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New Hanover County Board of Education renews Superintendent Foust’s contract through 2027

Superintendent Dr. Charles Foust responding to board member questions during a special budget meeting.
File: Superintendent Dr. Charles Foust responded to board member questions during a special budget meeting.

The board voted to extend Dr. Charles Foust’s contract by four years. The board touted increased student achievement under Foust’s leadership.

The New Hanover County Board of Education voted six to one to extend Superintendent Dr. Charles Foust’s contract by four years.

Board member Melissa Mason was the sole dissenting vote. While none of the ten 2022 school board candidates voiced support for Foust, and several said they would consider firing him if his performance didn't improve, Mason was the most outspoken, authoringa July 11, 2022 blog post calling for Foust's termination.

By Wednesday afternoon, the district could not confirm whether Foust's salary had been increased. His most recent confirmed compensation was $249,774, which has increased just 6% over the last three years — a tenure that has not been without challenges.

Foust was hired in the summer of 2020 to replace Dr. Timothy Markley, the former superintendent. Markley had accepted a nearly quarter-million dollar severance agreement while he was being investigated internallyand the district was under a general cloud of allegations concerning the multiple cases of child sexual abuse by several New Hanover County Schools teachers.

The district recently finalizeda $5.75 million settlement with 14 plaintiffs in litigation stemming from that abuse, but there’s still another civil case pending — as well as an ongoing criminal investigation launched in 2019.

Foust’s first three years have seen the district navigate the global Covid-19 pandemic with highly politicized school closures and other measures. He’s also served through a partisan sea change, which saw a reversal of several policies after the nearly all-Democratic school board flipped in the 2022 election to a 5-2 Republican majority (although Republican member Stephanie Kraybill, who was censured by the New Hanover County GOP, has sided with the board’s two Democrats on several occasions).

The pandemic exacerbated existing issues in the district, and many have blamed school closures and remote learning for widening learning gaps. According to the district, student achievement has improved under Foust’s leadership, and his new contract “reflects his proven track record and collaborative leadership style, paving the way for further advancements.”

According to Board Chair Peter Wildeboer, "Extending [Foust’s] contract signifies our confidence in his ability to drive positive change."

Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature. He loves spending time with his wife and playing rock'n'roll very loudly. You can reach him at BSchachtman@whqr.org and find him on Twitter @Ben_Schachtman.