Richard “Stick” Williams may be retiring as president of the Duke Energy Foundation, but he’s not stepping away from controversy. At Tuesday night’s school board meeting, Williams, who co-chairs Project LIFT., threw his tacit support behind keeping Ann Clark as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools superintendent beyond her contract, which expires next summer.
Some members of the board are said to be quietly pushing to retain Clark, a 32-year CMS employee who got the top job after former Superintendent Heath Morrison abruptly (and mysteriously) quit in November 2014. She promised to step down at the end of her contract, in 2016.
But extending Clark’s stay has met with some opposition in the African American community, most notably from CMS parent Colette Forrest, who says the district needs new leadership in the face of a persistent achievement gap.
At Tuesday’s board meeting, Forrest joined a handful of other speakers in urging the board to conduct a national search.
“I hold no personal animosity for any person,” Forrest said, “but make no mistake about it; this is a fight for survival of all children’s academic and scholastic future. …We have to close this chapter and start anew with a process to select a permanent superintendent.”
Williams, however, said CMS needs stability. He said he worried that a lengthy search and the time needed for a new superintendent to get acclimated would be detrimental to the district.
“I know the leadership that you’ve got now,” he said. “I’ve got extreme confidence. And I’m asking that you consider stability. Stability and leadership accomplish a great deal.”
Although Williams did not mention Clark by name (speakers are prohibited from mentioning specific board members or CMS employees), he earlier wrote a letter to The Charlotte Observer applauding Clark’s work with LIFT and said, “we could always count on Ann Clark to be there with us.”
Clark, who previously served as deputy superintendent, received an award Saturday night from the Charlotte Post Foundation.