Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It's a bird! It's a plane!

Superintendent Heath Morrison may need to move faster than a speeding bullet to deliver on a statement in a recent email to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools employees: "I intend to visit all schools in CMS during my first three months."

I asked him about the mathematics of that plan.  CMS has 159 schools.  He starts work July 1.  School starts Aug. 27, which gives him 24 days with students and teachers in school by the time his first three months end in September.  He's already been visiting during interviews and follow-up trips to Charlotte,  but even if he knocks 39 schools off the list before the starting bell,  he'd have to hit five schools every school day to meet his goal.

Morrison says his plan is ambitious but not impossible: "I have already visited many and have another visit in June. There will also be summer programs and back to school events in July and early August. Don't forget Saturdays in August and September. I may not make it, but the effort and intent is important."

He's probably right about the effort.  After Peter Gorman made his high-profile entrance in 2006,  I remember hearing grumbles from staff at schools he hadn't visited.  And Morrison makes a good impression in face-to-face meetings.

Classroom Teachers Association President Judy Kidd tends to be skeptical of politicians and officials. She says when she first read Morrison's line about being "a teacher on special assignment,"  it sounded phony.  But after meeting him recently, Kidd said Morrison strikes her as genuine. 

Board member Rhonda Lennon hosted Morrison and a group of north suburban parents and community leaders Friday night (joined, she says, by a few south Charlotte folks).  "He took time to talk to each family who was here -- and they shared the good/bad/ugly about their experiences at CMS,"  Lennon posted on Facebook.  "It was truly amazing watching Heath interact with the students and talk to them about their schools and personal academic accomplishments."


Anonymous said...

Going into schools during summer break is a joke, so he'll go to the suburban schools then. That way he won't see the overcrowding.

Anonymous said...

Saturdays? What's he going to do? Look in the windows? Or is he going to make it so that the administration terrorizes the staff into showing up on those days too?

Doesn't matter, the visits will be photo ops and glad handing. No real "data" will be discussed or collected.

How about just showing up to those schools without the cameras, announcements and fanfare, walk the halls by himself and see what is what.

Again, the question begs to be answered. Just which teachers and parents is he talking to and who is giving him their names?

I don't know any parent or teacher who has spoken with him yet, and I do know a large amount that would give him the truth: the good, the bad and the ugly.

BolynMcClung said...

Dr. Morrison’s superman effort to visit all the schools begs the question, “what is a school?”

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

No one is going to tell this person the truth. Seriously. And visiting while the schools are closed? Come on. Perfect example of how CMS continues to suck.

Anonymous said...

Visiting a school will do nothing for education and turning the failing CMS system around. I dont see the point in the visits. What I do see is him having dinner with the demons Rhonda and Timmy Morgan last weekend and that is full of negatives. Drink of choice I am sure was ice cold CHAMBERAIDE straight from the back of Morgans Jeep. They already have their hands in his pockets and his Broad influence will fly high.For 3-5 years that is.

Anonymous said...

CEOs and COOs of same sized corporations to CMS are not expected to visit every facility. Give Morrison credit for trying.

Ann Doss Helms said...

I suggested he bring a can of spray paint and leave a "Kilroy Was Here" type of tag to keep track :-)

Anonymous said...

Bolyn a school is something clearly you know nothing about. What is that comment even about? Must be a boring day out in Pineville today. Why not go out to HWY 77 and count cars or something productive. Or help your D-6 rep attend a PTA meeting .

Anonymous said...

Can CMS come up with a satellite tracking locator map like Santa Claus uses so all the little children can see where Dr. Morrison is? Teachers can make a geography game out of it "Where's Dr. Morrison?".

Anonymous said...

10:19- great thought , BUT no CMS does not have a chief technology officer since Murri left for Atlanta. Of course that might be a good thing since hopefully we are not paying him anymore and saving the money. I can see that tracking game being played at many a BOE meeting this fall.

Anonymous said...

I would rather see a REALISTIC timetable than "it's possible". We've had plenty of that already! Who is choosing the parents he speaks to? Visiting each school is 'nice'; but, that is not the real work. Only time will tell, unfortunately!

Anonymous said...

How about a Google street map racing video game where the driver has to find all 159 CMS schools - behind the wheel of a yellow school bus? Racers, start your IPads!

Anonymous said...

"Flight of the Bumble Bee". This can be the video game background music. It's called an integrated lesson plan.

Christine Mast said...

After reading Dr. Morrison's entry plan, my first thought was this: how in the world is ONE person going to do all of this?

Answer? He can't. It's more work than he's able to accomplish by himself.

So until he cleans house in several Central Office departments and starts over, I'm afraid nothing much (if anything) will change.

I will create a transition team to review the CMS strategic plan, organizational structure, the state of teaching and learning in CMS and the organizational culture, context and communication. The team will include knowledgeable members of the CMS staff as well as outside experts.

Members of the CMS Staff? How will this help? When you're part of the problem, how can you help with a solution? You don't think you're doing anything wrong!

Who are the "outside experts" going to be? Chamber of Commerce? MeckEd? I would suggest he speaks with SPARK Educational Performances.

I hope and pray that Dr. Morrison finds "outside experts" that are not Broad-trained or affiliated at all with CMS.

These are the three most important questions Dr. Morrison should be asking of everyone he talks with:

1) What do you do?
2) How are you doing?
3) Prove it?

The last question is going to be the most important one. Good luck getting REAL answers to that question. That's the biggest problem we've got in CMS. Our data is flawed and unreliable.

Anonymous said...

Christine, Lets just hope he clean house downtown with Mr. Habrath. that would be a step in the right direction. Hugh is leaving so Heath and Ann can start fresh hopefully scrap that PR department thats a useless $500,000 annually. Get Project LIFT to be our PR folks moving forward that could be our end of the joint venture.

Wiley Coyote said...

Morrison will be able to make the rounds.

There are 9 LIFT schools he has no control over so that should save some time...

Ann Doss Helms said...

Not so, Wiley. The LIFT schools are still CMS schools -- Denise Watts reports to Ann Clark, who will report to HM. They just have a very well-funded advisory board!

Wiley Coyote said...


Obviously, my tongue-in-cheek retorts are missing their mark.

I understand the organizational chart, but the LIFT project is a 5 year deal with $55 million in philanthropy money driving it.

I doubt Morrison or any other educrat linked to a line on that org chart will stop LIFT for the boondoggle it is.

So in essence, no one is going to touch it.

Christine Mast said...


Maybe LIFT will only last 4 years, as they still have not raised their $55 million (at least to my knowledge).

Anonymous said...

Ann, Both Wiley and Christine are correct. I doubt they can reach their "target number of $55 mm" as they are short currently. Of what was pledged they can also lose those annual amounts as well so that could cut into revenue. Wiley is correct as CMS joined forces with the devil in this one as it saw the money. They got excited and wanted to join forces no matter what happens to those kids in the LIFT ZONE. It all rolls up to Denise and their is no action or accountability plan for the program. Factually it opens CMS up to numerous lawsuits if you look at the program as a whole with healthcare and other babysitting items. Keith W. Hurley

BolynMcClung said...


"What is a school?"

I wish I knew. There are so many concepts out there. Maybe that's why the new superintendent is visiting all.

I would imagine a question he might ask all of those principals is, "who are your students?"
He might ask what has changed at the school.

He will be asking "what is this school?"

My question was not unfair. With 159 schools it's a clear question with 159 different answers.

And this goes to the major conflict in CMS: Envy and Jealousy among parents competing for the same resources. They have little idea what they are envious of. They are jealously guarding what they consider unique.

So I ask again, "What is a school?" It's as difficult question as I can imagine.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

There are so many schools in CMS that aren't great but aren'tt horrible either. Imagine if $55 million were pumped into making these schools the best they could be? Is there any possibility some lessons in school reform could be learned here?

OTE admin said...

It's not too late for CMS to back out of Morrison's contract. Unfortunately, WCSD doesn't want him back.

Anonymous said...

Susan, Spot on and I have no idea why he would be doing entry plans and making presentations prior to his start date in July. He is meeting in schools on school property with school leaders. He is meeting at the chamber buying a home from Allen Tate all monies and business with bad judgement. Having dinner at Rhonda Lennons house with parents/students is somewhat of a misrepresentation I would say. If something were to happen say at one of these events would CMS back out of the contract? Would they punish the new Golden Boy? Would they call Natalie English or Bobby Morgan at the Chamber? Too many hands in his pockets and his Broad influence is already showing. Peter JR. is a 3-4 year lay over for him. Wish CMS had the guts to pick Ann Clark maybe next time.

Anonymous said...

How about taking 8 average/ middle of the road CMS schools and figuring out what it would take to blow the best public schools in the country out of the water? Did I miss something?

Wiley Coyote said...


The issues I see with LIFT is that a lot of the money is being spent outside the classroom on lobbyists and trying to teach parents how to - parent, plus other social services programs.

The ultimate idea is to replicate this program; like Bright Beginnings and More at Four, locally and statewide.

The problem is, how do we pay for another black hole program that sucks dollars in with the potential to have little to no meaningful results to show for it?

Anonymous said...

Bird or Broad - they're both full of crap.

BolynMcClung said...


The WSS that LIFT is based on is already too expensive. It's not too expensive on an individual basis but CMS continues to assume that every FRL student is under-prepared to enter CMS. Fix that and replication is still difficult but less so. Local funding of BB and M4 is a mistake.

BB and M4 actually have a state funding that CMS has been unable to convince the Gen Assembly to use in Mecklenburg County. That's the "low wealth" and "low population" dollars that sort-of are a result of Leandro.

I'd like to see LIFT succeed but have my doubts. Why would CMS turn over to a private group a program, WSS, that was mildly promising? I know there are lots of answer that fall into the politically correct vein.

The major reason for LIFT is local employers are fed-up with the under-talented students CMS produces. You can argue that none of CMS dollars should go for teaching social skills to parents but the bottom line is the most important reason is to produce men and women with more horizons than the next car in the drive-thru lane.

That lobbying function of LIFT is a good idea. The current board leadership doesn't seem too astute at creating bonds with other agencies.

LIFT not being able to raise all $55M is a good thing. If it is successful below the funding goal, it is easier to replicate….should it be successful. If it fails for lack of 20% funding, I doubt that the blame being placed on $10M will hold water.

I support LIFT as a private funded effort until such time as it fails or is successful and it is time to try to fit into the CMS strategy.

Bolyn McClung

Christine Mast said...


A couple of comments for you on your last post.

First, you stated "That lobbying function of LIFT is a good idea. The current board leadership doesn't seem too astute at creating bonds with other agencies."

Am I understanding you that because our current BOE seems inept (so far) in forming outside relationships, that it's ok, and we don't need them to fix that issue? And instead, let a private group's lobbyist (who has yet to be named in public) do who-knows-what for 9 public schools?

"You can argue that none of CMS dollars should go for teaching social skills to parents..."

I agree. We all could argue that until we're blue in the face.

Where has any personal responsibility and/or accountability gone?

BolynMcClung said...

Christine, thanks for the comments.

Subject: Lobbying and other points

I've spoken with the attorney and leaders of LIFT about that lobbying effort and agree with them that CMS' efforts prior to Jan. 2012 weren't successful. LIFT thinks they can do the job but they too have limited hopes for success. It is difficult. Sometimes a new approach is needed. This is one of them.

I understand your concern about personal responsibility. The mandates from the current General Assembly defers greatly from that of the courts. But neither offers an obvious resolution to the problem of the non-responsive student. I'm not too sure which of the two is in charge, but in either case CMS is the appointed victim.

I can’t accept the idea of the split of CMS into 3 districts. I believe that Bradley v. Milliken will be in effect and cross boundary busing would be the results.

All suburban districts across this nation that rely on Milliken to prevent cross district line busing will be crushed. As Swann opened the door to busing, CMS part II would open the door to the destruction that all U.S. district school lines now provide.

But I do agree with you that something is needed to strip away the awful expense of the unprepared student.

Best wishes,

Wiley Coyote said...


What would be three of the top reasons why students are "unprepaired"?

Anonymous said...

Bolyn, it is always "not enough money" with this crowd. If they were serious about proving success with a certain amount of funding, they would have cut at every other school to prove what it does take at a few or a single school.

The trouble is, they can not do it with schoolhouse funding and strategies. It has been politically expedite with this urban crowd to keep blaming the teachers and the politicans and community organizers blaming the stingy taxpayers. The politicans will not call it what it is. They are too addicted to the power as is this urban crowd is so addicted to the government "redistributing the wealth". It does not matter to them that the money is put into the firepit. They just want to take it away from the hard working taxpayers. Obama is simply sending the message that the government is the only authority that knows how to spend money.

Anonymous said...

I would be more impressed if he visited every school and made some type of difference in that school. What good is it that he runs around like a cat on a hot tin roof. More smoke and mirrors for the public and no change with the schools already visited.

Christine Mast said...


You stated: I can’t accept the idea of the split of CMS into 3 districts. I believe that Bradley v. Milliken will be in effect and cross boundary busing would be the results.

Why does it always have to be about race, when in fact the scales have now tipped to almost 65-35 (AA 42% + Hispanic 16% + Asian 5% vs. White 33%)? The 3 districts could have cross-boundary busing, just like we explained in the Meck Ed forum -- Magnets Schools and other considerations would be given, with the MAIN THING being COST EFFECTIVENESS with RESULTS.

Smaller school districts are NOT about race. It is not FRL any longer but ED (economically disadvantaged children). Regardless of the "label" assigned to children, the mishandling of financial resources that produce poor results is the root cause of this problem.

When smaller districts show results, there would be no need or use for lobbyists.

Remember the three questions we should be asking CMS:

(1) What do you do?
(2) How are you doing?
(3) Prove it...

How will the public really know through "Prove it" that LIFT meets their goals?

Anonymous said...

Christine, Project LIFT is a shot in the dark and a way for Denise Watts to have a job since she left CMS. She can pick/choose who she hires and what teachers fill the LIFT ZONE. With 0 accountability it will fill 0 educational needs of the children or community. It has 0 value except it will not "bleed taxpayers" so far. Our Mayor has been qouted in saying that the city budget needs to find a way to help fund LIFT. That was not the way Denise has sold the project as taxpayer funded. I hope they dont go to that level and it raises the red flag at that point for legal issues. Say the city comes in to help LIFT and it does not do anything for the kids at Providence or Hough High? If I am a tax payer in those "non- LIFT" schools I would take it to the state level and challenge it. Keith W. Hurley

Bill Stevens said...

Christine, you asked, How will the public really know through "Prove it" that LIFT meets their goals?

Actually the public will not really know because all the uptown cheerleaders and the Mayor and that ilk will tell us so and chastise us "commoners" as being too backwards and too racists to know it.