New CMS superintendent shares philosophy

Tuesday, CMS' new superintendent made an appearance in the Queen City.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' incoming superintendent made a visit to the Queen City to share his education philosophy.

"I want to thank the entire board for welcoming me to Charlotte," said Clayton Wilcox. 

The Board signed Wilcox's contract for $280,000 a year at Tuesday night's board meeting.  

"I think I have a wide variety of experiences that uniquely position me to be the next superintendent of Charlotte," Wilcox declared.

Wilcox spent 13 years as a classroom teacher before moving into administration. He worked for Scholastic Publishing and served as superintendent for three school districts.

He is currently Superintendent of Washington County Schools in Hagerstown, MD. Its enrollment is 22,000. CMS is nearly seven times larger. Minority students represent 27%, while CMS is much more diverse. 

Wilcox admits he faced some challenges in some of his previous districts, but he has learned from those experiences.

"I think I'm more mature right now. I think I'm also, perhaps, more experienced by now, so I will make more smooth transitions," he said.

Wilcox will become CMS' fifth superintendent in the last six years. Some parents say they just want to see more consistency in the leadership.

"I haven't  heard much about him yet. I know we've had a series of superintendents over the years [and] I'm hoping that this one will stay longer and actually make some change," said Laura Dahlderg, a mother of three boys.  

Wilcox will inherit one of the district's most controversial issues: the school assignment plan, which is now entering its second phase. 

The Board approved Phase 1 in November which would move students from low-performing schools to magnet programs. A report on Phase 2 is on their Tuesday night meeting agenda. It deals with school boundaries and whether changes need to be made to increase diversity at schools and minimize inequities based on race or economics.

"We have to operate from the standpoint that all of our schools are great schools, that every kid has a great opportunity close to home," said Wilcox.

However, he says the plan the district is currently in the process of implementing is new territory for him.

"I have no experience doing that in terms of a stated agenda of moving kids based on their wealth, but I can tell you I absolutely believe fundamentally that is important for children to go to school with people who are different than them, different from them in terms of race, different in terms of circumstance, difference in terms of thought," he declared. "We live in a world that is very diverse, and so I think our school's need to reflect an environment that our students need to be successful in."

Redrawing school zone maps has been a contentious issue and one that has worried parents like Dahlderg.  

"I think I understand the intention behind it, I don't know how effective it's going to be," she said. "We go to our neighborhood school and we like it because it is close-- I wouldn't want my kids to travel to other schools where they have to be on the bus."

CMS has not finalized their plans, but with much of the groundwork done, it is not clear how much influence the new superintendent will have on the process.

"I am very hopeful that we can come up with a solution," he said.

Wilcox says he will make several visits to Charlotte over the next few months to get up to speed and officially make the move to the Queen City in March.

Copyright 2016 WCNC


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