Community leaders said they feel disappointed and disrespected after a meeting with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh abruptly ended.
The meeting, hosted by the African American Faith Alliance for Educational Advancement, took place last Friday at the Faith Memorial Baptist Church. Rev. Jordan Boyd, Dr. Dennis Williams, Pastor Cornelius Atkinson, former CMS Superintendent James Pughsley, Arthur Griffin, Commissioner Vilma Leake and Hattabaugh were in attendance. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss improving student outcomes.
According to Boyd and Leake, the group was discussing the importance of not taking resources from the classroom to create other positions in the district when Hattabaugh abruptly slammed papers, got up and left.
“If you are asking me to explain why he did what he did, I cannot do that,” Boyd said. “He folded up his papers, threw them down on the desk, said to us he didn’t have to take it and he wasn’t going to take it and he left.”
“I sat up in my seat because I was concerned about what would happen next,” Leake said. “I was scared.”
The African American Faith Alliance has been active in the community trying to improve low-performing schools. According to Leake and Boyd, the interaction left the room stunned. The conversation during the approximately hour long meeting had been cordial.
“This reminds me of the ‘60s, disrespecting Black people when it comes to talking about making sure our children get an education,” Leake said.
“When people show you who they are, you start to believe them,” Boyd said.
Community leaders say Spt. Hugh Hattabaugh slammed papers and abruptly left a meeting with the African American Faith Alliance last week saying "he doesn't have to listen to this anymore." Vilma Leake says the interaction was disappointing & disrespectful. Story at 5&6 @wsoctv pic.twitter.com/KNMZYrRifL
— Joe Bruno (@JoeBrunoWSOC9) June 8, 2022
Boyd said the school board needs to prioritize hiring a superintendent who will serve long-term.
“We want the school board to move expeditiously, post haste, with a search committee to bring in a permanently, qualified superintendent, that can bring this community, the business community and parents together to turn this sinking Titanic around,” Boyd said.
A CMS spokesperson told Channel 9 on Saturday morning that no recording of the meeting is available.
The African American Faith Alliance for Educational Advancement plans to attend the next CMS board meeting.
Full statement from Hattabaugh:
“I met with Commissioner Leake and the African-American Faith Alliance last Friday as a follow-up to a previous meeting. Between my onboarding as interim superintendent, closing out the school year, and managing a challenging budget season, I have not yet had time to meet with many of the community groups that I’d like to. However, I have prioritized time for two meetings in my first month with the AAFA. I anticipated an hour for this particular meeting. The purpose of the meeting was twofold: First, to share our plans for re-organizing the Learning Communities in order to increase accountability and alignment to the Board of Education’s goals and guardrails, and to increase focused support for students in our highest poverty schools. Second, I also looked forward to discussing how their churches might be able to partner with us in terms of out-of-school-time support for CMS students and families. Unfortunately the meeting began with a confrontational tone and was less-than-productive from the start. After an hour-and-a-half of attempting to re-direct back to the agenda, it became clear that the meeting was not going to lead to collaborative solutions for the students we serve, and I left.”
(WATCH BELOW: Who is Hugh Hattabaugh, the interim superintendent of CMS?)