New superintendent provides first peek at plans for district
by Staff Writer
CHARLOTTE – Heath Morrison hopes to restore confidence in a school system that has been tainted by public mistrust as he prepares to take the helm of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools on July 1.
Morrison shared his vision for goals he would like to see completed by the end of the year at a Friday, May 25, briefing. The Board of Education hired Morrison as superintendent in April.
“This entry plan has two main purposes,” Morrison said. “It will give me a solid framework as I assume my new responsibilities and it will help CMS employees, families and the public understand what I am doing and why. During the (superintendent) search process, I heard many people say that CMS doesn’t listen to them, and this process will allow me to listen carefully and closely.”
Morrison’s five goals include:
• Examining how or if the school’s academic programs meet the unique needs of individual students. Morrison said he not only wants to increase the district’s graduation rate, but also wants to find ways to increase the quality of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools high school diploma.
“Does that young person get that diploma … and does that let them go directly to college and not need remediation, but go right into credit-bearing courses?” Morrison said. “Does it allow them to go into a job that’s a pathway for a highly skilled career?”
• Creating effective collaboration between the superintendent and the Board of Education. While the school board and superintendent may not always agree, Morrison said, the district’s “governance team” should set an example of effective communication for teachers and administrators. He plans to hold a board retreat and one-on-one meetings with board members to come up with a decision-making plan.
“Look at any organization whether it’s a Fortune 500, sports or a school district,” Morrison said. “If there’s dysfunction at the top, there’s dysfunction the entire way through.”
• Establishing a decision-making system in the district’s central office. Morrison said the district should create and publicize an established process for hiring principals and other administrative positions. The district is searching for people to fill chief accountability officer, chief information officer and chief operating officer positions. He said he also plans to perform an audit of the district’s human resource department.
Creating a streamlined, organized process, Morrison said, would shield the district from accusations of secrecy.
“A lot of times when people say there’s a lack of transparency,” Morrison said, “it’s really about a lack of organization.”
• Improving employee moral and creating a culture of respect. Morrison said he will meet with principals, teachers, students and parents throughout the district to gauge morale. He said he wants all employees to feel respected and encouraged to share ideas and opinions without fear.
“Great ideas percolate right from each classroom in our schools and they come up through the organization, across the organization and cross-pollinate to better serve our students,” Morrison said.
• Engaging the community in public education. District administrators, including the superintendent, should go into all communities and schools to listen to concerns and suggestions, Morrison said. During his first three months on the job, Morrison said he plans to visit all 159 schools in the district. He has already accompanied school board member Rhonda Lennon on visits to some suburban schools in the Lake Norman area.
School board member Joyce Wadell told Morrison she hopes he can help heal the discord caused by controversial school board decisions, such as the 2010 decision to close 10 schools.
“(Morrison is) committed to bringing harmony where there was disharmony,” Wadell said.
Morrison, currently in his final weeks as superintendent of Washoe County Schools in Reno, Nev., said he will have an action plan in place after about 90 days on the job.
Want to know more?
To view a PowerPoint presentation detailing Heath Morrison’s Entry Plan, go online to www.cms.k12.nc.us/mediaroom/Documents and click on Dr. Morrison’s Entry Plan PowerPoint 5-25-12. To view the Entry Plan in its entirety, click on Morrison_Entry_Plan5-25-12.