CMS plan: Hire a new superintendent early next year

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board picked these qualities as the top things they’re looking for in a new superintendent.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board picked these qualities as the top things they’re looking for in a new superintendent.

If all goes as planned, the public will meet two finalists for superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in February and the school board will hire one of them soon afterward.

Consultants from McPherson & Jacobson, a Nebraska-based search firm, advised the board Wednesday against rushing to hire a new leader this fall. Most superintendents who are switching jobs this year have already signed contracts, said consultant Steve Joel.

Instead, he laid out a plan designed to put CMS ahead of the pack for 2017, with the job advertised this fall. The board would hold confidential interviews with half a dozen or so contenders in January and narrow that to two finalists who would meet the public.

Nobody’s looking for a job in the summer months. We want to do it right and we want to do it once.

Consultant Thomas Jacobson

A start date would be negotiated after the board makes its choice. Superintendent Ann Clark’s contract runs through June 2017, but the new leader could start earlier.

The plan calls for public meetings to discuss the process in September. The consultants urged board members to make sure CMS boosters and critics are included in focus groups.

The timeline means board members will dive into the search after they’ve completed a review of student assignment policies, which should culminate with a November vote for changes to take place in 2017-18.

They will have to come in with some sense of political savviness. They’re going to have to navigate the waters here.

CMS board Chair Mary McCray

At Wednesday’s special meeting, consultants had board members name the qualities they want in a superintendent, a list that grew to 60 items. They narrowed that to six top priorities: Integrity, a strong background in public education, political savvy, leadership, ability to build a strong team and cultural competence.

Board members also said they want someone who will stay past the three- to five-year span that has characterized the tenure of recent CMS leaders, as well as most urban superintendents in America.

“We have some lofty goals in this district,” said board Chair Mary McCray. “We need a person that’s willing to be here to help us achieve those goals.”

It’s rare to see 7 to 10 years. It does happen, but it’s rare.

Consultant Steve Joel, on longevity for urban superintendents

Joel acknowledged the challenge, but said McPherson & Jacobson has a record of matches that last. He said 60 percent of the superintendents the firm placed 10 years ago are still in the job, though it wasn’t clear how many of those involved large districts.

Keep up with the search at

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