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Wilcox Pushes For $922M School Bond; Says He Has More 'Urgent Spirit' Than Clark

Clayton Wilcox, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools superintendent

In an interview with WFAE's Charlotte Talks, CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox sought to cast himself as a strong, yet sensitive new leader in the school district and urged voters to support what would be the largest bond referendum in CMS history on the upcoming November ballot.

"We need this resource," Wilcox said in reference to the $922 million bond referendum, "And we need it because we have to create spaces for our young people that are really worthy of them and also allows us to teach kids in a 21st century manner."

If approved, the money would be used to build ten new schools, replace seven others, and conduct a number of renovations and additions on other schools throughout the district. Charlotte's last bond referendum was in 2013, when voters approved a $290 million bond package.

Wilcox is still relatively new in his position. He took over on July 1, succeeding former Superintendent Ann Clark. Over the course of the interview, Wilcox contrasted himself to his predecessor, saying he would press his staff to reach higher goals.

"I think I'm probably someone who is possessed by a more urgent spirit," he said, "I'm gonna push a little harder, perhaps, than Mrs. Clark did. I'm probably not going to be as understanding when we fail to meet the expectations that have been set."

Wilcox added that he would be "dignified" in doing so. "I won't be a yeller or a screamer," he said, before again stressing that he planned to hold CMS staff accountable for achieving set goals.

Wilcox was only on the job for about a week in early July when he was lampooned in an editorial cartoon in the Charlotte Observer. He came under fire for hiring staffers from his previous job in Hagerstown, Maryland, and giving them big raises over their CMS predecessors. He also created a position, manager of culinary development, for the husband of his chief of staff.

Wilcox says it was tough to take the criticism.

"I will tell you, in my first few days, seeing myself as a cartoon character really wasn’t the happiest time around my house, but I kind of got through the characterization and said, ‘Well, what are they saying?’ And once you begin to look at that, you can become better."