CMS board calls special search meeting with little public notice

Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board Chair Mary McCray presides over the Feb. 23 meeting, where search decisions were delayed.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board Chair Mary McCray presides over the Feb. 23 meeting, where search decisions were delayed.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board will hold a special meeting on the superintendent search at noon Thursday.

N.C. Open Meetings Law requires 48 hours’ public notice of such meetings, including notification of news media and others who have requested notification. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools emailed the media at 5 p.m. Wednesday, 19 hours before the meeting, after the Observer learned of the meeting and questioned whether the law had been met. The notice says the meeting was posted on the CMS website Monday.

The brief agenda says the meeting is a work session to consider a “superintendent search request for proposal,” a formal notice to prospective search firms that CMS is in the market.

It’s a technical step that might generate little public interest, but the timing and process of the search have become controversial at a time when the district is trying to build public confidence.

The board voted 6-3 on Feb. 9 to extend Superintendent Ann Clark’s contract a year, to June 2017. Four members argued not to do so (one changed her vote), saying it was important to start a search quickly and conclude it by summer or fall of 2016. Five members said they needed more time to do a good search while working on a time-consuming review of student assignment.

Clark has been in charge since Heath Morrison resigned under pressure in November 2014, after CMS General Counsel George Battle III told the board he had bullied staff and misled the board about costs of a new school.

On Feb. 23, the board was scheduled to approve a search timeline. Member Thelma Byers-Bailey introduced a last-minute plan, never posted for public viewing, that included a process for hiring a search firm. Several members questioned whether that process was proper, and the board agreed to delay a decision.

It was unclear Wednesday evening whether the short notice for Thursday’s session meets legal requirements.

The public information staffer who mentioned the meeting to a reporter said she thought the board services staff had notified the media.

Battle said he didn’t immediately know what happened: “I need to look further into it to see what we did and didn’t do.”

The meeting, which is open to the public, starts at noon in Room 527 of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 600 E. Fourth St.

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