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Interim CMS chief Earnest Winston aims to reassure community
New leader takes over after Wilcox’s resignation
Published Wednesday, July 24, 2019 10:40 am
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

Earnest Winston is Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' interim superintendent.

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As Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ chief of staff and ombudsman, Earnest Winston’s job was to listen to community and district concerns.

As interim superintendent, his role is to shepherd North Carolina’s second-largest district during an unexpected upheaval. Winston, a neophyte to the job, is the fourth CMS superintendent since 2014.

In a letter to the community, Winston pledged a stable transition from Superintendent Clayton Wilcox, who resigned last week for still-undisclosed reasons. Wilcox’s last day is Aug. 2. As a district, Winston said, “our focus on students remains clear because they are what matter most.”

CMS leaders decline to reveal why Wilcox quit after a pair of meetings with the school board in the last month to address several concerns, including the suspension of fingerprinting of new employees, which is district and state policy.

Winston, whose CMS career spans 15 years from teaching at Vance High School to chief community relations and engagement officer, takes over at a challenging time. Among the district’s issues are searches for a new assistant superintendent for CMS’s low-income schools as well as principal for West Charlotte High School, which  has struggled to raise academic achievement in recent years.

Three schools were assigned principals on Tuesday and Mike Turner, a retired CMS principal, was appointed interim West Charlotte principal.

“Let me be real clear,” CMS parent and political activist Colette Forrest wrote in an email to CMS, “I understand there is a LOT of uncertainty and turmoil right now regarding the Superintendent of CMS but DO NOT LOSE FOCUS ON WEST CHARLOTTE HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL SEARCH.”

Winston, who is also a CMS parent, said he understands those concerns.

“My expectations are the same as yours and together we will keep moving forward to meet those expectations,” he said. …“We will teach and learn with high expectations and a challenging curriculum. We will remain committed to providing equity for all students. We will graduate the class of 2020 with diplomas that are keys to real opportunities...that’s how we move forward.”

Wilcox, who was hired in 2017, earned a two-year contract extension and $27,000 raise that boosted his annual salary to $307,000.


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