Friday, December 9, 2011

Time for an insider?

One of the themes that bubbled up in this week's superintendent-search forums is a resistance to reform ideas handed down by philanthropists,  the federal government and national experts.

Over and over,  speakers said they want someone who understands and is committed to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools,  someone willing to work out local solutions before looking to the national grant-makers who can bestow millions to test their ideas in Charlotte.  Some explicitly urged the school board and search firm to look inside CMS for leadership.

It's an interesting dynamic.  When James Pughsley resigned in 2005,  disappointment with CMS leadership expressed itself in a push to hire from outside.  Some board members thought insider Frances Haithcock, the interim superintendent and one of three finalists for the permanent post,  would have been an excellent choice,  but they ended up agreeing that the public wanted fresh eyes on CMS' challenges.  The result,  as we all know,  was Peter Gorman,  who was leading the much smaller district in Tustin,  Calif.,  and made a strong impression as a finalist.

There's plenty of frustration in 2011,  despite the fact that CMS is basking in national acclaim and making gains on test scores.  But many seem to blame the worst of recent years  --  massive layoffs,  school closings,  an increase in testing and a heavy-handed rollout of teacher performance pay  --  on Gorman's connections with The Broad Foundation, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and other national  agenda-setters.

The name that comes up most often as an internal successor to Gorman is Chief Academic Officer Ann Clark  (Hugh Hattabaugh agreed not to apply when he became interim superintendent).  She has a long history with CMS as a teacher, principal and central-office administrator.  She has also won national awards and graduated from the Broad Superintendents Academy. Some will see that as the best of all worlds  ...  and some may see it as the worst.


John said...

I personally like the idea of promoting an existing CMS administrator who understands the specific challenges facing the system today.

Anonymous said...

Ann Clark was my principal at Vance High School in the late 90s. She is exactly the kind of person I would want running a school or school system. She means business!

Wiley Coyote said...

Again and again...

It will not matter who gets the post because they will ultimately answer to the Federal and state governments - not Gates or Broad.

John said...

Wiley - you might not think any of this matters, but as the parent of a current CMS student, the Board's choice of superintendent matters quite a bit.

Wiley Coyote said...

This will be the next turmoil in public education and the new CMS superintendent will most likely spend much of his or her time on it.

The Obama administration released new guidelines Friday explaining how educational institutions can lawfully use racial policies to boost diversity and reduce what Education Secretary Arne Duncan called “racial isolation.”

The Justice and Education departments detailed what kind of steps schools can take to boost increase diversity within the confines of the law.

For example, the guidance for elementary and secondary schools discusses how school district boundaries can be drawn to increase diversity in a lawful way.

Read more:

Increase "diversity" in a more lawful way?

Here are examples from the Obama opinion:

Example 1: A school district has two K-5 elementary schools, one of which has a large enrollment of students whose households have higher than average annual incomes and the other of which has a student population whose households have lower than average annual incomes. The district could mix students from lower and higher income households in one grade K-2 school and one grade 3-5 school, if doing so also helps to achieve racial diversity or avoid racial isolation.

Example 2: A school district might choose to feed underperforming elementary schools into higher performing middle schools if this also helps to achieve racial diversity or avoid racial isolation.

Example 3: A school district could create feeder patterns for elementary schools that expressly include the racial makeup of the population of the elementary school as a whole as a criterion in determining which elementary schools would feed into which middle schools. All students at a particular elementary school would then be assigned to the same middle school, without regard to the race of any individual student.

Notice the use income now as a reason along with race.

Wiley Coyote said...


My son just graduated this past June after going 13 years to CMS schools.

In my opinion, it won't matter.

Anonymous said...

Option 1 was used by CMS in the late 80's and early 90's. The busing was a big issue but it created diversity and really seemed to work. Both sides got to see what the other side looked like!

John said...

In the last year: CMS closed some magnet programs (and considered closing others), closed a high school, created a bunch of K-8 schools, lengthened the elementary school day to 7 hours, shifted bell schedules so that some kids now get out at 4:30. All of those changes were initiated by the superintendent. The superintendent matters.

Anonymous said...

The government doesn't like "racial isolation" because it makes it easier to see where the real problems are.

Like in Detroit.

Almost no white kids to kick around anymore.

High and lower income just don't seem to make much difference there.

They pretty much all perform at a similar low level.

Which is precisely why "racial isolation" exists.

In the mean time, those who really care about their children's education will continue the practice with or without the support of government.

In other words, they will still move away from the problem.

Until it is recognized and solved.

Which won't happen as long as the government is in control of the schools.

Anonymous said...

It looks like public education in America will continue to make the "underclass" its priority.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world pulls ahead.

I hope our private schools are able to take up the slack for the smarter kids.

Wiley Coyote said...


Schools were closed due to past superintendents, BOE members and special interest groups pushing their agendas to have bonds passed.

Schools were built in the wrong places and monies spent on programs we can't afford like Bright Beginnings.

When the economy bottomed out, all that overbuilding and spending came back to haunt us.

What did the BOCC do? Implemented the Pandering Card and gerrymandered property taxes under the revaluation process.

Anonymous said...

Blacks want an entitilement (handout)

Latinos want a job

That is why the gap is closing.Stop the bussing and other social experiments.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:43.

And as soon as they saw what each other was like, went back to isolation...

What About This Year? said...

Ann Clark would be one local option, but not the only one. It would be helpful to get a white paper of sorts on how candidates would integrate the interest of the greater Mecklenburg community with for-profit business philosophies and how these philosophies relate to education leadership if at all.

Ann could be married to existing and costly infrastructure that may be best left behind. Should CMS be one of the largest employers in Mecklenburg County outside of the educators themselves? Has a list ever been produced of all the jobs that do not directly impact education?

For instance, the CMS print shop that competes with private sector printers for local printing jobs...When did CMS develop excess capacity in any area?

What about the middle management infrastructure for thousands of janitors, cooks, bus drivers and maintenance workers.

The real advantage of an outsider is that they are not wed to or otherwise mesmerized by the mistakes of the past, mistakes made by their own friends.

If Ann could focus on education as Super and get CMS out of the education support business she and the Board of Education could better focus on making the highly noted one way flights out of CMS---round trip. This could have been Hattabaugh’s mission, but is not. His mission is spinning why CMS need’s to keep non-education programs in-house.

BTW: Run down schools were closed to save money when Goreman had everyone believing CMS was to rif up to 1000 teachers. CMS ended up with 500 more teachers and 10 less schools for them to teach in. Now larger CMS trailer parks are back in vogue. Also, the closed run down schools are getting several millions of dollars in taxpayer funded upgrades now that the ivory tower administrators are moving in that were not available or even necessary while these schools were schools. The closed down classrooms were good enough for 24 students and teachers, but now need millions of dollars in upgrades to accommodate a few middle management administrators.

Accountability, equity, integrity or feduciary responsiblity mean anything these days? This year seems to be one big administrative excuse.

Anybody ever checked with the permits office on these projects? CMS gets often gets what it wants without going through the channels others have to endure. Try converting your property and see what permitting issues you have to deal with.

Anonymous said...

Ann Clark would not be a bad choice, but she is going to have to clean house and get rid of the old Gormanites who infest the system.

Anonymous said...

I always thought Maurice ("Mo") Green would have been a good superintendent choice for CMS although he lacked the media and political savvy Gorman brought to the table in 2005. 2005 was a disaster after the lifting of CMS's federally mandated forced busing policies and the implementation of the now defunct Choice Plan. Gorman did what he was hired to do. He was the right man for the job at the right time. Love him or leave him, The Gormanator was bold and courageous - which is exactly why we hired him.

I don't know Ann Clark personally but I do know she is highly respected within CMS and throughout the greater Charlotte community. Ruling her out for the superintendent position would be a great disservice. God help her should she be willing to throw her hat into the shark tank.

Anonymous said...


2005 was also the year CMS's bond referendum went down in flames.

Ann Doss Helms said...

6:56/58, plenty of people have speculated that we might see Mo Green in this year's crop of finalists, too. The biggest strike against him might be that Guilford County's test scores don't look so hot side by side with CMS.

Anonymous said...

Student performance falls under the bell-shaped curve of normal distribution. As would be expected, students in high poverty situations fall disproportionately into the group at the left-hand end of the bell...the lower end. To transform normal distribution into a j curve or some other distribution requires an enormous amount of resources and does so at the expense of those in the middle, usually. This is what CMS has been attempting to do. However, it does not have the resources to complete the transformation; unfortunately, it uses enough resourses to take away fron the "average student" under the big bell. I would submit that this is why education in the US lags today. For political reasons, we decided to expend our resources to change the shape of the curve rather than to move the bell up a notch or, heaven forbid, to change the bell to an inverted J--thus, propelling our top students forward to compete with the rest of the world. Soneday, however politically unpopular, we will be forced to accept the fact that most of those bright people who were held back solely because of race have already used the advantages this country has offered in the past 40 years to excell. This, of course, does not erase the "who you know" advantage, but unless Charlotte intends to only empower only "friends of Vilma or Jennifer," we will have to let it rest at that. Otherwise, we are hopelessly doomed.

Anonymous said...

The "challenges facing the district today" are no different from the challenges facing the district 100 years ago. Some kids excell, an equal number usually fail and the vast majority fall in the middle. The only difference is the ones who are failing fall into a category that is not politiocally acceptable today. There are many, many reasons; culture has to be the most readily identifiable. Why that culture has evolved as it has is, I am certain, exremely complicated. But, it does not change the outcome and that fact that CMS does not know how to change it. What is concerning, in my opinion, is that we are running off a good proportion of the brightest, most enterprising students to private schools, home schools, or neighboring counties who are not so concerned with raising the bottom. What this does is lower the baseline of that bell-shaped curve. And, lower our property values because people with school-aged kids will opt out of Mecklenburg county.

Anonymous said...

Timmy has said he wants a new super "just like the old one." Good thing he is now irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

I've met Ann. As a teacher I didn't get the impression that she gave a hoot, so long as the agenda was met. Enough already. A pro-teacher super who will empower teachers to work. Stop all the crap.

Mudd E. Diction said...

CMS needs a superintendent who can and will think independently. What is good for Mecklenburg County citizens and their families should be at the core.

Business approaches may be applicable to the business functions of CMS. However, for-profit business theory does not lend itself to the education process. CMS needs to get away from looking for answers from the outside and instead look from within!

The Superintendent and CMS’s leadership team should be paid for creativity and leadership, not following the advice of corporate financed think tanks. Think tanks should be coming to CMS for advice on education, not visa versa.

If for profit theory did crossover well into education would we not have for profit Gates or Murdoch K-12 schools popping up everywhere? The proof is in the pudding.

Closing failing schools and/or moving populations to dilute bad trends for example does fit well within the corporate accountability model, but does little to improve the education process for Mecklenburg children.

The next CMS superintendent should be an education leader with the ability to respectfully put business leaders and their rhetoric in their place, while protecting and letting educators educate.

5:17 Most of your concerns are why the next superintendent needs to immediately overhaul CMS's approach to planning. Stability and an education focus are fundamental to CMS building on a rock hard foundation looking forward.

Anonymous said...

Ann Clark is the ultimate insider. She has been responsible for hiring many of the principals and executive leadership team members over the past three years. Ann Clark has all but eliminated the AA male presence from executive leadership positions in CMS. She has hired cronies and yes people to run CMS. She is closely affiliated with PFP and has been responsible for implementing many of the initiatives attributed to Pete Gorman. If the community wants a fresh perspective, we can do better than Ann Clark.

therestofthestory said...

We would probably be better off paying Diane Ravitch $100K and Joe Clark (Lean On Me movie) $100K and just do as they say.

Anonymous said...

I want to know why CMS has not released school budgets for this year! Hello…this is December and teachers can barely afford chart paper, pencils, and other basic classroom survival supplies . This is an out-cry! CMS continues to avoid hiring experienced teachers due to pay, while denying schools a basic operational budget. Greedy Petey is gone…what the heck are they doing with the money now ?

Anonymous said...

CMS had the shortest elementary school day in the stste. Help me understand the kibitzing about a longer school day? I get the frustration over late dismissals but not adding more instructional time to the day.

Anonymous said...

5:17 If your statements are correct the Chamber should look into when and how the Board of Education began allowing CMS to compete with local business? Business pays taxes on revenue that keeps the capitalist cycle fluid. Many of Gorman's changes have proven bad business decisions and this could be another example. What do Gate's, Broad and others say about schools entering the marketplace as competitors with local business? If true this seems to be contrary to free market capitalism.

Wiley Coyote said...

Here's a good article from Creative Loafing back in April on CMS outsourcing....

From Ann's real time blogging back during the budget talks:

9:37: Gorman and board members are talking about plans to possibly privatize some services. Tim Morgan says he wants to look into privatizing more transportation services, as well as internet technology and other areas. "With the budget the way it is, now is the time to move forward," he says.

Read more:

Anonymous said...

4:10 The bad business decisions you attribute to Dr. Gorman were for the most part put forth by the mid-level educrats still occupying administration posts at CMS. Dr. Gorman put forth the best advice of his minions and it was approved by the CMBOE. Few on the Board though more from within the community questioned his leadership direction. Superintendents and their select minions do matter.

Anonymous said...

Teachers need supplies now! Where is the line line item fund for classroom supplies? CMS spends millions for extra tests. How much for classroom supplies? Note to CMS file - pencils and paper help children learn.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 6:51..

Those that can afford them, have it and those that don't get supplies for free.

Pencils and paper aren't keeping kids from learning.

Anonymous said...

It's obvious Wiley, you know nothing about teaching or how students learn. I am in agreement CMS... why have you not released operational budget funds to schools? You need to be open and honest about this.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 8:24...

Because I stated the fact paper and pencils do not dictate learning?...LOL...

...and the fact no kid goes without? If that's the case, where do ALL those supplies donated go every year? HUH?

That's what I thought...

Sarah Porter of Classroom Central said statistics for last school year show the nonprofit gave out about 160,000 items each week.

When potentially 60% of CMS students on FRL don't qualify, CMS has no idea who the deserving students are and those who take away from those who DO need school supplies.

Read more:

Anonymous said...

I would not be in favor of Ann Clark, simply because she has been instrumental in carrying out all the testing that CMS has heaped on top of state tests. In addition, since she is a Broad graduate, I suspect she will follow the Broad agenda, one that I think is a poor choice for any school district that wants its students to be able to do more than be able to pass a standardized test.