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CMS' Winston Gets State Approval To Be A Superintendent

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

The state has authorized acting Superintendent Earnest Winston to lead Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools even without the traditional qualifications, a move the CMS board is likely to make official Friday morning.

The board will hold a special meeting at 8 a.m. Friday for a “personnel contract.” Winston, the district’s chief engagement officer, could be offered a short-term contract while the board searches for a permanent replacement for Superintendent Clayton Wilcox.

Board members did not respond to repeated calls and messages seeking information about next steps.

Winston has been acting superintendent since the board suspended Clayton Wilcox for undisclosed reasons on July 15, but he does not have a contract to do that job. Wilcox submitted his resignation on July 19, effective Aug. 2.

Winston has 26 employees reporting to him as the district’s chief engagement officer and ombudsman. If he’s given a contract he’ll take charge of a workforce that tops 19,000, as well as approximately 150,000 students and a $1.5 billion budget.

North Carolina generally expects superintendents to have at least one year’s experience as a principal and an advanced degree in school administration. Winston has neither -- he earned a bachelor’s in journalism and worked as a newspaper reporter before becoming a teacher at Vance High in 2004.

Winston moved into central offices in 2006 and has served as a top aide to four superintendents. State requirements allow an alternative path to superintendency for people with a bachelor’s degree and “five years leadership or managerial experience considered relevant by the employing local board of education.”

Todd Silberman, a spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, said Thursday that Winston has been authorized to serve as a superintendent.

In the past, CMS has filled the gap between superintendents by offering one-year contracts to an interim superintendent while planning and conducting a search. The last two searches resulted in superintendents hired from out of state who were forced out about two years later.

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.