CMS board long favored national search for new superintendent

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board had favored launching a national search for a new superintendent for weeks and never discussed making Ann Clark the long-term leader of the district, school board leaders said Wednesday.

Their comments in an interview held at the Observer office shed light on the behind-the-scenes negotiations before Clark was named superintendent of the district through 2016 at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Clark, who had been the deputy superintendent, will lead the district until a new superintendent is selected. She said Tuesday it was her decision not to be considered for the long-term job. Instead, she plans to retire and take a job with another organization.

Board Chairwoman Mary McCray and Vice Chairman Tim Morgan said they first approached Clark in November, soon after former Superintendent Heath Morrison offered his resignation. He left after the district’s general counsel, George Battle III, investigated claims that he bullied staff members and misled board members on a school project.

After that, Clark was in charge but was never given the “interim superintendent” title.

Clark asked for the Thanksgiving holiday to think things over. When they returned, Clark explained that she had planned to retire in the spring to take another job she had lined up, McCray said. She had even booked a weeklong vacation in Hawaii for March.

But Clark said she would stay on as the superintendent for 18 more months to give the district the stability it needed, McCray said.

“We never approached the board as far as a long-term thing with her,” McCray said.

Both Morgan and McCray said every board member they spoke with assumed they would conduct a national search from the beginning.

“I want us to have enough time that I don’t want us to feel like we have to take the first person that comes along,” McCray said. “Let’s take our time and do this right because we owe it to the community and the people we serve.”

Clark’s contract, which was approved Tuesday but has not yet been executed, specifically says that Clark will not be considered for the long-term position.

McCray did not rule out the possibility of the contract being changed to allow Clark to serve longer. But she said she took Clark at her word in saying she desired to leave the district in 2016.

Clark was a finalist in the national search for CMS superintendent that brought Morrison. In 2013, she was a finalist for the superintendent position in Wake County.