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Education

CMS Board Gives Superintendent Winston 3% Raise, Job Security

Winston at Chambers High CMS 0223.jpg
Nancy Pierce
/
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
Superintendent Earnest Winston, right, visits Julius Chambers High School as in-person classes resume this week.

Superintendent Earnest Winston got a contract extension, a 3% raise and some job security from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board Tuesday.

Winston was hired without a search in August of 2019. He lacked the traditional experience and credentials to lead a large school district. But the previous superintendent, Clayton Wilcox, had just been forced out after two years on the job. The board wanted someone who could step in, but they gave themselves room to let Winston go with only 60 days notice.

That changed Tuesday when the board extended Winston’s contract through June 2025 and agreed to pay him two years’ salary if they terminate him early without cause. He got a 3% raise, to $288,400 a year, and an additional 10 days of leave.

Eight of the nine members said Winston has done good work in difficult conditions and they want to stick with his leadership. Chair Elyse Dashew told Winston he has earned the trust of CMS employees.

"Part of why we’ve held together as a family through this nightmare of ... this pandemic is because of your integrity and your style of leadership," she said. "So I thank you for that and I’m proud to vote for this contract extension and 3% raise."

Member Carol Sawyer described the new contract as a vote of confidence "and a commitment to pursuing the path that we’re on because we’ll never get where we want to go if we change paths frequently."

Leadership churn has been a defining characteristic of CMS over the past decade, with two superintendents resigning under pressure from the board and one never awarded a long-term contract.

Sean Strain cast the only “no” vote. He said the district’s performance hasn’t been good enough to reward Winston.

"We see our student performance and our market share in decline — and that was a true statement before COVID. Never mind delivering on the ambitious objectives of the CMS strategic plan," Strain said.

The 2020 standardized test scores that normally would have been used to measure Winston's first year on the job were obliterated by the pandemic. Since COVID-19 closed schools last March, CMS has seen classroom grades drop and absences rise, but so have many other school districts.

CMS enrollment had been flat or down slightly for a couple of years as Winston took the top job. It plunged this year — again, a trend echoed across the state and nation.

The contract extension makes it easier for Winston to fill high-level vacancies. Superintendents can’t offer contracts longer than their own, and until last night Winston’s only ran through June 2022.

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