CMS gets a new boss, as Clayton Wilcox comes off the sidelines into the top job

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools get a new superintendent

Clayton Wilcox was sworn in Monday morning by District Judge Donald Cureton.
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Clayton Wilcox was sworn in Monday morning by District Judge Donald Cureton.

After three months of shadowing, studying and even mowing a school lawn, Clayton Wilcox raised his right hand Monday and became superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Wilcox, who was hired in December and has been working on a per-diem basis since March, thanked his predecessor, Ann Clark, and the school board for helping him learn more about the nation’s 18th-largest district before stepping into the job that puts him in charge of more than 19,000 employees charged with educating almost 150,000 kids.

“I stand on the shoulders of giants,” Wilcox said.

Shortly after the swearing-in, Wilcox took his seat at the dais and the board approved contracts for several members of his top staff, most of them renewals for current executives. The Observer has requested the details, including salaries.

Wilcox said afterward he won’t name a deputy superintendent right away, but Chief Academic Officer Brian Schultz will “continue to lead in the able capacity he has.” He said he’ll monitor Schultz’s performance and decide later whether the deputy superintendent job needs to be funded and filled.

The board also approved hiring Jody Francisco, the husband of Wilcox’s Chief of Staff Laura Francisco, for an $85,000-a-year job as community engagement manager. Laura Francisco worked with Wilcox in his previous job in Hagerstown, Md., and followed him to CMS, where she earns $175,000. Jody Francisco won’t report to his wife, but board policy requires the board to sign off on hiring family members of top staff.

The swearing-in, at a special board meeting on a Monday morning between a weekend and a holiday, drew only a handful of spectators. Among them were state Reps. Bill Brawley, R-Mecklenburg, and Craig Horn, R-Union County and chair of the House’s K-12 education committee.

District Judge Donald Cureton, who administered the oath of office, has ties to the district: He graduated from Garinger High and is married to CMS Teacher of the Year Deanna Cureton.

Wilcox said after the meeting that he and his staff will start work on improving literacy, executing the recently-approved student assignment changes and making the case for school bonds to the public. He’ll also continue learning about the district, which he described as underappreciated locally.

“What I hope (people) will see is that I have an open ear,” he said in a 15-minute news conference.

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