CMS Board member favors a nationwide search to find next superintendent

RAW VIDEO: Ericka Ellis-Stewart one-on-one

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte Mecklenburg School (CMS) At-Large Board Member Ericka Ellis-Stewart says she wanted to fire former superintendent Dr. Heath Morrison after hearing allegations he bullied and harassed staff.

"I wanted to do that from the start," Ellis-Stewart said. "You got to have five votes, and I am not saying I didn't have five votes - I'm saying that's not the way it happened."

Ellis-Stewart has heard both praise and criticism about how the board handled the Morrison departure. She gives the board a "C" for how it dealt with the separation.

"We really needed some crisis communication to occur," she said. "And it didn't happen the way it should have."

The board member wants a new superintendent who can do more than educate students.

"Bring a level of healing," the school board member said. "And right siding the community as it relates to the board and the school system."

Ellis-Stewart is in favor of conducting a nationwide search to find Charlotte's next top educator.

"There's a lot of talent out there I think," Ellis-Stewart said. "There are some great folks in the state of North Carolina that I would love to come back home to Charlotte and there are some people around the country who would be great to look at."

She believes former CMS Deputy Superintendent Moe Green would be a good candidate, but she believes the board needs to decide the best way to find the right person.

"It could be home grown," Ellis-Stewart said. "It could be somebody who comes from the outside. We have to be open to examine all of the talent that is available to us and not say we are only going to look here. I think that would be shortsighted."

Here's what she had to say about giving the job to CMS Deputy Superintendent Ann Clark.

"We have to determine," she said. "Is that what we need to carry us forward into the future, and I think Ann has to decide if this the position she wants."

The At-Large Board member doesn't believe effective candidates will be deterred because of the Morrison drama.

"I think that you will see some strong people emerge," Ellis-Stewart said. "To look at this position."

The board member believes the Morrison split really shined the light on her colleagues.

"People are going to be who they are," Ellis-Stewart said. "And that will show, when you have a rough patch in the road."

Ellis-Stewart has plans for 2015. She says she will push for rigorous academics, tackle a challenging budget and fight for higher wages for CMS workers.

"We have teachers who come to work every day," Ellis-Stewart said. "And still need government assistance to feed their families or to pay their rent. That should not be the reality of those who are preparing the best and brightest in our state. We have to do better."

She also wants to have a discussion about the high number of poverty that's sitting in the classrooms. Ellis-Stewart believes when it comes to student assignment, the board can make better decisions to manage it.

"Make sure we don't continue to create schools that have 70% and 80% poverty rate," she said. "I think that is not in the best interest of students."

Ellis-Stewart also wants to have discussions about allowing a student sit on the school board.

Her term is up this year. Ellis-Stewart tells WBTV she plans to run again.

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