Emails show CMS superintendent negotiating without telling her bosses

Emails show CMS superintendent negotiating without telling her bosses

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Emails show Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District (CMS) Superintendent Ann Clark negotiating with state leaders about a bill the school board has spoken out against.

The bill is House Bill 1080. It would be called the Achievement School District bill. If approved, it could allow CMS to lose control of low-performing schools and the state could take them over. CMS was against the bill from the beginning. The district said even though the state would take over the failing schools, CMS would still have to pay for maintenance and transportation.

The board thinks that's unfair, and argues the method has not been proven to work in other states.

The superintendent knew the board was against HB 1080, but continued talking to the sponsor of the bill to try to improve it. The sponsor of the bill is Representative Rob Bryan. The problem was Clark's bosses didn't know about the talks.

In one email dated Tuesday, April 26, to Bryan, Clark wrote, "Thanks so much for your time on Friday for an incredibly promising conversation about our low performing schools."

Bryan responded to Clark, "Thank you for working with Sen. Ford and me on the proposed Achievement School District Bill. Below you will find a copy of the current legislation...please let me know if you can both support this new draft of the legislation..."

DOCUMENT: CLICK HERE TO READ THE LETTER CMS SCHOOL BOARD SENT TO POLITICIANS

Clark responded in a May 11, email to Bryan, "I certainly support the pilot notion."

CMS School board member Rhonda Lennon responds to the released emails.

"It made me wish that Ms. Clark had just come to us sooner to let us know that she was talking to members of the House," Lennon said.

Lennon did approach Clark about what she did.

"She apologized for not looping us in sooner," Lennon said. "She regretted that she had really entered into those conversations."

Lennon and other board members are against House Bill 1080 because of how it would treat school workers.

In one email, Clark suggested to Bryan there should be discretion to hire teachers and staff as at-will employees with one year contracts. This means workers in failing schools could be fired without recourse.

"I absolutely do see a problem with that because again, all the problems that the schools are having are being placed on teachers who are working hard," Charlotte Mecklenburg Association of Educators President Erlene Lyde said.

Lyde is also against House Bill 1080, and said she let the school board know. She said when she heard about conversations between Clark and lawmakers about the bill, she thought the board changed their minds.

"I felt blindsided," she said, "That I have heard nothing from the board."

She then found out Clark had those discussions without telling her bosses.

"I am very surprised," Lyde said.

Lennon is concerned Clark's involvement could have helped get the bill passed in the House.

"I believe CMS was misrepresented by several people that basically were sharing the word that we did support it," Lennon said.

CMS is in the midst of a superintendent search, the board member said Charlotte's new top educator will be told about doing business without informing the supervisors.

"We'll make sure those processes are very well discussed in the onset," Lennon said, "So that we can eliminate any concern with that."

House Bill 1080 is now in the Senate. Board members have written a letter to lawmakers that they are against HB 1080 and at no time did they approve anyone to speak on their behalf to try to improve it.

"We would hope that our colleagues in Raleigh would have enough respect and collaborative thought to include us in conversations, before they represented that we were in support of something," Lennon said.

WBTV did contact Superintendent Ann Clark. She told us she had no comment about the emails.

Copyright 2016 WBTV. All rights reserved.