The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board will move closer to a superintendent search Tuesday when members interview four prospective consultants at a special meeting.
The contenders are:
▪ Coleman Lew, a Charlotte firm that does public and private executive searches. Former school board member Trent Merchant, who advised the school board on its superintendent search in March, used to work for Coleman Lew but left several years ago.
▪ Hazard Young, Attea & Associates, an Illinois-based firm that has done numerous superintendent searches, including the current one in Houston.
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▪ McPherson & Jacobson, a Nebraska-based firm that is conducting superintendent searches in 12 states, including South Carolina.
▪ The N.C. School Boards Association, which helps in-state districts recruit candidates from around the country.
CMS leadership has been in flux since November 2014, when Superintendent Heath Morrison resigned under pressure after less than three years in the job. The board never disclosed details of his departure, but the Observer obtained a report from CMS lawyer George Battle III recommending Morrison’s dismissal, saying he had bullied staff and misled the board about costs of a new school.
The board gave Ann Clark, a 32-year CMS employee who was Morrison’s deputy, an 18-month contract as superintendent, saying it would have a long-term successor in place by summer 2016. After months of public silence, the board voted 6-3 in February to extend Clark’s contract through June 2017. Members said that during 2015 some had wanted to keep Clark longer and others had hoped to hire Guilford County Superintendent Maurice “Mo” Green, who ended that possibility when he took a job with the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in December.
In March, the board put out a request for information from prospective consultants.
Board member Rhonda Lennon, who led the three-member panel that narrowed the list, said the board got nine or 10 responses. At Tuesday’s special meeting, which starts at 3:30 p.m., board members will rotate among the four finalists and hear their pitches. The plan is to go into closed session afterward, pick a favorite and authorize the board’s lawyers to begin negotiation, with a goal of approving a contract this month.
Among the issues the board and its consultant will have to figure out is whether to let the public meet more than one finalist or only the top candidate. In recent CMS searches at least three finalists have met the public, but the practice is controversial, with some boards and consultants saying people who already have jobs don’t want to face public exposure if they’re not hired.
Lennon said she supports keeping the finalists confidential, saying the whirlwind tour of public appearances say more about charisma than qualifications.
She said MeckEd, a nonprofit advocacy group, has offered to conduct sessions at no charge to help the public weigh in on the type of leader CMS needs.
This week in CMS
Superintendent search: Special board meeting at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday to interview prospective search consultants. Room 280, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 600 E. Fourth St.
Regular meeting: Starts at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the meeting chamber of the Government Center (delayed start because of the special session earlier). Includes presentation of the superintendent’s 2016-’17 operating budget, a public hearing on a new policy regarding disposal of surplus real estate and a general public comment period. Sign up to speak by calling 980-343-5139 before noon Tuesday or on-site before the meeting starts.
Student assignment: The board’s policy committee will discuss guiding principles for student assignment at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in room 527 at the Government Center.