Less than three weeks after becoming acting superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (N.C.) school district, Earnest Winston has been given a three-year contract to fill the job for the long term.
The Charlotte Observer reports that Winston becomes the district’s fifth superintendent in little more than eight years. He replaces Clayton Wilcox. The district is nation's 18th-largest public school system and has 148,000 students and 19,000 employees.
Wilcox had been suspended with pay since July 15 for reasons the board has not publicly divulged.
Winston, 44, a 15-year veteran of the district, will be paid a base salary of $280,000 and $900 a month in lieu of a car allowance, bringing his salary total to $290,800. Wilcox's salary was $307,000.
The district received approval from the State Board of Education to promote Winston. Unlike most superintendents of large school districts, he does not have advanced degrees in education.
Board Chair Mary McCray says the board sought stability and continuity in hiring Winston.
“The reason we are looking internally is that lots of times when you go outside and look externally, superintendents have a tendency to bring something in differently,” she says. “And we feel like we’re on a great course and we want to stay that course.'
Winston and board members say they remain committed to following through on the district’s 2024 strategic plan as well as its commitment to equity that Wilcox had championed.
The State Board of Education authorized Winston to serve as superintendent even though he doesn’t meet those typical qualifications, said Todd Silberman, a spokesman for the Department of Public Instruction.
The American Association of School Administrators says that 75% of superintendents in districts with 25,000 or more students have PhD or EdD degrees, according to a 2015 study.
Winston met criteria from another path that allows someone to become a superintendent if they have “at least a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university and have five years’ leadership or managerial experience considered relevant by the employing local board of education.”
Winston began his Charlotte-Mecklenburg career in 2004 as a teacher before moving into the central office, where he was promoted to chief of staff in 2012 and, until Wilcox’s suspension, had been the district’s ombudsman since 2017.
Winston, who has a bachelor’s degree, had worked as a reporter for The Charlotte Observer and the Cincinnati Enquirer before switching to teaching.
Winston is the ditrict's second African American superintendent. The student body is 38% African American, 28% white and 24% Hispanic, and the school board has been focused for more than a year on breaking down barriers to academic achievement for students of all races and economic strata.
More: YouTube interview with Winston.