More than 100 people came to Rocky River High on Thursday to talk to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Heath Morrison about special education, bullying, teacher morale and other issues on their minds.
Many seemed pleased that the person in charge of more than 18,000 employees and 140,000 students sought their views.
There is a big disconnect between CMS and what happens in our (school) buildings, said one woman who identified herself as a teacher. Ask us. Well be happy to talk to you.
Thats what Morrison is doing.
Since his hiring was announced in April, he has met with groups around the county. For instance, at lunch Thursday he spoke to a joint session of the Ballantyne and SouthPark branches of the Charlotte Chamber, which drew about 100 people.
A series of town hall meetings that run through Nov. 15 are designed to put him in touch with a wider audience. There will be seven meetings for the public and six for employees only. After his first 100 days, Morrison intends to unveil a plan for improving education and public trust.
At Thursdays public session, in suburban Mint Hill, one parent told Morrison her daughters elementary school has a strong anti-bullying program, while her sons middle school does nothing. In the older grades, the kids are just on their own, and its frustrating, she said.
Morrison said students cant learn if theyre afraid, and he promised that CMS is going to be a leader in preventing harassment.
A couple of people raised concerns about how special-needs students are educated, especially those with profound disabilities who are put into regular classrooms. Morrison said the law requires educating students in the least restrictive setting, but said hes looking into the best way to help teachers reach such students.
On most points, Morrison was vague on specifics, saying hes still learning the terrain. Because of public comments, he said, Im starting to ask much better questions, and I appreciate that. He said CMS will start posting answers to some of those questions on the website.
Providence High students Jeff Pacholski and Arjun Gupta noted the lack of details. Hes quite the politician, said Gupta, who was covering the session for the school newspaper and asked about last years stumbles on performance pay and testing.
But a handful of students from Rocky Rivers student government were impressed with the personal touch, especially when Morrison came over to talk with them before the meeting.
It was an awesome experience, said student government President Julia Constantinidis. We want to be recognized as students. It seems like hes going to do a good job of including all of us.
Find the meeting schedule at www.cms.k12.nc.us.