A consultant's report giving Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools mostly positive reviews on its recent decisions about busing and bell schedules is bound to revive questions about the source.
Some commenters have suggested all along that CMS is paying the Council of the Great City Schools up to $18,000 to get a foregone conclusion. Skeptics note that the council is a membership organization made up of about 65 large school districts, including CMS, and that Superintendent Heath Morrison is a member of the board's executive committee. They say that hardly constitutes the independent review that Morrison and school board Chair Mary McCray touted when they announced the study this summer.
One of those reports, Morrison added, was the organizational review of CMS he commissioned when he started this job in 2012. That report cited several weak points, including "illogical and inappropriate" organizational structures, "a lack of confidence or trust" among citizens and employees, and hiring processes that "appear to be inadequate or ignored, labor-intensive, slow and cumbersome, and subject to high error rates."
"That was a hard-hitting audit. People were really shocked that I released that publicly, but I had made a commitment to do that," Morrison said Monday. "The quality of their work is second to none. You don't go to the Council of the Great City Schools asking them to lift you up and make you feel warm and happy about yourself."
Susan Plaza, the parent who has been leading the push for change in bell schedules, said Monday she's optimistic that Morrison is sincere about working with her group to come up with real solutions. He's gearing up another task force to study school hours, which will include members of Plaza's group and will meet publicly.
Interestingly, Morrison's own two children experience opposite ends of the bell-schedule spectrum. One attends South Meck High, with the traditional 7:15 to 2:15 high school schedule that some say is too early for teens to be fully alert for morning classes. The other attends Northwest School of the Arts, which is on the 9:15 to 4:15 late schedule, which other families say squeezes out evening time for homework, family and after-school activities.
When asked about his thoughts as a dad, Morrison noted that he and CMS lawyer George Battle both have kids in late-bell schools. "Both of us have said we actually like the late bell," Morrison said. But he said that doesn't mean he's dismissing concerns. Instead, he said, he's aware that there are legitimate differences of opinion on all the bell questions, and that's a big reason he wants to hold plenty of public discussions before making changes.