CMS parent urges families, community members to provide input on search for next superintendent

This will include surveys, focus groups, and listening sessions
Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh is stepping down in June.
Published: Oct. 3, 2022 at 5:36 PM EDT

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools wants parents, students, and community members to know their voice matters when it comes to the search for the next superintendent.

From now until December 13, CMS will be collecting input from community engagement sessions. This information will be presented to the Board of Education at its December 13 meeting. From there, the Board will start its nationwide search in January, with a goal of hiring the next superintendent in the summer of 2023.

Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh is stepping down in June.

“We have to get this right this time,” said CMS parent Stephanie Sneed.

Related: CMS Board seeks public’s input on new superintendent

Stephanie Sneed is a CMS parent and has spent many evenings discussing topics at Board meetings and is also a candidate for the Board of Education.

Sneed believes the next superintendent should have experience running a large school district, experience with creating and presenting a comprehensive budget, an equitable outlook on helping all students become college and career-ready, and someone who is a collaborator and who will be engaged with the community.

“I think it’s one of the most important decisions that the Board is going to have to make, is who is going to be the next superintendent,” Sneed said. “We want somebody qualified, we want somebody innovative, long-standing, and transformative.”

Harding University High School graduate Christine Edwards is helping CMS gather data from the community engagement sessions. Edwards’ consulting firm, Civility Localized, was hired by the Charlotte Executive Leadership Council to spearhead the community engagement sessions.

“What we are hoping to do is bring our own lived experiences and make people feel welcomed, make people feel supported so that they can share with us a deep sense of honesty about what they would like to see in CMS leadership,” Edwards said.

Also Read: CMS launches out-of-school tutoring program for 42 low-performing schools

Over the next two months, Edwards and her team will be conducting listening sessions, focus groups, and surveys to gather input, ideas, and perspectives from parents, students, and community partners.

“What’s important is that people feel comfortable being honest about what they want to see in this next leader but also there’s the piece about education. Educating people on what a superintendent is and what a superintendent is not.”

Edwards hopes to build trust within the community and personally connect with the community. Helping with this search is personal as she is a CMS graduate and grew up in Charlotte.

“I want people to see themselves in our work. One of our main core values is trust, inclusion, and community, those are the things that we believe in, so me bringing my full self to this project is a big part of that,” Edwards said.

When it comes down to diversity and inclusion, Civility Localized is working with community partners to build connections with under-represented communities.

“We’re going to be working with outreach partners just to make sure we are reaching those communities that are historically underrepresented like Black and Brown communities, Southeast Asian, folks who are disabled, folks who have English as a second or third language and also our immigrant community,” Edwards said.

Sneed agrees and says the only way these community engagement sessions will be useful is if CMS hears a wide variety of perspectives.

“The Board and CMS have to look outside of its normal networks, we can’t continue to go to the same people to weigh in on inputs,” Sneed said. “We have to reach far and wide and reach all socioeconomic classes of people and all cultures for there to be a diverse weigh-in.”

Sneed is urging everyone to share their perspectives to help district leaders make informed decisions.

“You have to weigh in on what you are looking for in a leader because the leadership is going to set the tone,” Sneed said. “It trickles down all the way to the classroom in the type of experience students have.”

Data from these listening sessions will be presented to the Board of Education on December 13 and will be used during the candidate search.

If you are interested in participating in these community engagement sessions, click here.