Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New life for New Leaders in Charlotte

After a major setback earlier this spring, Charlotte's New Leaders program is coming back fresh with an infusion of private money from Project LIFT, says Executive Director Eric Guckian.

New Leaders is a 12-year-old national program (originally known as New Leaders for New Schools) created  to develop urban principals with the skills and drive to make transform struggling high-poverty schools. Superintendent Peter Gorman announced its partnership with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in 2008, with promises that it would put more than 50  "highly talented and motivated new principals"  into local schools in six years.

In March, interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh blindsided New Leaders backers with the announcement that he planned to drastically cut back spending midway through the effort, saying CMS was spending too much money and had gotten only a handful of principals. Not long before, Hattabaugh had renewed a partnership agreement, but changed his mind when federal money that helped pay for it dried up.

Being publicly proclaimed a poor investment of taxpayer money was a serious blow, Guckian says. He credits his local board, the national organization and a panel of local philanthropists for not only keeping the local project alive but helping it develop a new focus on making classroom teachers better leaders.

"While it was indeed a hardship that the district reallocated our funds, other partners and supporters have made clear that there is strong and diverse community support for our work here in Charlotte," he said in a recent email.

Guckian says it was CMS leaders,  not his group,  that pitched New Leaders as a sort of principal factory.  The partnership with Project LIFT,  a philanthropic coalition which aspires to pump $55 million in private donations into nine west Charlotte public schools,  will put five principal trainees into LIFT schools while  providing leadership training for 40 teachers a year.  Those teachers could move into administrative posts or exercise their skills while staying in a classroom,  Guckian said.

"In addition to the LIFT partnership, we recently learned that the Women’s Impact Fund will be supporting us at $100K,"  Guckian noted.  "As you may know, grants from the Women’s Impact Fund are voted on by hundreds of influential women in Charlotte, so it’s a really nice vote of confidence from across the community."


Anonymous said...

GREAT a program that has no success and no proven benefit is saved by LIFT. I believe this Project LIFT needs to file for a Charter school permit with the state and rock on. It should not be a joint arm of CMS as it has become. Their are way too many outside influences with cash involved. Project LIFT has very little accountability and not much actual educational elements. CMS is entering a very poor ERA that one day will be looked back upon and not in a very positive way. Keith W. Hurley

Bill Stevens said...

Keith, Project LIFT will find out as Dr. Canada did with NYC schools, that their partnership with CMS will not allow them to achieve what they want to. LIFT will probably just continue to castigate some very dedicated teachers and principals, those they have not run off yet, instead of just accepting the fact they need to start their own school and do their own birth to grave set of services so the parents, actually just birthers, are not bothered to raise their children.

Zebriod said...

My wife is a qualified teacher from the UK> She has taught as a supply teacher in two Charlotte schools over the last 8 years. These two schools are 3 miles apart. One is in an affluent while area and the second in mainly minorities. The first is considered one of the best schools in CMS the second not so. Gormond moved the head of the first to a troubled school because she must be good!

The teachers at the second need all need to be praised.

We need to consider tools to give teachers control of the classroom - thee is no way schools will improve before a bunch of spitting giggling pencil poking little miss Oprah's can be brought under control for 7 hours a day.

Anonymous said...

If good money wants go after bad, that is fine with me as long as it is private money. Otherwise, NO!!!

-Teacherguy (This is the only way I can comment since I have been blocked.)

Anonymous said...

I agreed with Hugh.

Anonymous said...

So how many of Watts' best buddies are in this group of New Leaders placed at the LIFT schools?

We have more than enough APs, Dean of Students, and other highly qualified and trained people. But CMS has to make more since they won't promote them or they want nothing to do with administration in CMS. What a waste of talent.

BolynMcClung said...

I was in the room when Mr. Hattabaugh made that announcement, or rather eulogy.

This rolling back of the stone is an alarming development.

I tentatively gave my support to LIFT but didn't expect it to morph into a quasi LEA top heavy with administration and leadership programs. How soon will it be before it begins lobbying the BOCC and the State for its own funding?

This is not a good move.

What's not good is that before there is a lick of success it is branching out to new territory.

What is really wrong is LIFT is taking a program that likely can't be replicated and made it even more so.

Bolyn McClung

Wiley Coyote said...



Are you just now having the LIFT epiphany many of us had last year?

Why do you think they hired lobbyists?

Christine Mast said...


That's why I was asking you yesterday why you thought a LIFT lobbyist was a good idea...

BolynMcClung said...


My complaints were to draw LIFT back to the original design.

Mine are warnings that LIFT could become something else.

Keith Hurley is probably correct that LIFT has crossed the line and is a good candidate for being a set of charter schools. But I see where he is going. Next would be a Charter District. That smells of what SPARK wants and I'm not for that.

This is an important position because the support from the Board of Education was sort of a leap-of-faith and in some cases a desire to do something rather than nothing. It surely wasn’t an effort to split the district into legal entities.

I've got to believe the board members and hopefully the new Superintendent can see that LIFT is moving into an area where it will want to create its own policies. Most dangerous; thus the quasi-LEA comment earlier.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

This behavior is all at the feet of Denise Watts who is supposed to be administering the money for LIFT. When in actuality, she is only building her legacy. Hummmm. I wonder who she learned that from? Are we sure that someone is truly gone and not just lurking under some rock somewhere?

Anonymous said...

Bolyn- Your wrong again with what my thoughts are. I could care less about LIFT I am just predicting its future. I serves educating children in NO way. It has no accountability piece and it lacks funding. Its a big party and new venture for Mrs. Watts who QUIT CMS years ago. As its a JOINT VENTURE with CMS now since BOE married it. Its a stand alone isolated business. My comparison is it really looks like it should be a CHARTER SCHOOL. I am not affliated with SPARK and I am not endorsing SPARK. That being said I beleive as a COUNTY (not 9 schools) we should consider SPARK agendas and ideas. I am not proposing a "Charter District" as you qoute. Dont put your thoughts with my words those dont mix at all. Project LIFT is a fabricated pipe dream of a previous teacher with a dream I guess. Keith W. Hurley

Anonymous said...

Bill Stevens, I agree with your statement 100% and further more how would you like to be a teacher at a non-LIFT school? Making less money annually not part of the party if you will. I should form a group to oppose the pay "bonuses within LIFT zone" as a form of discrimination for the teachers. That should take about 5 minutes to settle the case for lets say $55 Million ! Keith W. Hurley

Anonymous said...

Is Denise Waters making enough $ yet to buy appropriate professional clothing?

Anonymous said...

12:54- She goes by Denise Watts and I am sure she does not dress professionally yet. Heck she does not hold professional educated conversations yet either. She does not need too as she has Kojo and group working behind her. This is a very evil group that one day when CMS gets sued by this mishap they are going to wonder how did this all happen? Very narrow minded group of greedy ex-CMS workers that for some reason want right back on the ship they just jumped off?

Anonymous said...

Private local funding is being concentrated so much on these eight schools that it is leaving none for schools with similar challenges in different parts of the county. Children who live in poverty outside the West Charlotte zone are being sacrificed for this grand experiment.
Organizations who work with schools outside the LIFT zone are not being awarded funds for proven and effective programming due to pressure from the very powerful LIFT supporters.

Anonymous said...

I am baffled at the level of sheer stupidity that CMS has set its course to. LIFT will not be successful, lots of people will make money but nothing will change. This is the model that the business community wants because it cannot make money in the current economic climate. What is the biggest source of funding? Public money!!!

Anonymous said...

New leaders is a slap in the face of those who actually have been running schools in CMS for years. The average age of these "new leaders" is 28...... with no real experience making decisions or working with parents and the community and what is even more interesting is APs who are actually doing the work well are asked to train them but then passed over for Principal jobs - observer take a look at the average age of Principals in CMS it does not appear that wisdom is valued instead if you can run gadgets and manipulate data and bully teachers ( as most of them spent maybe 3 years in the classroom) you are who we want....strongly suggested you look into the Principal Pool process.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many read Wednesday's second page article, from the NY Times, "Wasting Time is New Divide in Digital Era". It describes unintended consequences of providing electronic tools for low income families--that the children in these families are using them for entertainment, not education. One teenager's experience is described:
"At home, where money is tight, his family has two laptops, an Xbox 360 and a Nintendo Wii, and he has his own phone. He uses them mostly for Facebook, YouTube, texting and playing games.

He particularly likes playing them on the weekends.

“I stay up all night, until like 7 in the morning,” he said, laughing sheepishly. “It’s why I’m so tired on Monday.”

His grades are suffering. His grade-point average is barely over 1.0, putting him at the bottom of his class. He wants to be a biologist when he grows up, he said."

First of all--money is tight but the family has two computers, XBox and a Wii, plus the kid has a cellphone, of course! Priorities? Who has provided these digital gadgets? Second, the mother does not seem capable of or willing to control their use, so the child's grades are suffering. Who gets blamed for this low performance--teachers? the school system in general? society?

How will Project Lift prevent situations like this (which I'm sure are already occurring) happening here? As I understand it, families will be provided with more technology. Will its use be monitored?

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 8:05....

This from an article the Observer ran on BYOT back in January:

Cochrane students may not be wealthy, but they're not technologically destitute, Bishop says: "They all have smartphones," and about half have computers at home.

89% of Cochrane students are FRL....

Yet out of the other side of people's mouths that fund projects like LIFT, students in poverty don't have the same access other students do.

Using poverty as an excuse as to why kids can't learn is growing very old.

Anonymous said...

Why is the government paying for cell phones?

Bill Stevens said...

Wiley, poverty is not longer an economic thing. It is a state of mind.

Anonymous said...

12:11, yes in a sense government is paying for cell phones. Actually government just gives them the money but has no sayso in how they spend it.

That is why poor people stay poor. They have no sense of priority or value system.

Wiley Coyote said...


When tax dollars on top of tax dollars continues to be thrown at poverty without real accountability, it is an economic "thing".