Mary McCray has led CMS board through highs and lows

Mary McCray is one of two incumbents seeking a second term on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board.
Mary McCray is one of two incumbents seeking a second term on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board.

As chairperson of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board for the last three years, Mary McCray has been the face of the board in good times and bad.

The retired teacher, elected in 2011, was at the helm when the Council on Urban Boards of Education named CMS a board of excellence in 2013.

The affable style and bipartisan cooperation of McCray, a Democrat, and Vice Chair Tim Morgan, a Republican, won local praise for uniting board members.

But McCray was the one who went before cameras last fall to say that Superintendent Heath Morrison was resigning after less than three years to care for his sick mother. The Observer obtained a report compiled by the CMS attorney accusing Morrison of bullying staff and misleading the board about costs for a new school, and reported that the board had discussed firing him.

McCray later said the board and Morrison signed confidentiality and non-disparagement agreements as part of his resignation. The board wanted to keep the conflict quiet because “it only hurts and confuses the district when this plays out in the public space,” she said.

A year after the clash between the board and Morrison began, the board has yet to launch a search for a long-term successor. Since a July discussion, McCray has said little about next steps.

Moving toward the Nov. 3 vote, the question for McCray may be whether voters blame her for the lingering uncertainty or count on her for continuity. Tasks ahead include revamping student assignment.

McCray says she’s committed to the task, which includes rallying the community to support CMS, and doesn’t want to “hand over the hard work of getting this right to another board in the future.”

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

Mary McCray

▪ Political experience: Elected to at-large seat on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board in 2011.

▪ CMS connections: Former CMS teacher and parent; mother of a CMS teacher and grandmother of a current student.

▪ Occupation: Retired teacher and former president of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators.

▪ Education: Bachelor’s degree in elementary education from N.C. A&T State University.

▪ Quote: “Our biggest challenge is the trend ... of marginalizing public schools by depriving them of resources, stacking them with ever increasing responsibilities, while failing to account for the enormous challenges in educating an economically and socially diverse population.”

▪ Age: 62.

▪ Contact: McCray4BOE@gmail.com; 704-281-6074.