Next CMS Super on HB2: Leaders Have to Be Thoughtful

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – “I fundamentally believe in the dignity and respect of all people. And I, like any rationally thinking person, is (sic) watching carefully what the legislature does. I think we’ve watched what Charlotte City Council has done. I think we have to say to all of the citizens of Charlotte that you’re welcome here. That you’re respected. That you’re valued. And certainly we’re gonna look at that,” says incoming Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox about controversial House Bill 2.

Wilcox continues, “In terms of funding, you know what, for me, that’s a really secondary case. Right now, I’m more concerned about the citizens of this community. I’m more concerned about the eyes that are us. Because for Charlotte to be the city it can be, and for North Carolina to be the state it can be, we have to really be thoughtful as we go forward,” he told WCCB News @ Ten anchor Morgan Fogarty, just hours before the HB2 repeal deal fell apart in Raleigh on Wednesday.

The new superintendent must also contend with the student assignment plan. He says he is both a proponent of strong neighborhood schools and diversity. He says he must articulate a compelling case for 2017 school bonds. And he says education will help address issues that boiled over in the wake of the Keith Scott shooting.

To say Wilcox is coming to Charlotte at a challenging time would be an understatement.

He is leaving Hagerstown, Maryland, where he headed up the Washington County Public School system since 2011. He said then he wanted to finish his career there. He now says he wants to end it here, in Charlotte.

In a Herald Mail editorial, written after it was announced Wilcox was leaving, the Hagerstown paper suggested Wilcox’s intelligence and innovation wasn’t appreciated, writing in part, “Smaller minds often seem to prevail, forcing our shining lights to seek greener pastures.”

Fogarty asked Wilcox if he thought he would be better appreciated here. He said, “There are a lot of great people in Hagerstown, a lot of really smart, talented people. But quite honestly, the politics there have really turned inward. We’ve seen a lot of that on a national level, where people are perhaps motivated by fear or thinking (of) a return to a day that really never was for a lot of people,” he says.

Wilcox continued, “You know, if you’re a person of color, you perhaps didn’t have those great heydays that some of the people now remember as how things used to be. Or if you’re a person from low economic circumstances, it probably wasn’t as great for you yesterday. And we have some politicians who kinda wanna turn the clock back, and I don’t see that in Charlotte. I see a sense of possibility. I see a dynamic community that’s growing, I see people that want to work together and learn together, so I’m excited to be here.”

Wilcox will be back in Charlotte next month  for another visit. He will officially start in July.