Questions about former CMS superintendent’s dealings

Big Charlotte Observer article on former Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox, who resigned under pressure earlier this year. The Observer probes whether or not Wilcox sought to benefit a digital learning technology company that employed his son:

The Observer reviewed hundreds of pages of school district documents obtained through public records requests, including purchase orders, expense reports and calendars. Reporters also interviewed a dozen current and former CMS officials and others who have worked with Wilcox in another school district.

The Observer found:

?Less than a month after taking over as superintendent in 2017, Wilcox met with executives from Fuel Education, where his son, Tanner, worked as a national account manager.

In early 2018, CMS agreed to pay the company about $135,000 for one year of licensing and teacher training for a digital language tool, though the district already had a contract with another vendor for similar services, according to copies of purchase orders.

The whistleblower was Brian Schultz, who was the district’s chief academic officer at the time, who now serves as Guilford County Schools chief academic officer:

In his complaint letter, Schultz said he learned that Wilcox had previously done business with the company and knew the executives extremely well. The letter does not say how he obtained the information.

Schultz was confused by the meeting because the district already used a similar product, according to his complaint letter.

CMS licensed the Fuel Education product to allow after-school students “to be able to access reading and math supplementary resources that CMS already licenses,” according to the district’s purchase order.

At the end of the meeting, the letter says, Wilcox said that his son worked for Fuel Education, but said his son would not benefit personally if CMS signed an agreement with the company.

“I was shocked to say the least, that he would put himself, or the district, in the position to have to explain this entanglement of friends, family and business,” Schultz wrote.

Perhaps Wilcox thought he would never be in that position. School board contacted by the Observer either declined to comment, with the exception of Sean Strain, who said “the issue was not relevant to Wilcox’s departure from the district.”

Sam Hieb / Contributing Editor

Sam Hieb is freelance journalist from Greensboro, North Carolina. He is a contributing editor for Carolina Journal and for Piedmont Publius, a blog that focuses on political a...

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