CMS shakes up superintendent’s pay package. Net gain for Wilcox: $37,000 a year

Superintendent Clayton Wilcox got a unanimous vote of confidence from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board Tuesday when the board approved an $18,600 annual pay hike, a benefit increase worth $18,420 a year and a two-year contract extension.

The board also removed a provision in his original contract that made him eligible for annual performance bonuses of up to 10 percent.

Here’s how Tuesday’s contract shakeup worked:

Wilcox started the job in July 2017, after a three-month orientation period in which he worked alongside then-Superintendent Ann Clark. His initial four-year contract gave him $280,000 a year and said he’d get any raises awarded by the state, as well as a bonus to be determined.

This year the state awarded 3 percent raises, which boosted Wilcox to $288,400.

The Nov. 30 deadline set for the first performance bonus passed as the board met behind closed doors with Wilcox to talk about his evaluation, contract and compensation. Without explanation, the board voted in public Tuesday to drop the bonus and extend Wilcox’s contract to June 2023 at an annual salary of $307,000. He will continue to be eligible for state raises, starting in 2020.

The board also awarded Wilcox up to 6 percent of his salary, or $18,420, in additional retirement benefits each year.

While the board did not publicly discuss Wilcox’s performance at Tuesday’s meeting, Wilcox said he hopes the unanimous vote “sends a clear signal to our community that we are on a path together as a leadership team.”

Wilcox, who led three smaller districts before coming to CMS, has seen victories, controversy and turmoil in his first 18 months.

Voters approved a record school construction bond, county commissioners provided raises for teachers and gave Wilcox’s school safety plan a vote of confidence, and many local teachers lauded Wilcox’s advocacy. He was one of nine finalists for the Council of the Great City Schools’ urban superintendent of the year award.

He presented a well-received report on the links between race, poverty and academic achievement and has restructured central-office staff to focus on equity. But he and the board have yet to develop clear plans for ensuring that all students get strong teachers, rigorous classes and an education that prepares them for college and careers.

Test scores and graduation rates showed little progress, and in some cases declined, during Wilcox’s first year on the job.

Wilcox faced criticism for delaying disclosure of the results of lead testing in schools, a decision he first defended, then described as a lesson in how to do better. The district launched a new round of testing, with immediate disclosure of results.

On Oct. 29 a Butler High student was fatally shot at school, a tragic first for CMS. Wilcox immediately reported that bullying might have been a factor, then stopped talking about the cause after the victim’s family objected and police said their investigation did not point to bullying.

At times, friction between Wilcox and board members has been visible. At a February board meeting, Wilcox bristled when board member Ericka Ellis-Stewart responded to a report on student suspensions with a request for more details, noting that such requests take his staff away from other duties. Board Chair Mary McCray said later that Wilcox apologized to the board afterward.

At a July planning retreat, there were tense exchanges between Wilcox, Ellis-Stewart and Brian Jenkins, the facilitator who is still working with Wilcox and the board on strategic planning. Wilcox complained that it was difficult to get board members together to discuss issues and that Jenkins seemed to be accusing Wilcox of “dropping the ball.”

After Tuesday’s vote, Wilcox noted that sometimes he appeared to be at odds with board members and thanked them for their support.

The board also voted Wilcox an extra cushion should they choose to fire him before his contract expires. The original contract calls for him to be paid his base salary for 24 months following termination at the board’s convenience; the new one adds that he’ll also be paid medical benefits during that period.

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