School board hopes to name interim CEO this month
by Staff Writer
Members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education say they should be ready to announce Superintendent Peter Gorman’s temporary replacement less than a month after he announced his resignation on June 8.
Board members met in a closed session for about three hours June 15 to discuss finding an interim CEO to take over when Gorman leaves Aug. 15. The board adjourned immediately after coming out of closed session, but members said they expect to be ready to make a decision when they meet Tuesday, June 28.
“We should be able to announce an interim superintendent … and then give a timetable of how we’re going to handle Dr. Gorman’s departure,” said board member Rhonda Lennon, who represents north Mecklenburg. “He has told us he would stay until Aug. 15, but I venture a strong guess that we may make some adjustments to his departure date.”
When Gorman announced his resignation, media company News Corporation, which owns the Fox television network, released a statement naming Gorman senior vice-president of its newly formed education division. According to the release, he will help school districts nationwide implement the division’s educational programs and evaluate the programs’ effectiveness.
On Tuesday, the school board may “start getting into our work of determining our timeline for hiring a search firm and trying to get the process of hiring a new superintendent,” Lennon said.
She favors allowing the interim superintendent to hold his or her position for a year before the new superintendent takes the reins of the more than 138,800-student school system. Board members Joe “Coach” White and Trent Merchant have announced they will not seek re-election in November, so the nine-person board will see two new faces next year.
“I think we really need to do a good job. We have at least two board seats that are going to be vacated with new people filling them in November, which is going to change, perhaps, the perspective of the board,” Lennon said.
Although Gorman’s sudden departure shocked her, Lennon has been pleased with the district’s progress under his leadership. Gorman has been noted for his business-like approach, using data and testing to make key decisions. However, he has taken heat for closing several low-performing schools, many in low-income, minority neighborhoods.
Prior to his resignation, Gorman faced particularly strong criticism from teachers, parents and community leaders for his push to create a performance-based compensation plan for all district employees, including teachers. Opponents argued the plan failed to include teacher input and relied too heavily on students’ performance on tests.
Even without Gorman’s leadership, Lennon said the board will continue with plans to revamp district compensation.
“I think people’s biggest misconception is that it’s based on (standardized) testing, which was piloted this year,” Lennon said. “People will also complain that there’s no teachers involved in the process, but there are seven design teams, with teachers working on ways to make this happen. There’s just so much misperception about what it is and what it is meant to be.”
Lennon said she hopes the design teams will continue their work while seeking input from teachers and staff members. The board should sign the new superintendent to a performance-based contract.
Gorman and supporters have blamed ineffective communication between district officials and the public for misconceptions surrounding pay-for-performance. The superintendent should work to improve dialogue among all groups with a stake in the school system, Lennon said.
“We will need someone who realizes we can do all the amazing things in the world, but if we can’t communicate it to the public, they’re not going to get it.”
At the beginning of the June 15 meeting of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education, Chairman Eric Davis said the school district will see the drastic layoffs officials originally anticipated.
Because of less severe cuts from the state and extra money from the county, Davis said the district will be able to save:
• 260 fourth- through 12th-grade teachers.
• 164 support positions.
• 146 teacher positions allocated to schools based on a higher percentage of needy students.
• 328 teaching assistants.
• 154 pre-kindergarten teachers.
The district had expected to lose up to $70 million in state funding. However, the General Assembly, after overriding a veto attempt by Gov. Bev Perdue, cut the district by $43 million. So the district saved $27 million.
The district also received $26 million more than expected from Mecklenburg County, giving the school district a total of $53 million more than expected.