CMS has 19,000 employees and no HR chief. So it’s borrowing a Bank of America exec.

CMS has 19,000 employees and no HR chief. So it’s borrowing a Bank of America exec.
Gerri Parker
Gerri Parker

CHARLOTTE, NC (Ann Doss Helms/The Charlotte Observer) - One of the first things Clayton Wilcox did when he was hired as superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools last year was launch a search for a new head of human resources.

It's a crucial job in a district that employs more than 19,000 people and has to recruit more than 1,000 teachers each year.

Seven months later, Wilcox has announced that he's replacing the in-house interim director with a new interim director on loan from Bank of America, Gerri Parker. The bank will continue to pay her salary.

"It exemplifies Bank of America's continuing support of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and the district looks forward to leveraging Gerri's private sector experience and leadership developed over a 22-year career in human resources, finance and operations," CMS spokesperson Tracy Russ said in a statement.

Russ said Parker will stay in the post at least a year as Wilcox and the school board craft a new strategic plan that includes HR leadership.

CMS is one of the Charlotte region's largest employers – as is Bank of America.

Running the HR department for one of America's largest school district requires someone who can deal with a maze of local, federal and state regulations, as well as a workforce that includes educators, hourly labor and professional jobs ranging from engineers to IT staff.

It's the kind of work that enters the public view mainly when something goes wrong – when someone sues the district, for instance, or when employees or job applicants complain about the way they're treated.

Most recently, some teachers fumed over the way CMS handled snow closings. Teachers were initially told they'd have to use leave time or lose pay for the two days in January when roads were too dangerous for them to report to school. A follow-up memo said they could make up the time in June, after the students leave. Finally, another note from Wilcox announced a revised decision that teachers could be paid if they worked from home.

Even before he started work in July, Wilcox had human resources in his sights for improvement. In April 2017 he reassigned Avery Mitchell, a former CMS teacher and principal who had been named to the top HR post two years earlier. The job was posted after Wilcox took over for Ann Clark, but he said he has struggled to find someone with the right mix of educational and corporate skills.

The district has turned to the corporate world before, and even to local banks. In 2011 then-Superintendent Peter Gorman hired a Daniel Habrat, a senior vice president at Wells Fargo, for the top HR job. Two years later Heath Morrison replaced Gorman and immediately ousted Habrat, replacing him with an educator.