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CMS Board suspends Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox

Updated: Jul. 15, 2019 at 12:49 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board (CMS) has agreed to suspend Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox, the district announced Monday.

Just after 11 a.m., CMS sent out a statement detailing the suspension and Wilcox’s replacement while he is suspended:

“CMS can confirm that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education has suspended Superintendent Clayton Wilcox. The suspension goes into effect today and Dr. Wilcox will continue to receive his salary while suspended. During this time, Earnest Winston will serve as Acting Superintendent. CMS remains focused on the priorities that matter most – our students, teaching and learning in every school as we look forward to the start of the 2019-2020 school year. Because this is a personnel matter, we cannot provide further details at this time.”

The school board met behind closed doors Friday morning to discuss the superintendent’s job performance. Wilcox was not present for Friday’s meeting.

Sources say there were several things that led up to the board’s decision. One area of concern was that the district stopped fingerprinting new employees for the past year, sources say. The board was not pleased when they found out.

CMS says more than 3,000 new employees were not fingerprinted, despite the fact that it is CMS policy to fingerprint all new employees to ensure individuals who work with students have been thoroughly checked out.

“I believe he should be treated as any other employee who defies state law and defies school board policy and knowingly violated it," Local Classroom Teachers Association President Judy Kidd said.

In a recent interview with WBTV, Wilcox said the absence of fingerprinting was his fault.

Originally, Charlotte Mecklenburg School representatives claimed the reason they stopped fingerprinting new employees in the district was because they changed fingerprinting companies.

“We dropped the ball because we didn’t change the policy before we changed the practice," Wilcox said.

The last time the board met behind closed doors to evaluate the superintendent was in June. Wilcox was present for that meeting.

After the closed door meeting, WBTV asked Wilcox how the meeting went.

"I think it is important for the board and I to have a continuing dialogue about the challenges we face," Wilcox said. "For me it's not anything out of the ordinary - it's just a conversation with the board around my performance as part of the evaluation process. It's all good."

Sources said Wilcox would receive a letter informing him of the board’s decision. At that time, we are told, it would be up to Wilcox whether to accept the board’s decision or appeal it. Wilcox has been with the district since July 2017.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Vilma Leake expressed concern about the suspension.

“I don’t know what he has done, but I believe they could have worked it out. The school board – I am holding them accountable for the success or non-success of what happens to this school system. They are the ones who made the decision," Leake said. “If he was having some issues - why didn’t they call him in at intervals and communicate with him their concerns so they can correct what was not being done or needed to happen. To surprise this community on a Monday morning that you have relieved us of our head of the school district - this disturbs me greatly.”

On Monday afternoon, CMS sent out an open letter regarding the suspension.

The letter read:

CMS students, families, staff and community members, Governance and stewardship of CMS executive leadership is a key function of the Board of Education and a responsibility entrusted to us by the public on behalf of over 147,000 students, their families, and 19,000 employees across 175 schools and facilities. Guided by those responsibilities, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education announced the suspension of Superintendent Clayton Wilcox today, July 15, 2019. Under existing CMS policies, Dr. Wilcox will continue to receive his salary while suspended. During this time, CMS Chief Engagement Officer and Ombudsman Earnest Winston will serve as Acting Superintendent for our school district. Because this is a personnel matter, the Board cannot provide further details at this time. A school district is a community of people who are all dedicated to one thing above all – educating and supporting our students to prepare them for the futures they can achieve and deserve. Our work together for our students will continue uninterrupted, and together, we will succeed. Students, we are preparing every day for the start of the 2019-2020 school year and a strong year of teaching and learning in safe, healthy and supportive schools. We are focused on your well-being in every way possible. We will keep moving forward to help each of you succeed to your highest potential and to achieve your dreams. Families, our shared goal across the district is to maintain close focus on giving your students every opportunity available and to work tirelessly to support them. CMS colleagues and staff, we pledge our continuing support as leaders to our shared efforts. We each have an important part to play in making sure we do our absolute best for our students no matter our job title, role or position. In the days and weeks ahead, we will move forward together in trust and we will keep our focus on what matters most – each and every CMS student.

Sincerely,

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education

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