Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Heath Morrison on Tuesday refused to comment on reports that school board members considered terminating his contract before he suddenly resigned Monday.
But multiple sources confirm to the Observer that Morrison stepped down just days after the school board’s general counsel completed an extensive report that investigated allegations of misconduct, including belittling staff members.
“There’s a lot of things you face in this job, there’s some things that come out of the blue, and you have to decide how you’re going to approach those,” Morrison said.
Morrison announced Monday that he would leave the position after just two years on the job. He said he was stepping down to take care of his mother, who is ill and lives in Virginia.
The timing raises questions. Voters today are deciding on a sales-tax increase that is designated for the schools to use on employee salaries. Morrison, 48, also had a multi-year contract that pays $288,000 a year.
School board members did not comment beyond a written statement saying they respected his decision to “put family first.”
School board vice chairman Tim Morgan declined comment. Chairwoman Mary McCray did not immediately respond to a request for comment, though on Monday she said that she couldn’t comment until “the process” is completed. General counsel George Battle, who compiled the report, would not confirm its existence.
Morrison said Tuesday that he was not aware of any report and Battle had not approached him about any allegations. Asked about whether any board members had spoken to him about allegations of misconduct, Morrison said: “What I’ve decided to do is spend time with my family right now. I can’t fight things that are rumor and innuendo. I know the job that I do. I know how I do it. I’m proud of the work that I’ve done and that’s the answer.”
Several sources told the Observer that the allegations included belittling comments Morrison made to staff members. One current employee, who asked not to be named for fear of job repercussions, said Morrison got angry with his staff on a daily basis, often over minor incidents. The employee said Morrison created a “culture of fear,” which made people reluctant to tell board members how they were treated.
Morrison said those concerns have not been brought to his attention.
“Here’s what I know about being a superintendent: You make tough decisions. Here’s what I also know about being a superintendent: I’m very passionate about this,” he said. “I never want to treat anybody disrespectfully. If I have, I’ll apologize and say, ‘I’m sorry about that, but let’s talk about the issue at hand.’
“I don’t need the amen chorus. I don’t need people making my ego feel good,” he said. “When we’re behind closed doors, I want people getting passionate, I want people to say ‘No, this isn’t right,’ or ‘This is the way we ought to do it.’ I just want to be Heath and be there with Frank and Ann and Terri and Ernest and Kathryn. That’s the kind of environment I want to have, is where people don’t have to be so guarded about formality and titles.”
Morrison said that to the best of his knowledge, everything in his personnel file is positive. He said he would review its contents and decide whether to make it public.
Personnel files are not public records in North Carolina. But public bodies have the ability to vote to open files if they are “essential to maintaining public confidence in the administration of authority services or to maintaining the level and quality of authority services.”
County commissioner Bill James called on the school board Tuesday to release Morrison’s personnel file under that exemption.
“State law gives them the right to go in and, with five votes, to release it,” James said. “You have to have some way of quelling this churning rumor mill.”
Staff writer Elizabeth Leland contributed.