Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Getting to know Heath Morrison

After a hectic couple of weeks, I'm taking a deep breath and trying to learn more about Heath Morrison, who has been offered the job of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools superintendent.

Update: He's in town for the contract signing. See a video of his remarks at the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum.  

The website of Washoe County Schools  has a lot of good information  --  starting with the entry plan Morrison drew up when he took the job in Reno in 2009.  It talks about building relationships with the board and senior staff,  figuring out student achievement issues,  building a media strategy and planning a first day full of thoughtfully chosen  "symbolic"  visits.

Soon after starting that job,  Morrison worked with the Broad Academy to do a study of the administrative structure.  The consultant reported that the district was top-heavy,  that administrators were widely seen as being part of a "good old boys club" and that it was a mistake not to have a chief academic officer.  (Even if Morrison doesn't feel like CMS needs that much of a shake-up,  there are openings in top jobs,  so it's interesting to scan his executive cabinet and wonder who might eventually join him in Charlotte.)  Morrison also commissioned a detailed critique of Washoe County's communications department.

Morrison and his board  (Washoe has a seven-member board of trustees) eventually crafted a strategic plan, Envisioning WCSD 2015.  Much of it will look familiar to those who follow CMS.  For instance, both boards use  "managed performance empowerment,"  an approach that involves tight central-office control for failing schools,  while principals with a record of success get freedom to run their own schools.  Both districts strive to create a performance-driven culture,  and both are trying to find better ways to identify,  recruit and reward effective principals and teachers.  Both have launched a Parent University to help engage families.

That's not to say Washoe is a CMS clone, or vice versa.  I'm intrigued by Washoe's "culture of respect resolution," the door-to-door campaign to get at-risk kids back on the academic track and the emphasis on diversity,  including study circles for teachers, students and parents to talk about race, ethnicity and achievement. The district has multi-track year-round schools,  which CMS is exploring for 2013-14,  and sponsors eight charter schools.

I'll visit Reno next week to get a look at the reality behind all these links and plans.  Let me know if you have questions you'd like to have the new superintendent answer,  or ideas about what you'd like to learn more about.


Terry Stoops said...

A former colleague who now works at a think tank in Nevada provides the following assessment:

Morrison's probably one of the most reform-minded superintendents in the country. ... Reno's loss would be Charlotte's gain.

Wiley Coyote said...

Goundhog Day....

Morrison's probably one of the most reform-minded superintendents in the country. ... Reno's loss would be Charlotte's gain.

CHARLOTTE (MCT) — Superintendent Peter Gorman, who made Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools a national model for data-driven school reform, is leaving and a deeply divided community must decide whether his vision is right for Charlotte.

What is Morrison going to "reform"?

I'll be waiting for his top three reform ideas.

Wiley Coyote said...

A couple of questions on the Culture of Respect Survey sent to 4,073 employees.......

Over 70% of respondants think support for the agreement could possibly be a barrier...

In your view, what are likely to be barriers that may prevent the successful implementation of
the agreement? Please indicate how much of a concern you think each item presents.

Q14(c). : Lack of district employee support for this particular agreement.

Not a Barrier
991 24.33%

Might be a Barrier
2256 55.39%

Is Certain to be a Barrier
729 17.90%

(Did not answer)
97 NULL 2.38%

TOTAl 4,073

A little over 58% of respondants believe there will be a lack of support from adminitrators and supervisors.

In your view, what are likely to be barriers that may prevent the successful implementation of
the agreement?Please indicate how much of a concern you think each item presents.

Q14(d). : Lack of administration and supervisor support for this agreement.

Not a Barrier
1559 38.28%

Might be a Barrier
1808 44.39%

Is Certain to be a
598 14.68%

(Did not answer)
108 2.65%

TOTAL 4,073


Anonymous said...

In 3-4 year we will be calling this guy the 2nd coming of St. Peter. He is a junior clone of Sweet Pete and a Broadie. Its all the same prinicipal. Lots of politics not alot of bridge building or educating. My reccomendation is for him to stay as far away from Peter Gorman as possible. At least now we have a clear leader and not Hughie who has no clue. Of course we will pay Hughie to step away quitely in our usual manner. Your correct in that many top spots are open as they were not qualified to have those jobs in the first place. (Latarzan,Murri,Corbitz)

Anonymous said...

Using the diversity link in Ann's piece I found this under "Diversity for Educators": Specific Activities for becoming a culturally responsive teacher: "Participate in reforming the institution. The educational system has historically fostered the achievement of one segment of the school population by establishing culturally biased standards and values. The mono-cultural values of schools have promoted biases in curriculum development and instructional practices that have been detrimental to the achievement of students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Teachers need to participate in reforming the educational system so that it becomes inclusive. As the direct link between the institution and the students, teachers are in a pivotal position to facilitate change. By continuing a traditional “conform-or-fail” approach to instruction, teachers perpetuate a mono-cultural institution. By questioning traditional policies and practices, and by becoming culturally responsive in instruction, teachers work toward changing the institution."

Is "bias in curriculum development and instruction" really the cause of the achievement gap? Is "culturally sensitive instruction" going to be touted as the next "silver bullet"?

Sharon Starks

Anonymous said...

Does he own a dog, cat or parrot?

Anonymous said...

Sharon, Sharon, Sharon,

You need to take your argument to the higher education level that continues to require "Diversity in Education" (i.e, sensitivity training) for teacher licensure.

Wiley Coyote said...

Teachers need to participate in reforming the educational system so that it becomes inclusive.

It's interesting that teachers should stand up and be "reformers".

Yet all I have heard from a few people and even some BOE members is that they can't do anything about waste and fraud in the school lunch program, even though it affects virtually every decision made in public education.

Why hasn't any CMS superintendent used the bully pulpit to demand accountability from the USDA and Federal government? Aren't we all for eliminating waste and fraud and redirect those funds to help ALL students and target the ones who truly need the extra help?

Until we have a superintendent with the guts to do that?

Everything else is just status quo white noise.

Susan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan said...

Lotsa luck getting the truth from Morrison. He's all flash and no substance.

By the way, the district STILL is top heavy with administration and central office workers, and it is still a good ol' boy network there. Nothing new under the sun although he did demote one or two people from the executive cabinet who should have been kicked out of their jobs. He also demoted at least one principal this past year who deserved it because he committed sexual misconduct with a subordinate, but Morrison hasn't gone far enough in getting rid of these people entirely. Meanwhile, teachers are being put on "pay for performance" nonsense and had their evaluations revised because, after all, THEY, not politicians or administrators, are the problem in education.

Anonymous said...

What about family? Is this joker married (to a woman)?

Anonymous said...

"By continuing a traditional “conform-or-fail” approach to instruction, teachers perpetuate a mono-cultural institution."

Teachers are not necessarily perpetuating this approach. To put it on teachers is a myopic view, at best. Teachers are very often told what they HAVE to do, including making students conform to others' visions of what a successful student appears to be.

Anonymous said...

Responding to another comment - on tv I saw he is married to a woamn who is a teacher with 2 children who attend public school.

Anonymous said...

The new good ole boy network is now the sorority sister network.

Anonymous said...

What is the point of this continual drumming of diversity, divvrsity, diversity?

It seems it is just an allowance for an excuse for certain demographics to either be justified in lower expectiations, lack of behavior, an doverall will now and forever always be a burden to society. As Wiley has written many times, 2+2 is still 4 no matter if you are an urban or suburban school. Do we expact then that if you are this disadvantaged demographic you do not need to demonstrate proficiency with this till high school?

Anonymous said...

I was here when Murphy came. I was here when Smith came. I was here when Gorman came. I am not so sure what I am hearing is not the same thing from every other time.

Within 90 to 180 days, Gorman made an observation how the suburban schools were struggling under overcrowding, lack of resources, etc. Something, someone shut him up real quick and he never openly expressed any concern about the suburban schools.

Anonymous said...

Hm, Terry "Art Pope" Stoops seems to back Morrison, that's not a good sign. Or maybe he's just looking to get on Morrison's good side and get some of his inane ideas a hearing.

We'll find out a lot by who Morrison brings with him for exec spots, how he hires for the rest, what his plans for Ann Clark are and his interactions with the BOE.

If he says "yes ma'am" to them, then we're sunk. If he says, "I respectfully disagree" then he's got a fighting chance.

Anonymous said...

I guess it's okay to have schools with "culturally relevant" curriculum and instruction as long as that's what the parents at that school want. Just don't complain if you don't get the same results as the school down the road which expects kids to adhere to long held cultural norms of behavior. And don't be surprised if some teachers prefer not to work under such conditions.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"By continuing a traditional “conform-or-fail” approach to instruction, teachers perpetuate a mono-cultural institution."

Teachers are not necessarily perpetuating this approach. To put it on teachers is a myopic view, at best. Teachers are very often told what they HAVE to do, including making students conform to others' visions of what a successful student appears to be.
April 24, 2012 11:49 AM

Thank you. I can diversify my lessons as much as I want, teach to multiple intelligences, use all the cool stuff I learned in my education classes, but at the end of the day, THE MOST BIASED & FLAWED measure of assessment (standardized multiple choice testing) will be used whether I like it or not, and whether or not it is effective for my subject area. And if I protest, it gets turned around on ME: i.e., well if you're a good teacher you shouldn't object to us using your students' scores to evaluate you.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 12:10:
I think it is pretty obvious what shut Gorman up relative to the suburban funding. Kojo visited with the uptown crowd; threatened to have his people not buy anymore of the junk they are selling if the suburban kids got any more funds. Since Kojo's people are the only ones with any money to spend on things like Coach bags, Nike shoes, etc., since the rest of our disposable income goes to Kojo's people for reparations, his message worked. He'll use it again, too. Thus, the mess that is CMS.

lyndatx said...

Ask him what he is going to do to address the enormous disparity in spending per student between urban and suburban schools.

Does he agree that getting as many urban school highschoolers graduated can NOT be the only goal of CMS?

What additional specific programs, class sizes will he put in place in suburban schools to (as he put it) make the spending "equitable" if not "equal?"

What did he mean by stating that the urban schools need "more." More - of what? Money - from where? What will he do to increase funds for suburban schools?

Anonymous said...

He drank Kool Aide at the breakfast meeting. Ericka and Mary leading him around you know that was force fed to them as they would not support Morrison. He speaks of Dr. King, Equity and BOLD ACTIONS we must take. Has he been to the Chamber yet? That should take care of that kind of speak. Poor guy might think all of Charlotte looks like that minority breakfast club. Bring him over to Don Reids breakfast and we see his little speech and raise him one. Just dont bring Ericka or Mary as thats not our crowd.

Anonymous said...

3:33, hopefuly your crowd would chew up and spit out Erica and Mary. They are vaporlocked.

Anonymous said...

If Ericka and Mary control who Morrison meets with it seems highly likely that he may only see one side of Charlotte. He certainly will not get the full picture of our school system.

Anonymous said...

3:50 their is no question they would be eaten alive by the Don Reid Breakfast forum. They most likely would not come as this pattern of their own events in which they speak is home field advantage. So much smoke from the Female Kojo's. (thing 1 and 2) Honestly they would have voted for Morrison if Cash did not drop out like a sore loser? Tonight they get fed this Morrison and I hope he negotiates a HUGE contract. He should hold out like a NBA player.

Anonymous said...

Will his wife "volunteer" for Parent University?

Anonymous said...

Read through some of Dr. Morrison's plans from his prior job. He is right out of the Broad handbook. Parent University foolishness. Read through some of the "studies" he had commissioned. Broad fellows and recommendations all over them. And proud of it I might add. He is a wolf who is telling you all he is really a sheep! And you bought it. He will land a $350,000 plus salary and be a repeat of Peter Gorman. I hope I am wrong but it simply does not feel right.

Anonymous said...

His wife is a teacher and he has at least one child in high school. Do we know if his wife teaches in Reno...will she in Charlotte? I'd have to think she would need to go to a private school here in order for her not to make her colleagues uncomfortable? Can you imagine having to watch EVERYTHING you said because you worked with the Super's wife?

Anonymous said...

Former superintendent Eric Smith's wife was a counselor at Providence--a good one too.

Anonymous said...

2:33, I think the point is already known. If you go into the offices of many urban middle schools and high schools, you will see regularly baby mamas mouthing off at staff and principals to get anything they want for themselves or kid. But heaven forbid if they will ever show up for a parent conference, meeting with a teacher, or a call from the principal unless it means their "precious" will be expelled and they will have to put up with the heathen at home.

lyndatx, Morrison has already said that spending more money is what needs ot happen in the urban schools. So as you see, he has been fed the garbage from Ericka and Mary that the urban students do not get enough.

3:58, it will take some deliberate effort to get Morrison into the overcrowded classrooms and schools in the suburban and those people will have to know how to point out the descrepancies in the equipment and resources in how CMS has equipped the schools.

Shamash said...

From the "diversity" link"

Why do we need to address diversity

"For many students, the kids of behaviors required in School (e.g., sitting in one's seat and only speaking when Called on) and types of discourse (e.g., "Class, what is the title of this book?") contrast with home cultural and linguistic practices. "


Yeah, now so we need to be "sensitive" to asking kids to sit down, shut up, and answer the question due to "diversity" and "home cultural and linguistic practices".


We are surely doomed as a society.

Anonymous said...

My mammy nebba tells me to sit down, shut up and answer no questions.

Dats rasist...

Anonymous said...

When I was in college 30 years ago teachers were required to take "Cultural Understanding". Now it's called "Diversity in Education". As I see it, the culture of urban education will continue on as is so that 30 years from now there won't be any diversity left in CMS.

Anonymous said...

Diversity of Thought.

While I'm being culturally sensitized to meet the individual needs of immigrant students whose native language is Hmong, it might be nice to actually focus on providing me the necessary skills to effectively teach reading and math.

Anonymous said...

What's there to know? Morrison will come in, immediately shake things up and be gone in 4-5 years. (about the same time Project Lift-Off crashes).

Ann Doss Helms said...

5:23, he said today his wife has not figured out where to work but it will not be CMS because of the potential for perceived favoritism. She's a National Board Certified Teacher who's working on her doctoral dissertation.

Not only was Eric Smith's wife a counselor, but Jim Pughsley's wife was a principal -- who was named CMS Principal of the Year right after he was named superintedent.

Anonymous said...

Puggsley was head honcho for what? 2 years? How long did Smith last? What about Murphey?

Anonymous said...

Puggsley. "Our Buffalo Soldier". That's what Vilma called him.

Anonymous said...

Mad Murphy
Smiley Smith
Our Buffalo Soldier
The Gormanator

Heath? Stay tuned...

Anonymous said...

Heath has already been dubbed " Peter Junior" or "Heath Broadie" come take a gamble on me !

Anonymous said...



get it right.

Anonymous said...

What ever his name is gonna be keep Ericka and Mary away from him. Dont let him think that they represent anything other than Project LIFT. That breakfast they took him too today is enough for him to demand the big money that he did. Should get him a nicer car as well that he wont drive to West Charlotte.

Anonymous said...

Lots going on at the board meeting tonight, folks. Ericka was all about the "opportunity" gap, now that Ann Clark and Sheila Shirley explained definitively that yes, high poverty schools are getting considerably more funding than suburban schools. Luckily the next report from Ann and TD director dispelled some of that "opportunity gap" talk, by explaining resources available for taking AP and other classes on-line if there are not enough students at a high school requesting that class. Tom Tate brought up assignment, saying the board can do something about it. Joyce couldn't understand much of anything, but most especially why some students do better than others. Especially interesting--Tim, Eric, Rhonda all agreed that high poverty schools need extra resources, but Ericka was not willing to concede in return that suburbs had concerns. I'm afraid we're in for a bumpy ride for the next few years.

Wiley Coyote said...

Okay Three Amigos, what additional resources do high poverty schools need?

Top 3.

1) __________

2) __________

3) __________

Anonymous said...


1. Parents
2. Parents
3. Parents?

Re: Tom Tate. Yes, tinkering with student assignment is the answer. Worked wonders before.

Anonymous said...

First it was affordable housing. Then it was a hostile takeover of"Providence".

Is it possible to get the Breakfast Club nincompoops in Ballantyne to put a sock in it? Hello people, "NOT HELPING" the CMS situation!

Patso4Teaching said...

Wiley that's too easy.
1. Parent(s) who take an active role in their child's education.
2. Parent(s) who hold their children accountable for their successes and failures.
3. Parent(s)who value learning more that leisure.

See that was easy!!!

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon and Patso, you get timeout for speaking without raising your hand!

Anonymous said...

"Opportunity Gap"

One more "innovative" buzz-phrase to add to my educational jargon repertoire in preparation of my teaching licensure test. Is there an Ap for this?

Current favorite: "Closure Model".

I learned about the Wicca religion this week. I can't make this stuff up.

Anonymous said...


It's not called a "time-out" anymore. It's called a "correction".

Like the corrective shock my dog receives when wandering outside of his boundaries.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think it's important for a professional educator to know about the Wicca religion. Onto "ethno-ethnic curriculum" for the purpose of closing the "achievement gap", or, is it the "opportunity gap"? God (as you chose to understand him), I'm confused.

Anonymous said...


"God" (as you chose to understand him OR her).

Anonymous said...

Is there a reason teachers haven't risen up against some of the useless Education Dept. crap courses supposedly required to become an effective teacher? This is part of the problem.

Wiley Coyote said...

Regurgitated buzzword definition:

"Opportunity gap"

a)More good money after bad.

b)Never ending lack of "diversity".

In business, and Opp Gap means your competition is doing a better job than you selling and managing your product(s)in the competitive market.

So who is doing a better job than CMS? Private schools? Home schooling?

Anonymous said...

How about an in-depth, data driven research paper conducted by Harvard on the effectiveness of certain university level preparation courses required to become a teacher? Do I REALLY need to know about the Wicca religion?

Anonymous said...

You forgot charter schools.

Anonymous said...

Does CMS still have 3 times the number of TD/"gifted" students as the national average? Just wondering...

Gifted/TD test question:

1. Name the three tiers of "gifted-ness" according to CMS?

Ok, freebie.

1. "Average" Gifted
2. "Highly" Gifted
3. "Profoundly" Gifted

Anonymous said...

Oh, crud. It's not called the "TD" program anymore, it's called something else.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 1:13....

I started to put charter schools but overall, charter schools don't perform any better than their counterparts in the system...

At least parents have a choice to get their kids out of their current underperfoming school..

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 1:22 AM
Don't know about how our TD numbers currently compare to the rest of US but Ericka is quite concerned that our evaluations are leaving out a lot of kids. Considering the hoops we've gone through over the years to increase participation rates (some would say dumbing down the standards) perhaps we should just say "Anyone can be declared "gifted" (although maybe just "average gifted") and start participating in the program. Doesn't that seem "equitable" and just?

Wiley Coyote said...

• $1,500 a year for life insurance.

WHAT?.... LMAO...... You're kidding?

You can get a 10 year, $500,000 term life policy at MetLife for $25.56 per month or $306.72 per year for a 42 year old man.....

If he leaves in 5 years, discontinue paying it!

Ann, where does CMS get their life insurance policies?

Anonymous said...

Anyone want to start a "diversity" magnet school?

I'd be willing to bet that the only people interested in doing so wouldn't be "diverse" enough to make it work.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Morrison, how will you fix Harding and all those other schools at which a big cover up of the true conditions is going on. The children are suffering!

It is time to investigate why cms security and the police are suppressing reports of discipline problems at Harding. Also ask how many teachers are leaving and how many new hires are staying only a few days. How many staff have had to go out on medical leave or quit because of the stress from the hostile work environment?

Teachers are being left out on their own when classes of students become hostile. It is rumored that a teacher threw a chair the other day.

Teachers are tired of the bullying and intimidation tactics of the administration so CMS better prepare for a huge turnover of teachers at that school. They are not only leaving Harding, they are leaving the education profession; just ask TFA and Teach Charlotte teachers. Fear of retaliation has kept teachers from letting CMS know.

Anonymous said...

I just saw the video.. He is gorman with bad hair.

Anonymous said...

CMS, make sure you protect your interests because Morrison will protect his. He signed a 4 year contract and was at WCSD less than 3 years before looking for another position. He leaves Washoe County with a sweet deal. This year WCSD will face a $40 million shortfall--Morrison is getting out while the gettin' is good. Check out the article below on "The music man."