CMS School Board Chair wanted former superintendent to leave district with dignity

RAW VIDEO: Mary McCray one-on-one

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) Board chairperson Mary McCray reflects on the accomplishments and disappointments of 2014. McCray believes the district's biggest success of 2014 is the increased graduation rate and the closing of the achievement gap between black and white students.

"I think we are going to see increase even this year," McCray said.

Her biggest disappointment is the failure of the quarter cent sales tax referendum.

"I will take some of the blame for that," McCray said. "Because we were not able to press upon our legislators that this was something we needed in Charlotte Mecklenburg."

McCray thinks not enough time nor money was given to get the message out to voters.

"We were not able to deliver on a promise that we had made," McCray said. "Our total community did not see the value of paying our teachers."

If approved, the referendum would have raised taxes and given CMS employees a continuous raise.

"We even had some of our employees," McCray said, "Who did not understand it. Had a bus driver to tell me, that she didn't understand it and so she didn't vote for it. That was heartbreaking."

McCray tells WBTV she is up to having the referendum be put back on the ballot. No word if that will happen.

Another big story for CMS was the sudden resignation of former superintendent Dr. Heath Morrison. Some of her colleagues wanted to fire Morrison immediately after hearing allegations that he bullied and harassed staff, but McCray didn't want Morrison fired.

"I still say you allow people to leave with dignity," McCray said.

She believes the Morrison drama impacted school board members.

"It was the incident with Dr. Morrison," McCray said. "That I think caused some trepidation amongst some of our board members.

McCary tells WBTV she has seen a difference in the board.

"We're not as high functioning as we were," she said. "There's probably some trust issues that we are going to have to get over. I am open to having some candid and open conversations, because it's needed."

The chair hopes to tackle some of that discussion at the board's upcoming retreat.

"Putting our personal feelings to the side," McCray said. "And doing what's best to move our district forward."

In moving forward McCray believes finding the next superintendent will be a challenge. She wants someone who will stay with CMS for a long time.

"It's no more two and three years and out or four and out," McCray said. "We need someone who is going to be here for the long haul."

She also tells WBTV she will start the process of finding the next leader when the District Three school board vacancy is filled.

"It's difficult to play catch up," McCray said. "Because you are in the midst of it, so I would try to do my best to make sure that that person is starting on the ground level with the rest of us."

McCray says one thing that will change during the superintendent search, board members will travel to the candidate's district.

"I would make sure that money would not be an issue," McCray said. "When it comes to going out and visiting and knowing what you had to know about this candidate."

McCary is optimistic about 2015 and says the most important thing for the district must do is the high school diploma each CMS student receives must matter. She will work to make sure teaching and learning happens in each classroom.

McCray says she loves what she does. Her term is up this year. She has not decided if she will seek re-election.

Copyright 2015 WBTV. All rights reserved.