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CMS board fires superintendent Winston

Board members voted publicly 7-2 to terminate Winston’s contract.
Board members voted publicly 7-2 to terminate Winston’s contract.
Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 12:36 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education voted to fire superintendent Earnest Winston during an emergency meeting Tuesday.

Board members voted publicly 7-2 to terminate Winston’s contract.

“We believe that a different leader is needed to shore up this district and achieve high goals in literacy math and student readiness. Student outcomes are what matter most,” CMS board chair Elyse Dashew said in the announcement.

CMS board releases documents underscoring Winston’s ‘poor performance’ as superintendent

“A change in leadership is always a difficult decision. He cares about kids, all of them,” board member Jennifer De La Jara said. “No one, no parent group, no faith-based group has led me to this decision. This has nothing to do with you.”

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education voted to fire superintendent Earnest Winston during an emergency meeting Tuesday.

Vice-chair Thelma Byers-Bailey and member Ruby Jones voted against it.

“Earnest gave us his best and I don’t believe this decision serves him in his best interest,” Byers-Bailey said.

The vote comes after months of back-and-forth between the board and Winston regarding his performance as superintendent.

Previous: CMS board to vote Tuesday on terminating superintendent’s contract

Tensions started in November, when WBTV reported Winston was under fire for his handling of reported rapes and sexual assaults, among other things, following a months-long WBTV investigation.

Those concerns led to a protracted annual performance review and, later, Winston receiving five action items where board leaders wanted to see improvement. Those items were relayed in December, multiple sources familiar with the back-and-forth have told WBTV.

Board members voted publicly 7-2 to terminate Winston’s contract.

In early February, Winston was told for the first time that there were enough votes to fire him and the board offered Winston a settlement in exchange for his resignation. That offer was rebuffed.

Previous: CMS board calls special closed session to discuss superintendent’s performance

Board members then hired an outside attorney to investigate Winston’s performance. A report detailing the investigation’s findings was given to board members in early April.

Winston’s contract was terminated for convenience, meaning board members did not have cause to fire him. As a result, CMS will pay Winston two years of his $288,000 a year salary, as required by the amended contract the board entered into with Winston in 2021.

Commissioners react to the firing of superintendent Earnest Winston

The board will also release information about Winston’s performance that they say led to their decision to terminate his contract.

Following the board’s decision, Winston released a statement saying that serving as superintendent has been “the honor of a lifetime.”

“My intention as a leader has always been to lead with integrity, compassion and gratitude. As I reflect on my time as superintendent, my best leadership lessons have come from students. They have demonstrated extreme resilience during uncertain times, the power of honest feedback and courage to ask for the help they need,” Winston said in part.

The full statement can be viewed here.

Related: CMS superintendent: ‘No students have been suspended for reporting sexual assault.’ Documents show otherwise.

After coming back from closed session, the board voted unanimously to appoint Hugh Hattabaugh as the interim superintendent, effective April 25, 2022, to June 30, 2023. He previously was selected as the interim superintendent in 2011 after the resignation of Peter Gorman.

The board also voted to appoint Scott McCulley as the acting superintendent, effective immediately.

McCulley is the district’s chief compliance officer and served as its executive director of planning and student placement from 2000 to 2017.

As a result of Tuesday’s vote, CMS will now begin the search for its fifth superintendent in a decade; its seventh superintendent in 12 years.

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