Frank Barnes, chief accountability officer for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, is one of 10 top administrators scheduled for contract extensions. MARK HAMES mhames@charlotteobserver.com
Frank Barnes, chief accountability officer for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, is one of 10 top administrators scheduled for contract extensions. MARK HAMES mhames@charlotteobserver.com

Education

With Clark’s future unclear, CMS to extend contracts for her top aides

January 11, 2016 04:32 PM

With nothing resolved on the future of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools superintendent, the school board will vote Tuesday on contract extensions for 10 of Superintendent Ann Clark’s top lieutenants.

It’s a move allowed by law to avoid a leadership vacuum in cases like this, when there’s less than a year left on a superintendent’s contract. The 10 CMS chief officers and assistant superintendents have contracts that expire June 30. Clark’s term ends July 31.

The proposed one-year extensions do not bring raises or other changes in compensation, CMS General Counsel George Battle III said. They’re designed to ensure continuity as the school board figures out next steps with the top job.

Which poses an obvious question: What is the board doing about that?

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Neither board Chair Mary McCray nor Vice Chair Elyse Dashew responded to calls for comment Monday. McCray has said the board would hold a special session this month to talk about a search, and a board retreat is scheduled for Jan. 22.

Clark has been superintendent since January 2015, stepping in after Heath Morrison’s forced resignation in November 2014. Her 18-month contract said she would not be considered for a longer term.

Since then, however, the board has taken no action to launch a search.

Some board and community members have said they’d like to see Clark stay longer, and Clark has left the door open. Clark’s future was questioned and debated during last fall’s school board campaign, and an October board meeting drew protesters concerned that Clark’s contract would be extended without public involvement.

The board’s last public discussion of a superintendent search was in July. In recent months, Clark has referred questions about her future to the board, which has made no statements.

In the past, CMS superintendent searches have taken most of a year, with a search firm hired and several public meetings held to talk about the job description and to meet finalists. Board members have voiced differing views about what kind of search might happen this time and whether enough time remains.

Meanwhile, the board will vote on extending the contracts for Chief Accountability Officer Frank Barnes, Northeast Learning Community Superintendent Charity Bell, Chief Communications Officer Kathryn Block, Assistant Superintendent LaTarzja Henry, Student Placement Director Scott McCully, Chief Financial Officer Sheila Shirley, Assistant Superintendent Gina Smith, Technology Chief Valerie Truesdale, Project LIFT Zone Superintendent Denise Watts and Chief of Staff Earnest Winston.

State law limits superintendents to four-year contracts and normally prohibits them from giving their assistants contracts that extend past their own term, Battle said.

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

Next for CMS

Board meeting

The basics: The board will hold its first regular meeting of 2016 at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the chamber of the Government Center, 600 E. Fourth St.

Public engagement: Three-minute public comments on any topic will be heard. To speak call 980-343-5139 by noon Tuesday or sign up on site before the meeting. The meeting is video streamed and broadcast live on CMS-TV Cable 3.

Student assignment

The basics: The board’s policy committee resumes discussion of CMS student assignment policy at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in Room 528 of the Government Center.

Public engagement: The meeting is open to the public but no comments are taken. Video is posted afterward at www.cms.k12.nc.us/boe

Board retreat

The basics: A retreat is set to begin at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 22 at the Mahlon Adams Pavilion of Freedom Park. No details have been released.

Public engagement: Board retreats are open to the public unless the board goes into closed session to discuss personnel, legal advice or other matters allowed by law.