Expect a renewed call for partnerships when Superintendent Heath Morrison unveils his plan for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools this evening.
If Coach Joe White were still on the school board, he might give this observation his trademark "Duh!" It's pretty obvious that helping kids succeed takes support beyond the schoolhouse. Charlotte thrives on partnerships, and CMS has a history of working with volunteers and outside groups.
Those of us who have been around awhile know there have been some impressive collaborations. But we've also seen grand coalitions rolled out with fanfare, only to fizzle.
Last week, Morrison spoke with Enlace (en-LAH-say, Spanish for "connection"), a group of Latin American advocates. Many represent agencies that work with young people. The Q&A session displayed a great desire to work together, but also illustrated some of the challenges.
Audience members talked about how difficult it can be to get CMS staff to listen to outside agencies -- or even to find the right person to talk to. "For nonprofits, especially minority nonprofits, working with CMS can be a nightmare," one said.
Morrison said groups that want to help can get caught up in turf battles, especially if two potential collaborators are competing for the same grant. And he said outside agencies sometimes prepare grant proposals for working in schools without consulting CMS.
"If there were easy answers to this work, there wouldn't be a need for great people to come do it," Morrison said.
It's not a new idea to put someone in charge of volunteers and partnerships. But strengthening these connections is one of Morrison's signature issues, and he says he's seldom seen anyone as passionate about this kind of work as Henry. "LaTarzja has a heart as big as this state," he told me.
I've worked with Henry for more than a decade, spanning a vast array of triumphs, troubles and change in CMS. Henry takes the work very seriously, herself not so much. Maybe because my own style is similar, I've found we can work together and stay focused on the big issues, even when we don't get exactly what we want from each other. That seems like a good start for building partnerships across this sprawling and fractured community.