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BREAKING: CMS names Crystal Hill as new superintendent
Hill has led the district as interim superintendent since January; CMS school board voted 6-3 in favor of a 4-year contract
Good morning! Today is Friday, May 19, 2023, and we’re coming to you with HOT BREAKING NEWS.
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In 6-3 vote, CMS board picks interim superintendent Crystal Hill to run the district
After launching a national search for a new superintendent, the CMS school board chose a new leader from inside the district — Crystal Hill. (Photo courtesy of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools)
by Lindsey Banks
The Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education chose from within the district’s ranks for its new superintendent, naming Crystal Hill as superintendent during an emergency meeting Friday afternoon.
The board voted 6-3 in favor of Hill’s 4-year contract, with no discussion. The three opposing votes came from board members Jennifer De La Jara, Summer Nunn and Lisa Cline. A news conference is scheduled for later this afternoon during which Hill and several board members are expected to speak.
Hill has served as interim superintendent since Jan. 1. She first came to CMS in May 2022 as chief of staff, overseeing the district’s Office of Strategy Management and Title IX. She managed the cabinet of former superintendent Earnest Winston and was his chief advisor and liaison between the school board and top CMS management.
Before coming to CMS, she was chief academic officer for Cabarrus County Schools.
She has a background in classroom teaching, and worked her way up from teaching first grade to serving in assistant principal and principal roles, and then was executive director of elementary education and federal programs in Mooresville Graded School District, curriculum coordinator in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools and personnel director in Cabarrus.
Hill has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in instructional technology, both from North Carolina A&T State University. She also earned a doctorate in educational leadership from Gardner-Webb University.
National search: The school board first announced its national search in January, seeking a new leader who could address academic challenges, win community trust and bring stability to the district. Board member Summer Nunn led the search committee.
The national search accumulated 39 applicants, according to the board’s search firm, BWP & Associates. The board interviewed six of them and narrowed it down to four for second interviews.
Friday’s 6-3 vote seems to be something of a rare occurrence for the CMS board when naming a new superintendent. Typically, boards come to agreements behind closed doors during big personnel hires, and vote in unity on contracts.
A high-turnover position: More than 140,000 students are enrolled in CMS schools, and the district is the second largest in the state. The superintendent’s office has had somewhat of a revolving door in recent years — CMS has had four superintendents and two interim superintendents in the past decade.
CMS’s last superintendent, Earnest Winston, was fired in April 2022 after less than three years in the position. In an unusual move, the CMS board made his personnel paperwork public, which showed that he was dismissed for reasons including his decision-making and his handling of recent high-profile issues, including the district’s response to reports of sexual assault allegations and a controversial speech by Ibram Kendi, author of “How to Be an Antiracist.” Winston’s annual salary was $288,400, and he received a severance of $576,800.
Winston, who was an 18-year CMS employee, was hired as superintendent in August 2019. The board had to get special permission from the state to hire him without an advanced education degree or experience as a principal.
After Winston’s firing, former CMS administrator Hugh Hattabaugh served as interim superintendent. He resigned seven months into his 14-month contract at the end of 2022 to return to Florida for what he said were family reasons. Hattabaugh formerly served as the district’s chief operating officer from 2008 to 2011.
Hill took over as superintendent after Hattabaugh on Jan. 1, 2023.
The two superintendents who preceded Winston, Heath Morrison (2012-2014) and Clayton Wilcox (2017-2019), also lasted less than three years on the job. Morrison resigned following allegations of misleading the board about the cost of a project at UNC Charlotte and for bullying staff. Wilcox was pressured to resign after being suspended for allegations of misusing funds.
Related Ledger articles:
“CMS documents detail reasons for firing Earnest Winston” (April 19, 2022)
“Leadership change at CMS” (April 20, 2022)
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Executive editor: Tony Mecia; Managing editor: Cristina Bolling; Staff writer: Lindsey Banks; Contributing editor: Tim Whitmire, CXN Advisory; Contributing photographer/videographer: Kevin Young, The 5 and 2 Project