Monday, April 30, 2012

Heading for Reno

I'm bound for Reno, Nev., to check out the home turf of Charlotte-Mecklenburg's newly hired superintendent, Heath Morrison.  If you've got questions, let me know.  I've already forwarded reader questions about magnet schools,  how Morrison involved faculty in handling budget cuts and what he'll do for suburban schools.  I can't promise there will be time to get every question answered, but I'll try,  and Morrison seems receptive.

Between CMS stories last week, I caught up by phone with David Fullenwider, president of the Washoe Schools Principals Association.  He's been with the district 23 years,  and says Morrison has re-energized and revamped a district that had gotten used to doing things the way they'd always been done.

Fullenwider describes Morrison as the hardest worker he's ever known,  saying it wasn't unusual to log on and find emails he sent at 4:30 a.m.  (maybe I shouldn't be surprised that my tag-along agenda for Tuesday starts at 5:30 a.m.).  The down side,  Fullenwider says,  is that some principals think the high standards can be unforgiving:  "If you mess up,  man,  it's pretty harsh."

But Fullenwider calls Morrison one of the most impressive people he's ever met.  His message for CMS:  "The employees of your school district are going to work harder than they've ever worked in their lives,"  he said.  "But you're going to see positive results that will make it worth it."

Update from the Minneapolis airport: The Reno Gazette-Journal ran pieces this weekend about the transition in Reno and Morrison's departure package.

Friday, April 27, 2012

More school payrolls are online

Updated Saturday: The database for surrounding school districts is up now. Strangest thing discovered on my first click: Gaston County's deputy superintendent makes more than the superintendent.

The 2012 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools payroll is ready, and there's more to come.

When the Observer first posted CMS salaries in 2008,  most of the questions I got were along the lines of  "Why would you do such a thing?"

Over the years,  as people came to expect access to public pay,  the queries changed to "Why can't I find the same information for other nearby districts?"  My answer was always simple:  I don't have time to request and post them.

Gavin Off
This year, database reporter Gavin Off took on the task,  rounding up salary lists from Cabarrus, Catawba, Gaston, Lincoln, Hickory, Iredell-Statesville, Mooresville and Union counties. He's working on some of the details, but we should have that posted later today.

As to why we do this:  It's public money,  and the way it's spent -- on teachers, on principals, on high-level administrators  --  is a matter of legitimate concern for taxpayers, public officials and all the people who depend on public education.  With more than 18,000 employees,  CMS is one of the largest employers in Mecklenburg County and North Carolina.

If you've got questions or comments about the surrounding districts, get in touch with Gavin at I'm the point person for CMS, as usual.  Look for a story in Monday's Observer.

We don't have the 2012 salaries for Mecklenburg County and the city of Charlotte yet, but those should be coming soon.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The mystery of disappearing principals

The families of Polo Ridge Elementary are living the latest installment of an ongoing mystery series in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools:  "What happened to our principal?"

After a confusing communique from fill-in administrators at the south suburban school, CMS officials explained that Principal Patricia Riska had recently been sent on a special assignment to help evaluate teachers, while Assistant Principal Cassandra Gregory had been reassigned to Eastover Elementary.

Things got even odder today,  when someone discovered that Riska was listed as a principal at West Charlotte High on the school's web site, along with Principal Shelton Jefferies. Spokeswoman Tahira Stalberte said Riska's special assignment is at West Charlotte, but she's not serving as a principal there.

Rumors are flying,  and people are asking why the Observer is accepting an official explanation that's clearly incomplete.  Some have suggested it's due to staff shortages here.

There's some truth to that.  CMS is seeing an unusual level of churn among administrators at its 159 schools this year,  and we could probably keep all our reporters busy checking out the changes.  Even when a principal retires,  there are often questions about what led up to the decision.

But the bigger issue is this:  There's a limit to what reporters can get  --  and what CMS can release --  when it comes to personnel issues.  N.C. law makes personnel files confidential.  CMS must disclose  promotions, demotions, suspensions and transfers,  but officials don't have to give explanations.  At Polo Ridge,  Stalberte has said only that the moves were not for disciplinary reasons.

We generally run checks of public records on lawsuits and arrests when questions are swirling about a school situation.  In this case,  as in most,  nothing popped up.

With unlimited staff time,  we could call everyone who might have heard something.  But without records to confirm or refute rumors,  we might just end up with a thick stack of unusable notes.

It's frustrating,  I know.  Principals play such a vital role in schools and communities that people legitimately want to know whether they've been treated right by their bosses,  or whether CMS is withholding information about incidents that affect the school or its students.  I wish there were a better way to get the answers without violating the confidentiality of employees  -- or the law.

The Gorman years through a rosy filter

"Bold" is a favorite term with education reformers.  A dose of boldness would have been a help to "Within Reach: Leadership Lessons in School Reform from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools."

The 98-page book was commissioned by former Superintendent Peter Gorman and paid for with almost $60,000 from a $250,000 grant the C.D. Spangler Foundation gave him. The five fascinating, tumultuous years he spent leading CMS are sanitized to the point of blandness:  Gorman rallied a community that had soured on CMS.  A dysfunctional board learned to work together.  Strategic staffing created remarkable gains.  Teacher performance pay created  "a great deal of nervousness and distrust,"  but "Charlotte is holding firm."  The CMS agenda  "included several strategies that were in the giving 'sweet spot' for several national foundations,"  bringing millions into the district.

Gorman's detractors may scoff at the idea that he has anything to teach the district's future leaders and others across the nation. I think he does  --  but the lessons came from the setbacks and stumbles as much as the victories,  and nothing was ever simple.  I'm willing to bet that when current and former superintendents get together,  they tell the kind of war stories that would have made this book gripping.

The account of his arrival is interesting,  especially as CMS goes through the replacement rituals again. Gorman tells the authors,  Tim Quinn and Michelle Keith,  that he followed news on CMS closely during the year the district was seeking a leader,  and brought his family to Charlotte for four days before  applying.  Between the hiring vote and his arrival,  he used the California/North Carolina time difference to lay groundwork,  making calls to key figures in Mecklenburg County from 5-8 a.m.  Pacific time before starting his job in Tustin.

"Every minute of every day during the first week was carefully mapped out,"  from a 6 a.m. meeting with support staff  (schools weren't open in July) to a walk in the Matthews Independence Day parade.  "This action spoke volumes about the new superintendent's level of interest in this part of the district and helped to overcome the talk of secession,"  he writes.

Why did he decide to leave the job he writes so glowingly about?  What was the personal toll of five years as the face of CMS?  Why did the superintendent who seemed to thrive on communication and community ties abruptly walk away without public comment or farewells?

This book doesn't give the faintest hint.  Peter Gorman the textbook leader pays tribute to all the good folks he worked with and vanishes into a rosy memory.  Peter Gorman the human being still hasn't broken his silence.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Testing mania: At least we're not New York

A national push-back against standardized testing debuted this week, with groups from Charlotte, Raleigh and Durham signing a petition for the federal government and state legislators to ease up on exams.

The petition calls for developing better ways of holding schools accountable for student achievement. Sponsors include such national groups as the NEA, FairTest, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Parents Across America, with Pamela Grundy of Charlotte as a spokeswoman.

As most of you recall, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools created an uproar last year by launching dozens of new local exams, from science and social studies tests for kindergarteners to multiple-choice tests on high school journalism. CMS has since backed off,  but state and federal mandates continue to demand heavy use of standardized tests to grade students, teachers and schools.

It's probably not a coincidence that as this effort was kicking off,  the most bizarre test question I've ever seen began making the electronic rounds.  You may have seen the story of "The Hare and the Pineapple," a hilariously surreal tale used to test reading comprehension.  I really thought someone had been tricked by an item from The Onion or some other satirical site, but it's posted on the web site of the New York State Education Department, responding to criticism about its use on a state exam created by Pearson Inc.

Meanwhile, a former colleague shares this article about 3- and 4-year-olds in New York City taking test-prep classes so they can get into public kindergartens for gifted children. Yikes!

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.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Postmortem on the public parade

So Heath Morrison,  who's been tapped to Charlotte-Mecklenburg's next superintendent,  says he wasn't crazy about having to come to Charlotte for a public audition.  It's hard enough to announce you're leaving a district you love working for, he said.  Telling your board and your public that you're applying somewhere else but might be back  "creates some interesting dynamics."

Search firms and school boards face that issue every time there's a search.  Jim Huge of PROACT Search,  who ran the CMS search,  says the trend is toward districts bringing only one person to meet the public,  as the Dallas Independent School District is doing.  (As an aside,  that board has also sent members to visit finalist Mike Miles' district in Colorado before voting.)

Huge said the vast majority of PROACT's clients still bring more than one finalist before the public,  but Charlotte's two-day tour for three finalists was more extensive than most.  Board members got huge stacks of feedback forms and had follow-up conversations with many who met the trio.  While I've heard some skepticism that they paid attention,  every board member I talked to said they spent serious time reviewing the PROACT summaries and the individual forms.

The downside,  of course,  is that people who got excited about Memphis Superintendent Kriner Cash or CMS Chief Academic Officer Ann Clark were disappointed.  And both of them put themselves on the line without getting the job.

For Clark,  the whole thing played out on her home turf, with people she continues to work with.  During the two-day meeting marathon,  Clark said she found the events energizing rather than exhausting,  because  "I finally get to be Ann Clark."  She showed a more personal and engaging side of herself than people see in formal meetings and reports to the school board,  and she said afterward that she has no regrets.

She said her run for the top job inspired many former students to get in touch, including people in their mid-30s whom she taught as kindergarteners.  "That, to me, has been the most amazing part of this process,"  she said.  "I heard from kids from all over the globe."

Cash's candidacy inspired strong commentary for and against him,  from residents of Mecklenburg and  Memphis.  He apparently notified the school boards in both cities that he no longer wanted to be considered on Wednesday,  the day the CMS board was making its choice.  Late Thursday,  his staff sent this statement from him:  “After thoughtful consideration and the counsel of my family,  I made the decision to withdraw my name from the list of finalists.  We have made a tremendous amount of progress in Memphis City Schools during the last four years and it is my hope to see our students and staff members continue on an upward trajectory.  I congratulate CMS on the selection of their new superintendent and I wish them the best as they move forward."

It's interesting to speculate about what would have happened if Morrison had insisted that the board make a decision on him without a public tour.  But he did it and says he enjoyed it.  Certainly he made a good impression with a lot of the folks he met.

An amusing footnote:  When the CMS board did its first round of interviews at the airport,  hoping to keep the names and faces confidential,  WBTV reporter Dedrick Russell and I got past security and tried to spot contenders.  At one point,  Dedrick saw a man with a briefcase bearing some kind of educational leadership logo and asked if he was interviewing to be superintendent.

According to Dedrick's account,  the man said something like "Charlotte is certainly a nice place to be" and dashed off.  Dedrick used his phone to snap a photo of his retreating back,  and we spent the rest of the afternoon chuckling over whether he'd scared the poor guy off.

You guessed it:  That was Heath Morrison.

Buzzword bingo: Get a head start

With a new superintendent coming to town,  lots of folks are going to be looking for the inside track.  It never hurts to drop the right buzzwords,  so here's my tip:  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is going from good to great.

Reno Superintendent Heath Morrison,  who got the nod from the CMS board Thursday,  made repeated references to Jim Collins'  "Good to Great,"  and it seems to be his catch phrase for CMS.  Chief Academic Officer Ann Clark also told me she wants to help Morrison take the district from good to great.  They may be working on banners as we speak.

I know I should read the book,  but I've already got Peter Gorman's leadership book on order and a second management manual might make my head explode.  So if you've picked up on some other key phrases, from the book or from the public appearances,  pass them along. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

CMS publishes Gorman leadership book

Updated 4:30 p.m.. with cost details:
If the new superintendent wants to take a page from the Pete Gorman leadership book, he or she will literally be able to do so.

CMS has quietly released  "Within Reach: Leadership Lessons in School Reform from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools," focusing on the Gorman years.  It's co-authored by Tim Quinn and Michelle Keith,  who helped create the Broad Superintendents Academy that trained Gorman,  with the former superintendent listed as a contributor.  The book costs $13.50,  and proceeds will go to the CMS Foundation.

"We have not witnessed a sustained reform story any more successful than that of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools from 2006-2011,"  the introduction says.  "As Dr. Peter Gorman assumed the district superintendency in July 2006,  the  'stars were aligned'  for significant strides in district transformation and subsequent leaps in student achievement."

In his forward, Gorman writes that he was "in the right place at the right time"  to experience  "the most outstanding professional experience an educational leader could have."

From the samples available on Amazon,  the tone is pretty much what you'd expect from a leadership guide:  Upbeat and a bit dry.  My copy hasn't arrived yet,  but I'm guessing this won't be a candid tale of Gorman's encounters with the city's politicians,  pundits and activists,  nor will it offer details about challenges that ranged from a gay penguin book-ban controversy to a teacher caught shooting heroin in a classroom.  People who see Gorman in a less rosy light,  thanks to such things as school closings,  teacher layoffs and a controversial rollout of performance pay,  may take issue with the official view of the Gorman era.

County Commissioner Bill James and others quickly began raising questions about whether CMS labor or money was spent on the publication. Tahira Stalberte with the public information office says all costs were covered by a grant Gorman received from the C.D. Spangler Foundation.  That includes $57,778 to the authors,  $1,740 to the CMS print shop for layout and design and about $30 to the self-publishing site that created 100 copies of the book.  So far,  Stalberte says,  the CMS Foundation has gotten about $25 from sales.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Memphis teachers give Cash low grades

Updated 7:20 p.m. with comments from Cash.
Memphis City Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash returned from his tour as a finalist for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools superintendent last week to a report showing his employees give him low grades as a leader.

The city district Cash leads is being merged with the suburban Shelby County Schools, and the commission overseeing the merger polled employees of both districts on a range of issues. Of the 1,225 Memphis City Schools employees who responded, most of them teachers, about 3.5 percent gave Cash an A, 14 percent  B, 30 percent C, 22 percent D and 26 percent F (the rest didn't answer that question). They rated county Superintendent John Aitken much higher. (Read the report here; ratings of the two superintendents by Memphis City Schools employees are on page 18, and by Shelby County employees are on page 36).

Cash said 1,225 of his 16,000 employees is not a representative sample.  He said his district is going through a stressful time,  with budget-driven job cuts in the past, a merger in the future and a quest to rate teacher effectiveness in progress.

"You're not going to win a popularity contest" while trying to make a "sea change" in failing schools, he said.  But Cash,  whose recently deceased wife was a long-time teacher, said values their work.
"I have the highest respect for good teachers,"  Cash said.  "Everything I do is with teachers at the helm."

Almost 1,000 Shelby County employees responded to the survey, and their view of the two leaders was an even sharper contrast. Cash got an F from 48 percent of that group, while 74 percent gave Aitken an A.

Cash said what he hears from his staff doesn't jibe with the survey results.  "No one is paying a whole lot of attention to that here," he said.

Updated 8:30 p.m.: The same panel did a phone poll of about 1,200 members of the public in March and got similar opinions about Cash's performance (see page 16).

Friday, April 13, 2012

Board members: Vote-swap story is false

If you've been reading comments on recent posts,  you've seen Keith Hurley's theory about a deal among school board members to name Heath Morrison as superintendent in exchange for a vote to launch some type of busing for integration next year.

Hogwash,  the board members say.  Hurley seems to be the only one putting his name to the rumor,  but I've heard it from others so it's probably worth addressing.

Richard McElrath,  the member who is allegedly throwing his support to Morrison in exchange for his busing plan,  says there's no such plan and he hasn't made a choice for superintendent,  let alone brokered a deal with other members.

"I would never vote for busing,"  McElrath added.  "Busing was the worst thing we ever did."

Tim Morgan,  Rhonda Lennon and Amelia Stinson-Wesley,  whom Hurley casts as seeking McElrath's support for Reno, Nev., superintendent Morrison,  say the tale is completely fabricated. (I haven't reached Eric Davis, who's also on Hurley's list.)

"That moves beyond ridiculous to the sublime. I haven't been part of a conspiracy like that. That's just crazy,"  said Stinson-Wesley, the board's newest member.  She has never run a political campaign  (she was appointed to fill Morgan's seat when he was elected at large)  and seemed shocked to be the target of such a rumor.

Morgan and Lennon seemed less surprised that Hurley,  who was defeated in the 2011 at-large election,  would circulate the story,  but found it particularly unbelievable.  Both said they've had no vote-swapping conversations with McElrath.

"That is the kookiest stuff I've ever heard," Lennon said.

"There has been no discussion about trading votes for policy decisions,"  said Morgan.

Hurley said today he got the story from a board member who isn't part of the deal.  "The ones that are involved aren't going to tell you,"  he said.

I'm not naive enough to think there are no behind-the-scenes deals hidden from reporters.  But this one doesn't ring true.  McElrath makes no secret of his concern about racially and economically segregated schools,  but he has consistently said the solution is to change housing patterns, not to bus kids.  I don't know much about Stinson-Wesley's philosophy,  but I have a hard time imagining Lennon, Morgan and Davis entering into any deal that would involve a shift from neighborhood schools to busing.

And changing student assignment is an extraordinarily complex effort.  Even shifting a boundary takes months and involves public hearings.  The idea that members could cut a quickie deal to reshape the entire philosophy and put a new plan in place for next year ... well,  I'm going to have to quote former board member Larry Gauvreau: It blinks reality.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

CMS finalists: Video and polls

If you missed the superintendent finalists Wednesday,  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has just posted video of the evening forum at Northwest School of the Arts.  Longer interviews with each candidate at the Government Center should be posted Friday,  for those who couldn't watch it live online.

Meanwhile, online polls by the Observer and MeckEd both show Ann Clark as the strong favorite  --  perhaps not surprising, given that the 29-year CMS veteran is the only one well known in Charlotte.  It's worth noting that neither poll determines who gets the job  (that's up to the school board)  and neither stops people from stuffing the virtual ballot box.

That said,  MeckEd,  which launched its poll Wednesday,  had 843 responses at 5 p.m. today,  with 74 percent for Clark.  Ours,  launched this morning,  gave Clark 56 percent of 447 responses.  In both, Reno Superintendent Heath Morrison is running slightly ahead of Memphis Superintendent Kriner Cash.

If any of you tuned in or attended forums,  I'm curious to hear your thoughts on the finalists and the process.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

CMS search: Online and lively

If you can't make it to this afternoon's community interviews with the finalists for CMS superintendent, you can watch the session at the Government Center online.

Ann Clark, chief academic officer with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, will be there from 1-2:15.  Kriner Cash, superintendent of Memphis City Schools, will be there from 2:45-4, and Heath Morrison, superintendent in Reno, Nev., will be there from 4:30-5:45.  The panelists asking questions are Randolph Frierson, president of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators; Bill Russell, president of Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce; Bolyn McClung, a Pineville blogger, and Howard Haworth, former chair of N.C. Board of Education.

The format is already stirring controversy.  The panelists, named by school board members, were asked to submit their questions to LaTarzja Henry,  the head of communication for CMS;  they'll get a list of questions when they arrive at the three locations today (full schedule here).

"They're going to give us back a list of questions that are approved and orchestrated,"  said Judy Kidd,  president of the Classroom Teachers Association,  who's on the panel at St. Peter's Episcopal Church. Asked if she's stick to the list, she replied:  "Have you ever known me to read from a script?"

Henry says the idea was to weed out duplication,  not to sanitize the topics.  She said all panels will have a list that includes all the topics submitted.  Members of the public also sent in 30 questions via social media.  The questions asked by afternoon panelists will be ones that apply to all three finalists,  Henry said.

The forum at Northwest School of the Arts,  from 7-8:30 p.m.,  will feature questions from two teachers  two parents and two students. Teachers are Amy Medlin, president of the superintendent's teacher advisory committee, and CMS teacher of the year Karen Meadows.  Parents are PTA president Harold Dixon and Elyse Dashew, who recently ran for school board.  Students are Destiny Planter and Aidan McConnell (don't have their schools).  Heather Waliga of News 14 Carolina will be the master of ceremonies,  and the station will air the evening session at 10 a.m. Saturday,  Henry said.  All three finalists will be at that event,  and questions may be specific to their circumstances and background.  Around 8 p.m.,  the formal questions will end and the finalists will mingle with the audience.

Ely Portillo (@ESPortillo), April Bethea (@AprilBethea) and I (@AnnDossHelms) will be tailing the finalists and tweeting from the afternoon sessions (follow #CMSSuptSearch for all tweets on the topic). CMS didn't allow media to the school visits the finalists made this morning,  but their own PR folks have been tweeting from those visits at the same hashtag.

Finally,  MeckEd is conducting an online poll for folks to pick their favorite,  with results to be shared with the school board.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Who's on superintendent panels?

If you're planning to attend Wednesday's panel interviews with the three finalists for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools superintendent, here's a bit more about what to expect, courtesy of a panelist.

The panelist list is as follows:

Panel 1, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church (parish hall) 115 W. Seventh Street: Pam Grundy, Judy Kidd, Kojo Nantambu and Guatam Desai.

Panel 2, Government Center Chamber, 600 E. Fourth Street: Randolph Frierson, Bill Russell, Bolyn McClung and Howard Haworth.

Panel 3, Francis Auditorium, Main Library, 310 N. Tryon Street: Rena Blake, Tripp Roakes, Ray Eschert and Daniel Freeman.

Finalists Kriner Cash, Ann Clark and Heath Morrison will rotate through all three locations, with sessions at 1-2:15 p.m.; 2:45-4 p.m., and 4:30-5:45 p.m. Update: CMS has now posted a list of who will be where at what time.

I recognize several of the names, but not all. Kidd is president of the Classroom Teachers Association and Frierson of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators. Grundy is a leader of Mecklenburg ACTS and Nantambu is president of the local NAACP branch. McClung, from Pineville, got interested in CMS after volunteering for a construction/renovation advisory panel and attends virtually all board meetings. Haworth is a former N.C. Board of Education chair who follows CMS closely. Roakes, publisher of the South Charlotte Sports Report, was involved in raising money to save middle school sports.

Here's what CMS spokeswoman LaTarzja Henry's letter to the panelists says about the format: "Please send us two or three questions you think are important by 5 p.m. on Tuesday. We’ll go through each one, as well as the questions we’ve solicited from the public through email and social media, and draw up a list. Each panelist will be given the list of questions before the panel begins. You may also receive extra questions from the audience at the panel discussion, which we will review and give to you as the discussion is under way."

Board Chairman Ericka Ellis-Stewart says all board members had a chance to appoint panelists. She said officials are still working on how to organize the questions.

I'm not seeing a lot of Twitter questions using #CMSSuptSearch, but a tweeter called NancyClare Morgan submitted these:
*How will you harness the parental passion going into new charter schools and bring that energy and commitment back into CMS?
*What do you see in the future for Charlotte's magnet schools?
*To the candidates from Memphis and Reno, what assurances can you give that CMS role would be more than a 3-4 year job?

And from the student group GenerationNation:  What role would students play in CMS policy and decision making?

I'll post more as I get it. I'm also hoping to get the list for the invitation-only lunch with the finalists on Thursday.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Gorman speaking in Charlotte: Shh!

As several of you have let me know, former Charlotte-Mecklenburg Superintendent Peter Gorman is speaking tonight in the Queens University/BB&T  "distinguished leaders in action"  lecture series.  I signed up online weeks ago,  figuring it would be a great chance to hear from a man who shaped five crucial years of CMS history  and has been publicly silent since his abrupt resignation to take a private-sector job last summer.

This morning, Christa Robaina from the Queens McColl School of Business emailed to say she'd noticed my registration,  and I won't be allowed in.

"We have always worked with our media partners to offer an interview prior to the lecture if the guest speaker was willing, but have never allowed the media to attend the lecture events so our speakers may have a candid forum with our students, alumni and invited guests of the University,"  she wrote.  However, Gorman also said no to interviews.

So the question arises:  What is Gorman going to say about his leadership experience in CMS that he's not willing to say to the general public?  And how confidential can a lecture to an auditorium full of people be?

If you're going to be there, please let me know what he says  --  and consider tweeting with the hashtag #gormanspeaks.  As a superintendent,  Gorman prided himself on transparency,  which included regular communication with the media.  As a former superintendent,  we'll see how he does with citizen journalists.