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CMS board offers superintendent position to Morrison

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TWC News: CMS board offers superintendent position to Morrison
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CHARLOTTE -- The Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education has chosen Dr. Heath Morrison to be the next leader of the school system.

He is currently superintendent of Washoe County Schools in Reno, Nev., but is in contract negotiations with CMS. One of his biggest challenges will be gaining the trust of the public and school system.

Earlier Thursday, Dr. Kriner Cash, the superintendent of Memphis city schools in Tennessee, dropped out of the race.

Morrison, Cash and CMS Chief Academic Officer Ann Clark all went through a grueling interview process last week.

Morrison said he wants to take a good school district and make it a great one. His first hurdle will be gaining trust not only from within Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, but also in the community.

"There's somewhat of a difference in terms of how Charlotte Mecklenburg is looked upon across the country as one of the best public education systems in the country,” said Dr. Morrison via a Skype interview. “But internally I think there is some work to be done."

The CMS board unanimously selected Morrison. He comes from the second-largest school district in Nevada, with experience boosting academic gains, including test scores and graduation rates. Before Nevada, he worked for a Maryland district that's larger than CMS.

“I think you'll find him to be an effective listener, a good learner, someone who collaborates and builds a sense of team," said school board member, Eric Davis.

Morrison said he'll begin by meeting with principals, teachers, and anyone else who wants to talk about education. CMS has faced its share of challenges, with budget cuts and teacher layoffs. Morrison says he has a plan to move the district forward.

"I believe you have to do the whole process of creating a new strategic plan, of setting the direction and the budget with your employees,” said Dr. Morrison.

Board members say they took the community's opinions into heavy consideration when making their selection. One of the biggest issues they heard throughout the eight month process, was the community wants someone they can trust.

If they reach an agreement, Dr. Morrison said he'll be in Charlotte next Tuesday for the school board meeting.

CMS board chair Ericka Ellis-Stewart would not discuss the salary range offered to Morrison.

Interim Superintendent, Hugh Hattabaugh, is under contract until June 30.

Ann Clark, chief academic officer for CMS, released this statement this afternoon:

"It was an honor and privilege to be a finalist for the CMS superintendent job. I knew Heath well before the superintendent search began and know he will bring great leadership to CMS as we finish the journey from good to great.

I have told Heath how fortunate he is to join such a strong team to take us back for our second Broad Prize in four more years and, more importantly, to be the proof point for our nation that it is possible to eliminate the achievement gap.

I know that Heath will bring a fresh vision, great energy, strong passion for every child and a commitment to partner with our community to CMS which will help on this journey to being the greatest urban school district in this nation."

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