Ann Clark, who is now leading Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools after the departure of Superintendent Heath Morrison, said Friday that she will work to restore public trust and confidence in the district.
The deputy superintendent skirted questions about whether she would pursue the top job permanently. And she declined to answer any questions about the investigation that led to Morrison’s resignation.
“My task is very clear: to be focused on moving forward, not looking in the rear-view mirror, and I’m committed to doing that,” said Clark, who has spent 32 years in CMS as a teacher, principal and administrator.
Clark assumed the superintendent’s responsibilities Thursday after the school board voted 6-3 to accept Morrison’s resignation. Morrison had said Monday he would leave the district to care for his mother. The Observer later reported that the resignation came days after the district’s general counsel produced a report that recommended Morrison be fired, citing allegations that he misled the board on a building project at UNC Charlotte and that he belittled staff members.
The investigatory report compiled by CMS general counsel George Battle III quoted Clark as saying there was a “culture of fear” among Morrison’s staff.
She declined to say Friday whether that was accurate, citing the separation agreement approved by the school board Thursday. The agreement includes confidentiality and nondisparagement clauses.
Clark also would not say whether she brought any concerns about Morrison to the board or to Morrison himself.
She said the district has a grievance policy posted on its website that is available to all employees. CMS school board policies list steps to elevate complaints from a direct supervisor all the way to the board.
When questioned about whether she has asked the school board to be named superintendent, Clark said she doesn’t know whether that’s something one asks for.
“I want to honor the journey they need to go on and the process they need to follow,” she said. “I have a full plate just focusing on the day-to-day operation of the district and working with an amazing leadership team to deliver what our community expects.”
She was a finalist for the position in 2012, when it ultimately went to Morrison. A year later, she was a finalist for the superintendent’s job in Wake County. Clark said Friday she hasn’t decided whether she’d pursue the role in Charlotte.
“I haven’t had an opportunity to really sit and be thoughtful. Certainly this week has not allowed that opportunity, for obvious reasons,” Clark said. “I will take some time to really think about what is the next best step in my leadership journey at this point in my career.”
Morrison’s sudden departure has raised concerns that plans he put in place could be scuttled. Clark said Friday that the strategic plan Morrison spearheaded came after extensive public input, and that she would continue to pursue its goals.
That includes major efforts such as implementing “opportunity culture” positions in schools, which offer teachers to advance their careers by assuming more responsibility while staying in the classrooms.
“We’re not going to hit pause or hit reverse,” she said. “We’re just going to continue to move forward and work that plan.”