Three changes at the top of Clayton Wilcox’s to-do list for CMS

Clayton Wilcox, who became superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools on July 1, spent most of his 3 1/2-month transition in Charlotte learning the turf. But even before he officially claimed the top office he identified three areas he plans to improve.

1. Schools need to modernize, both the buildings and the content.

Wilcox says he wants to work more closely with employers to prepare students for today’s job market. He would like to see “smaller and more boutique” specialty schools, something he was known for in Maryland. CMS has made a good start he said, citing Olympic High’s career-tech partnerships as one of many “pockets of individual excellence,” but the effort needs to spread across the county.

Wilcox sees the November school bond campaign as a vital step toward modernizing buildings.

“We know that space absolutely has an effect on student outcomes,” he said. “There are a lot of people who say, ‘I could teach kids in a cardboard box.’ Well, yes you could. But I don’t know how you teach some of the careers of the 21st century in a cardboard box. Kids have to have hands-on experiences with technology.”

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2. Teachers must become proficient in digital instruction.

CMS has been providing digital devices and training teachers for years, but Wilcox said that work needs to move faster. Choosing not to incorporate digital learning can’t be an option, he said.

He approvingly cites a saying he heard: “Technology won’t replace a teacher, but a teacher who uses technology will replace a teacher who doesn’t. ”

3. Students with disabilities should get a more effective education.

While CMS has seen test-score gains for many types of students, failure rates remain high for students with disabilities. Last year, for instance, only 21 percent passed state exams.

Those students “demand and deserve not just the loving care that they’re getting right now, but even better educational outcomes,” Wilcox said.