New jobs for top Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools administrators and creation of a new administrative zone will help the district provide better service to schools and communities, Superintendent Heath Morrison said Wednesday.
Among the shifts: Morrison is naming his second human resources chief in seven months. Kelly Gwaltney, whom he put in that job in November, will become chief of school performance, a job similar to chief academic officer.
Hough High Principal Terri Cockerham will take Gwaltney’s place overseeing the department responsible for a work force that tops 18,000 people, one of the largest in the region.
Morrison announced the shakeup at a news conference Wednesday.
Morrison, who became CMS superintendent last July, quickly identified problems with hiring and personnel support as one of the district’s biggest challenges. He removed HR Chief Daniel Habrat, who had been hired from banking.
Gwaltney, a former principal and longtime CMS employee, brought “a leadership presence” and knowledge of schools, Morrison said in a Tuesday interview. He said principals have told him they see improvements.
“She’s assembled a dynamic team,” Morrison said. “I feel good about HR.”
In her new post, Gwaltney will be in charge of schools, student planning, prekindergarten and several federal programs to support students. Morrison said he has given her two major goals: Helping schools customize their offerings and making sure none get Ds or Fs under a new state letter-grade system.
“You can’t market your school if you’re a D-F school,” Morrison said.
For the past year, Deputy Superintendent Ann Clark held most of the academic responsibilities while taking on additional duties as Morrison’s second in command. With Gwaltney focusing on academics, Clark can make sure all departments are working well together and spearhead special project teams, Morrison said.
Until Tuesday, it wasn’t clear whether Clark would remain with CMS as Morrison moves into his second year. She was a finalist for Wake County superintendent, but that board voted Tuesday night to hire James Merrill, superintendent of Virginia Beach Public Schools.
Valerie Truesdale, whom Morrison hired in July as CMS technology chief, will take on additional duties overseeing magnets, career-tech programs and support for other areas, such as arts, science, math and humanities.
Truesdale, former superintendent of Beaufort County, S.C., schools, said she sees her mission as removing barriers that keep principals and other educators from being innovative.
Morrison is also restructuring the zone offices that oversee schools. Such changes have little visibility to the general public, but Morrison says they’ll make administrative staff more available to principals and connected to communities.
Under the current system, created by former Superintendent Peter Gorman, the district’s highest-poverty schools are grouped in two administrative zones: One for elementary schools and one for middle and high schools. The others are divided into four geographic zones. The Project LIFT zone, supported by private donations, has only nine schools, but the rest cover 16 to 42 schools.
Morrison’s plan eliminates the high-poverty groups. The Project LIFT zone remains unchanged, but the rest of the county will be divided into six geographic zones. By adding one administrative office – they’re now called learning communities – Morrison is reducing the number of schools each “community superintendent” must cover.
For instance, the old Southwest Zone encompassed 42 schools. The new South Learning Community, which covers some of the same territory, has 33, including five small schools on the Olympic campus.
“Principals needed to see their zone superintendents more,” Morrison said.
He said the cost of hiring a new community superintendent – about $138,000, to come from county money for superintendent’s initiatives – is the only additional expense in his plan. He is hiring Kevin Hobbs, a former top administrator in Wake County. Hobbs became deputy superintendent of Baltimore County, Md., schools last year, when a new superintendent took office there. In May, Hobbs notified that district he would step down in June to return to family in North Carolina.
In the new structure, elementary and middle schools are grouped with the high schools they feed into, which Morrison says will help principals coordinate plans for academic themes.
Principals and community superintendents will be expected to connect with their neighborhoods, including public officials, businesses, civic groups and faith leaders, he said.
Morrison says he’s calling his team “central services” instead of “central offices,” to emphasize that everyone’s mission must be service to students and schools.
Clark, who has worked for CMS for 30 years, acknowledged that long-timers who have seen countless reorganizations may be saying, “Oh, here we go again.”
“I think this feels very different,” she said. The new plan reflects what principals have sought, and leaders will be held accountable for delivering better service, she said.
“I think the principals will hear and see their voice, and the teachers, too,” she said.
Helms: 704-358-5033 Twitter: @anndosshelms
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