Veteran Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools administrator Ann Clark was named superintendent Tuesday while the school board searches for a long-term leader – but Clark will not be considered for that job.
Instead, Clark said she plans to retire from the district in 2016 when a new superintendent is selected and ready to take office.
Clark’s new position will cap a three-decade career rising through the CMS ranks. Her selection also fills the void left by former Superintendent Heath Morrison, who resigned in November after an investigation into claims that he bullied staff members. The months since then have been marked by uncertainty among the district’s 18,000 employees and the Charlotte community.
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“Ann will provide the stability and direction we need,” school board Chairwoman Mary McCray said.
Clark, who had been the deputy superintendent, said it was her decision not to be considered for the position long term. She said she had planned to file the paperwork Dec. 1 to retire this spring, but after Morrison’s departure she decided it would be in the district’s best interest for her to stay.
She had been leading the district since Morrison resigned, but had not been named interim superintendent. “It is a strong message,” Clark said of her selection by the school board. “We’re not going to hit pause.”
Clark said she now plans to retire from CMS in July 2016, when the new superintendent is expected to take over. She then plans to take a position with an organization focused on children and education.
“I’ve made a commitment to this district,” Clark said. “I don’t want anyone to hear the word retirement and think there will not be 100 percent plus of Ann Clark.”
She will earn $262,000 per year in the role. Morrison’s salary was $288,000.
Clark will also get an extra $4,971 for her “additional responsibilities” since Morrison left.
Clark has been with CMS since 1983, starting as a special education teacher at Devonshire Elementary. She later served as principal and regional superintendent before becoming deputy superintendent.
Clark was a candidate for the CMS superintendent position once before, in 2012. The board ultimately chose Morrison. Clark was later a finalist for the superintendent’s role in the Wake County Public School System.
She was Morrison’s No. 2 administrator when he offered his resignation Nov. 3, just a few days after the school board received a report detailing allegations of bullying behavior and deception about a project at UNC Charlotte.
Clark’s name surfaced in the aftermath of Morrison’s departure. In CMS general counsel George Battle III’s report detailing the allegations against Morrison, Clark is quoted as saying there was a “ culture of fear” among his staff.
In December, Clark told the Observer that she would be willing to lead the district permanently should the school board be interested in having her as superintendent.
Thelma Byers-Bailey was the only board member to vote against approving the contract with Clark.
Byers-Bailey, who represents west Charlotte and the Steele Creek area, said her constituents were OK with Clark leading the district as deputy superintendent but felt her elevation wasn’t necessary.
The board did not discuss the decision at Tuesday’s meeting.
What comes next?
McCray outlined Tuesday a basic timeline for a search for a long-term leader. Clark may leave her position early if a new superintendent is ready to take over before July 2016.
• Feb. 19: The school board will meet with a facilitator to discuss the search.
• March to April: The school board will form and ultimately decide on a process.
• May to April 2016: CMS will conduct the search and hire a superintendent.
Several consulting firms that work with public school districts have told the Observer they’ve begun internal conversations on who could make a good candidate for the job.
They say the next CMS leader will likely be a nationally recognized figure.
In the 2012 superintendent search that brought Morrison to the district, CMS contracted with the Chicago-based firm PROACT, paying $76,500.
Clark told the Observer in December that she is committed to the strategic plan developed under Morrison, describing it as “not one person’s strategic plan.” But she said she has met with principals in recent weeks to present a more refined focus. Under her leadership, teachers will focus primarily on literacy, both in written and spoken language, Clark said. The expectation would be to have on-grade-level readers by fourth grade.
Clark said that doesn’t mean CMS won’t treat areas such as science, technology, engineering and math programs as important. But she said literacy will be the “north star.”