Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Who should handle CMS supe search?

Choosing a superintendent for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is a big deal.  It will shape educational opportunities,  teacher morale,  public spending,  local confidence in CMS and the nation's image of Charlotte.

But the process can be a bit of a snooze.  The school board has had two special meetings,  focused mostly on finding a search firm.  HR Chief Daniel Habrat said about a dozen have already approached CMS,  including the five or six national companies that tend to place superintendents in large districts.

"The minute Pete announced what he was doing,  (companies) were sending us their dossiers,"  Habrat said,  referring to the June resignation of Peter Gorman,  who built a high national profile in his five years with CMS.

The board agreed Tuesday to allow local firms to have a crack at the job,  even if they aren't experts in superintendent hiring.  Details were a bit fuzzy;  the plan seems to be that local firms will learn from the media that they can apply.

Board member Trent Merchant,  a headhunter with Coleman Lew & Associates,  has been advising his colleagues about search tactics.  He said today that the president of his firm has expertise in education;  when Gorman resigned,  Merchant said, he and the president agreed not to talk about the CMS opening.  If Coleman Lew were to land in consideration for the CMS search,  Merchant says he'd probably recuse himself from voting.

Board member Richard McElrath said a local firm could help increase trust in CMS.  And former board member James Ross (he served an appointed term from 2008-2009) was sitting in Tuesday,  hoping his firm might get the business.  Ross said he thinks he could find a leader who's less bureaucratic and better able to connect with Charlotteans than the last few.

Current board members have also talked about how to make sure that the three at-large members chosen in November will be ready to dive in the minute they take office in December.  The departure of Merchant,  Kaye McGarry and Joe White,  who aren't seeking re-election,  means everyone but District 5 Representative Tom Tate will be doing their first search.  Even Habrat,  hired in March from Wells Fargo/Wachovia,  is exploring new territory.

So far, the 16 people seeking the at-large seats haven't been flocking to the search meetings,  a point that has raised criticism from some current members.  (Tim Morgan, a district representative seeking an at-large seat, has been at the sessions.)   After a reporter tweeted White's jibes about absent candidates in July,  Elyse Dashew and Ericka Ellis-Stewart dashed to the meeting and began tweeting. On Tuesday,  Jeff Wise and Hans Plotseneder attended part of the search meeting. (I admit, even I haven't been sitting through the whole meetings, which tend to last hours.  Bloggers Bolyn McClung and Susan Spaulding seem to be the most devoted followers of the early process.)

Tuesday night,  Ellis-Stewart asked the board to consider holding search meetings in the evening "so that working parents and working adults can attend."

p.s. Sorry we haven't been feeding the blog much lately. When one reporter is covering CMS, it's hard to keep up. As a makeup, here's a little blog humor: Paul Simms in the New Yorker on what commenters would have said if God blogged the creation.


Wiley Coyote said...

The BOE should ultimately handle the hiring (obviously) and potential board members should at least be in the loop.

Anonymous said...

Why do we need to pay a search firm? Just send a job wanted ad to all school districts and place an add in all the business magaizines in the United States and watch to resume's roll in and save thousands of dollars.
Let the BOE and potential BOE members as well as the TEACHERS interview the finalist and hire that way. You see what a search firm found us last time, we don't need another Gorman.

therestofthestory said...

The big conflict we have with the next superintendent selection is that a vocal minority want CMS to be a social services machine essentially warehousing the kids so their parents and the police do not have to mess with them.

Then of course that is in direct conflict with public education needs most students and families want and desire and are willing to work at but are now being denied what Judge Manning says the NC consititution guarantees. This happens becuase then scarcce resources are then wasted on a group with little to nothing to show for the huge descrepancy in $ per pupil at various schools.

BolynMcClung said...


So far I’m satisfied with the search process. While Trent is playing a very valuable role, there are other members who are making their marks. Tops on my list is Joyce Waddell. She understands that if the communities feel they are left-out, that even if we hired the God there would be those clamouring for someone more holy.

What happened in Tuesday’s meeting made good sense, no matter what your leanings are. The board refined the time-line, looked for weakness in the plan and assigned two task.

Task one is to line-up the search firms for board consideration in two weeks.

Task two: Trent Merchant and Richard McElrath are to find a person or persons to handle all the input from the public.

The school board is non-partisan, but basically split 5-4 over most issues. But you couldn’t tell it from these discussions. These truly were preparation. The most prepared was Kaye McGarry. She brought all the paperwork from the 2005 search. She had a “green sheet” that alone saved 3 to 4 days of preliminary work. On this she and Joe White are in agreement: there is no need to reinvent the wheel for the search – there’s plenty of documentation from previous searches.

I’ve written in another place in the Observer that the biggest disappointment is the absense of the At-Large candidates. There’s no other way to say it than those people are failing the school district. Though they don’t know who the elected will be, they do know that those two or three victors will be under emmense pressure to be the equal of the other board members in the selection process. Not only do I not see them doing it; I don’t see them concerned about it.

Bolyn McClung

Larry said...

Did anyone catch this story and how the comments berated the people running at large for not showing up and how Joe White sent out a Tweet. And Tim was miffed when even he left them early.

Well that helped a lot. Shows you the mindset of our current board.

If anybody wants me to be at any meeting all they have to do is call or email me.

Using the old ploy they did not show up act is just plain sad.

To begin with they are the ones who are trying to find a new Super and that is their job.

We are just distractions in the process.

As a business person I feel they should wait until after the election but I understand they do not trust anybody so they are going to go ahead and use this excuse of finding somebody.

The fact is this is the best challenge a person could hope for and the kind of person I am looking for would be the person who would be looking for us.

But if the board is chasing the prey instead of letting the talent come to us, so be it.

We have the challenge and potential and quite frankly I am looking forward to working with someone who embraces the challenges we offer. Not the kind of person we are going out beating the bushes hoping will accept our offer and help us out.

So call me and let me know if you want me at these meetings.

Otherwise don’t use them as politics.

And if the board has gotten such a bad reputation that no one of any talent wants to come here then we need a new slate. Period.

Anonymous said...

After landing in the news as a result of enduring two highly contentious boundary reassignment controversies within a four year period prior to the 2005 CMS bond referendum going down in flames, I was extended a "special" invitation to attend a public input forum at the Ed. Center with the national search firm that ulitimately hired Dr. Gorman. CMS's "Dog and Pony Show" did allow me to briefly meet Rhonda Lennon who had just lost her first bid for school board membership to Larry Gavereau. Mo (Maurice) Green also made a cameo appearance. Hard not to like Mo. If nothing else, the invite made me feel supercalifragilisticexpialidocious important - backwards and forwards!

We've come a long way, Ann.

Mudd E. Diction said...

The next CMS leader should roll up her sleeves and lead. Transparency through the chief communication officer, the rock star approach has to go. CMS needs an education leader who maximizes returns to the public by educating children and to the taxpayer through efficient use of existing infrastructure. To have CMS work within their means and stop looking for outsider cash to steer the direction of how our children are taught would be refreshing. The search should be homegrown.

Anonymous said...

"Her sleeves"? As in Ann Clark?

Hans Peter Plotseneder said...

Here are the recommendations of Dr. Hans Peter Plotseneder, candiate for School Board At Large:

Effective superintendents are successful in three roles:
Ø MANAGERIAL (managing human resources, facilities, finance, etc.)
Ø INSTRUCTIONAL (implementing instructional strategies, coaching techniques, holding principals/teachers accountable for effective practices and student achievement, etc)
Ø POLITICAL (negotiating, lobbying and securing backing and funding in supports of schools/programs and worthy endeavors, etc.)

Ø Education Specialist (Ed.S) degree or higher in Administration and Supervision or Educational Leadership
Ø Master in Business Administration (MBA) or equivalent
Ø At least five years of actual teaching experience (preferably high school)
Ø At least five years of experience in managing a corporation or equivalent (preferably private research or teaching institution)
Ø Excellent interpersonal and communication skills
Ø High levels of personal integrity and strong work ethics

Ø Having successfully implemented professional development programs fully utilizing the latest technologies and teaching systems resulting in instructional improvements and student achievement
Ø Asserting the instructional agenda and aligning the school system to support it
Ø Having demonstrated the advantages of decentralized decision making with a small central administration
Ø Getting the local political support to take bold steps needed to transform a district school system
Ø Putting instruction and student achievement at the top of the district's agenda
Ø Assessing results of programs and addressing areas in need of improvements
Ø Ensuring compliance with local, state, and federal laws and policies and procedures of the district
Ø Seeking talents and support from the community to further unpopular educational programs/goals of the district
Ø Articulating plans to retrieve funding and guiding the community political leaders to increase investments in educations
Ø Establishing and maintaining effective administrative procedures to support classroom teachers, learning environments, and safe schools
Ø Ensuring instructional practices that yield higher standards of student achievement, instructional excellence, and greater community support
Ø Having been recognized as an effective community leader in bringing people together

CMS needs a superintendent that has a proven and verified ‘track record’ in a large urban/diverse district or company and has shown his/her managerial, instructional and particular ‘political’ skills in today's economic and divided political climates.

Anonymous said...

Dang, Hans. I'm with Mudd as far as the desire for a less high profile rock star for the next Sup. although wasn't James Pughsley homegrown? Vilma loved him but he was useless before retiring after 2 years on the job. The Gormanator did make an impact. Sorry to learn about Dr. Murphey passing away. Anyone willing to lead this nutty school district deserves some accolades no matter where you stand.

Sup. Search:
Imagine, the Borg of Education actually doing something that isn't at a bureaucratic snails pace. May wonders never cease.

Anonymous said...

Pete never once walked through our school during business hours, yet he constantly used our success model as one of his icons. Supers need to at least appear to support the troops. I never ever experienced such poor leadership like this in the military. But then again, Pete was no Elmo Zumwalt either.

Anonymous said...

And not to be outdone by CMS, stay tuned to the latest school board shenanigans in Burke County!

Answerman said...

Larry if you're running the burden is on you to demonstrate interest and some level of expertise beyond saying that you went to Raleigh for a meeting 10 years ago. And multiple people have said candidates should go to meetings. You don't need an invitation, just a lick of sense and initiative.

Larry said...

8:56 Read my comment.

And if you want commitment then why am I the only one who has the where with all who can afford to donate my salary and cost of the trips back to the schools?

I find it so strange we want change, but only within the confines of the old system.

The fact is they should not be looking for someone, that person should be looking for us.

And now you are upset that I the few people running who even dares addresses the public on this board says the way I feel, comes up and does not dance the way the Observer wants.

Come on folks the Observer and the Board have not been our friends in any of this for a long time.

Come this time next year you are going to be grousing the same way or you are going to have started a fire under the new Board that has made a difference.

Either way, go on with it. I will spend more time at our place at the Beach.

Anonymous said...

The Board members make about 1000 a month. Giving up that amount is not going to affect anything. They ought to raise the pay to 50k a year and maybe they would get some qualified business people who would have the financial cover to do the job without ruining their livelihoods. As it is we are left with activists who blog all day like larry, retired teachers, unemployed people who need benefits, and mommies.

Anonymous said...

Is that you, Trent?

Larry said...

Oh so I am just a person is so easy to dismiss?

Look at the war chest of most of those running.

Why do you think they want in this billion dollar business?

Why do you think I want in this business?

Ask yourself if you had them investing your life savings would you trust them?

So find out why they really are wanting for you and your Kids Futures?

Have they been volunteering for the last ten years in the neighborhoods, and the like? Does this job mean extra income or an embellishment to their jobs or incomes?

Or we could just wait and hope we remember a couple of names when we get to the voting booth.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Larry, you may not consider the Observer your friend, but you're certainly eager to use the platform we provide. And that's the dance I'm interested in -- helping readers figure out what candidates have to offer.

Anonymous said...

Let's see. We should pay school board members $50,000 a year when a beginning level teacher with students loans and 31 kids in a class makes about $34,385.90 a year? Yep, I think the general public would agree CMS's highly qualified and proficient school board members deserve this kind of Pay for Performance compensation.

Larry, lighten up. Professor Poopy Pants took a pot shot at me too.

Wiley Coyote said...

Unfortunately, whoever the next Superintendent is, will continue to work within the same status quo system that has been in place for decades.

There are four areas the Superintendent has to manage and/ or work with:

~ Politicians/government
~ Superintendent/educrats
~ Teachers
~ Parents/students

The Federal Government, the State, the County and the BOE all have their own agendas and some supply different buckets of money to the system.

We have already seen how these buckets of money affect the system, from Obama's stimulus funds that really in the end did nothing. Money was spent and then went away, with CMS scrambling to try and fill that bucket.

We also see how waste and fraud continues to exacerbate the problems facing any Superintendent.

Title 1 funds are predicated on FRL numbers by school. To qualify for Title 1 status, a school has to have a percentage of 35% or more of free and reduced lunch students.

The USDA in 2010 concluded that out of $8.5 BILLION dollars in payments, $1.5 BILLION were made improperly, or 16.3%.

Their "improper payment" target for 2011 is 15.8%.

How can a Superintendent run a school system where virtually every bucket of money is based on false numbers?

CMS has about 75,000 students on FRL yet the 2010 Census shows only 30,000 kids between the ages of 5 and 17 to be at or below the poverty level.

How can any Superintendent make accurate staffing decisions based on grossly inaccurate data?

They can’t.

Then there is the Superintendent and his educrats who help manage the system. All of these “Drs. of Education come up with their own little agendas and pet projects to push out to the masses.

Bright Beginnings is another example of wasteful spending as the program is designed today, designed by a former Superintendent and well-known educrat, Eric Smith.

There is no data to support the program; Gorman said it didn’t have any long-term benefit versus those who are not enrolled in the program yet the BOE and some educrats just can’t bring themselves to eliminate it.

Instead, the County Commission Democrat majority will kick in another $11 MILLION dollars per year to keep it going in the form of a “grant”.

The other boondoggle is the pay to play sports scheme, which is also based on faulty FRL numbers.

The failure of the BOE to really try and get a grip on this is problematic. A few sort of give it lip service like “well we know it isn’t perfect but”… but what? Since about half of the 16,500 student athletes are FRL recipients and potentially 60% don’t qualify, that’s some serious discrepancy don’t you think? Even if the P2P scheme was kept in place, at least a much larger percentage would have to pay to help support the program in addition to those who already are being bilked into paying.

If the 60% error rate is correct, that would mean almost 5,000 athletes are playing for free that shouldn’t be. Put a dollar figure on that. 5,000 times $100.00 per sport and you get $500,000 per year. That’s the total amount Rick Hendrick and Michael Jordan donated combined.

Then there are the teachers. I’m going to skip them for a moment. (to be continued next post)

Wiley Coyote said...


That leaves the parents and students.

The level of expectation of what is acceptable from parents and students towards school and education has become so lax it’s pathetic. The time for mollycoddling is over.

Discipline, manners and respect must be elevated to a high priority. Parents and students need to understand the old days are over. If we have to resort to a standard uniform policy for every school then so be it.

Just this week, 6 Butler student athletes are under investigation for a “bottle bomb” incident, where an explosive device wound up in a teacher’s mailbox.

This is what one parent said: Hal Twisdale, parent of a soccer player, said the students talked about the stunt at a practice shortly afterward and then showed the coach the material for making bottle bombs in the trunk of a car. He said the students were ordered to apologize to the team, but were still laughing about it.

Then this gem from Bud Cessna who is supposed to be CMS’ top cop: "I feel pretty good that they were just stupid," Cesena said.

I feel pretty good I could say the same thing about you Bud.

Intent to make an explosive device plus setting it off in a US Postal box has felony implications. Doesn’t this fit the argument I made earlier about the lax expectations and accountability of students and their parents?

And now the teachers.

There really isn’t much that can be said of teachers other than offering my sympathy and thanks for having to deal with the three bullet points above. Teachers get it from all sides.

So to sum it up.

A Superintendent needs to be fiscally responsible by spending money on what is truly needed, help eliminate waste and fraud in the system, keep neighborhood schools intact and resist “progressive” gerrymandering, streamline upper management and the system as a whole to run more efficiently, find ways to try and get people back into the system who have left – find out why, listen to the teachers because they are your number one asset and ensure parents and students understand the days of playing and being placated, are over.

Jeff Wise said...

I'm not offering excuses, but for me to make 90-minutes worth of Tuesday's meeting (that started over 15 minutes late), I had to shift around some things and was late to a meeting getting back afterwards.

Thanks to technology there are multiple ways for me to stay informed and connected with what the Board is discussing and I'm doing that to the best of my ability. And I know full well that if elected, I will have to make major adjustments to my schedule - which I will do.

At the same, with all due respect to interested parties, there does not need to be an assumption that those elected in November will need weeks or months to get up to speed on this process. Yes, it is a major decision that affects all corners of the school system, but for a number of us, we have experience making major decisions in our work lives. I understand how those processes work.

I saw minutes being taken at the meeting and would expect to have those meeting minutes available for my perusal after the election as well as being able to discuss the search status with the other existing board members. It will be my responsibility to be ready come December to be current with the search process, anything less will be letting the citizens and school system down.

Larry said...

Ann I said you were like my Mother In Law when you said I was an Internet Activist, so that means I feel you are like family.

And since you are the only daily newspaper game in town I hope you do not mind my coming on your board since it is an open to speak your mind forum. I noticed we have a new family member coming on today.

Maybe we can get more. Would that not be exciting and imagine the actual Board Members?

Anonymous said...

Women represent the majority of school teachers. The majority of school volunteers and people who serve on PTA's are mommies.

Only a phenomenally arrogant man would think they deserve $50,000 to serve on our school board.

And Wiley (who I know isn't 11:22),
Although I often agree with you, I think your generalization about parents being lax and pathetic is off base. Based on my observations as a former PTO president, School Leadership Team member, grade parent, door decorator, ESL tutor, school club leader, school tour guide, media center volunteer, office helper, Ground Hog Day party planner, former certified teacher AND mommy, I believe most parents love their children and are trying to do the best they can. It's tough out there. My kids are far from perfect and neither am I.

Despite their philosophical differences and the fact I've been known to occasionally take aim at our school board, I'm glad CMS currently has 3 intelligent women sitting around the dais. I know you support Kay McGarry so at least I know you have a brain in your head.

Anonymous said...


Also, most kids are good kids - not thugs. Perhaps we all need to meander over to a different section of the newspaper that's featured some amazing young people over the summer?

For crying out loud, where's Grundy?

Anonymous said...

Groundhog - one word. Yea baby, I challenge the whole lot of you to come up with a woodchuck craft using only popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, rationed construction paper and Elmer's glue!

And to think I have the right to vote...

CommonSense said...

Here's a novel idea, allow the Search Firm that has been retained to DO WHAT THEY ARE PAID TO DO and find 3-5 candidates that are qualified, interested and meet the BOE objectives. Then allow the BOE to interview in private, and vote, since they bare the responsibility they were elected for. Geeeeez