Another CMS superintendent has disappeared, and another school board can’t fully explain itself WFAE 90.7


At least this time the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board made half the effort to explain why they got rid of their superintendent.

Here it is important for progress.

Nearly three years after hiring and just over a year after signing a contract with a big buyout clause, the school board last week voted to fire Ernest Winston. That puts taxpayers on the hook for a full buyout – nearly $ 577,000 over the next two years.

After the vote, the school board released a batch of personnel files that were to explain why they fired Winston. According to the files, Winston acted slowly on key issues and communicated poorly. An officer thwarted an investigation into sexual assault in Hawthorne High. Another officer hired an anti-racism rapporteur for $ 25,000 and then tried to prevent a video of the conversation from being made public in violation of state law.

He also failed to improve the racial gaps in his studies, which puts him in the company of almost all other leaders of the country.

The bottom line is that the school board decided that Winston was not up to the job. Which is exactly what many people said when the board decided to hire him in the first place, even though he never ran the school, much less the entire school system.

Winston’s main selling point was that he was not Heath Morrison and Clayton Wilcox, two CMS superintendents recruited after national searches who left their jobs for reasons that seemed too sensitive to talk about.

Morrison abruptly resigned in 2014 after two and a half years of service. Wilcox resigned in 2020 two years later. Local reporters, including Ann Dos Helms of the WFAE, eradicated the reasons why both men were under pressure to leave. But to date, CMS has never officially explained why any of them left.

This time the school board convened a special meeting in the middle of the week when many parents were probably at work. And instead of fully explaining their reasons at the public forum, they made a dump of documents after the meeting.

I know, love and respect individual school board members. Their hard work is not as hard as the foreman’s, but it is hard enough. But as a team, the only word I can think of is how they coped with all this – it’s cowardice.

And it dates back to school boards that never explained why Heath Morrison and Clayton Wilcox had to go.

The work of our school superintendent is one of the hardest in America. Anyone who takes on a job has to deal with one of the largest school districts in the country. There are kids trying to get into the Ivy League, and other kids are just trying not to starve. They come from all races, places, backgrounds and cultures and they speak different languages. And some of their parents spend their days in a frenzy every time a dollar is spent on someone else’s child instead of their own.

I don’t blame our school boards for picking the wrong people – I’m not sure the right person for the job. I blame them for creating such a fog of confusion, rejection and mistrust. It was as if the public was working on them, not the other way around.

And now we have a job that I am afraid only a person with a serious lifeguard complex will want. If you really had the gift to run the school system and you looked at our history over the last 10 years: why would you come?

Tommy Tomlinson’s column On My Mind airs on Mondays at WFAE and This is his opinion, not the opinion of the WFAE. You can reply to this column in the comments section below. You can also write to Tommy at

Another CMS superintendent has disappeared, and another school board can’t fully explain itself WFAE 90.7

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