Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, private and charter schools don’t have much of a history of working together. But CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison wants that to change.
A few weeks ago, Charlotte Catholic High School principal Jerry Healy got an invitation from CMS. The district wanted to meet with private and charter schools to talk about ways to collaborate. He was surprised.
“The agendas don’t seem to really match and in the past we’ve probably been looked on as the adversary, the people that are pulling our kids away,” says Healy.
Those schools all compete for students and money. After all, CMS doesn’t get money for the students who go to private schools. And in the case of charters, CMS has to fork over about $7,000 for each student that goes to one.
CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison wants the competition to be friendly. That’s what he said in the meeting and he repeated it at a press conference this week.
“What we all spoke about was a desire to work together to look at areas of making choices available to families. How do we work in collaboration to do a better job of that? Where are some areas that, perhaps, could be partnerships together?” said Morrison.
They came up with a few ideas like sharing professional development sessions and letting schools take advantage of CMS’s buying power.
“In CMS, with the number of schools and the number of employees, we tend to order in bulk. So, again, if it wouldn’t cost our school district any resources, but it would help others, why would we not do that?” asked Morrison.
Charter school leaders had some concerns about the district’s legislative goals. CMS wants new charter schools to first go through the district for approval. Morrison says that would make it easier to coordinate from the get-go.
At this point, there are no concrete plans to work together, but principal Healy of Charlotte Catholic likes the direction that Morrison is providing. School leaders expect to meet again soon.
Improving Partnerships With Schools
Morrison also wants the district to do a better job of matching groups looking to help with schools and students that need it. That’s part of his plan to move the district forward.
He says CMS misses out on opportunities because there isn’t enough organization to point groups in the right direction. Managing these partners tends to fall solely on the shoulders of principals. Morrison has recently created an office to take charge of this.
“We are going to be actively inventorying each school, working directly with the principal and the teachers of that school to find out what are the unique challenges that they’re facing, what are needs that they have that are particular to that school and then we want to asset map the community,” says Morrison.
He says all schools need help, not just ones that are labeled high poverty or struggling.
Morrison pointed out the success Greenway Park Elementary on the city’s east side has had at attracting and coordinating help from churches, companies and civic groups. The school’s principal Paula Rao came up with a dream list of all the mentoring and tutoring help the school could use. She says groups were able to take that and get right to work.