CMS looking for 3-4 superintendent finalists

Meetings cut candidate list down from 89

by Morgan Smith

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board narrowed down the district’s 89 applicants for superintendent last week to just eight. Now it’s time to pick finalists and start introducing them to the community.

“We have a variety of experiences – people who have been superintendents; people from large organizations and small organizations,” Tim Morgan, at-large member to the board, said. “I’m excited about the depth we have to look at.”

Morgan, a resident of south Mecklenburg, explained the process of narrowing down the applicants had a lot to do with level of experience, and also qualities that mimicked the position profile created back in January. The board approved the profile at the Jan. 28 meeting, and PROACT Search, the firm hired by the district to conduct the superintendent search, launched a six-week recruiting process that wrapped up March 8.

The first round of interviews with the eight candidates took place Monday and Tuesday, March 20 and 21, wrapping up after South Charlotte Weekly’s press deadline. The board must narrow that search down to around three or four finalists, who will then start meeting with communities so the board can get input from the public on the finalists, Morgan said.

“I felt like it was important to come back to the community and to our staff and others in terms of where we are at in the process,” Ericka Ellis-Stewart, the boards’ chairperson, said at the March 13 meeting. The community meetings are still being finalized, but will take place sometime in April, and will provide an opportunity for all community stakeholders – CMS employees, parents, students and community faith-based and business leaders – to weigh in on final candidates. Look for updates in upcoming issues of the South Charlotte Weekly on information regarding community meetings.

As for the first round of interviews, Morgan said there were some big issues the board wanted to hear about.

“The biggest things we want to know are how much do they know about CMS,” he said. They need to be familiar with “the success we have had, the challenges we are facing.” Applicants’ philosophy of education also was at the top of Morgan’s list.

“I want someone who has a track record of success. What is your philosophy of leading an organization this size? How committed are you to the idea of education reform?” They need to be able “to look at various ways to educate everybody,” Morgan added.

Ellis-Stewart made a presentation at the district’s March 13 meeting, where she highlighted and examined the demographics of the 89 applicants based on gender, race and experience levels.

Overall, 74 percent of the applicants were male, 26 percent female. Forty-six percent of applicants were white, 45 percent were black, 5 percent Hispanic, 2 percent multi-racial and 2 percent did not wish to disclose.

In terms of relevant years of experience, which helped shape the narrowing of applicants, 26 percent had zero to five years experience; 18 percent had five to 10 years; 9 percent had 10 to 15 years; 21 percent had 15 to 20 years; 18 percent had 20 to 25 years; 18 percent had 25 to 30 years; and 18 percent had 30-plus years of experience.

Additionally, 28 percent of applicants have current or former ties to Charlotte-Mecklenburg or North Carolina, Ellis-Stewart said at the meeting.

Specific information on the eight interviewed candidates is confidential and could not be released, board members said.

Throughout the superintendent hiring process, there have been some adjustments in the timeline for hiring in order to ensure the entire nine-member board had their say in the matter since the Rev. Amelia Stinson-Wesley was named to the District 6 seat Jan. 5 after Morgan was elected to an at-large seat December 2011. In order to ensure Stinson-Wesley and the other board members had full understanding and say in the search and position profile, the board opted to slow down the process. The hiring of a new superintendent was originally scheduled for mid-March. Now members are saying they would like to make an offer by May 1 or early May at the latest.

“Our goal is to announce our finalist at the beginning of May and we want to make sure we have ample time to really go through the process and select a person who will be the best fit for Charlotte-Mecklenburg,” Ellis-Stewart said at the March 13 meeting, “but also someone who is reflective of the traits and characteristics and the level of experience that was expressed in our position profile.”

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