CMS students share suggestions they believe the interim superintendent should focus on

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is welcoming back a familiar face as the interim superintendent.

The CMS board of education signed Hugh Hattabaugh to a $265,000 contract that runs through June 30, 2023.

He previously served as interim superintendent starting in 2011 and knows the district well. CMS has more than 140,000 students and 19,000 employees.

South Mecklenburg High School junior Sidney Griffin said Hattabaugh should start with addressing the district’s more than 40 low-performing schools.

“If we could really focus on bridging the achievement gap,” Griffin said.

According to Board documents released last week, including the summary of the report on former Superintendent Earnest Winston’s “poor performance,” Winston delayed the implementation of the “Transformation Plan,” which is intended to support and improve the district’s low-performing schools.

Documents state the proposed for the 2021-22 budget had included provisions to implement the plan during the 2021-22 school year; however, Winston did not say he was ready to move forward with the plan until April 2021 - which by then was considered too late to hire the staff for the schools.

Documents state the administrative team has started to implement the plan with the anticipation of it starting during the 2022-23 school year.

Griffin hopes Hattabaugh and the district bring this plan to fruition for the sake of the schools.

“Bringing in more experienced staff into those schools is something I’d love to see him focus on,” Griffin said.

The district purchased and installed nearly 50 Evolv body scanners in 20 schools after hundreds of weapons, including 25 guns, were found on several CMS campuses this school year.

Benjamin Goguen attends East Mecklenburg High School. His school has three scanners; he’s intersted in seeing how the interim superintendent increases safety measures.

“I definitely think [the scanners are] making an impact, but we need to make sure [they are in] every building and every student actually walks through them to ensure we actually have something being done to prevent weapons from getting in the schools,” he said.

South Mecklenburg High School junior Bella Naspinski wants to see Hattabaugh work with the Title IX task force and district leaders to apply recommendations on how to handle reported rapes and sexual assaults that occur on school grounds.

“I would definitely like to see that implemented before I go to college,” Naspinksi said. “If not this year, then next year, [and] more Title IX training.”

Myers Park High School student Catherine Tiddy agrees.

“Systemic issues within CMS did not begin with the hiring of Superintendent Winston, and they surely shall not end with his firing,” Tiddy said. “As a junior in high school, I look forward to seeing the work of interim Superintendent Hattabaugh over the next year, and encourage him to establish tangible, comprehensive plans to target inequalities within the district. This includes taking action on the report from the Title IX task force that has been neglected for far too long.”

Students said they also want the district to invest in more mental health resources, which is an item included in the proposed budget that the Board of Education is voting on during its April 26 meeting.

Students say they also want more communication and transparency.

“[We] as students we really do value when people come in and talk to us, having that transparency would help during his time as interim,” Griffin said.


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