CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Since day one on the job, new Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Heath Morrison has planned to listen to suggestions of students and community members.
On Saturday morning, Morrison continued his mission of community immersion as he served as guest speaker at the Ballantyne Breakfast Club, a group that hosts meetings at the Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge for residents in the south Charlotte and Ballantyne areas. There, he addressed his vision for CMS and areas to improve.
“(CMS is) far, far better than some of the locals think we are,” Morrison told the crowd. “But we are far from being great and we need to be great for our kids. ... We have 141,000 reasons to be great.”
Local principals and administrators, along with representatives of the CMS school board were also present to voice their concerns about the future of the district’s schools.
Kathleen Fox , principal of Jay M. Robinson Middle School, said she hopes Morrison will focus on improving CMS graduation rates and begin to tell students about college at a younger age.
CMS released graduation statistics in late July showing that state test scores declined from the previous year, but the graduation rate rose from 73.5 percent last year to 75.1 percent in 2012.
Morrison said he wants to boost the graduation rate to 90 percent. He said by his standards, CMS can not be considered an exemplary school district if one in every four students does not graduate.
Fox is pleased with Morrison’s transparency and said, “He’s been really forthcoming about issues and I feel comfortable with that.”
At the meeting, Morrison presented several goals to accomplish in his first 100 days as superintendent.
For instance, he aims to accelerate the use of technology in classrooms to accommodate learning techniques of students.
“If we start listening to the challenges the students present to us, then all of a sudden we can start to make solutions,” Morrison told the Observer before the meeting.
Other goals include: Build a collaborative relationship with the board of education; increase organizational efficiency; establish a more respectful, positive atmosphere in schools; and build public trust.
In turn, the superintendent received concerns from participants that ranged from the lack of nurses in schools and challenges with the late bell schedule, to distribution of federal aid money to schools, and the lack of science, technology, engineering and mathematics schools within CMS.
Morrison addressed each and said he is taking note of propositions to better prepare his action plan in November. That’s when, following his first 100 days as superintendent, Morrison said he plans to announce actions he would like to take in response to suggestions.
“There’s a lot of pride here and we’ve got some extraordinary people,” Morrison told the Observer. “Now we need to focus on improvement.”