Thursday, November 15, 2012

CMS hiring: What went wrong?

Human resources is a vital function of public education that remains largely hidden from public view.  This week's audit of HR in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools confirms what a lot of employees and applicants have been saying:  The system designed to get top teachers and administrators into crucial jobs hasn't been working for a long time.

"The HR Department has been struggling for a number of years  --  most speak frankly in the system about HR's functionality as disappointing and counter-productive to the reform effort the rest of the system is experiencing,"  consultant Elizabeth Arons of the Urban Schools Human Capital Academy concluded after interviewing about 50 CMS employees and community members.

A lot of rules and regulations come with the turf  --  remember, CMS depends on state, federal and county governments for its money  --  but Superintendent Heath Morrison says much of the  "compliance culture" that has dragged the department down is based not on legal constraints but on tradition and systems that make supervisors' lives easier at the cost of the people they're supposed to be helping.

"We're going to be looking at every opportunity to remove barriers,"  he said at a Wednesday news conference.

One school of thought holds that the best way to bust government bureaucracy is to bring in people from private industry.  The last two CMS HR chiefs took that route:  Mo Ambler had worked for Blockbuster, Cox Communications and Pepsico,  and Daniel Habrat came from Wachovia.  Both left under unfavorable circumstances. Former Superintendent Peter Gorman declined to renew Ambler's contract in 2010, and Habrat resigned just before the highly critical report on his department was released.

Morrison is turning to an educator  --  former teacher, principal and central office administrator Kelly Gwaltney  --  to restore confidence in HR. He calls her "unorthodox in a good way,"  with a knowledge of what principals need and a management style that's driven by customer service.

Morrison says it's too simplistic to conclude that outsiders can't do the job.  He said he expects Gwaltney to create a leadership team that taps the strengths of education and private industry.

Some of the recommendations she'll be working with make obvious sense,  even to a layperson like me.  For instance:  "Immediately redesign the applicant process so that a one-time online application makes the applicant available for all positions. ... There is a strong perception throughout the district that applicants have to  'jump through hoops' and that HR  'does not take good care of applicants.'  "  Yep.  I've heard that many times.

Many of the others are focused on processes and procedures that are no doubt important,  but not as obvious to folks outside the system.  I'll be eager to hear from those of you inside CMS about how the coming changes play out.   The fate of a whole lot of children and families rides on this.

I suspect a lot of you,  like me,  are working your way through more than 150 pages of reports released Tuesday  (read the communications report here,  the organizational review here and the results of the employee survey here). Pass along your thoughts and questions. There's a lot of change ahead for CMS,  and these reports are an early road map.


Wiley Coyote said...

...just get a few more philanthropists to throw $50+ million dollars into a pot and bribe "high quality teachers" to go to low performing schools.

It's obvious CMS has no other way to get them there.

Bill Stevens said...

Is one of the requirements of "high quality teachers" in low performing schools have anything to do with "looking like the students"?

Wiley Coyote said...


Not sure how to take the comment.

On the one hand, you hear that bullet point as much as those of color who have complained for years and years that low performing schools don't have "high quality teachers".

On the other hand, race shouldn't have any bearing who teaches where, right? Isn't the end goal to educate the kids, no matter what their color or household income is?

Perhaps we're not doing enough to get more people of color to become teachers.

Would it surprise you that in 2008 in Michigan:

• About 90 percent of the 112,000 teachers were white. Of the 1.6 million students enrolled, 71 percent were white.

• Minorities — such as blacks, Hispanics, Asians and American Indians — made up the other 10 percent of teachers. Non-white students made up about 30 percent of the student population.

• This past school year, 19.5 percent of Michigan school children were black, but 8.4 percent of teachers were African-American. And slightly more than half of the state's African-American teachers are employed by the Detroit Public Schools -- 4,796 of Michigan's 9,358 black teachers.

And released yesterday:

New Report Identifies 110 Districts With 10 Percent of Students Enrolled in Public Charter Schools

• The seven school districts now with more than 30 percent of their public school students enrolled in public charter schools include: New Orleans, Detroit, Washington D.C., Kansas City (Missouri), Flint, Gary, and St. Louis.

• The five school districts with the largest charter school enrollment grew by an average of 17 percent in 2011-12, adding a total of nearly 44,000 new students. These school districts include: Los Angeles Unified School District, New York City Department of Education, Detroit Public Schools, The School District of Philadelphia and Chicago Public Schools.

• The percentage of New Orleans students attending public charter schools grew from 70 percent in the 2010-11 school year to 76 percent in the next school year. The city's charter schools are the highest-performing sector in the district.

• Among the 50 districts with the largest charter school student enrollments, 29 school districts saw the number of students enrolled in public charters increase by 10 percent or more. Clark County, Nev., and Hillsborough County, Fla., were identified as the districts with the fastest growing enrollment of charter schools, with increases of 64 percent and 52 percent, respectively.

So how will the growth of charter schools affect hiring in CMS?

Anonymous said...

Resigned...yeah sure, let's go with that...

Anonymous said...

Wiley and Bill,

You do realize there is a performance/achievement gap between whites and African-Americans on the national Praxis 1 and 2 exams which are required to become a licensed teacher. In other words, it's not just a matter of recruiting and encouraging more African-Americans into the teaching profession. It's a matter of the number of African- Americans who can't pass the Praxis proficiency test.

This tidbit of information is well documented but rarely discussed.

No name for obvious reasons

Anonymous said...

I applaud Dr.Morrison and his efforts to restore the trust of the people who work in this system. Ms. Gwaltney will need to look at the hiring practices and the promotion process and the applicant pool process it relates to administrators in this system. The HR department has implemented a Talent Pool for the two years that has done nothing but prevent qualified applicants from applying to the pool or in most cases being accepted into the pool. The trust will not be restored until CMS and its central office members start hiring people based on their ability to perform the necessary tasks as it relates to an assistant principal or principal and reject the hiring of friends instead of qualified people. If you take a good look at the principals in this district, many were hired with very little experience and even less skills to perform the jobs that they are given. Assistant Principals are constantly being passed over for principalships when in actuality if it were not for the AP's in many schools, the schools would not function. Futhermore, if CMS is not hiring their assistant principals that they have invested time, money, professional development, etc. in, what are we saying about the people that CMS has hired to be in these positions? Are they not qualified? CMS needs to change the ways in which qualified people are treated. The inability to advance in this system has made many more than qualified people go to other counties. One person should not decide who gets a principalship and who does not. Presently, we still have those people in our midst. Dr. Morrison needs to replace that person and the process.

Anonymous said...

Given the exclusionary nature of the exams, in many ways, the report helps explain why America’s teachers are far from reflecting the diversity of the nation’s students.

Among other things, the report found that the gap between African-American and White test takers on the Praxis I test in mathematics, reading and writing was 41.4, 40.8 and 35.3 percent, respectively. The gaps between Hispanics and White test takers on the same tests were 21, 16.8 and 16.5 percent, respectively. For Asian test takers those gaps were 7, 24.3 and 16.3 percent, respectively; and for Native Americans the gaps were 18.7. 16.4 and 22.2 percent, respectively.

Anonymous said...

We’ve had a lot of discussions about this balance between teacher quality and teacher diversity,” says Segun Eubanks, director of Teacher Quality at the National Education Association. “I don’t believe you can have a qualified workforce without it being diverse. But you don’t increase diversity by lowering standards. You increase diversity by helping candidates meet high standards.”

At the same time, Eubanks concedes, there is work to be done to ensure that the tests are not culturally biased.

Bill Stevens said...

Wiley and others, I am fully aware of the points you are making. My point simply was to reiterate a comment from a county commssioner that the teacher corp needed to reflect the color of the students. I had hoped in that, you would have realized that so many of our community leaders and influencers have only race in mind. Not competency to teach. They want the "sorority" to expand, that is, more and more of their color getting to the tax payer funded feeding trough for the monthly paycheck, the benefits and the retirement pension.

Bill Stevens said...

Praxis and gaps... A lot is missed in this comparison and maybe it is on purpose by those with agendas. I would submit that not all college/university education programs are equal. I would demand to see this equivalent comparison by the individual school programs. Additionally, I would want these students broken out by those that entered education programs versus those that transferred in from other programs. If you are aware of the differences from college to college in the education programs, then you know where I am going demanding these more discrete breakdowns.

Ann Doss Helms said...

12:41, the consultant agrees that there are problems with the AP pool and promotion process. See page 5 of the report (link in first sentence of the blog).

Wiley Coyote said...

Okay Bill,

Let's bus teachers instead of students.

BolynMcClung said...


Tuesday night and Wednesday I spent re-reading the Morrison Audits and the 2005 CMS Task Force report. There are great differences in the two. The problems of 2005 and 2012 seem similar. The approaches in both research and recommendations are wildly different.

Now to the case of the HR Director that has been hiding at a local high school.

Wednesday afternoon I started asking around about what qualifications are necessary for the HR director of a billion dollar company…..because, I didn’t see a single line on the new CMS director’s bio, that made me believe she would be competent to provide her boss with superior advice outside of the specifics of staffing needs. It is much the same situation as the recent state election for Auditor. The Republican candidate wasn’t a CPA. She lost, but not by much.

Those thoughts are balanced with what has happened in HR since the Deputy Superintendent pulled HR under her watch. I would say that the good job of filling the open teaching slots prior to the beginning of classes is a good sign that a person need not be an HR professional… least in a crunch. But that one non-professional can accomplish much, doesn’t signal more of the same is the proper course. We will see.

The superintendent has made a radical choice. But it is in keeping with the 100 days of research. Dr. Morrison divided the tasks among four different analytical companies: K12 Incite, Arons, Great Cities and DriveWest. Hardly likely that he’ll end-up with cookie-cutter changes. Ms Gwaltney is the first and is the non-traditional solution. I expect before he is through that the CMS will not be recognizable as the one that won the Broad prize nor will it remain the easy target.

My opinion: faster start than the 2005 CMS Task Force, which was pretty good guidance too.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

We have data on everything else, why not teacher education programs? Which colleges produce the most effective teachers?

Also, since the overwhelming majority of teachers are white woman, what are the primary reasons black woman are not choosing to pursue degrees in education? In terms of academic achievement, does having a teaching staff that reflects the racial makeup of a student body matter? Should white women continue to be held responsible for rescuing education in black communities?

Anonymous said...

This is not about CONFUSSION, it is about complete and utter incompetence. HR in CMS is at best a tax burden. In the process of trying to hire teachers, we were sent names of people to interview who 1. Are already working in CMS 2. Did not have any experience in the field of education let alone any type of certification for teaching 3. Elementary teachers but were put in the high school pool.

We would do our own leg work, find a highly qualified person for the position only to be told by HR that that person was not on their list of potential hirees ..... I would have to interview 15 to 20 people I knew I would not hire because HR sent me their names. Over the last 9 years I have not gotten ONE name from HR who was a viable candidate to stand in front of our children. This very fact makes me wonder why we have a HR dept. in the first place.

Anonymous said...

How will rapidly changing demographics impact the future of the teaching profession? If 91% of teachers are white, who will be left to teach as the white population declines? Where are minority teachers? Whose fault is this?

Bill Stevens said...

Wiley, I am not sure what you are accomplishing when you say "bus the teachers". In the past, you have commented that if the problem with the low performing schools is that they do not get high performing, then just reassign those teachers whether they want to or not.

That is not the point I am trying to make. I am saying there is a move afoot to move out the teachers that do not look like the students. The goal is not higher performing directly. The goal is simply a race based school. You could construe that to mean many things. Hopefully what it is not is now a system with no checks and balances that Denise and others can control and/or a centralized NAACP recruiting center.

While I would want to say time will tell, there may be no one left that cares in a few years.

Bill Stevens said...

And Wiley, back to your 11:05 comment on the goal of public education. No we are talking about an institution, public education that has been cooped as just an arm of the social service machine. It is seen as to be as much free daycare as they can get by with and as many free meals they can get bay with, can we say FRL fraud and the resistance to deal with it, so the family unit is not bothered with raising and feeding the children.

Anonymous said...

How does the state of NC propose to address the issue of a racial pay gap as it implements a pay-for-performance model? Who in their right mind doesn't think the issue of race won't come into play as the state ranks teachers? I can see it now, a major discrimination lawsuit because one race of teachers is getting paid more than another race of teachers.

Wiley Coyote said...


Let me cut to the chase.

I don't care if a school is 95% Black with 100% of the teachers being White or vice versa. We know that because of numbers the latter won't happen as there aren't enough Hispanic or Black teachers.

This brings me back to the point that until we get over race ("diversity") by students and teachers, not one thing is going to change in public education.

Teachers - Black, White and Hispanic - are there to teach, no matter the school and the same goes for different ethnicities of students - no matter the school or what percentages they make up within a school.

Anonymous said...


Why are we paying for another (seperate) HR Director for Project Lift?

LaTarza goes from Director to Asst. Super? What is that all about?

Do we still Have Dr.Ellis as an Asst. Principal making $168,000 (in the top ten) per year?

Anonymous said...

The banter back and fourth about black and white is baseless. The reality is that there simply is not a large enough pool of African American teachers to fill positions to satisfy the demand. If the African American community demands African American teachers, then there needs to be a surplus of that demographic wiling to enter the profession. Schools search high and low for African American teachers but the reality is that there simply are not enough candidates for the openings we have.

Anonymous said...

What about the 40% of teachers and school administrators that did not even take the morale survey?

Do you think their morale is HIGH if they would not even take the minutes to complete this survey?

Sad State of CMeS

DrKeb13 said...

Boylan you are right. Chief Human Resource Officer should not be an on the job training position. HR is such a strategic role in any organization and the last two HR chiefs were disastrous (Ambler and Habrat). Education Administration is not the same as Organizational Administration or Human Resource Management. This might work out if the new HR chief hires knowledgeable staff to fill any deficits she may have.

DrKeb13 said...

And another thing. Ambler messed things up so badly he got rid of the most qualified people in the department and kept the young inexperienced women of whom some left shortly there after because they did not have the experienced staff to go to for help. CMS has never rectified that situation. We shall see

Anonymous said...

Ah, Sweet memories
Just ask any veteran CTE teacher in CMS about the Friday evening phone dismissals of '03 or the RIF in '09. Fortunately many talented teachers left this system to find success in other locales and programs. A clean sweep of talent replaced with yes sheeple.

Bill Stevens said...

Wiley I understand your point. However I am just stating my interpretation of what has been said and what I see this situation becoming. I have been nose to nose with public school administrators hiding behind one federal ruling or another, hiding behind one regulation/law or another, hiding behind "the children" for 20+ years.

I foresee LIFT being played up as game changer through faulty interpretation of data and deafness to those that challenge it. The campaign will start for $110 million for these LIFT schools from the taxpayers and another $400 million or so for the other high poverty schools in Mecklenburg County. And politicians and government leaders will jump on the bandwagon attempting to shame anyone in the rest of the community with the help of the Charlotte Observer who buck them.

This ends badly for the successful, productive class of Mecklenburg County.

Jeff Wise said...

The thing is with a billion-dollar organization, bureaucracy will always be part of the reality. I agree with Bolyn that hiring yet another educator for a top-line position in CMS seems to suggest on-the-job training and at the least growing pains.

At the same time, if that person can minimize the bureaucracy and get things done, then more power to them. Personally, I've seen a lot of competent people sink because they couldn't see past the bureaucracy - it's real easy to let the red-tape dictate everyday affairs and pretty soon nothing much gets done.

I look forward to continue reporting from Ann on these audits because from what I've seen so far, there's a lot of very interesting conclusions that could have far-reaching impacts on CMS.

Anonymous said...

An example of the communication problems....the link that CMS sent to employees to read the survey results didn't work. I had to read it on your site.

Anonymous said...

CMS HR managers are a joke. They spend more time trying to get rid of people, explaining why it is OK for bosses to lie and covering up for CMS brass. If you get ill you can expect a paper trail,to be told you are faking it to get out of work and being labeled. They are also well practiced at threatening employees to keep their mouth shut about the truth. Dr. Morrison is very intelligent to see deeper into this issue early in his stay with CMS. The two HR heads leaving CMS as they did illustrates why private sector business approaches simply do not work in education administration. Business is about and measures profit. Education administration is about children and their growth. Confusing this is a pitfall of our society.

Anonymous said...

Chief Communications Officer Kathryn Block served as a Broad foundation payee at CMS. What information is missing from Ms. Block's Board reports? Bread and circus or Kool-aid champion?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said,
Yes I concur that such pools as the Literacy Facilitators pool is a waste. The lastest thing is they want applicants to bring scores of the students served to prove that they are fitting for the job. One of the things that hurts CMS the most is that there are a lot of friends and family within the system. Some jobs are left open for friends and family. I believe that it is a wonderful idea to hire teachers in HR, who hopefully will be fair and consistent in meeting the needs of teachers, parents and students. As newbies are constantly placed in positions such as literacy facilitators and reading teachers; it makes the experienced teachers question the fairness in the system. The education of our children is crucial to the future of our society. Promotion should come from within. Lateral entry teachers should never be promoted over teachers who have spent their lives in preparing and educating students to take their rightful places in society.

Anonymous said...

I think many people will be surprised by the ability of Dr. Gwaltney becoming HR director. I believe she will do a very good job in the position. She is a dedicated professional and she gets along well with people. Just give her a chance. Once HR stops the practice of nepotism and stops bringing in so many lateral entry teachers, a new day will begin. Many of the Teach for America and lateral entry teachers are NOT true teachers. If they want to become teachers, let them go back to college and take the necessary courses to become truly certified teachers. That one thing is a reason for the downfall of education. Teachers need to be held to a higher dress code also. Many teachers do not respect the title "teacher" by the way they dress each day. Teachers are suppose to be models for students and many do not. Another thing that is wrong with CMS is the fact that Dr. Morrison has not dismissed Ann Clarke. She is one of the people in the administration that needs to go. How in the world can Dr. Morrison supervise someone who was his opponent in the race for the superintendent's job. Ann is a shadow of many past superintendents and she is the one that has hand picked many of the principals in CMS. If Dr. Morrison doesn't watch his back, she may take over. There are many, many wonderful teachers in CMS and each of them need to be given the opportunity to do what they do best--TEACH. There are so many principals that need to be let go. They have no idea of what it takes to be a true and professional educator. Gorman brought so many of his friends into CMS that weren't true principals but his friends. They need to be fired or resign. Remember, my friends, it is all about the students. Give them a great teacher, give the teacher the right resources and one will see a great change in the morale of CMS. One must lead to greatness. Greatness does not come on its own. It is earned. Go, Dr. Gwaltney and do the best job you can at HR because we know you are very capable.

Anonymous said...

The most noticable in the Employee Survey is the willingness to refer friends to work for CMS. That metric indicates a rate of 17% disagree with referring and 8% strongly disagree with referring a friend. Any HR professionals working at CMS needs to take those metrics to be a highe flashing red light. It indicates somethig is wrong and it's impacting the ability to acquire top talent or even retain it.

Anonymous said...

While I understand Dr. Morrison's desire to bring an internal eye to confront the problems facing the school house, Dr. Gwaltney has no HR experience. Perhaps a more appropriate role would have been an interim CHRO and possible Deputy Chief of HR (after hiring a new CHRO), her lack of HR experience could put her at a huge disadvantage. Human Resources Management is more then just scouting top talent, it also includes efforts and activities to retain and development current talent. It means being innovative and dynamic in taking care of the personnel that are educating our nation's future.

CMSteacher said...

The Praxis is not an exclusionary exam. The exams are not THAT difficult; they are not written for rocket scientists (although rocket scientists with no education background probably could not pass them either). If you don't know the subject-area content and/or practical teaching methodology (things you need to know to pass the Praxis) then you have no business being a teacher. Otherwise what is the point of having a standard? It's like the kids who fail the EOGs but are still "promoted" to the next grade even though they did not master the previous grade.

Anonymous said...

But according to many "reformists", a rocket scientist has every business being a teacher whether they can communicate with or effectively manage a classroom of 30 kids or not. It's about being a content area expert, nothing else.

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, the educational establishment has decided a rocket scientist isn't qualified to be a teacher without a college level course in "Cultural Understanding for Diverse Learners".

Anonymous said...

CMS uses a "talent" survey score as a screening device. If a principal interviews a number of candidates and selects one based on credentials, strength of interview, and even prior success out of county or state and the survey score is low then the recommendation is flagged and refused. Ann Helms investigate that!

Anonymous said...

I had a student-teacher last spring. This individual is NOT teacher material. The supervisor from the university and I met midway through with this person to suggest they drop the class and try again in the fall. They did not. This person is teaching in a south Charlotte elementary school. I checked a box that I do not reccommend this person for hire. There goes 24 kids year - don't get it! To all those parents: Sorry, I tried!

Anonymous said...

Stop Blaming Teachers!

Patso$Teaching said...

Disparity? NOT Enough African-American Teachers? Let me try... WHY, oh, Why would a college educated African-American CHOOSE to be a teacher. The money? S/he can't support a family on the salary!! The hours? 6:45am-? (parent conferences, after school activities and tutoring, detentions, concerts, games, corecting tests, lesson plans, etc..)
The Abuse?
So our smartest and Brightest African-americans are GOING into professions that pay better, have decent hours, and are appreciated when they can produce an objective tangible product. Same reason that MALES are not entering the profession. NO ONE can raise a family on the salary.
If we pay our teachers more money without demonizing them then perhaps it would become more attractive to the USA as it is in those "other countries" to which we are always being compared.