Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Extraordinary match for Clark?

How often do you get a second chance at an ideal match?

Ann Clark, deputy superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, has spent the last several years  preparing herself to be a superintendent.  She doesn't want to leave North Carolina,  the state where she has lived for all but three years of her life.


When Peter Gorman resigned as CMS superintendent in 2011,  Clark went for the top spot in the district where she has worked for 30 years.  She was a finalist,  but Heath Morrison got the job.

Now she's a finalist in Wake County,  the only N.C. district larger than CMS.  She and two other candidates will meet employees,  community leaders,  the media and the public today,  with a final school board interview on Wednesday.  (Follow the News & Observer's coverage of the search here.)

Clark will make the pitch that she and Wake County are  "an extraordinary match."

Clark wants to lead a large N.C. district with strong achievement,  high aspirations and a community that cares about education. Check.

Wake wants a career educator with expertise in curriculum and urban education.  Check.

Wake is going through student assignment turmoil.  Clark has been there,  done that with CMS.  Both districts struggle to balance urban and suburban interests  (Wake has 12 municipalities, Mecklenburg seven).

Clark said as she pored through background material,  including 133 pages of survey data about what the Wake community wants,  she felt a growing sense that this was the right place.  For instance,  the community put a strong value on educating students with disabilities,  she said.  Clark,  whose older brother has special needs,  started her career teaching students with behavioral and emotional disabilities.

"I have a goal not just to be a superintendent but to be superintendent in the right district,"  Clark said Friday.  Wake, she says,  is just that.

Few who know Clark doubt that she has the expertise,  intelligence and dedication to run a major school system.  But the one role she hasn't filled is that of politician-in-chief.

And boy,  is Wake County political.  This is a district that has flipped leadership and direction with the last two school board elections,  hiring its last superintendent on a 4-2 split,  then firing him two years later when Republicans lost their board majority.

Clark,  who is registered as a Republican,  says she's not naive about partisan politics in Raleigh,  but she believes she can surmount the rifts by focusing on the needs of students.  The district needs to  "put the face of a kid,  a teacher and a principal on each and every decision we make,"  and bipartisan support will follow.

"I'm a collaborative leader,"  she said.  "I don't do it from district headquarters.  I do it in the community."

During the 11 years that I've been covering CMS,  Clark has been in high-level administrative posts with lots of responsibility.  But an unwritten rule of such jobs is that you don't grab the spotlight from the boss.  Perhaps because of that,  Clark has tended to come across as cautious,  even a bit wooden.  It was intriguing to watch her loosen up and speak with a new flair during the CMS superintendent interviews.

Clark says she remembers those two days as one of the most invigorating times of her life.  For once,  she said,  "I could be me,"  giving her own views without stopping to parse how she's representing someone else.

She'll be doing the same in Raleigh today.  And we'll find out whether the community there sees Clark as an extraordinary match.


Anonymous said...

Huge mistake for CMS not to bump her up. Although I root for her success, I secretly hope she does not get it so she'll be available when Morrison flames out - which I am guessing will not be too long...

Anonymous said...

Clark will be a big loss for CMS if she goes to Wake. She does have some detractors but no one in the district works harder.

Anonymous said...

When "glory boy" Morrison is discovered for what he really does, the "passing over" of Ann Clark by the school board will be considered its greatest mistake in the last decade. Yes Morrison will improve cohort graduation rates, and receive a very nice bonus, by instituting a minimum 50% grade for zero (0) work and pressuring teachers via his principals "to find a way" to pass students who read at the 8th grade level and yet have been socially promoted to the 12th grade. Ann Clark has always stressed academics instead of "smoke and mirrors" solutions. She will be missed by many in CMS but we wish her the best!

Anonymous said...

A very big mistake by CMS if she goes to another district. You cannot replace her 30 years of experience and knowledge within CMS. Hard dedicated individuals like Ann dont come around every day. I would be shocked if Wake does not jump at the chance to take her away. Keith W. Hurley

Wiley Coyote said...

A Republican superintendent, public education, Raleigh and the NAACP.

Sounds like a UFC cage match made in heaven.

Good luck to you if you get it.

Anonymous said...

Ann Clark is top notch. I've rarely met a CMS teacher or other CMS employee that doesn't think highly of her. She's extremely intelligent and is certainly knowledgable about NC education history and NC education politics which are unique to this state and which every former CMS superintendent in recent memory seems to be clueless about when they arrive. Both Charlotte and Raleigh school politics are a hornets nest. Ann has what it takes to navigate the swarm.

CMS' loss will be Wake's gain.


Anonymous said...

Ann is a champion for students and teachers. Her leaving will be a devastating loss to CMS, and a huge gain for Raleigh. Shame on you, Charlotte, for passing her up. Huge mistake. Kids will pay the price!

Anonymous said...

If the Wake position isn't offered to her, I hope she can go ahead and retire to Virginia, leave the remaining clowns behind and enjoy a life away from CMS.

Anonymous said...

Ann Clark is the best thing that has ever happened to CMS. She is exactly what every parent, teacher, principal and district leader should use as the guide for successful collaboration and thinking towards solutions.