CMS board likely to begin superintendent search next month

Board of Education leaders of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools said Tuesday that the process of selecting a new superintendent likely will begin next month, and that this time the board will more thoroughly vet its candidates.

Speaking at the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club in west Charlotte, Chairwoman Mary McCray said that the school board has only one meeting scheduled for December. But it will likely meet several more times next month to discuss replacing Superintendent Heath Morrison.

“We have to start the process,” McCray said.

McCray’s comments at the breakfast meeting were some of her most extensive since Morrison resigned abruptly at the beginning of November. The school board initially said he was leaving to take care of his ailing mother. The Observer soon reported that Morrison left several days after the board received an investigative report detailing allegations that he misled the board about the costs of a building project and bullied staff members.

The board’s slow pace in disclosing information has sparked questions across the Charlotte community. The four board members present at Tuesday’s event faced pointed questions about why they haven’t released more details and about their true motivations in wanting Morrison to leave.

School board leaders have given a rough timeline of how the board lost confidence in Morrison but have been hesitant to answer specific questions about what happened between Morrison, the CMS board and CMS general counsel George Battle III.

McCray said the board is not hiding behind the separation agreement with Morrison. That agreement prohibits the board from disparaging Morrison or disclosing personnel information. She said Morrison’s attorney pushed for those clauses to be included in the contract, not the school board.

Vice Chairman Tim Morgan added that Morrison and his attorney have not given permission to release more documents or information about the investigation from his personnel file.

McCray defended the board’s decision to accept Morrison’s resignation. She also discussed Morrison’s decision not to force the board to pursue terminating him for cause. That would have given him the chance to dispute the allegations.

“He chose not to fight. I’m a person who believes that if I’m right, I will fight you to the end,” she said. “That did not occur. ... He’s a good superintendent. Maybe he was thinking, ‘There’s a future out there for me, and I need to move on.’ ”

Morrison declined to comment Tuesday, citing the separation agreement.

Breakfast club members also asked about how thoroughly the school board vetted Morrison before hiring him. The board did not travel to Reno, Nev., where Morrison worked as superintendent before he came to CMS, to interview his staff. McCray said Tuesday that’s because the board was told it didn’t have enough money.

Next time, McCray said, the board will make the trip.

“One of the most important things is to put heels on the ground where that person is coming from and scour,” she said.