Gwinnett County’s first Black superintendent looks ahead to leading state’s largest district

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Gwinnett County Public Schools are facing a time of change after the largest school district in the state welcomed its first-ever Black superintendent.

Calvin Watts took over the office during a time of immense turmoil and change just a few days ago.

Watts tells Channel 2′s Tony Thomas that despite all the friction in the county, he is looking forward to returning back to his home.

[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]

“It has been a joy to return to Gwinnett Public Schools,” he said. “I understand that I represent change, I also know in my previous role there is an opportunity for change to allow for improvements.”

Just days before Watts’ first day, district leaders re-instituted a mask mandate. Watts said that he was consulted on the decision and supports making that call.

Latest statistics show 423 confirmed active cases in the district made up of nearly 200,000 students and staff right now. If you count close contacts and probable cases, that number rises to 1,233.


Many parents say they support requiring masks for now.

“I mean safety overall, everyone has to take care of each other,” parent Cindy Trinidad said.

Steve Smith is part of a group that paid for a billboard on I-85 that urges the superintendent to make masks optional.

“[My son] would rather be unmasked and catch a slightly heavy cold versus wearing this thing all day when he’s not seeing anyone who actually has COVID,” Smith said.

[SIGN UP: WSB-TV Daily Headlines Newsletter]

The district is also waiting on the results of an accreditation review that Watts is expecting to receive any day.

“We will learn what it is we are doing well. We will learn what we need to tweak or improve,” he said.

Watts is also beginning what he calls a listening tour, where he will go to the district’s 140 schools.

An hour-long meet and greet is scheduled for school board headquarters for Aug. 19 at 6 p.m.