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

Documents point to Winston’s handling of Title IX issues uncovered in a WBTV investigation
In voting to release the records, board members said it was necessary to maintain the public’s confidence.
Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 6:52 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education voted Tuesday to release internal personnel documents of Earnest Winston that the board said prompted its decision to fire him.

The documents include a summary of an investigative report prepared by a private, outside lawyer hired to investigate Winston’s performance in March and Winston’s 2021 performance evaluation

In voting to release the records, board members said it was necessary to maintain the public’s confidence.

The documents detail a series of concerns and missteps by Winston during the course of 2021, many of which stem from a WBTV investigation into the handling of reported rapes and sexual assaults on CMS campuses.

In voting to release the records, board members said it was necessary to maintain the public’s confidence.

Specifically, the investigative report summary lists three distinct issues with Winston’s performance: his response to the handling of reported sexual assaults at Hawthorne Academy High School, which was first uncovered by WBTV; the hiring of antiracist author and activist Ibram Kendi to come speak to CMS faculty; and the failure to perform the obligations of his contract, mainly centered on student academic performance.

Related: Hawthorne Academy principal, assistant principal suspended after WBTV investigation into handling of reported sexual assault at school

The report outlined five other concerns voiced to investigators by senior CMS staff: the process and time it took to hire a chief operating officer and chief technology officer; the slow implementation of safety measures; questions in judgment related to media statements about Title IX issues; short-term contracts provided to executive level staff; and that Winston alienated many of his senior level officials and had delayed implementation of key decisions.

Despite the issues raised in the investigation, the outside attorney said, the board did not have sufficient grounds to fire Winston for cause.

The investigation also found “little to no evidence of the Superintendent engaging in immoral or disreputable conduct.”

Winston released a statement Tuesday afternoon after the board made its vote to fire him official:

“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.

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