Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gorman: Close schools, pack your bags

Former Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Peter Gorman isn't talking to the Charlotte media anymore,  but he certainly has some interesting things to say as he makes the national rounds.

Lew Powell,  a former Observer colleague,  forwarded this recent item from City Beat,  a Memphis,  Tenn.,  blog.  It reports on a confab between Memphis officials and Gorman (who now works for the education division of News Corp.),  then-board Chair Eric Davis,  former board Chair Arthur Griffin and an unnamed former CMS principal.

"The system won a national award this year for excellence in urban education,  but this was not a butt-patting session,"  reports John Branston,  a senior editor for The Memphis Flyer.  Branston's report continues:

“Progress has been painfully slow,  and at the rate we are moving in Charlotte it will still be 15 years before the achievement gap is closed,”  said former superintendent Pete Gorman.

He urged the committee to  “build a bench”  of future principals and assistant principals from among promising young teachers;  move good principals and five teachers as a group to the toughest schools but not against their will;  give new leadership three years to turn around a school;  give good schools more autonomy;  measure improvement , not raw scores,  so that even college-prep schools must show improvement year over year;  pick a superintendent for the consolidated district sooner rather than later;  give the schools with the poorest students the most money,  and give the wealthiest schools the least money;  and expect to move on if you are the superintendent that has to close schools.

“You can’t close schools well,”  he said,  adding that "to do the job well,  I sometimes question if it's physically possible."

Gorman,  as most Charlotte readers know,  launched a push in fall 2010 to close about a dozen schools in 2011-12.  He announced his resignation in June,  just after the board approved a 2011-12 budget.  Many of the newly-merged schools are now dealing with discipline problems,  although the staff that remains to deal with aftermath still voices hope that there will be academic benefits.

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