Administrative pay rises – and an unusual new job emerges – under new CMS leader

New Superintendent Clayton Wilcox spoke briefly after his swearing-in Monday, but details on his top staff weren’t released until Wednesday.
New Superintendent Clayton Wilcox spoke briefly after his swearing-in Monday, but details on his top staff weren’t released until Wednesday.

Two days after being sworn in as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools superintendent, Clayton Wilcox released salaries and talked about his plans for top staff. He’s bumping up pay significantly for some jobs, creating a new “culinary manager” post for his chief of staff’s husband and offsetting administrative costs by scaling down some jobs, he says.

The school board approved the first handful of contracts for Wilcox’s administration in April, with several more voted on at a special meeting Monday where Wilcox was sworn in. The district didn’t release details of the second batch until Wednesday afternoon.

Some of the biggest bumps have come for employees Wilcox recruited from his former district in Hagerstown, Md., which is about one-seventh the size of CMS.

Wilcox said Wednesday he’s recruiting people who will help him thrive here, with missions that range from improving educational technology to making healthy school lunches taste better.

On Monday, Chief Financial Officer Sheila Shirley got a four-year contract to do the same job at a higher annual salary, $193,400. That’s a raise of almost $7,500 a year. Wilcox said he wanted to reward her for good work and make sure she’d stay with CMS, after the recent departure of other high-level finance employees.

Derek Root, who was chief technology officer for Wilcox in Washington County, Md., was named chief technology officer for CMS at $183,500 a year, with a four-year contract. That’s about $18,000 a year more than Valerie Truesdale earned as chief of technology, personalization and engagement.

Wilcox said Root, who has also been a private contractor, brings stronger tech skills that will help make CMS data more secure and accessible. He said Root was making about $160,000 a year in Washington County, so the pay bump isn’t as big as the change in the size of the system he oversees.

Meanwhile, Truesdale got a two-year contract to serve as associate superintendent for personalization and school partnerships at her current salary of $165,315. She’ll continue to work with education technology, Wilcox said, but focus more on helping teachers learn the best ways to use it.

Wilcox said he asked for some four-year and some two-year contracts so there won’t be so many up for renewal at one time.

In April CMS hired Laura Francisco as Wilcox’s chief of staff at $175,000 a year, with a four-year term. That’s $40,585 more than Earnest Winston made as former Superintendent Ann Clark’s chief of staff. Wilcox said Wednesday he saw Francisco as crucial to his success and needed to entice her to move.

On Monday, the board also approved hiring Francisco’s husband, Jody Francisco, for a new job as manager of culinary development in the department of community engagement at $85,000 a year. On Monday and in the first news release sent out Wednesday, Jody Francisco was described as manager of community engagement. A manager’s job would not normally require board approval, but policy requires the board to sign off on hiring family of top executives.

Wilcox said Jody Francisco’s job will include making cafeterias more responsive to students with special dietary needs, working with school gardens, developing partnerships that promote healthy eating and working to make school food taste better within federal health guidelines. Jody Francisco, a former chef, worked in food services at the Maryland district. “He can wear a lot of different hats,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox says he expects some to say he created a job for Laura Francisco’s husband, but says the position is one he’d have created anyway. “I’m trying to respond to what the community’s asked us to do,” he said. The child nutrition department, which actually runs the cafeterias, will remain separate from Jody Francisco’s department.

Winston, the former chief of staff, became ombudsman and chief of community engagement under a four-year contract approved in April. He now makes $175,000 a year, a $40,585 hike from his previous job. Wilcox said that bump was to ensure equity, because both Winston and Laura Francisco are doing crucial jobs that report directly to him.

The community engagement department, which Clark created, had been run by Assistant Superintendent LaTarzja Henry, who made $131,000 a year. Wilcox says Henry is now an executive director reporting to Winston, with her pay unchanged. Henry will also supervise Jody Francisco.

Akeshia Craven-Howell, one of the leaders of the recent CMS student assignment review, got a promotion and a raise of about $34,300 a year. On Monday the board approved a two-year, $165,315 contract for Craven-Howell as associate superintendent for school assignment. She takes on some of the duties of Scott McCully, a longtime CMS executive who recently left to become chief operating officer in Guilford County Schools.

Wilcox said the CMS compensation specialists are still reviewing Craven-Howell’s new duties and the pay level could change.

Two other top administrators got two-year contracts at their current pay: Chief Operating Officer Carol Stamper ($175,100) and Chief Academic Officer Brian Schultz ($165,315).

Chief Academic Officer Frank Barnes got a one-year contract as associate superintendent for accountability, with his salary unchanged at $165,315. Wilcox declined to discuss the reason for the short term: “I can’t go there.”

The shakeup isn’t finished. Wilcox is still seeking people to run human resources and communications. He says he downgraded those posts from “chief” to executive director, which is expected to save some money on pay. He says overall costs for top administration are down about $18,000 because he has left the deputy superintendent job unfilled and eliminated a vacant “learning community” superintendent job.

Still to come: On July 25 Wilcox expects to bring the school board contracts for the people who run those regional offices, which oversee clusters of schools.

Wilcox himself comes in at a higher pay level than his predecessor. In January the board approved his four-year contract at a base salary of $280,000, with the chance to earn a performance bonus of up to 10 percent. Clark’s salary was about $270,000, without the bonus option.

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