Interim superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh officially takes over as CMS leader

CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board of Education named Hugh Hattabaugh as the interim superintendent of CMS after Superintendent Earnest Winston’s contract was terminated.

The Board held an emergency meeting Tuesday afternoon to vote. The Board said their decision came following what they call “serious mishaps” during Winston’s time as superintendent.

Hattabaugh previously served as interim superintendent in 2011-2012 after Peter Gorman resigned as superintendent.

A native of Salem, Indiana, Hattabaugh began his educational career in Muncie, Indiana as a science teacher. He was the deputy superintendent of the Little Rock School District in Arkansas and was an administrative dean, assistant principal, and principal in Orange County Florida public schools.

In July 2007, Hattabaugh started his CMS career as area superintendent of the North Learning Community before serving as chief operating officer from 2008 to 2011. Most recently, he served as the chief academic officer of Lake County, Florida schools before retiring in 2013.

He has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Ball State University and a master’s degree in secondary education from Indiana University at Bloomington.

“Hugh is the right person to lead CMS at this time as we conduct a thorough, nationwide search for a new superintendent,” said Board Chair Elyse Dashew. “He brings extensive experience in leadership and education and firsthand knowledge of CMS to this position. We are very fortunate to have Hugh in this interim role and we are confident he will drive significant progress. The Board thanks Earnest for his service and commitment to CMS and we wish him well.”

Hattabaugh will begin April 25. Until then, current chief compliance officer, Scott McCully, will be the acting superintendent.

“I know him personally. I worked with him when he was head here last. He is an incredibly capable leader that will lead this district forward. I have the upmost confidence in Mr. Hattabaugh. Our Board has the upmost confidence in Mr. Hattabaugh and I know parents will too,” McCully said.

Hattabaugh will be paid $265,000 a year, which is a little more than $22,000 month. His contract runs through June 2023.

Hattabaugh’s full letter to parents Tuesday:

“To the CMS Board of Education, CMS staff, and Charlotte and Mecklenburg County stakeholders:

It is truly a privilege to return to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to work with the nine dedicated Board of Education members, the knowledgeable executive team members, principals, teachers and caring support staff to ensure all students reach their maximum potential to succeed in life. We will continue to focus on increased academic achievement for all students, to do the hard work to close the achievement gaps, and finally to ensure our graduates are College and Career Ready.

I am very mindful that education, business/commerce and the culture of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County are intertwined. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is recognized as an innovative and excellent school district nationally. We, as a school district, require the continued support of the Charlotte and Mecklenburg County corporate leaders, mayors, commissioners, supportive parents/guardians, and concerned citizens to provide our students with a world-class education.

In a 2005 graduation speech, in my final year as principal of William R. Boone High School in Orlando, Florida, I provided the graduates with a quote from the most successful coach in the history of athletics: Coach Anson Dorrance, soccer coach for the North Carolina Tar Heels. When asked the ingredients of his success, he stated, “I want to play on the edge, to attack rather than defend, to play to win rather than avoid losing.” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools cannot take the easy road. We must stay focused on our charge to ensure all students are ready for a successful and productive future.

As the leadership transitions to a new superintendent in CMS, we need to remember a quote from President John F. Kennedy: “Change is the Law of Life, and those who look to the past or present are certain to miss the Future.”

“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.

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