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Clark calls on community to support CMS

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Ann Clark says the community needs to rally around the school system in order for children to be successful.

At her second—and possibly last—State of Our Schools address, Clark, a more than 30-year veteran in CMS, called on Charlotteans to support the district’s 148,000 students. “The involvement of faith houses, local businesses, community organizations, and individuals is substantial in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and it is helping individual schools meet the needs of student’s families to remove barriers to learning,” she said.

Those partnerships are especially important this year, Clark said, as CMS enters tough conversations about a re-write of the district’s student assignment plan.

“We are at an incredible moment,” she said, “where we must wrestle with words like equity and diversity and where kids go to school.”

Notably, Clark said the student assignment plan will “declare as a community” our shared values.

Clark’s contract expires in July, and she had planned to retire. It’s possible that the school board will extend her contract another year while members look for a long-term superintendent. The school board planned a day-long meeting to discuss the superintendent search last week, but it was delayed until this Friday due to winter weather.

The State of Our Schools address is largely a pep rally for what Clark calls “Team CMS”—members of the business, faith, and philanthropic communities who support the district. As attendees left the auditorium, they were given wristbands that read “CMS Supporter” or “CMS Graduate” and were encouraged to wear them in the community.

CMS band

“We are a diverse district with all kinds of students—and our graduates have become doctors, lawyers, political servants, educators, inventors and so much more,” Clark said. “They are improving the world and community every day—and it started with that first day in kindergarten, continued through middle school and high school and on to college and career. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has helped hundreds of thousands of students learn and grow and reach their dreams.”

In addition to promoting the district’s student achievement numbers—everything from an increase in graduation rates to literacy performance—Clark said she wants to ensure that high school diplomas translate to college and career readiness.

She also floated ideas for ways the community can support CMS teachers, as the district continues to strategize about how to recruit and retain the best educators. Clark said she’s exploring ways to subsidize rent or utilities for teachers, offer sports tickets, or work with the faith community to offer free daycare for young children.

The ideas aren’t fully fleshed out—but that’s where the community comes in, Clark said.

“We want to show that Charlotte cares about and validates teachers.”

Adam Rhew

Adam Rhew attended Beverly Woods Elementary, Carmel Middle, and South Mecklenburg High schools, all part of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. He earned a journalism and political science degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. He is a contributor to Southern Living, Charlotte magazine, and SBNation Longform, among other publications. Previously, Adam was an award-winning television and radio news reporter, with stops at stations in Chapel Hill, N.C., Charlottesville and Richmond, Va., and Charlotte, N.C.