Exclusive: Documents show split opinions in search for new CMS superintendent

Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board divided on who should get final interviews
The CMS Board announced May 19 that Dr. Crystal Hill would get the permanent job after previously serving in an interim role.
Published: May. 30, 2023 at 5:18 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Documents released to WBTV show members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education were divided on who should be a finalist for the superintendent job.

The board announced May 19 that Dr. Crystal Hill would get the permanent job after serving in the same role on an interim basis since January.

That decision came after the board paid consultants to conduct a nationwide search and the board spent weeks conducting interviews and deliberations behind closed doors.

WBTV requested closed-session meeting minutes from the 12 closed sessions held by the board.


The minutes were redacted to protect confidential personnel information – including the identities of the applications – and other records attached to the minutes were not produced by the board without explanation.

But the records produced give a window into how the final decision was made.

Previous: CMS board names Crystal Hill as permanent superintendent

First, board members conducted interviews with six semi-finalists, the records show, using a list of pre-set questions submitted by board members. Each semi-finalist interview was slated for 90 minutes.

Submitted questions included topics about how to improve reading and math test scores, how to handle the budget shortfall expected for the 2024-2025 school year and what role a superintendent should play in “matters related to CRT, book banning, etc.”

The minutes show that the board took the answers to those questions from all six semi-finalists and scored each candidate.

Based on the scores, there was a clear top candidate, the minutes show. The version of the minutes released to WBTV does not identify that candidate. Records produced by CMS did not include the score sheet, even thought it is referenced throughout the minutes.

Only one of the candidates was included in each board member’s top three choices to move onto the final round, the minutes show.

Four candidates, including Hill, were advanced to a final round, where each candidate was asked to give a presentation and then answer another round of questions from board members, this time with topics specific to each finalist.

Three of the four finalists were asked what they would do to improve the handling of reported sexual violence and other student safety matters.

Previous: Another Charlotte mom calls WBTV for help after daughter’s reported sex assault

The questions came as the district was back under investigation by federal regulators for possible violations of Title IX and as WBTV has uncovered a string of reported sexual assaults that were mishandled at CMS schools this year.

Records show the district hired a separate firm to conduct “oppositional research” on at least one finalist, who is not identified in the minutes. A background and reference check was also conducted, the minutes show.

The research findings were presented on May 15. That same evening, minutes show, the board directed the district’s general counsel to negotiate a contract within the parameters the board had previously set.

One key change from previous CMS superintendents’ contracts is that the pay-out clause in the event Hill is fired changed; the board will only pay 90 days’ worth of salary. Previous contracts called for the board to pay the remainder of a contract under certain circumstances, including the way in which previous superintendent Earnest Winston was fired last year.

According to the May 15 minutes, a swearing in would happen later.

Board members did not publicly vote to hire Hill – as required by law – until four days later, on May 19.