Parents, leaders react to CMS Board’s termination of superintendent’s contract

CHARLOTTE — Tuesday afternoon, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board held an emergency meeting regarding the termination of Superintendent Earnest Winston’s contract. The Board voted 7-2, to terminate the contract.

Winston, who has been at the helm of CMS since 2019, has been no stranger to controversy due to schools in the district being ridden with Title IX allegations, violence on campuses, and low literacy rates.

Channel 9′s Joe Bruno spoke with some parents ahead of the meeting who say the shakeups need to continue.

“I am not sympathetic because he never should have gotten the job,” parent Colette Forest said.

Forest also said Superintendent Earnest Winston’s dismissal was long overdue. She said too many schools are performing abysmally causing many students to be left behind.

“He was not competent nor capable of the enormous job of being the superintendent of one of the largest urban school districts in America,” Forest said.

Winston had been on the job for less than three years.

Superintendent changes are nothing new in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. In the past decade, there have been five superintendents. Faith leader Dr. Monte Witherspoon said he is worried the district will suffer as they try to find Winston’s replacement.

“That’s a huge problem. I think that presents a problem with attracting the talent we want and need in this city. But I hope we can overcome that with the type of leadership we need in CMS,” Witherspoon said.

Witherspoon said he hopes the district does a long and thorough search. However, Winston will be compensated no matter how long the search takes.

Winston’s contract said he will be paid his base salary for two years if fired for convenience. With a $288,000 salary, that could equal more than half a million dollars.

“I know Black and brown parents whose babies will never see that amount of money in their entire lives,” Forest said.

Forest said she wants a national search and an outside hire. She said the next superintendent may need to clean house.

“Getting rid of Earnest Winston, who never should have gotten the job in the first place, is not going to fix it. But it is definitely a start in the right direction,” Forest said.

Parents, CMS observers, and community leaders said they would be watching closely to see how this unfolds. That includes former CMS board member and current county commissioner Vilma Leake.

“We must give our children the best education we can possibly give. With the best people we can find,” Leake said.

The terms of this contract and the money owed for termination are all relatively new. Last February, the Board approved a contract extension through June 2025.

Mecklenburg County commissioner: ‘I want to see results immediately’

“I am not disappointed. And I am not shocked,” Commissioner Vilma Leake said.

Leake, a former board member turned school board watchdog, said she is concerned about the future of CMS.

“I want to see results immediately—some changes. You need to go into HR and get busy. That’s what you need to do. Go into HR and get busy. And find out what programs work best for reading, writing, and arithmetic,” Leake said.

Commissioner Pat Cotham said he hopes this hire will help CMS turn a corner. “He arrives with credibility and experience, so that should change a lot of the environment,” Cotham said.

It’s not every year that a public body has to vote to fire its boss. Commissioner Susan Rodriguez-McDowell said she feels for her colleagues on the school board, as well as former Superintendent Earnest Winston.

“I think Mr. Winston is a really good man. And I had very good interactions with him. I know this school board is trying to do the right thing for kids. And so I trust that they got their reasons,” Rodriguez-McDowell said.

As for Leake, she said she is looking for one thing out of the next superintendent.

“Leadership is the problem. Leadership, son, leadership. If you don’t know what you are doing, how are you going to do it? You can’t make it happen,” Leake said.

(WATCH BELOW: CMS Board to hold emergency meeting regarding termination of superintendent’s contract, source says)