Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Teachers: It's not a prank call

You can't blame Charlotte-Mecklenburg teachers for being skeptical when some guy calls from out of the blue saying he's Heath Morrison,  the just-hired superintendent.  Morrison says after he introduces himself, he tends to get reactions such as "No, really -- who are you?"

Morrison,  an early riser who makes his Charlotte calls before he starts his job in Reno, Nev.,  is working an entrance strategy and an exit plan at the same time.  He won't be in Charlotte for the CMS budget pitch to county commissioners,  but he says he's left messages for all nine commissioners to make his introductions.

As he was calling civic and political leaders,  he realized the symbolism of talking to them before he connects with his own work force.  So he asked zone superintendents for names of teachers to talk to. Now,  he says,  he's trying to match his contacts with Mecklenburg officials with calls to teachers, principals and parents.

Meanwhile,  in Nevada,  it's been interesting to watch Morrison do an extended farewell tour.  At 6 a.m. Tuesday,  he was at Channel 2,  where he does a monthly TV appearance. He got hugs, handshakes and hearty praise for his three years leading Washoe County Schools from the staff there.

"So you're going South?  Don't mix jelly with your grits,"  one cameraman said.

Morrison on 96.5 radio
Shortly afterward,  he was doing the Bill & Connie morning show on a local radio station,  where the hosts laughed about their introduction to Morrison.  They had done an April Fool's show announcing that his budget-strained district was going to start charging fees to ride the bus  --  as well as offering movies and popcorn during the ride for a price.  People who didn't get the joke deluged Washoe County Schools with outraged calls,  and Morrison asked to go on the show the next day.  He's been a frequent guest ever since,  and the hosts keep a toy school bus with Morrison's photo taped to it.

Morrison didn't bat an eye when asked to join in on a "Hollywood Trash" discussion of Whitney Houston's drug addiction,  using it to talk about making connections with students and staff:  "We owe it to people we care about and love to push past what's visible."

Host Bill Schultz told Morrison he was "super stoked about everything you've done for the last three years, glad to be able to call you friend."

Morrison does have his media critics.  Andrew Barbano,  a labor activist and columnist for the Daily Sparks Tribune, has been writing about what he dubs "The Mythological Morrison Miracle," questioning whether the increased graduation rate Morrison touts reflects reality (Sparks is a city adjacent to Reno, also in Washoe County). But overall,  Morrison is clearly adept at building relationships in the media and the community,  a skill the CMS board hopes to tap as it strives to rally confidence.

(I'm also visiting schools and discussing serious issues while I'm here; more to come.)



39 comments:

Anonymous said...

Balance is important. CMS Public Information has a role to play with getting the word out. Heath needs to focus more on the work of CMS than falling into the rock star mode Charlotte media will temp him with.

Anonymous said...

Project Lift - you can't fix stupid!

Anonymous said...

Hey Heath, Why do you need zone supers to give you names? They will only allow you to have the names of their friends or sycophants.

Why don't you set up a website or an e-mail account where people can voluntarily give their names and phone numbers and then call some of them? Have LaTarzja send a district wide employee e-mail with the phone number, website or e-mail.

Yes, you'll get a few irate people and a few crazies, but you also might get to talk with your real work force.

I’ll be one of the first ones if you do. I hope you take me up on this challenge.

Anonymous said...

I agree- getting the names of selected teachers is bull. Call a school and say - " let me talk to your math department head...or let me talk to the second grade teacher who has been there the longest...etc..." Gwet a REAL cross section.

Anonymous said...

We don't need a media hound. We need a leader who can rebuild the trust of the community and the teachers by displaying honesty and integrity in his deeds.

Wiley Coyote said...

...new CMS superintendent....

"It's déjà vu all over again".

Anonymous said...

Wiley, spot on!

Heath, we have had too much "pretty boy" , meida hound to suit our fancy. We need someone to roll up their sleeves, work with teachers to get the unnecessary off their backs and sort out a competent set of principlas and adminstrators. The teachers really suffer when their administration does not follow the discipline handbook and and subverts their classroom authority.

Ann Doss Helms said...

6:30 a.m., his email is hmorrison@washoe.k12.nv.us. Shoot him an email and see if he calls.

Anonymous said...

Wiley , Re-Pete spot on as well. I could care less if he is a media hound just FIX IT ! We dont need another Pete TV guy.

Wiley Coyote said...

Regarding Gorman, I disagreed with his position on testing and testing for teacher compensation. But I did support his effort to close schools and manage the fictitious budget shortfall he was handed.

Gorman and the other "supers" going back over the past 15 years are all the same and Morrison will be no different.

All educrats live in an educrat world, regurgitating the same eduspeak and there really isn't much a superintendent can do to affect change because of government policies from the Feds to the local level.

Have you every noticed how every year or with every superintendent change brings the same rhetoric? "We closed the achievement gap" or "we're going to attack and close the achievement gap". I think last data showed a 24 point gap, but we're closing it!... Only gonna take another 15+ plus years to accomplish - if that.

In the past 15 years there has been one major change implemented that is now costing taxpayers over $20 million per year and we can thank Eric Smith for the present that keeps on giving - or err wasting tax dollars - Bright Beginnings.

Until we - removed diversity as the driving principal behind public education and every decision made, demand accountability from parents and students, spend funds across the board where needed which includes building schools to alleviate overcrowding, put programs in place to help ALL children who need extra help, verify those who truly qualify for extended benefits, demand and implement strict discipline policies and finally allow teachers to do their job and TEACH, nothing will change.

Unless Morrison can do all the above.

Susan said...

You've got yourself a publicity hound in Morrison. It's all about him and about the image. He's not well loved there at WCSD. Remember, teachers don't dare speak out for fear of retribution. And yes, there are some who don't want him to remain there and won't say anything negative about him.

Anonymous said...

Susan , I hope not for CMS future. If he is to follow Pete TV I am buying into Country Day School. Its time we start to think outside the spoon fed world of Charlotte. Open up the system thats destroyed to vouchers and holding public education systems accountable for educating. Keep those hands out of the cookie jar and away from the Charlotte Chamber influence.

Anonymous said...

Just declare the "performance gap" racist and have it abolished.

Problem solved.

Anonymous said...

Ann, can you find out about the media programs in Reno schools? I have not found much online to determine how strong they are. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Wiley, I have seen you post this comment before and meant to ask you to clarify "put programs in place to help ALL children who need extra help".

Many would argue Bright Beginnings, WWS, SSI, snmaller classes are all programs put in place to do such but yet they have not and such still are not discontinued.

Many would argue that just because you have not put in place a rigorous measurement process to test the effectiveness of each that then you can not justify ending this "entitlement" program. Many will also point to the argument used decades ago to implememt public K as the "silver bullet" to end the achievement gap and of course it did not. And now, they just argue the same thing to deploy public preK.

Even casual measurement techniques show SSI and preK ineffective when schools/students which did not have these programs achieved the same and better results than those that did.

So, maybe clarify that thought a little more. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

To add on to clarify my question, when do you decide the "extra help" is not working and stop spending that extra money?

Wiley Coyote said...

Extra help refers to remedial help, tutoring for those students who show the need for it in a particular subject.

You can have a kid that is a whiz at English or history but had trouble with math which threatens their overall success.

I'm for eliminating excuses as to why Johnny can't read.

You also read in my post where I believe we need more parent and student accountability. It is not acceptable for some to go through the motions by dropping their kids off at school (or stick them on a bus) and wipe their hands clean of the process each day.

Anonymous said...

Wiley at 10:32 AM ... Also need to clean up the FRL program which is a total joke. No accountabilit.

That said, it would also clean up testing and sports. That would be too much to ask though ...

I say end all entitlement programs unless paid into (such as social security).

Anonymous said...

So Wiley at some point you then say CMS has done within reason and its up to the parents and student?

Anonymous said...

great another good admistrator/teacher leaves CMS for another school. This time its Kannapolis which one would think is worse , but maybe not. Losing one good one after another is going to add up to a defeat of Morrison if he comes to CMS. I wonder a bit what if he say not in another month to CMS? What great back up plan do they have?O or O?

Panix said...

When the superintended refuses to talk to the press, he has something to hind. If he is open and regularly talks to the press, then he’s a publicity hound. From the comments, most are writing without thinking, and have never been west of the Mississippi. Nevada is in the Pacific Time Zone, so his early morning calls, are very early, if you take into account the three hour difference. So the guy is making an effort, and you don’t like it. He does not need to make the effort; he is not being paid by Meck, until the start of his contract. And with the job in hand, he could cool his hills in Nevada on cruise control until the end of his current contract.

Anonymous said...

So Latarzan is not handling the communications?

Where is the Broad Party invitation?

Now I cannot even take classes provided by CMS to renew the teaching liscense. CMS wants everything for FREE.

Just another in a LONG line of reduction in salary and benefits with twice the workload!

susan said...

Like it or not, Morrison IS a publicity hound. To put it another way, he is basically a motivational speaker, a professional b.s.-er, and CMS will learn soon enough what those of us who have observed him as sup of WCSD have always known. It's all about the image with this guy.

Anonymous said...

Wait 5:10,
This news flash from Latarzan. Corporate sponsorship has been coerced to supply funds for a block party "celebration" for CMS employees in May. Employees get free admittance to all the cathedrals downtown. (It's still downtown to locals.) Boycott this worthless, shameless and self-congratulatory spin attempt from CMS Communications. Mr. Wabbit,
won't you please ride the FRL float.?

Ann Doss Helms said...

11:49, can you clarify what you mean by "media programs"? Communications/public relations? Media centers/libraries? Media as in CMS TV?

Wiley Coyote said...

7:23...

I don't qualify for FRL so I'm sure they would make me "pay to play" on the float.

Although I could fill out the form and say I qualify. CMS would never know the difference.

Anonymous said...

Every CMS student should fill out the FRL form.

Wiley Coyote said...

What good would it do for all kids to fill it out?

Look at Detroit.

Anonymous said...

Makes the statistic useless.

Wiley Coyote said...

9:35...

It doesn't make it "useless", as all kids in Detroit get free lunches, but they still make those who "qualify" fill out the forms for the Federal dollars attached to it.

My point is that all kids in Detroit get free lunch regardless of ability to pay, yet the graduation rate is dismal.

Pamela Grundy said...

The head of CMS communications is named LaTarzja Henry. To refer to her as Latarzan, as happens repeatedly in Observer comments, is racist and childish. Ann, I think you and the other Observer employees should simply delete any comment that refers to her that way. The author may have a right to be racist and childish, but the Observer doesn't need to tolerate that kind of behavior on its website.

Anonymous said...

Wasnt Tarzan white? The only white?

Please promote diversity.

Anonymous said...

Tarzan was a white male Pamela. LaTarzja is a black female. Childish perhaps. Racist, probably not. Fun take on a name that people have been butchering for her entire life? Yeps. I still have a hard time spelling it. Orangejello and Lemonjello have names that are also made fun of too. Would love to know the etiology on it.

Here is the real issue with her.
She should have been removed long ago. She has greatly contributed to the level of mistrust that this community and the teachers have towards CMS.

The new super needs to clean out the house for sure beginning with that department. HR next.

Ann Doss Helms said...

My take is: Comment on people's ideas, comment on their job performance, comment on the issues. But if you want to insult their names, appearance, hygiene or whatever, this isn't the place. Having said that, though, I just don't spend all day reading comments.

And please -- can we agree that even if one found "Latarzan" clever the first 10 times, it's way past that now?

Anonymous said...

Amen Ann. I hope you are finding time to have some fun in Reno. Win some money!

Anonymous said...

Wiley, all kids filling out FRL forms would solve the disparity in funding and deciding which schools get more funds, teachers, etc.

Ann Doss Helms said...

5:37, I put $2 in slot machines last night and thought it was one of the most boring things I've ever done. I won $8.33, bought myself a drink and called it a night.

Pamela Grundy said...

The racist part isn't the Tarzan part, it's the deliberate butchering of a distinctively African American name. That kind of disrespect isn't funny even once.

Anonymous said...

You turned a $2 investment into $8.33. That is a return of over 300%. Where else would you ever be able to do that?

Drinks are FREE