A round of school visits Monday marks the start of a regular practice, Heath Morrison said on his first day as superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
Im not just going to drop in once. It is about continuous improvement, Morrison told reporters at Independence High. This is where the action is.
Reducing the dropout rate is sure to be a top priority in his new job, as it was during his three years as superintendent in Reno, Nev. Morrison talked to summer school students about why they fell behind and how CMS can help keep students on the graduation track.
He said hes going to talk to his new staff about making home visits to students who dont show up after school opens in August. In Reno, such home visits made by Morrison, his top staff, school board members and community leaders illustrated his districts push to get teens back in school. The goal was to develop a personal plan for each teen to work toward a diploma and move into college or a career.
I just felt it was a really important symbolic way to say we value every student, Morrison said. I would anticipate we will do something like that here.
Morrison met with seven Independence students who are taking summer classes to catch up on credits.
What can we as a school district do to help you? he asked, probing for details about how the students had fallen behind, how their schools helped and what they plan for their future.
Kierra Outland, 16, said she used to play around in middle school and ninth grade, but now shes serious about earning her diploma: Theres no doubt in my head that I want to graduate with my class.
Maria Mederos, also 16, said she missed so many days she got behind, but now shes focused on graduating and joining the Marines. She and the others said teachers stay after hours to help students who need it.
Morrison, 46, is the first superintendent to take the CMS office in the age of digital communication and social media, and his entrance showed it.
He was trailed by a photographer and videographer working for CMS, as well as staff from the communications office taking photos and tweeting them from their iPads. The district also set up an online map tracking his school visits and created a Twitter account for Morrison (@CMSSupt). He had more than 60 followers by 5 p.m., before posting any messages.
At a Building Educated Leaders for Life summer program at Statesville Road Elementary, rising fifth-graders Anastasia Lowe and Brendan Gillis brought him handwritten notes congratulating him on being named superintendent and welcoming him to CMS. Brendan added a pitch for improving the schools basketball goals, and Anastasia told him shed like more art on the walls.
Morrison says hes working on a schedule of town hall meetings that will take place around the county, starting this summer. Theyll be held at different times of day and on weekends, in hopes of reaching people with different schedules, he said.