RELATED: 2022 midterm election voter guide
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools could see as many as six new people representing the second-largest school district in North Carolina. Elections for school boards in the Charlotte area are nonpartisan. Nonetheless, over the past few years, it’s continually been more difficult to separate school board business from political and social culture wars.
School board meetings prior to COVID-19 were relatively mundane, sparsely attended and procedural.
During the height of the pandemic, meetings that historically would have a few dozen people watching online suddenly had thousands watching at any given time.
The race for the CMS school board in 2022 will arguably be one of the most consequential and watched.
CMS is continuing its overview of school boundaries and buildings in anticipation of the 2023 bond referendum. The new school board will also vote for the next superintendent of CMS at a time when most of its students are performing at levels below college and career readiness.
THE CANDIDATES: Who's running in this district
There are five candidates running in District 1. Rhonda Cheek is the incumbent.
Rhonda Cheek (Republican): As the incumbent in this race, she is often the opposing vote with Sean Strain (District 6) on issues regarding masks and COVID-19 protocols. Cheek, depending on the issue, is known to vote with her other colleagues and is a moderate voice in many issues. Her top priorities include student outcomes, school safety, allocating current CMS dollars differently and increasing the magnet programs in CMS. She also wants students who live in neighborhoods with magnet programs to be able to have priority to be in their neighborhood schools as opposed to going to another school.
Melissa Easley (Democrat): A former CMS teacher who, according to her website, stepped back from in-classroom teaching and began her work as an education advocate. She became a vocal regular at town halls, school board meetings and county commissioner meetings, all with the goal of having public education be the top priority in focus, funding and town management. Eventually, Easley became the co-founder of North Carolina Teachers United, an online platform serving over 45,000 teachers, support staff, parents and community members.
Hamani Fisher (Democrat): Fisher is a pastor and a member of the African-American Faith Alliance. AAFA has been very critical of CMS with a member of its committee at almost all CMS meetings. The group loudly criticized the leadership of former Superintendent Earnest Winston. Fisher's campaign priorities are, in part, increasing academic achievement, student and teacher retention, fiscal accountability and safety. Fisher has a history of community work in education and safety. According to this website, he works with City and County officials, industry partners, civic groups, and the community to develop and deliver intervention solutions for children and residents of Charlotte and surrounding communities.
Bill Fountain (Unaffiliated): He is a former CMS teacher who is a regular fixture at school board meetings. He frequently talks about the “woke” culture wars happening within CMS. His language, at times, contains rhetoric that some consider racist, homophobic and sexist. His campaign priorities include “arrest woke invasion from corrupting moral values,” “drop gender identity program to regain moral compass," “shift social emotion learning from victimhood and racism to advocating virtues and self-reliance, and "make principals and teachers accountable for student performance.”
Ro Lawsin (Republican): A CMS parent and first-generation Filipino-American. His priorities include safety, more accountability from board members to students and parents and decreased teacher shortages. He has said the way CMS currently budgets is “shameful and even criminal. He says, "The utter lack of proper and competent management of these needed funds to a student population of over 143,000 is the EXACT reason why a complete and total overhaul of this BOE is needed ASAP.” He was formerly a tennis coach at Hough High School but was dismissed after an incident with a former player.
THE QUESTIONS: What WCNC asked the candidates
WCNC Charlotte Education Reporter Shamarria Morrison interviewed each candidate running for the school board about their positions on a number of critical topics facing education. Each candidate was given up to 16 minutes to respond to questions regarding the following topics: School safety, the CMS superintendent search, teacher and staff retention and CMS achievement scores.
WCNC Charlotte asked the following questions of each candidate:
- In 2021, CMS had a record number of guns found in the first half of the school year. In response, the board directed the superintendent to make changes. The most front-facing included almost 10 million in weapons detectors, and more than $400,000 on clear backpacks. As of Sept 26, CMS reported no guns found on campuses this year. What other moves does CMS need to make to continue to make school safer? NOTE: After we concluded all but one of our interviews (Steven Rushing) we learned one gun was found at Julius Chambers High School
- An ATF report shows the number of bomb threats targeted at schools has increased more than two-fold from 2019-2021. In 2022, Every Town Search tracked at least 113 incidents of gunfire on school grounds, resulting in 41 deaths and 82 injuries nationally. Who has the answers to stop school gun violence and how would you utilize their resources?
CMS Superintendent Search
- CMS will start its superintendent search and interviews in earnest after the November elections. For the past decade, the district has had trouble keeping anyone in the top position for more than 3 years. What do you attribute to the superintendent turnover and how will you change this on the board?
- What is the one important question you’ll be asking the next superintendent of CMS schools and what is the answer you want from them to consider them for the job?
Teacher and Staff Retention
- As of Sept 22, CMS is still searching for more than 350 teachers to fill classrooms. Although the district has current stop gaps to fill these positions like, guest teachers, funding will run out for them. What is in board control to increase teacher and staff retention?
- In February 2022, WCNC reported at that time about 11% or just over 1,000 of CMS’s teaching staff had retired or resigned. Common reasons we heard for them leaving was pay, morale, school culture, and workload. What is a culture issue CMS is facing and how will you work to fix this?
CMS Achievement Scores
- WCNC compared four area districts' performance grades to CMS. The schools we compared were Catawba, Union County, Gaston, Cabarrus and CMS. CMS’s grade level proficiency scores were towards the bottom of the batch, but the district growth scores are towards the top. What should parents take away from CMS’s performance scores?
- On a statewide level, traditional public schools on average had higher grade-level proficiency scores than charter schools. WCNC analyzed area charter schools and CMS’s proficiency levels for Black and Hispanic students. The charter schools had higher proficiency levels for these students than CMS. The number of charter school enrolments for students in North Carolina has increased over the last five years according to the Department of education. How do you keep Black and Hispanic students in traditional public schools when some would argue for decades traditional public school has failed them?
SCHOOL SAFETY: How to make schools safer
Rhonda Cheek: Well, I think it was a big deal. When we came back from COVID, I think students had forgotten how to do school. And teachers have told me that the behavior issues in the classroom were just, they were just extreme things, they've never really seen kids that had always been pretty orderly, didn't really know how to do it. Because it had been almost a year and a half, it had been since March of 2020. For some of those kids to set foot in a classroom. That's a long time. So things were a little a little bit crazy. I think the body scanners have been great, we now have them in all middle and high schools, I really would like us to look at the implications of doing it in elementary schools because across the country, our elementary schools have been targets for some really serious events. So I would like for that to be a consideration. So what are some of the other things I like the de-escalation things that are going on, I get Hopewell High School when they started their Zen Den, which is a room where there's adults present, but kids can come and find a way to distress talk to an adult, if they need to, they'll do a psychiatry or psychology referral, or try to get them some support and help if they need it. And that's been duplicated in three other schools now. So I think those kinds of things and really addressing the mental health and social needs of students and trying to make sure that they've got what they need. I think what people don't know, that we already have been doing is every year we do a safety audit into all of our schools. It's part of our school improvement plan. And there's a secret document in there, it's not secret, I guess I would call it stealth. It's called the school safety plan. We don't release that to the public, because we don't want the bad guys to know what's in that plan. But it might include things like what kind of additional safety things are needed at the school. What kind of safety things exist? I mean, do you know if there's bulletproof glass at our schools, you would know, but there probably is, you know, would you know about landscaping techniques or different things like that, that might help deter issues or be a safety, you know, safety program at something that we would put in there. So might even landscaping can be a safety part of the safety program. But so we don't release that document, but it's done every year. And we have a safety team that does it. And we have a safety team that's in consultation with some of the big names. We got a lot of big-name banks and organizations around here that know a lot about security and safety that are working with us. The scanners didn't come like out of the blue, they were being used at the Panther stadium. So we worked with our partners at the Panther stadium and learn more about them. We went and toured it, we learned about them and how they could work. And we found school, a school in South Carolina in Spartanburg that was using them. We went some of our staff went and toured it. So we're just doing that kind of stuff, I think we have to continue to be proactive, things are going to continue to change. I would like to work more on elementary schools to really shore things up there. That's a big priority. And I want us to keep working on the mental health things with our students because we still have too many students that are really struggling with a lot of different issues. And then the last thing is not the last thing but one of the other big things is we're going to partner with this community. We have six police departments in the city of Charlotte, these problems bubble up in the community and come to our schools. So we need those law enforcement agencies and those organizations in our municipalities to really work with us on that. If anybody had the magic solution, I think we would all be doing it. But I will say that CMS has done so much now that people are coming to us to say how did you do that? There was a stabbing death down at the coast in Onslow County, they came to us what are you doing to help with that? There was a shooting I think up in Conover Catawba. County, they came to us what, what is it? You're doing? Again? How did you implement that? So we're now actually being looked at as a role model for what we're doing with our safety. And I think the safety team that we have, that's like I said, it's a little stealth because we're not going to give the bad guys all of our all of our details. We're not going to give the deets out on that stuff. So I think we're being looked at but I think we have to just be open-minded and hire people that work for us, like, like chief Mangan, with our police department, that are open-minded, we have a building a person in building services that isn't that knows about how to make buildings safer. So for our buildings have to be safe. It's not just about what kids bring to school, it's what happens when they get to school, you know, we need to make sure that we have the right people to do maintenance. What if our door lock system fails, then the school is not secure? You know? So do we have a system where if there's a door lock issue, that becomes the top priority and drop everything, go fix that right now? So we have to just make sure all those kinds of systems and processes are in place, and they really are in place.
Melissa Easley: So this is a great question because there's a lot of directions that you can go with this. First, I'll talk about building safety, because those are the statistics that you mentioned. Yes, CMS has made, I think, great strides in focusing on our schools, on the safety on the whole body scanners and all of the things and I would like to continue to see that. I also like us to make sure that we think about our schools are different. You cannot do the same safety protocols expectations at Myers Park, or at Huntersville Elementary, because they have outside buildings, the students have to walk or the teachers have to walk outside from one building to another. That is a different amount of security than, you know Blythe Elementary School, that's all one building. And so we need to look at that and look at how our plan differentiates between our buildings. And what we can do to make sure you know, I taught at McClintock Middle School, we have one building several doors, you know, it's much easier to control the doors going in and out when there's, you know, several doors but one building when there's multiple buildings, you don't have that simple control. And so we need to, you know, I don't have all the answers for security. I am not a security expert by any means. But I do have questions about how we can protect our open campus schools versus our closed campus schools and that's something I will be diving more into. You know, the body scanners you mentioned the backpacks. I don't know what happened with them. All I know is that they ordered them there were some issues with them, and then they just kind of disappeared. So I'm not really sure what happened with that I'm not going to speculate. I do trust that our board did the best that they have could with what the knowledge or what the information that they had. And that's all I'm going to do. And I prefer to focus on the future of CMS, I can't go back and change, I can't go back and criticize what they've done. I had no part in that. And so I think that things, I think they learned things. And that's important. I think that they would do things differently. If we, you know, had a redo button, I think things would be done differently. I in fact, I know that for sure. And so I trust that as we move forward, we will be making better and more knowledgeable decisions. So in a short answer, I'm gonna say the community, we all have the resources to stop this, we all have the resources to be involved with our schools, bringing the community back into the schools, is going to be the key to all of this. You know, safety is not just physical safety, it's mental safety as well. And the pandemic really hurt a lot of people in many different ways. You know, there was a statistic that came out that 8000 children across the nation have lost a primary caregiver, due to COVID, just a primary caregiver. And if you extend that to extended family, like grandparents, it's over 10 million students. And that that seriously has an effect on people, you know, your family is struggling, you are trying to make sense of all of this, you've could you know, the child, a 12-year-old could have lost their parent, you know, chances are I know of a 12-year-old that lost their parent to COVID. You know, there is a lot to go on there. And so with CMS sticking to our SEL programs, and our whole child learning, that is how we counteract that in schools, we focus on our SEL, our social-emotional learning, we focus on how to teach them how to handle their emotions, how to handle adversity, how to handle this, and teaching them to grow their emotions, and grow their response and making sure that they have an appropriate response and giving them an opportunity to learn how to do that appropriate response. You know, that has a lot to do with all of this. And you know, it's no secret that when we came back to in-person learning, after being a year and a half or two years out, the behavior was not as expected, and it was a lot harder than expected. And so we want to continue to focus on our SEL to focus on our relationship building, bringing the community in our students look to our community, they live in these communities, who better than the people that they are seeing that watching them grow up being part of how they grow up to be involved in their academic progress. And you know, something as simple as the community reaching out and reading to a student. You know, 60% of students start kindergarten not ever having been read to. That's something our community can do. If our community involves our schools, and our community shows the love to our schools and our students. All of this will start to kind of tail off because our students will know that they have adults that love them, that care for them that wants to see them succeed. And that's not just teachers, but their community wants to see them succeed, too. And when we have faith in somebody, and somebody knows that they have faith, and they embrace that faith, they're going to do so much more than if they're apprehensive or think that no one cares what they do or anything like that.
Hamani Fisher: Well, I will, I am always about the community in the schools, I understand that it takes a village to educate a child. But it also takes a village to keep a child safe. And so I think one of the solutions that we need to bring is be more proactive than reactive. It's great that we haven't found any guns in our schools. But how long has it taken us to get to this place? I believe that if we would have engaged the community more if we've engaged parents more so that we can do wraparound preventive measures for our students, then we wouldn't have maybe we wouldn't have gotten to this place. And so I would like to see the investment into community conversations, I would like to see partnerships with experts in the industry of safety in which they do we have so many buildings that are kept safe in this community, we're obviously they're doing something that we were not doing, and our children are some of our most precious commodities. And so we have to give them the best. And so I believe is building bridges with partners that are experts in the industry, bringing parents in, that we can be proactive and learn about how they feel our children can be safe. And then as a board, what we do is we take those suggestions, we weigh them out, and see what we can implement, we cannot be an island to ourselves. And I think in some aspects, the failure of CMS has been because they have been an island to themselves, they in some level, have alienated our community. But I believe there's some great things that happen in CMS, but there can be a greater CMS. And so these are just some of the solutions that I would like to see implemented, that we can have a better school system, I think if we would have listened to it previously, the backpack situation would not have gone through. And we wouldn't have wasted close to half a million dollars on clear backpacks. But I believe the metal detectors are good. But there are other things that we can do in long term, but then also the short-term solutions that we can implement. Well, I think the thing about it is not one person has the answer. It has to be a collaborative effort. And I believe if we have trust within our community, and then I believe we have partnerships with trust, if we see something we'll say something, unfortunately, we have a lot of evil people in our world today that mean harm for those that deserve good. And we have to be more, we have to be more diligent in making sure that our systems are there. Unfortunately, there are individuals who want to utilize resources or take away resources from where they're intentionally put in place for and there is a collaborative effort that are going to be able to help answer these questions. It's just not one person. It's just not one group. It's just not one set of solutions. But I believe we have to look at some short-term solutions, and long-term solutions. That's one thing, I was a product of New York Schools school system. And unfortunately, as a young man, in my school, we had metal detectors. And that was back in the early- in the late 80s, early 90s. It took all of this time to get to Charlotte. But I have seen the effects of that metal detectors are not the only answer. Because as a young man, I saw a friend opening backdoors and passing weapons into the school. I saw them sneaking things in there. So we have to look broader than just metal detectors, we have to build a base of trust within the school body. So students know that this is your school, you have to keep it safe, as well as administrators as well as teachers, but then the community when the community gets diligent about not at my school, then you have parents who show up just like the fathers who are showing up at school and say, not at my school, you have a rotation of different things that can happen in our school system when the community says I'm going to invest in a school because I believe what they're doing at that school. So we have to build a bridge of trust, confidence in our school. It can't just rest on the school system. It has to wrestle in the community because guess what the community sends our children to that school?
Bill Fountain: Well, I agree with the idea of the metal detectors. And I agree with the, you know, the random searches, and the idea of the, you know, the where you could report, you know, through that anonymous such system, I think that's all fine. All right. I agree with that. But I think the underpinning of all of this, safety is not having, is not having an expectation of behavior. Because if you don't have an expectation of behavior, that I think you lose something I'm gonna give you, I'll give you an example. I had the opportunity to go to the Hopewell town hall meeting, which was last February, and they're the principal, a superintendent, the superintendent, the principal, and one of the members of the CMS school board was there and they talked about how the things that they were doing to get this under control, but in the audience, after they made their little this how great we're doing these things. In the audience. There were parents and teachers, both white and Black. It didn't make it didn't make any difference and they were complaining that the same troublemakers are not being disciplined. They're not being punished. And what does that tell people that tells it that, hey, that reinforces bad behavior? All right, okay up, keep on going doing all this stuff. It also tells the teachers, I don't have control of my classroom, because I'm not getting support from my administrators. And then you think about the students who are orderly students, and they say this. These people who are disruptors get away with it. And some of them may be bullies also. And they're getting away with it. Even though they say, Oh, we got we will take care of bullies, that tells those kids that tells them and said, Hey, I'm afraid now you're gonna go to classroom, because I, they're not being punished, the bully- bullies or whatever, not being punished. And they may come after me next. So I don't doubt that you see people saying, well, maybe my absentee is- start being absent. And you can see why maybe even parents are saying, I don't feel safe to have it, I don't, I just concerned about my child going to a school that is unsafe, that's just all of that. All of that you put that together, you know, what you sometimes you get chronic absenteeism, and the low and low low scores, because you don't have a, you know, you don't have an orderly classroom, I used to be a teacher, and it all it takes is one or two, to mess up the whole thing. So it you got, you gotta have you gotta have order. And our country was based on order. I mean, granted, we've got, we don't always have order, of course, I mean, but it's, it's something that being a military as a retired Lieutenant Colonel, Air Force, fighter pilot and a pentagon planner, we were we were given orders, we were we respected our, our leaders, because they were consistent. They gave us a pattern of behavior, and they were consistently man, it made us do follow that. And then it then when you went to combat, you were willing to follow them into places that were pretty dangerous, in fact, regularly getting shot at almost all my missions. So that's too long of a story. But that's the story.
Ro Lawsin: Two things that I want to address, utilizing my experience because I specialize in counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and anti-terrorism on both assessing the vulnerabilities at each and every Air Force base that I was assigned to, both here in the US and overseas. Specifically, the one thing that I want to do, at least within my district is conduct a vulnerability study. I have a parent, several parents actually, that reached out to me Grand Oak, there is some vulnerabilities that they've brought to the administration's attention, but unfortunately, are getting pushback because of either money which they're willing to fund or just the typical bureaucracy that goes through CMS, or any government agency, but not just Grand Oak, but every single school in my district of District I, I want to conduct a vulnerability study, in addition to the body scanners, I want to couple that and look at it's a costly endeavor, but also thermal video that's going to detect any type of weapon on any student coming to the campus, before they even get there, whether they're coming out of a car or a bus, if there is a weapon. There's technology out there and thermal video that's going to detect it. And I want to explore both the resources that we have at the respective school and partnering with the command center, the CMS command center and seeing how can we improve security and those two measures alone, I think will improve security and safety tremendously. Am I thankful for the body scanners? Yes, but I think more can be done, because in light of what happened last year with Uvalde, and there was an open door, we can't have those types of security leaks and loophole or holes in any of our security plans. So those two things, both the vulnerability study from every elementary, middle and high school in my district, and then hopefully have that conducted in the entire county, and then the introduction of thermal video, those two things, I want to try and propose to try and really bolster our security measures at each and every CMS school.
**NOTE: All of these quotes are transcriptions of their on-camera interviews with Morrison**
SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH: What they're looking for
Rhonda Cheek: I think it's tough, nationally, three to five years is the tenure for a superintendent, especially in large urban districts. We have put a lot of pressure on people. And there's probably been more resignations nationally in the past three years because of COVID and the strain and stress that that's put on just normal humans that are trying to do superhuman work in that environment. So I think that we have to really be careful about who we hire. You know, we had a situation a few years ago where I don't really feel like the search firm was operating with the highest integrity. So I think that we need to maybe do that smaller. I think we need to make sure that the public has helped us and informed us about what kind of profile that they want. I know kind of what I think is the top things, but I'm, I'm not saying I'm keeping that close to the vest, because I'll share that in any time. But I really do want to hear what the public thinks. I've heard a lot of different things. And that's kind of interesting to me about what the public wants. But I also think that there might be room for some things like it an incentive to stay for a certain length of time. Like, could you get a little bit of a bonus, if you're here for five years? Those are things that are done in corporate America, get the signing bonuses, retention bonuses, all those things happen. So I think that those are things that we need to have on the table as options and see where we go with it. I have a lot of them. I think one of the big issues for me is somebody that understands the urban-suburban mix we have I don't know what I don't know how I could crystallize that into a question. But I would maybe ask them, I don't know how, what is your what would your number one priority are number one best practice in early literacy? Because early literacy is kind of my thing right now. I mean, so I talked about it all the time. So what would be your number one best practice in early literacy K through three, to make sure that kids get what they need to get caught up on grade level?
Melissa Easley: So I'm not going to pretend to come up with all these reasons on why all of this has happened because the public is not previewed to all of these circumstances. And I'm, I am one of those that I need to see all of the evidence before I can make a decision, but I can say that there is definitely something missing. And whether they left on their own accord or they were asked to leave, the culture has declined because of that, because of the turnover rate and everything else. And so we need, you know, things that I'm going to be focusing on for the superintendent is someone that's going to be here for the long haul, someone that that sees the distance, someone that's visionary, someone that can hire the best people around them, even if that person may be better than them, you know, surrounding yourself with, you know, a team of teachers of, you know, professionals that you can trust to do their job, and that do their job well, and help create the relationships and not divide them is going to be key. And that's going to be all part of vision and their ideals and things like that. Also, CMS has adopted the whole child learning model, which means we work on our mind as well as our physical bodies and our academic knowledge. And so we need someone that wants to continue that. We need someone that wants to continue being an anti-racist, CMS has made the choice to move towards an anti-racist school district. And while this journey is going to be hard and difficult and long, we need someone that wants to continue that journey with us. And, you know, keeping into mind that we are an all-inclusive district, that we have a wide variety of staff community members that span from low income to high income, you know, someone that has experience in that type of district, you know, we have urban and rural areas and CMS. So we are unique in that sense. We are also one of the only districts across the country that is a Title I district in, which means that over 50% of our schools are our low-income, which is usually determined by free or reduced lunch, poverty level, things like that. So that's over 50% of our schools. And so someone that has that has the experience to handle both affluent areas and low income that need our most help. Well, I think my focus is going to stick to where my campaign is going. And that's the culture, I'm going to ask about their leadership, and what they have done to lift up others because leadership is not you being the best leadership is lifting up others, and helping others be the best to do what they need to do. And so I'm going to talk about one was a time that you lifted up somebody else, to move on or to show leadership or to show mentorship onto that because that's going to be a huge thing. You know, understanding financial responsibility, that's going to be huge, understand it, but the culture side of it is just as big as the financial side of it. And so there are three things we need to look at. And that's financial knowledge, we need to look at their education, make sure that they've been in the school, you know, some of our superintendents have never actually taught in a school, they just went right through the ladder, and haven't really had vast experience of teaching. And that makes a huge difference. Because you're in control of the academic side of things, the teachers, you don't know what they're going through, if you don't know what they've been through, how are you going to lead them into the future?
Hamani Fisher: Well, it's hard to say what they did, because I wasn't in the room that helped them come to that decision. But I know as a board member, I'm looking for three C's, I'm looking for character, the character, the next superintendent, that superintendent needs to have the character that is going to reflect the educational values of our community. That's why they elect us as a board because they want us to represent their educational values. That next superintendent needs to have the courage to do something different. The thing about is this if you do the same thing thinking you're going to get a different result. It's a definition of insanity. So that next superintendent has to have the courage to do something different the courage to impact our educational system in a way where it's going to close the achievement gap. And it's going to touch the students where they are that they can rise above their situations and come to the educational place where they need to that next superintendent has to believe that all children can learn, not some children, not because of their barriers of their socio-economic state, but all children can learn. We have seen this across America, it doesn't matter how poor you are, it doesn't matter how rich you are, everybody has the right to learn. And everybody can learn if you give them an environment to learn in. And then also, that next superintendent needs to have the fortitude, the competency, to be able to lead an organization of this size. So there needs to be proper training and education of that superintendent. But then also, there needs to be a place where we see experience, we'll be able to be proactive, instead of reactive to situations, experience is a great teacher. And what experience does is experiences teaches you how to identify what's coming down the pipe, so that you can head it off experience teaches you how to see the people around you knowing that you're not the you're not the smartest person in the room, but you're able to lead them based off of your experience. And so there are so many things that we are going to be looking for in this next superintendent. But one thing that particularly that I say the superintendent needs to be able to do is have a solution to combat the learning loss as a result of this pandemic. Because of this pandemic, our children have exceeded great learning, they've experienced great learning loss, well, what is your solution? And how are you going to build a great morale in the those who are in the schools, that they will be able to combat that learning loss? And so there's so many things, we need to look at it, we can't rubber stamp our next superintendent, because we need to have a superintendent that's going to be here for the long haul, we're timed out of those who are just staying for one or two years, we need somebody who's going to have the fortitude, and the energy and the competency to lead us for the next few, many years. 10 to 20 years. So we can build a system that America be proud of in a system that our students will be proud to attend. Well, I can't just wait on one, but I'll be I'll be honest with you, the first thing I want to learn is about that person's character. I want to learn about their values, because the values at the top, they spill throughout the entire organization, we have to start there. If we can start there, then we can get to all these others. And then also not just asking them, but I want to be able to investigate where they have come from in terms of their work experience, and what everybody around them is working, not just the ones at the top, I want to go and speak to some of the people that worked in the system that they were a superintendent over. And I want to find out how did you feel about this person. Because everybody at the top is going to tell you everything wonderful. But the ones who work in the trenches, the ones who are in the classrooms, the ones who the superintendent agree to policies that affect their everyday living. Those are the ones who I want to speak to and say, What did you think about this person's character? Did you believe that they were going to be able to lead you into where the educational values of this community needed to take you, I want to start there? And then I believe we can go and look at all the other things that are going to be very, very important. But that to me is going to be a starting point. Because character and leadership, everything rises and falls on leadership, as well as character. And if I'm going to send my children to that school, I want to know the character that you have, because our children are not objects. They are people. If your character is not right, then you'll treat them as objects. But if your character is where it needs to be, then you'll value them as people and that's what I think all of us need to do in leadership at Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.
Bill Fountain: First, if you're starting to look for, obviously, the eight women know that school board failed in hiring Ernest Winston, and not holding him accountable. So if you take that, alright, so now the thing is, what can we do from going on from now, you want to find a, you want to find a candidate who has ran a pretty good large organization who has got you know, experience in that who has integrity, and who shows some type of innovation. Now, based on my theory about woke, I would not want a person to come in there, who is who wants to go ahead and continue to push in gender identity, who doesn't want to discipline troublemakers, and who wants to continue manipulating equity, I, I would go against that, because I think all we're gonna do is we're going to see the same thing, we may feel good that we found a new candidate, but I don't think the underlying thing is, is the structure for kids need a structure, they need to have an orderly think that just like traffic, if you have, if no one's following the rules and traffic, you're gonna have accidents. And it's gonna be chaos is the same thing within the school system, within a family, all of these type of things have. And so as a, as a school board as a school board member, that's what I would be looking for. And if you take a look back in the past, why did they take all these other people go in and out so quickly? These five, excuse me three-year type things that you had mentioned. I think that woke culture has been seeping into our system for years. And it you can't run a show when it whenever you have all this disturbance underneath. It's just like if you're trying to walk a straight line on a waterbed versus walking on a hard floor. If you want a waterbed, that thing's gonna move around, you're gonna have a fair bit difficult to that. That's exactly what's happening in the woke culture to us. Well, I think there there there, there are three things that I that I think are all part of this is that the first thing is that, are they gonna...are they going to disturb the underpinnings of a biological sex of being male and female? Are they going to go down a road, or permitting or in, in encouraging gender identification? And these panorama surveys where they asked you in their background, they asked you a little bit about what your gender preferences and stuff like that which, which a child shouldn't have that shouldn't be even thinking about that stuff. That would be one of the first questions I'd ask the second question is, are you going to discipline troublemakers? Are you going to set standards of behavior? Because, as a child, I mean, even in a family, your mom or dad said, oh, you can't do that you can't do this. But you can do this. And you could do that. And they gave you encouragement, to do the right things, and try to hold you back from doing the wrong things. But we're not seeing that in the CMS school system. We're just, they're just, they run amok. And that's, that's one of the things I would ask of the superintendent. The other thing is, I would still go back to what you know, Martin Luther King said years ago, is to, to get away from the idea that we all have different colors, for goodness sake, we all are different. God made us all different. We- some are taller, some of- you don't have good eyesight, some have bad eyesight. Some have no hair. So if you don't, so it's a whole variety of different type things. But we're all unique. We all have a purpose. We have a purpose. And building characters, one of the things I would ask of that superintendent is that how are you going to build character within our student count within our student body. Hope that helps.
Ro Lawsin: Well, to answer your first question, what attributes to them leaving or being fired is getting the wrong person for the job? Hands down. Because I think superintendent Winston was a very nice man. And he had all this sincere intentions of trying to fix CMS and all the problems he was in office or if they're in that position during COVID, which nobody predicted. And so part of that might have impacted his ability to do his job. But most importantly, he was inexperienced, and he was the wrong person for the job. And I think you've you've talked to people and they're honestly going to tell you, he was the wrong person for the job. So now we have an opportunity here, that in less than 30 days, a new board is going to be comprised and if I'm on that board, I want to do an exhaustive nationwide search and finding that next superintendent that not only has the experience but has a proven track record of taking schools in tough districts, the tougher, the better. Because there's no tougher school district than CMS, we're the 17th largest. Depending on who you ask, we could be the largest or the second largest behind Wake with a $2.2 billion budget, that is a tremendous job, that not just one person and nine, a nine-person board, along with the seven learning community specialists in the team of administrators, that is just a lot to do. And to put onto one person I want to try and do and they're starting to, they're suggesting getting the community involved. And if it's going to happen on a district-wide basis, great. And then take all that collective data, maybe have some town halls, and just get people's you know, whether they're emailing in or they're able to speak, you know, because just first and foremost, let's not deny CMS, as big as is with 142,000 students, which some argue can easily be split up into, at a minimum four school districts, if not six, this superintendent, knowing the history of superintendents, one wants should want to be here, that's first and foremost. But two is ready to roll up his or her sleeves to fight to get us out of where we are right now. And not only fight but show this is what I've done. I've been able to do it before, maybe on a smaller level. But now I'm ready to go. Because this is the big leagues CMS is the big leagues. And I'm not going to try and pretend how daunting of a job this is. And so for our next superintendent, that's what I'm going to be looking at as far as qualifications as far as are their interests sincere. Is it just something that they're wanting to add to the resume? Are they really going to want to be here and be here for the next eight to 10 years, instead, on the average three, because who's hurting the most? Our students. That's who's hurting the most. And so those are the things that I'm going to apply in the search for a new superintendent, and really get involved in partner with our community and finding that person. First question is, what are your vision? What is your vision for our schools? Knowing the numbers, and having had that all presented to you? And having had a chance to evaluate? And knowing based on your past experience and success? What is your vision? And then how are you going to implement that vision and work with your board and work with your schools and your principals in your teachers? What is your vision? And then how are you going to utilize your board? Because we are again, just one of nine but together, we can be so strong? The Golden State Warriors have their motto "strength in numbers" that is definitely applicable here. But the first and really the most important question is, what is your vision? And then if the answer that he or she gives applies to a vision and a plan that's going to help us solve it. We didn't get here overnight, and it's not going to take overnight to fix this. What is his plan? Based on that vision? That is the most important question to me hands down because I asked him about numbers and data. Who cares about that? What is your vision? And if it's insincere, and it is based on a plan of action and solutions-oriented, then that's what I'm looking for in an answer.
**NOTE: All of these quotes are transcriptions of their on-camera interviews with Morrison**
RETENTION: How to keep teachers, staff
Rhonda Cheek: They first need to hire enough because when we don't have enough, we're putting a lot of strain on the existing teachers when they're having to cover extra classes and all that. So you know, the number of teachers coming through college right now is so far low, so much lower than it's ever been historically. So we got to do things to attract like our own CMS students, we used to have a great program called Teacher Cadet, and it was a senior a class for seniors, it could be younger than that even now we'd we do have the early college out at UNCC for education, but Teacher Cadet was at every high school, and the students would work with the teacher, and they learned about education, and they would go student teach at one of the local schools, my own daughter participated in it. And it made it just it opened a lot of different ideas for her about what to do with their future. So I think that if we kind of promote that we're good, I think we have to do a better job of recruiting from all of our local colleges. The bigger thing I think the state of North Carolina changed a lot of its pathways to how teachers get licensure. And so people without education degrees need a pathway of how they can become a teacher. I mean, if you have a degree in chemistry, my gosh, we could use you as a teacher, but you need to be taught how to teach because there's a science behind teaching. But how can we make that pathway less cumbersome and make it so that it's easier for somebody that says, You know what, I just have a calling to work with kids, but my degrees in math, Lord, we would love to have you come but let's teach you how to teach. And so what are like, what does a six-month pathway look like that we could get that person involved so they could start teaching for our district? So the state has kind of given us a little bit of grief on that they've changed it made it much used to be called an alternative pathway program. It's much more cumbersome now. So we need to do that. Now, how do we keep them once they get here? A lot of things. People talk about pay all the time, and I know that is an issue, we need to have a competitive pay in Mecklenburg County, especially because our cost of living is high. Affordable housing is an issue, a huge issue. Do we have housing that an average teacher can purchase in Mecklenburg County or apartments that an average teacher can rent? That's a problem, not a CMS problem, but it's a problem for our community. But I think we need to do things, the culture from the top down, whoever we do hire as a new superintendent needs to be somebody that's teacher-friendly, that's teacher communicative he has to be, he or she, has to be able to communicate with the teachers at their level. And also at every level, not just with the teachers. But I think that there needs to be a culture of accountability, a culture of acceptance, a culture of respect. And I think that we are getting there, but we have some room to go. I think teachers right now feel kind of beat up and not and devalued. They've been through it. They've really been through it. COVID They went from being superheroes to being villains. And that was not fair. I've seen this same thing. I'm a nurse. Nurses were superheroes at first, and then we were villains because we weren't doing enough. And teachers went through the same so we need to value our teachers, not just financially, but with just the positive energy and not the negativity in the community.
Melissa Easley: So I like that you said that what's in CMS's control because what a lot of people don't realize is that teacher pay and teacher benefits and a lot of that- most of that comes from the state. And so the state sets the salary scale, the state sets all that, what the counties can do and what the school districts to do is offer a supplement. And CMS is one of the top that offer a large supplement on top of what our pay is. And so focusing on that it's not just about pay, yes, that is a huge thing. And CMS and the county commission can only do so much. And we realize that we need to as a board, one needs to advocate for the state, we need to stand behind our teachers and advocate for future the future of education and paying our teachers accordingly and treating them as professionals that they are. And so that's one thing we can do is we can do use our legislative agenda to advocate for the state, we also can encourage you to go out and vote for people that are pro-public education. So that's, you know, talking out to the community, finding what the community wants, teaching the community how to advocate for themselves because it's going to take all of us to move education forward. The board can also start continuing to treat teachers with respect. And that's saying that's, you know, valuing our teachers, not adding any more that we have to onto their plate because we know they have so much already. You know, a lot of people that I hear from the school board or that are running for school board are like, well, we'll want to give teachers PD, okay, but that's telling me that you don't value our teachers that you don't think that they're professional enough, or that they already have enough training. PD is great. I love it. I think it's important to help grow teachers. But that's not the answer. giving teachers more PD is not the answer. What? Correct professional development, giving teachers more professional development is not always the answer. But it's usually the first thing that people go to. And so great, let's do professional development, let's do it in a way that is beneficial to our teachers, our teachers don't need to sit there and have you read slide off slide, let's have other teachers, teaching these PDS, let's using their expertise. And then the teachers like okay, I may need to grow in my knowledge of how to help my special education kids, here's a PD that I can take her, here's a personal development that I can take to further my education, making it more personal, realizing that our teachers are our biggest asset and our biggest resource, and we need to tap into that resource. That is the focus of my campaign is the culture of CMS and bringing our relationship with our teachers to be better. And that will help the morale if your teachers feel that you are supported, valued, you know, whatever you want to call, you know, just supported in general, our teachers are going to continue to work as hard as they do, and even more. You know, if you if you're supported at work, you're going to continue to do your work, if you're not supported, then you're going to feel demoralized. And that's part of you know, people are exhausted, teachers are being vilified in the media, teachers are being vilified in the community because of misinformation that's being spread. And it all affects our psyche, we're people too, you know, what we hear about our profession that we love, and you know, you don't go into teaching for the money you never do. You go into teaching because you have a passion for students, you have a passion for education, and you want to better students going forward, kids going forward, that's why you go into education, it really is a calling. And it really is something that the people that are in there really want to do. And, but we need to give them the support, and we need to give them the respect that they have earned. And, you know, advocating for Masters pay to come back, that's huge, you know, these teachers spent 1000s of dollars to further their education, they should be rewarded for it just like every other profession. Y'know that those types of things, you know, those types will help their morale will help the workload you know, if you're if we value your time and we value your position, the workload will balance out. You know, there's there's just that culture we need to support our teachers and in turn, you know, my whole slogan has been strong teachers, strong students, strong students, strong schools, strong schools, strong communities, we're all connected. And if we want to move education forward that we need to work as a connected field.
Hamani Fisher: Well, I think this is not just a CMS problem, I think it's a national issue. When I speak to teachers when I speak to educators, administrators, it's a national issue, we're actually seeing that across various fields of occupation, after the pandemic, where there's not enough workers. But if I was to identify something, of course, student-teacher pay, but I think the workforce I think, I think the work environment, we have to value our teachers, we have to value our educators not fight against them, one of the things that I would like to run on is building the tripod of education. That means the tripod of education is the student, which is the most important, and that tripod, the educator and the parent, when we can build great relationships of trust between these two, then they can work together and now instead of the teacher feeling threatened by parent coming in and saying, Why isn't my child doing this? And why is my child doing that? Now they have relationship, and they understand that they're working collaboratively in building the education of this child, as they matriculate through this year and through the school. And so I think we have to build a greater morale for our teachers. But I also would like to see not so much not just raising the salary because I think the salary needs to be raised. But bonuses, I learned that CMS used to do bonuses for teachers from the superintendent level, Dr. Peasley, he had this program where he was able to take a fund and make bonuses and the teachers agreed to that. And it was equitable across the board. It wasn't un-equitable, but it was equitable, where the bonuses and incentives, incentivize teachers to do great and better, but then also proficiency of skill level, we can't just throw teachers in there, we got to help build them on a basis of time on a basis of a time where over time, we can build their skill level. So there are many things that I believe that we see indicative in the in in corporate America, that we can bring it to CMS, these are some of our most valued workers, and they are instrumental in helping our children succeed. And so we got to give them what they need to succeed. So bonuses, increase pay, but also proficiency in making sure that they have the skills that they need to teach what we're asking them to teach. And we don't have to throw so much more at them. We just got to make sure that they're culturally proficient in teaching what's actually there right now, and then we can grow to more. It's not rocket science. We see it happening in business all day long. We just have to implement we got to slow down a little bit, implement it and build from where we are.
Bill Fountain: Well, obviously there's they only get so much money, okay, so salary is a is an issue, but if some sources within the CMS have told me that some of the teacher Exodus is not necessarily because of pay because they are going to surrounding counties where the teacher pay is less, but guess what, they have more discipline classrooms, they have a working environment that is supportive. So if you don't discipline the disruptive students, then there's, you know, you can't you can't win I mean, if I went into a classroom every day and I knew the same students were going to be rowdy and is going to disrupt my other students, which used to be, you know, you just like, oh my goodness, because you care so much that your students are learning. And then you have a few bad apples, if- that are disrupting things, and that you get to a point where as a teacher, you said, Why am I doing this? I can, I can go be doing something else. You know, I can be a clerk, I could be a manager, I could, you know, work, who knows where there's all kinds of different places because you've already got a you've already got a college degree for crying out loud. So that would be that would be one of the things that I think the key thing is, is the discipline if we don't support teachers, with discipline that students I think we're gonna we're gonna have continued that had that problem.
Ro Lawsin: Thank you for that question. With regards to the first part of your question with regards to a culture and what teachers are feeling many have come to me just feeling that they just don't have the support with regards to whether it's having enough resources. And when teachers themselves are having to take money out of their own pocket to just provide the basics in their classroom, whether it's to decorated, school supplies, I'm immediately going to try and provide some kind of stipend for them on having at least a fund set up for each and every teacher so they can go ahead and put up nice pictures have the necessary supplies so that from day one, they're ready to start instead of oh, I can't gotta pull $500. In addition, with regards to the actual reasons why they're leaving, everything that you said about pay about culture about support. Mecklenburg County, CMS teachers are already one of the highest paid in the state just because of cost of living. And it's still not enough. But at the same time, just throwing money at it isn't going to be the solution. I want to go ahead and each and every school, meet with the principals and the teachers and find out what is it that's truly concerning you and what's one keeping you here, or potentially making you leave within a month within a year within three years and especially if it's a good teacher, is it because you don't feel that you're safety is a number one concern, which is going to be for me, do you believe that you're not good at being given the authority to properly teach your students, which that in itself could be a concern as far as how- my belief is, we have lost our way, as far as teaching our kids. And proof is in the student outcomes and the proficiency levels, if it was fine, and our kids were reading, reading above 80% 95%, great this wouldn't be an issue, but they're not. So what I want to try to do is really focus on also professional development for our teachers. Because if they aren't given the training that they need to continue to improve as a teacher, then we're not doing our jobs. So I want to try and make sure that each and every teacher at each and every school within my district has the at least knowledge that this school board member is going to try and provide every resource available for them to do their job. And if they feel that through a culture shift, they're not able to do that, then that's where we need to come together. And I want to sit down with the principals of each school and find out maybe just keep taking some teachers that feel like there's things that need to be changed or improvements that can help the current situation at that particular school. But with regards to that, those are the things that I will really want to try to identify and hopefully give more confidence to teachers that they are given the support both financially, resourcefully that will enable them and give them the confidence to stay within CMS because, without good teachers, we're not going to have good schools. Well, obviously, this past summer, I know they had several job fairs. You know, I think we should like no different than what we're doing with our superintendent, do a nationwide search, and maybe even partner with our Charlotte Chamber, and the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissions and doing a recruiting campaign to show that one Charlotte and Mecklenburg County is a great place to live. And that you want to come here send your kids, but more they also want to work here, especially if you're a teacher. But with everything that's going on with the number of guns that happened last year, the number of assaults, violence on the rise, teachers leaving, do you think that's going to incentivize them? Would you want to come here? I wouldn't. So that's what we got to change the outlook of CMS, we got to totally and unabashedly make this a good place to not only come and work at but to stay. And how do we do that, we've got to improve our image. Because as I mentioned, we've just started talking, all these things are driving parents away, that if they do have the financial means they're going to go to private. And if they happen to get the lucky lottery number, they're going to a charter school, but probably 98% don't. And so and can get in addition to the fact that we don't have school choice, and the school that you're in is the school, you're going to go to which I'm a big supporter of school choice, then that even compounds the problem just because of where you live, and due to economic circumstances. So with respect, we have to just change how CMS is perceived. Because it starts with there. And when they're looking, they can go anywhere, anywhere, not only just in the state, but in the country. So let's start recoup just in think just within North Carolina, let's look outside, you know, to our bordering neighboring states, Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and see that Charlotte is a great place, you can't beat the weather, you know, because that's why a lot of people move down from the north, because they're tired of the snow. But we got to be able to back that up. And as a board member, I keep talking about resources. That's one thing I pride myself on is being a resourceful guy. But taking everything that we have in partnering with the county commission, and then doing a nationwide search. And once they get here putting together a very attractive package that when not only do you want to work here, you want to stay here. And those are the things that I'd like to do when I'm on the board.
**NOTE: All of these quotes are transcriptions of their on-camera interviews with Morrison**
ACHIEVEMENT SCORES: How to raise the bar
Rhonda Cheek: So we've heard a lot about we're not doing anything to help kids. But that growth score says we are really trying hard because proficiency means you're already there. Growth means you came to us behind or you arrived behind, and we have to catch you up which means we need you need to grow more than a year. You might need to grow. You know, we have kindergarteners that come to kindergarten have never held a book before. They're already behind in early literacy. That's why their Early Literacy is such a passion of mine. So we have to catch them up to their peers that have been to preschool or pre-K, or what are just had a parent that sat and read with them every night. They need to learn how to hold scissors, all those kinds of things they have to learn. So we have teachers that are superheroes that can take a child that is three years behind and catch them up two years. Well guess what, that's still not a passing score, because they're still one year behind. But she grew them two years. And if they have that same teacher the next year, or a teacher that's equally as awesome, and they grow them another two years, the next year, they'll be caught up. There'll be caught up. So growth is enormously important. It measures how hard our teachers are working. And not just our teachers, but our administrators and our support staff. How hard are they working, that they're really implementing best practice that they're really being intentional about what they're doing with students, that we're doing these this curriculum with integrity, but with flexibility at the schoolhouse level, it shows that that stuff is happening? So for us to have the highest growth in the five that shows that CMS knows there's a problem, and we're working hard to catch kids up. Well, I think I don't really try to lobby with parents over that. I think parents have to make the best decision for their student. And I have friends that homeschool. I have friends and I know neighbors that go to charters. My husband's children went to charter. You know, I married a widower so his children were already out of school and we got married, but they were in a charter school. I think you have to look at what's best for your child, I want you to make an informed decision and not just a decision based on hearsay or public sentiment. So really get to know your local school. Find out if your charter school offers what your child is going to need. Did they have special needs? Did they need speech therapy? Do they need, you know some of the extra services than wraparound services that CMS offers? Do they need it? Did they need a school bus to help them? Can you transport them each way? Do they need free and reduced lunch support because most charter schools do not offer the federal free and reduced lunch program? But I think that each parent needs to make the decision that's right for their child. Even within CMS, there's a lot of choice and I support choice. You know is a magnet school better for your child? Is there is your family really into languages when maybe the world language immersion program would be best for your child? Does your child already know how to build tinker toys and make amazing creations and you want them to have a STEM-focused environment then you might want to choose one of those international baccalaureates? We've got some great programs that really fit specific needs of specific families and I think it's up to the family to make their best choice. We need to stay competitive though so that we're just as good.
Melissa Easley: Well, you have to remember that, that that that achievement score is based on one test. At the end of the year, it's a four-hour test. And it's a nightmare, as a teacher who had to watch the students take the test because that is what my job was during testing. It's like watching paint dry. It's horrible. And you can tell the kids are struggling after three hours like they're done, they're checked out, you know, and so and, honestly, to be frank, these tests are inherently biased. If you look at the answers, and you look at the questions, a lot of times they're required to know knowledge that our kids don't have experience too. Because we're, you know, a low-income urban, a lot of our kids don't travel. And so they don't understand how travel or how airplanes work or how, you know what I mean, to bring in those experiences to help understand that test. And so that's, that's something to keep in mind. Our growth scores, on the other hand, are significant. And we are in as you mentioned, we are the top in that area in our immediate area of growth. And that is over the last year from going on to the pandemic into in-person learning against that is huge, and that is very promising. Unfortunately, the state scores or our state grades are 80% on that test and 20% on our growth, and honestly, it really should be the other way around. And I want to tell a story because this just highlights my idea completely. I had a student I taught seventh-grade science and social studies, I had a student come into me to our team at a third-grade reading level. And we worked really hard and the student worked really hard to grow him. He came in for tutoring, I helped, we all helped, you know what I mean? Like it was a team effort. And it was a student and a parent effort and a community effort, like everybody, was loving on the student, right? Trying to get them grow. They grew to grade levels. That is huge. You know, you're only expected to grow one in a year. In one year, he doubled that. We were so excited. We were just thrilled. But when it came time for the test, because he didn't make it to a seventh-grade reading level, he failed. How demoralizing is that? That you work so hard, and you grew so much, but because you didn't grow an unattainable amount you were considered a failing student. And then I was considered a failing teacher. Because my scores were based off of, or I got- I shouldn't say I was considered a failing teacher I was knocked down, because that counted against me as my teacher. So that's where I'm talking about this test. You know everyone focuses on these numbers everyone focuses on and that's great. And that data point is needed. But it should not have the weight that it does. And it doesn't give us an accurate picture of what our students are learning and growing. It is an inherently biased test. It is too long of a test. And it just shouldn't be on 12-year-olds, 13-year-olds, and even high schoolers. You know, even our midterm exams, our final exams are not three, four or five hours long. I've never, I mean, I've never taken a test in school that has been that long and done well. You know, there's, you know, there's those state tests, of course, you know, and, yes, we have to take them but they should not be the only data point and they definitely should not be 60% of our scores.
Hamani Fisher: Well, the thing about it is, I understand that we've been graded. Currently, we have 50, low-performing schools, in Charlotte Mecklenburg schools. And but in comparison, we are very different Charlotte Mecklenburg system than those other districts. We have so much variety 108 individuals move to this area every day. And so we've experienced so much growth, and we're so much of a melting pot. The thing about this is with the achievement gap, the achievement gap, you can say has been attributed to what is current, but that achievement gap was so large before the pandemic, it was so large before we had an influx of people coming. I believe what we need to do is we need to, we need to really, really concentrate on the core cultural competencies in our schools. We can throw so many things at it, but if we're not making sure that our teachers are proficiently inadequately skilled to teach the subject matter that they are teaching, then we're not going to get what we need to get. If we're not engaging our students and having active learning in the classrooms, then we're not going to be able to close that achievement gap. Richard Elmore, who is a well-known educator at Harvard, he says this in his paperwork, that these are things that we need to make sure that we're looking at, in order to combat the achievement gaps that we see, as a community, what I believe needs to happen is we need to engage parents, we need to engage parents and teach them how to how to be able to reinforce what our children are learning in our school system. So it can be a continual thing, that when they go home, we understand what they're talking about. There's so many constituents that I talked to, and they don't know how to do the math, one, they don't know how to do the science, it's a different this is a different that. Well, it's our responsibility to engage them. At one point that was a family engagement, where the department and CMS where they were helping parents to understand what the children are learning, we always have to remain students in life, that's one of my keys, I'm always going to be a student, no matter what area I get to, or what level of success I get to, I'm always going to be a student. And if I can encourage my child, and if I'm willing to learn a little bit more, so that I can help tutor them there, then I'll do that. But we also need to engage the community. There are so many community organizations that are doing well, that are waiting to partner with CMS that can help for after-school learning that can help with children on the weekends, stuff that CMS may not have the capacity to do, but our community can do it. So it takes a village to help close this achievement gap. But CMS has their responsibility. And I want to build policy that's going to help us to close that achievement gap and bring some attention there. There was a time where there was a consultant that CMS brought in and asked the current board, how much time do you spend to achievement gaps? And how much time do you spend to the educational materials and they said, I didn't spend much of that time in our conversations, because there were so many other things going on? As a board member, I want to make sure that we further to that is our main focus- the achievement. Now we see that the board is paying attention to it, but I think a little bit too late. And we need to continue to enforce that to go on. Well, unfortunately, over the last year, CMS has lost 6000 plus students, to charter schools to private schools to at homeschooling. And we're seeing that I believe that a lot of these individuals or parents are making that observation and making that move because they see the opportunities for...they see the opportunities for a greater amount of varied education. When you look at charter schools, one of the things that I want to be able to forge in when I'm elected to the board is I want to be able to lift up vocational and educational training. I believe that vocational and technological training is going to help that gap. Not all of our students traditionally will be able to go into or want to go into a college setting. But there are some vocations. There are some trainings that we can help them at. So I want to be able to offer that. But also when you talk about black and brown students, when you look at the offerings across the board of the county, not all communities are getting the same offerings in education, and proficiency in education in programs that are being offered. And I think that's, that's hurting individuals want to come in terms of our opportunities in which we need to have, we need to make sure all children have all opportunities, comparative across the district. It's one district. One thing that I did see, and unfortunately, I saw as I live in Huntsville, but at one point, I worked in West Charlotte. I was a partner in schools of West Charlotte, it was two totally different school systems within that one district. And I want to make sure that that does not last here in district one in Huntsville. We have we have some who are very wealthy, and we have some who experienced very poor state in life. We need to make sure that there's same offerings across the district. And so I think that will stop somewhere in the hemorrhaging that is actually happening in our school system, where we can make sure that they know how much we care instead of how much we know. It's very, very important and that we're we're increasing our vocational education for all of our students that may not want to go to college, but we say they need to be college and career ready. Well, let's pay attention to the career ready because some are ready for career field. We're just failing them and teaching them that?
Bill Fountain: Well, I think the what a lot of times is the end of year, or the end, of course, test is really what makes the decision whether the student passes or goes on to the next grade, because I know I saw that at when I was at, at the Global Leadership Academy where I taught there for a while. And that's going to be one of the key things. Yes, the growth is I think is an important milestone. But that end-of-year, end-of-course test. And there are gonna be regular tests through CMS because it's still the same way that when I was there, you had regular tests going along through the through the year just to make sure that the pattern was going to same so I would, I would say let's, we need to hold off before we make any judgments about how what it is. But it is encouraging to hear that that that the growth rate is up. But I don't know all the particulars about what are the ingredients of those growth rates. And I do know that some people argue against the single test, I can understand that because it's just like you're out on the golf course. And you've got to make this perfect drive it, it doesn't always happen. Right? So that's, and that's where you want to see something a little bit different way of, I guess, just showing the metrics of how to be able to discriminate, or what how well the student is and how competent they are, in knowing their subject. If I can divert on to something a little bit. All right. Talking about that is that I've been very concerned about the social promotions. And if you look at the score rate, you know, like the reading rates, like third grade were just terrific. I mean, horrible. And the same thing, and even in that some of the math thing in high school, it even some of the schools in the District I or were not that good. And if you look, if you look at that, how can we start turning that, start turning that around. And even though I get back to my three little legs that I've been talking about in the way of the woke, but we need some way to be able to help the students to get back because they if they lose a year because of the COVID I've read where they could be two to three years behind because of that. And that's gonna take a miracle to get these students back up. And if you stay on the social promotion. I am a certified flight instructor. And there's no way that I was solo my student, unless he or she, I felt was totally competent to be would take that airplane all by themselves and come back and land by themselves. All right, but the ladies on this school board are pushing these students forward. And that is the worst thing I think they could do. Because it ensures failure, in the, in the future. And that's what I'm afraid of about. You're talking about the growth, the growth may be good, but I don't know what all the metrics are in that growth. And if they have been moved ahead with these very poor grades ahead. What- are they- In other words, are they third-grade reading? And going to fourth? Or are they still like, you know, still a third grade and made a little bit of progress? So that's where I would be questioning? So that the way to convince them, I think, is that it takes a total structure, structural change, I think, I mean, we go back, sorry, to keep harping about the thing about, you got to go back to where your discipline the children, and you got to go back to where you're promoting. You're promoting character, and not trying to, to, to, to say, Well, I'm because I'm black, I can blame things on white people. That just robs children of their self-worth, and their will to improve, we need to push. So if we can go back to the thing where we're pushing this idea of character, where we are setting behavior standards. And the third one is where we're not manipulating and screwing up their minds about their sexual identity. In other words, that, hey, you're male and female. And that's what God had you had in mind for you because we're all built for a purpose. And I think all that's- I, I think if a parent says, Hey, I'm uncomfortable with that, I think they will say, hey, I'll go back to public schools, because the public schools or at least you got a bus to get back and forth to school where you don't get into charter school, even though I've substituted taught and charter schools, and they are more orderly, I must admit, from what I saw in the public schools. So there's a greater discipline, teachers have a little bit more leeway of how to be able to teach their subject, which I think is a very important thing. And of course, if you go, if you go to the private school or to the religious schools, they're going to have a lot more. I guess, a more morality begun in there. And that's, again, back to standards of behavior, where what is really what is right and what is wrong? Because if everybody I think follow that, then I think we'd have a lot more orderly, orderly society, and I think we'll do it, but it must take courage is that, that parents who are uncomfortable with what's going on in the school system, I think that the homeschooling is offering some pretty good avenues because it, I think it brings the families together because that's one of the key elements. I think this being we're losing sight of the family, of having the school system take over the family's role. And it should be more of the family, the family, the parents are the first educators. So I hope I'm not going too long on here. But the because I think that's going to bring in the family involved in this right and then you'll get the dialogue with the parent. And homeschooling also has an opportunity where there are other homeschoolers together, where there may be a mom or a dad, who has got some experience in math, or physics or chemistry, whatever, that can help and I've seen this because my youngest daughter, my youngest daughter was homeschooled. And until the sixth grade until she knows, yeah, sixth grade. So that's, I think that's a it's a viable thing. And it, it works. I hope not too long for you.
Ro Lawsin: That's a great question with respect to anybody that you speak with, if they have the financial means they wouldn't send their child to CMS. Why is that? Because of the scores because of the safety because of the resources that they believe, are not being provided to their child or even on the teacher level. Because many teachers are also leaving, we lost 1000 teachers during COVID. We started this year with 400 short. And so when parents are looking at schools that, okay, I've had both my daughter and several of her classmates start a class with a substitute teacher. So that is seriously part of the problem. That while the on a general level, the scores are better, if not the same as charter schools with regards to black and Hispanic students, which by the way, parents know this, and it's public information. 81% of Black and Hispanic students are not reading at a proficient level in third grade, that should be alarming. And that alone should have a stopping what we're doing and finding out how can we get these kids because from kindergarten to third grade, that's when children should be learning how to read. And then from the fourth grade on, they should be reading to learn. And if they're not reading by the fourth grade at a proficient level, not only do their chances of even graduating diminish, but also any chances of either postgraduate college or even career ready a success. So with regards to what I'm trying to convince parents to keep it because I did the same, we have to partner with our community and find out what is it that they're most concerned with. And many of them, as I mentioned, safety, student outcomes, and accountability and transparency, those are the three things I'm running and find out how can we solve this because it's not just going to be the Ro Lawsin show, we're going to find out and come together, once we have identified these solutions, and partner with the community set up these task forces just within my district. And I'm going to bring that to my board and share that with them. And if there's something that at least to enlight constituents can solve the problems that they're facing at that moment, great. But I hope that it can also carry over to other the districts from districts two through six. And doing that then shows that okay, this board is really working together, not just separately because of respective board member being responsible for his or her district, then that shows then confidence or sharing, giving confidence to parents that this board is truly committed to trying to identify why our kids not being able to read at a proficient level in third grade, both on the general basis because right now 61% aren't and 81% of Black and Hispanic students, they want to know is there a solution? Is there a plan, and for the longest time there hasn't been from CMS? And that's how I'm going to go and change that. And so the first day, I'm going to go ahead and basically deploy my teams of parents of retired teachers have business leaders, former military members, and let's go ahead and come up with solutions. And really try and fix this, because time is wasting every day that our children aren't learning as a day lost that they can, you know, improve their education and be able to advance. So that's how I'm going to try and give them confidence, and also showing that we're doing everything we can to retain good teachers because they don't have teachers. They're leaving because they're thinking these teachers are going to charter schools. So those two things alone is what I would try to do to share with them on why they should stay with CMS.
**NOTE: All of these quotes are transcriptions of their on-camera interviews with Morrison**
WHEN TO VOTE: How to cast your ballot
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