Education

CMS quizzed about its diversity

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Ann Clark said she seeks a good fit above all else in executive leadership.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Ann Clark said she seeks a good fit above all else in executive leadership. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools leaders faced questions Tuesday about whether they are doing enough to bring in racial diversity both in executive staff and in the classroom.

Speaking at the weekly Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum in west Charlotte, Superintendent Ann Clark and Rakeda Leaks, sourcing and onboarding executive director, said the district has set ambitious goals to bring in more black and Hispanic teachers over the next three years.

Clark also said she will hold her executive staff accountable for meeting those goals.

Leaks said CMS is working to make its pool of teachers more representative of the student body, which is roughly 40 percent black, 30 percent white and 20 percent Hispanic. That compares with a teaching corps that’s made up of only 31 percent people of color.

The district’s goal is for 26 percent of new teachers hired to be black, and 5 percent Hispanic. Those percentages will increase steadily over the next few years, Leaks said. She said CMS has recruited at more than a dozen historically black colleges and universities, and visited other diversity-minded job fairs.

CMS also wants at least 22 percent of its new teachers to be male. And the district has spent more time recruiting in Florida because of its higher concentration of Hispanic teachers, Leaks said.

Clark faced several pointed questions about her executive team appointments since taking over the title of superintendent in January. Both the new chief operating officer and chief human resources officer are white women. Clark was asked whether she was committed to diversity in the upper ranks of CMS.

Clark said she seeks a good fit above all else in executive leadership. But she also said she believes there is a pipeline of talent for those positions that includes diverse candidates.

“I am committed to the most talented executive staff team in the nation and believe that we have the capacity as a district to attract both outside candidates of diversity and internal candidates of diversity,” Clark said.

“At the end of the day, I’m going to make a decision and make a recommendation to the board based on the requirements of the job and the skills that the person brings to the job.”

Tuesday marked the first time Clark had spoken to the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum as superintendent. She also touched on a number of other areas.

▪ Clark called the school principal the most important position in the district, even more so than classroom teachers. A great principal, Clark said, can bring in high-quality teachers to a school no matter its location and make hard decisions about removing ineffective teachers. “They are the key lever that’s going to make the difference for every child,” she said.

▪ Clark said CMS hasn’t gotten to pick new textbooks in six years. She called history and science books “woefully inadequate in terms of relevancy today.”

▪ Clark called on the community to have pride in CMS and to encourage children who have an inkling to grow up to be teachers. “If a kid tells you they want to be a teacher, I need you to jump out of your shoes and say, ‘Good for you!’” she said.

Dunn: 704-358-5235;

Twitter: @andrew_dunn

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