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New York City needs a new public schools leader. Should the mayor look in Charlotte?

CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox says he’s not interested in moving to New York City just months after taking the Charlotte job.
CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox says he’s not interested in moving to New York City just months after taking the Charlotte job. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

As America’s highest-profile superintendent search begins, a New York City charter school executive says the mayor might look to Charlotte for the next leader of the nation’s largest public school district.

Clayton Wilcox, who has been Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ superintendent for six months, is on Eva Moskowitz’s recently posted list of “14 extraordinarily capable educators from around the country” who she says would bring the experience and skills to run the city’s schools.

Moskowitz, CEO of the Success Academy charter school network, has frequently clashed over education strategy with Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has launched a national search for chancellor of New York City’s schools. “But we share the deep belief that we need the best possible person leading our schools,” she wrote in a Kings County Politics op-ed that drew notice from a national Education Week blog.

Wilcox said Tuesday he’s flattered to be on the list, but not interested in the job.

“And no, I would not apply, nor would I interview if asked,” he emailed in response to my query. “We, Julie and I love being here in Charlotte, we are excited by the work here and quite frankly the opportunity we have here to serve our kids and community.”

Anyone who follows CMS leadership – for that matter, leadership in any of the country’s large and highly regarded school districts – knows this is part of the life cycle of a superintendent. When a big district launches a search, someone from that city inevitably speculates publicly about who should be in the running – and it’s not uncommon for CMS chiefs to pop up.

In the five years that Peter Gorman led CMS, he appeared on several such lists. He always denied interest, and ultimately took a private-sector job with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp in 2011.

Six months in Charlotte might or might not have put Wilcox on the national radar, but Moskowitz noted that he has also led districts in Louisiana, Florida and Maryland. Two other former CMS administrators – Barbara Jenkins, now superintendent of Orange County (Fla.) Schools, and Robert Avossa, now heading the Palm Beach County (Fla.) School District – also made the list.

Bill de Blasio
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will pick the next chancellor of America’s largest school district. Charlie Neibergall AP

Carmen Fariña, chancellor of New York City schools, announced last week that she’ll retire in 2018. The task of finding a new leader for a district with 1.1 million students (CMS has just over 147,000) falls to the mayor.

Education Week reports that during last week’s news conference de Blasio briefly acknowledged the Moskowitz list, drawing laughs from the crowd when he said that “I will not hold (Moskowitz’s) endorsement against any of those candidates.”

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

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