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Seeking stability, CMS promotes Winston to superintendent
New school district leader signed to 3-year deal
Published Friday, August 2, 2019 11:25 am
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

Earnest Winston was hired as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools superintendent Friday, a job he held on an interim basis since July when Clayton Wilcox announced his resignation.

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What Earnest Winston lacks in experience leading a school district, he brings in stability for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Winston, who was hired Friday by the Board of Education as full-time superintendent, signed a three-year contract for $280,000 annually.  

Winston, who had been the district’s chief community relations and engagement officer since 2017, replaced Clayton Wilcox, whose final day was Friday.
“I am humbled and grateful to the Board and the community for the trust placed in me. It is my honor and privilege to serve our community’s students, families, CMS employees and partners,” Winston said. “The district team is preparing to welcome students back for a smooth opening of schools on Aug. 26. We are moving forward together on our commitment to equity through our 2024 strategic plan. Our shared focus is on what matters most – great teaching and learning for every student in every school.”

A former newspaper journalist who joined the district in 2004 as an English teacher at Vance High School, Winston joined CMS’s communications department in 2006 and moved on to chief of staff from 2011-2017. He has two children enrolled in CMS.

“Our vote today is reflective of our faith and belief in Earnest, his experience and his vision for moving forward together,” the school board wrote in a statement. “We are thankful for Earnest’s trust in us because we have full trust in him and we believe the community does, too.

“This trust has been earned by Earnest Winston’s strong experience, steady dependability, constant commitment to all children, deep belief in collaboration and a leadership style that puts listening first.”

Hiring Winston – who lacks the typical advanced degrees school districts look for in superintendents – without opening a national search is unusual for CMS, which has gone through four chief executives over the last five years. The board determined hiring from within is the best option to keep the district moving forward with initiatives launched during Wilcox’s tenure.

“We carefully considered the option to conduct a national search for our next Superintendent,” the board wrote. “We are called at this moment in our district’s history to keep moving forward confidently while providing the surety of experienced leadership. In the end, we prioritized a strong, steady guiding light already here in our community, saving all of us valuable time and resources. We believe this decision reflects the community’s desire for stability, for calm guidance and clear focus on what matters most – our students and their teaching and learning.”

Although Winston has taken a non-traditional path to leading North Carolina’s second-largest school district with 174,000 students, he’ll lean on a unique perspective and skills learned over 15 years to navigate the new job.

“I’ve had many different experiences as part of my leadership journey that I believe have helped prepare me for this role today,” Winston said in a video posted to CMS’s YouTube channel. “I think one of the most important skill sets that all of us need, no matter what field you’re in is the ability to listen and decipher information. I also think effective communication is important because you have to talk to people and get a message out to them and get them to understand your perspective, so I think those skill sets are extremely important in this role.”


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