CHARLOTTE – Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools suspended Superintendent Clayton Wilcox with pay this week but did not explain to the community why, citing personnel reasons.
The school board appointed chief engagement officer and ombudsman Earnest Winston to serve as superintendent during Wilcox’s suspension. The district has not said when the suspension will end.
The school board released an open letter to the community on July 15 explaining how the district was committed to educating and supporting students, as well as preparing for the 2019-20 school year.
But the message wasn’t enough for some.
“We pay his salary and deserve to know why,” Lori Kluth wrote on the Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly Facebook page.
Former Governor Pat McCrory weighed in on the news July 16 during his WBT radio show.
“You need to tell us more,” McCrory said. “This is the top job in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system, the largest school system in North Carolina, and all of a sudden, the superintendent is suspended with pay.”
McCrory, who served seven terms as mayor of Charlotte, speculates attorneys are telling the school board not to explain why because they are afraid of a lawsuit. He wonders if the conflict is regarding a legal, policy or political issue.
Wilcox’s two years at CMS has not been without scrutiny.
Days within starting his position, he received pushback from hiring the husband of his new chief of staff for an $85,000 culinary position. CMS was transparent with the relationship.
Wilcox told WBTV reporter Chandler Morgan this month that he took responsibility for CMS not fingerprinting new employees, a school district policy, for about a year. That story aired July 8.
Later that day, Wilcox had a sharp exchange with Matthews Commissioner Kress Query over the security of mobile classrooms at Elizabeth Lane Elementary School during a town board meeting.
Query wanted a camera system in which teachers inside units can see who is trying to enter the classroom at all times. But Wilcox said CMS wasn’t doing that because it would be redundant to existing measures.
Last month, TV stations reported how a loaded gun was found during a screening at Rocky River High School and another gun was found at the Independence High School campus.
Security was a major focal point of the 2018-19 school year after a student was killed by gun violence at Butler High School in October.
Some people wonder if Wilcox will end up serving the rest of his contract. Since Peter Gorman left the role in 2011, Hugh Hattabaugh, Heath Morrison, Ann Clark and Wilcox have served as superintendent. Hattabaugh served as an interim.
Sources tell WCCB that Wilcox wasn’t living up to the school board’s expectations.
The Charlotte Observer explains the ins & outs of Wilcox’s contract.