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CMS administration gets reinforcements from Charlotte health and finance executives

Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh speaks at Tuesday's Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board meeting.
Ann Doss Helms
Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh at a recent school board meeting.

Executives from Charlotte’s health care and financial sectors are stepping in to help Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools deal with a leadership transition and pandemic challenges.

The Charlotte Executive Leadership Council is tapping leaders from outside the world of education to help guide CMS as the school board searches for a long-term superintendent.

The first four “loaned executives,” who will work full-time for CMS for the next year or so, come from Novant Health, Atrium Health and Ally Financial. They’ll work with CMS executives on corporate engagement, tutoring and process management.

In addition, Frank Emory of Novant and Charles Bowman, recently retired president of Bank of America North Carolina, will serve as advisers to the school board and Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh. They’ll work on continued corporate engagement.

In April the school board fired Superintendent Earnest Winston after less than three years on the job. No CMS superintendent in the past decade has made it to the three-year mark.

Hattabaugh has a one-year contract, and the school board hasn’t said how it will handle a search. His interim position limits his ability to recruit executives, because he can't offer a contract that extends past his own end date of June 2023.

“We are grateful to the corporate community for its long-term, ongoing support and for this specific effort which brings valuable expertise and capacity to our district and the work at hand," Hattabaugh said in a statement Tuesday. "United, Charlotte can be a model of community and corporate engagement and its impact on the success of schools.”

School board Chair Elyse Dashew and Executive Leadership Chair Mike Lamach also cited challenges created by the pandemic for CMS and districts across the country. Those include academic setbacks for students and difficulty hiring staff.

"The members of the CELC recognized the crisis that school systems throughout the nation are facing,” Lamach said in the CMS statement. “We are not educators. We do, however, have access to resources and expertise that can support school leadership and staff in their critical work to serve our students.”

The use of loaned executives isn't new to CMS. In 2018, after then-Superintendent Clayton Wilcox spent months trying to hire a chief of human resources, Bank of America provided an interim chief. Gerri Parker filled the job for about a year, with the bank paying her salary.

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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.