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Harding High Principal Eric Ward's Sudden Death Shocks CMS Colleagues

Eric Ward, a longtime Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools administrator who had been principal of four schools, died suddenly Wednesday.

Ward's mentor, retired administrator Curtis Carroll, says he died of a stroke at age 46. Ward was principal of Harding University High School in west Charlotte at the time of his death.

Carroll says the death was particularly stunning because Ward was in excellent health.

"Eric was in the best shape of his life," Carroll said Thursday. "Eric lifted weights with the football team. He ate right, he'd always get into these challenges with his staff about losing weight and all of that kind of stuff."

Ward had worked for CMS for 24 years. Before coming to Harding High, Ward was principal of Wilson Middle School, Olympic High's School of Advanced Manufacturing and West Mecklenburg High. All are high-poverty schools that faced significant challenges.

"He was really like our turnaround expert," said Carroll, who now teaches at UNC Charlotte.

Carroll said Superintendent Earnest Winston and Ward's wife, Sophia, came to Harding yesterday to talk to the staff.

Winston sent a statement Thursday celebrating Ward's contributions to CMS.

"We lost a great leader and person yesterday, but his legacy lives on in the staff he led and students and alumni whose lives he impacted during his nearly 25-year career in the district," Winston said. "Eric was revered by his students, colleagues and school partners. We will remember him for his student-centered approach to learning and passion to improve outcomes for students."

In a Facebook post Thursday, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators said Ward was known for "his supportive leadership and his sparkling sense of humor."

Carroll says Ward was also deeply involved with his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. Ward also had two children, Eric Jr. and Kabrea.

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Corrected: September 23, 2021 at 4:22 PM EDT
An earlier version had an incorrect spelling of Sophia Ward's name.
Updated: September 23, 2021 at 3:34 PM EDT
Updated to add a statement from Superintendent Earnest Winston.
Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.