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.