Two-year search for a CMS superintendent nears end with private finalist interviews

The next superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools was in Charlotte Monday, but very few people met him or her.

The district’s long tradition of parading finalists through a series of public meetings ended quietly this week, as the nine board members conducted private interviews with an unknown number of finalists. Six members stood behind their seats at the dais Monday morning just long enough to vote to go into closed session for personnel matters and legal advice, as allowed by North Carolina law.

Public interviews are increasingly an artifact of the past, said Allison Schafer of the North Carolina School Boards Association.

“We find that it cuts down on the sitting superintendents that are willing to apply. They can’t afford to have their name released publicly,” she said recently.

CMS board Chair Mary McCray says the board is scheduled to vote on a contract Jan. 10 and doesn’t plan to release anything before that. She said the public needs to trust the board to do its job and choose the leader for a district that educates more than 147,000 students and employs more than 18,000 people.

The hire would conclude a tumultuous two years that began with Superintendent Heath Morrison’s forced resignation in November 2014. The board promoted Deputy Superintendent Ann Clark and said it would do a search in 2015, then went silent for months. Questions and rumors flew as board members argued behind the scenes, with some wanting to extend Clark’s contract and some hoping to hire Maurice “Mo” Green, a former CMS deputy superintendent who was then leading Guilford County Schools.

In December 2015, Green took a job leading the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. The board renewed its search planning in January, with rifts flaring over the timetable and the decision to extend Clark’s contract to June 2017.

The current plan calls for the leadership transition to happen in early 2017. The new superintendent will arrive as the board launches a school bond campaign and a second phase of student assignment changes – and as a 2017 school board campaign gears up.

Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms