As the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board considers what to do about naming a permanent superintendent, Charlotte mom Colette Forrest has been busy mobilizing her troops.
Vocal in her insistence that the district needs new leadership, Forrest has embarked on an email campaign to end the tenure of current Superintendent Ann Clark, who was appointed after former Superintendent Heath Morrison abruptly quit in November 2014. (Clark promised to step aside in 2016, but some board members would like to see her stay.)
On Tuesday, Forrest met with a small group of local clergy to solicit their support, and later that evening she spoke before a packed school board meeting to call for a national search.
Not everyone has appreciated her efforts.
In an email to Forrest, school board member Paul Bailey, who represents the southern suburbs, called her efforts “garbage” and accused her of having “some type of vendetta to resolve internally.” (The email was sent on Bailey’s official CMS account.)
“…I would appreciate it if you would resolve your personal issues first then come to the board with true and accurate statements along with realistic solutions,” he wrote.
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In a recent interview with Qcitymetro.com, Forrest talked about the growing controversy and why she believes the district needs new leadership. In the Q&A below, her comments were edited for brevity and clarity.
Q. What inspired you to send out that first email blast?
Being a CMS parent, I’m very aware of the demographics of CMS. I went uptown to an event at the Mint Museum, and I ran into the interim superintendent, Ann Clark, and I gave her my congratulations on her impending retirement. And she then indicated that that may not be the case. She said there might be other possibilities. But that started it all for me, her indicating that she wished to stay past her contract.
Q. So are you opposed to her staying past her contract, or do you simply oppose the process?
Both. I think that we need a fresh start. I think that we need a different perspective. She’s been with CMS in one position or another for 32 years, and she’s been the deputy superintendent under a couple of superintendents, going back to Peter Gorman. We just need a different perspective. Our African American children…there’s still the disparity gap. They need to have someone else at the helm.
Q. And what kind of response have you gotten from the community?
I am humbled. I am extraordinarily humbled. I am humbled by the responses I have received from teachers and people I don’t even know – Facebook messages, people calling me and saying I’m spot on and “thank you.”
Q. School board member Paul Bailey recently took you to task. What was that about?
Not just took me to task, because taking me to task and being rude are two different things. I pride myself in taking people to task. What he did was rude. He called my opinion “garbage.” He said I had a “vendetta.” As an African American woman, we are always reduced to that. We are always categorized as that angry, black woman. I refuse to allow that tag to be assigned to me, much less accept it. So I sent him an email.
Q. Did he respond?
Oh, no, he didn’t. I guess he got busy or otherwise detained, but he didn’t respond to my email.
Q. What do you think is the solution to the problems in CMS.
Getting other people involved in the conversations, because the narrative needs to change. The people at the table, the people in the room need to change. I think more people need to be put in the room, and a lot of the people who are in the room, they need to be shown the door. We’re having the same people at the table, in the room, and we’re having the same problems, and the needle isn’t moving at all.
Q. You met Tuesday with a group of ministers, trying to rally them to your cause. How did that go?
There were about seven ministers there. I don’t want to go into details. I don’t want to name anybody. I don’t want to put anybody out. But I was humbled by their receptiveness. They are on board; they recognize that something has to change within CMS.
Q. So, where do we go from here?
I think that we need to have a transparent process to select the next superintendent.
Editor’s Note: Qcitymetro left messages seeking comment from school board member Paul Bailey, but he did not respond.