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An in-depth look at our region's emerging economic, social, political and cultural identity.

Acting CMS Superintendent Plans No Staff Shakeup For Now

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Earnest Winston.
Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Earnest Winston.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Acting Superintendent Earnest Winston says he will not make any major administrative changes, for the time being, in the staff left behind by Clayton Wilcox who resigned as superintendent last week. On Charlotte Talks Monday, Winston says he is excited to be at the helm of CMS and is focused on getting schools ready for the Aug. 26 opening.

Prior to becoming the acting superintendent, Winston was CMS’s chief of community engagement and ombudsman. He says his salary of just over $180,000s remained the same after he was appointed to lead the district when Wilcox resigned for unknown reasons. When asked if he wants to be the next superintendent permanently, Winston didn’t give a definitive answer.

“I care about this district with all of my heart,” Winston said. “I’ve spent the past 15 years in CMS. I want to see it succeed. If that is me at the helm or someone else, I want what is best for this school district. So, I will leave that decision up to the board.”

Winston says he will stay on track with the plans already in place for the district in terms of student assignment, the curriculum and equity. He says his focus now is making sure schools are ready to open in five weeks. He says all buses will have drivers and that currently four schools do not have permanent principals and there are 30 teacher vacancies. Last year around this time, there were 78 teacher vacancies and 44 bus driver openings.

Wilcox hired several top administrators at six-figure salaries from Maryland, where he was the superintendent in Washington County, before coming to Charlotte. That included his chief of staff, Laura Francisco. Wilcox was criticized for hiring Francisco’s husband for $85,000 in a newly created and unadvertised position. Winston says for now he’s not planning any major shakeups in the district’s administrative staff.

“I will be looking under the hoods and I will be assessing things as I think any acting superintendent would want to do,” Winston said. “I think it’s not only important to have the right people on the bus but the right people in the right seats.”

Winston described his management style as non-traditional, collaborative and says transparency is very important to him.

Credit Gwendolyn Glenn
CMS board vice chair Elyse Dashew

CMS board members are still not releasing any information on why they suspended Wilcox with pay, and accepted his resignation, which goes into effect Aug. 2.

Also on Charlotte Talks, board vice chair Elyse Dashew reiterated a view that state law prevents them from divulging employees’ personnel information.

Wilcox was CMS’s fifth superintendent in 10 years and in January, Dashew says the entire board supported his pay increase and two-year contract extension.

“I was one of nine board members that supported that six months ago and we learned of some things since then that made us realize that we needed to suspend him,” Dashew said. “I certainly wish we could talk about this because I believe in being as transparent as possible and I don’t personally like the heat that we’re in.”

Dashew and Winston say it is time to move forward and focus on the upcoming school year. But for some parents, teachers and others in the community, that may be hard to do until they get answers about Wilcox’s departure. 

Gwendolyn is an award-winning journalist who has covered a broad range of stories on the local and national levels. Her experience includes producing on-air reports for National Public Radio and she worked full-time as a producer for NPR’s All Things Considered news program for five years. She worked for several years as an on-air contract reporter for CNN in Atlanta and worked in print as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun Media Group, The Washington Post and covered Congress and various federal agencies for the Daily Environment Report and Real Estate Finance Today. Glenn has won awards for her reports from the Maryland-DC-Delaware Press Association, SNA and the first-place radio award from the National Association of Black Journalists.