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CMS board begins its search for a new superintendent in 2023

District 6 representative Summer Nunn is sworn in to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board on Dec. 13.
Ann Doss Helms
District 6 representative Summer Nunn is sworn in to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board on Dec. 13.

Newly elected Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board member Summer Nunn will chair the board’s superintendent search committee, which holds its first meeting Friday. Board Chair Elyse Dashew, Vice Chair Stephanie Sneed and at-large member Lenora Shipp are also on the committee.

The board seeks a new leader to address academic challenges, win community trust and bring stability to a district that has had four superintendents and two interims in the past decade. The November election also brought historic turnover in the nine-member board itself, with five new members elected.

The old board held a series of public engagement sessions in the fall to talk about what people want in a leader. But they waited to launch the search until after the election.

Nunn, who represents the southern District 6, is chief marketing officer for a chain of car washes. She said during the campaign that her business experience would help the school board hire the right superintendent and rebuild community confidence.

One of the search committee’s first tasks will be recommending a search consultant. The last two national searches, led by the Chicago-based PROACT in 2011-12 and by the Nebraska-based McPherson Jacobson in 2016, resulted in out-of-state hires that didn’t last long. Heath Morrison, hired from Reno, Nevada, and Clayton Wilcox, hired from a small district in Maryland, each were pressured to resign after less than three years. In both cases, the board and departing superintendents agreed not to discuss the reasons for the decision.


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Shortly after Wilcox’s ouster, the board hired district ombudsman Earnest Winston without a search. The board had to get state permission to name someone who did not have an advanced education degree or experience as a principal; members said at the time they believed his work as chief of staff under previous superintendents would prepare him for the job. He’d been in the job less than a year when the pandemic upended public education. The board fired Winston in April, again short of the three-year mark, saying he hadn’t grown into the job as they’d hoped.

The search committee and the school board will also have to decide whether the public should meet finalists for the job. Through 2012, when Morrison was hired, CMS brought finalists in for public meetings. In the past decade, though, such sessions have become rare across the country. Most search consultants now say good candidates are deterred by the prospect of publicly seeking another job, especially if they’re already leading a district.

The search committee meets at 11 a.m. Friday at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. The meeting will not be streamed.

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Corrected: January 4, 2023 at 1:01 PM EST
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the meeting would stream on Facebook.
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.