day Campus in Atlanta. J. Alvin Wilbanks, CEO and superintendent of Gwinnett County Public Schools, will deliver the keynote address about the impact of school leadership on student learning.
The Gwinnett County Public School system is the largest in Georgia as well as the state’s largest employer, with more than 145,000 students and 23,000 employees. Wilbanks has been the leader of Gwinnett Schools for 11 years, and he will deliver the keynote address for Mercer’s E.L.I.T.E. Leadership Academy.
“Mr. Wilbanks is an outstanding school leader whose insights will be invaluable to our candidates,” said Vic Verdi, a former Gwinnett County administrator and principal who now coordinates internships and mentoring for Mercer’s Educational Leadership program. “He’s been superintendent of the largest school system in Georgia for 11 years, at a time when many superintendents only last three or four years. Under his leadership, the Gwinnett School System has continually improved students’ learning and become one of the best school systems in the state, the Southeast and, now, the nation. He was the 2005 Georgia Superintendent of the Year, and was a finalist for Superintendent of The Year for the nation.”
The Equipping Leaders to Impact and Transform Education (E.L.I.T.E.) Leadership Academy is part of the curriculum of Mercer’s Master of Education in Educational Leadership program. The candidates, who are all certified practicing teachers, are working toward a degree that will provide them with the background and the initial certification to be school principals. The E.L.I.T.E. Academy requirement is meant to expose the candidates to issues that will affect them as school leaders. It also gives the candidates a chance to network with their classmates and education practitioners. Candidates in the Educational Leadership Program are grouped in cohorts at Mercer’s Henry County Regional Academic Center and Mercer’s Macon and Atlanta campuses, and in Rockdale County and Gwinnett County. 
The full program, entitled “Leadership’s Impact on Student Learning,” will also feature panel discussions led by a number of prominent school leaders in the state, including:  Paula Gault, superintendent of Forsyth County Schools; Ralph L. Simpson, principal of Miller Grove High School in DeKalb County; Joyce Spraggs, director of Internal Resolution with Gwinnett Schools; Ruth B. O’Dell, assistant superintendent of Student Services for Houston County Schools; Judy Godfrey, director of Professional Learning for Bibb County Schools; Nancy Hammond, principal of Harris Elementary School in Gwinnett County; Anne Wilson, principal of Unity Grove Elementary School in Henry County; Gwendolyn Taylor, principal of Huntington Middle School in Houston County and Sue Thrasher, director of Professional Learning for Rockdale County Schools.
About Mercer University:
Founded in 1833, Mercer University has campuses in Macon and Atlanta as well as regional academic centers in Henry County, Douglas County, Macon and Eastman. With 10 schools and colleges, the University offers programs in liberal arts, business, engineering, education, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, law and theology. For 16 consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report has named Mercer University as one of the leading universities in the South. The Princeton Review has ranked it among the top 10 percent of colleges in the nation. 

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