The CMS School board learned Wednesday that teacher cuts won’t be as deep as first thought. An additional $26 million in county funds will help offset state budget cuts and save about 400 teaching jobs and 170 support staff positions that had been on the chopping block.
But that good news was trumped by this statement from Superintendent Peter Gorman: “Today, I notified the board of my resignation effective August 15th, 2011.”
Mr. Gorman is leaving the district to take a job in the educational division of News Corp, the same company Rupert Murdock that owns the Wall Street Journal and Fox News.
WFAE’s Lisa Miller reports:
The school board and Mr. Gorman have been through a lot the last couple years. Massive budget cuts, school closings and a new student testing program, to name a few things.
But there was preparation for those controversies. For most board members, that wasn’t case with Mr. Gorman’s announcement.
“I was pretty surprised at this announcement today. I was actually stunned,” said board member Rhonda Lennon.
“We’re in the midst of the playoffs and our best running back just went down,” added Joe White.
“It just shocked me that he would leave in the midst of all this that we’re trying to do,” said Richard McElrath.
Mr. Gorman actually gave board chairman Eric Davis a heads-up on Sunday. Mr. Davis says the timing is not ideal. “Certainly we had conversations about the fact that his work is not done here and that we’d like for him to continue to remain in his position.”
One of Mr. Gorman’s big proposals just getting started is his controversial plan to pay teachers based on their performance in the classroom. Additional student testing is a big part of that policy.
Mr. Davis says that work on Pay-for-Performance will continue, but probably on a slower time line. He wants the district to collaborate more with teachers.
West Meck teacher and school board candidate Hans Plotseneder says the news of Mr. Gorman’s departure will likely bring a sigh of relief among teachers.
“I believe that 99 percent will welcome it,” Mr. Plotseneder says, “not because Dr. Gorman was a bad superintendent (but) because of the outcome of the actions of the school board and some of the way of the policies have been implemented,” Plotseneder says.
Mr. Gorman has received a lot of praise in the five years he’s led the district. He’s received his share of criticism, but he’s also received a lot of praise. The achievement gap between white students and black and Hispanic students has narrowed. And his strategic staffing initiative to use bonuses to lure experienced teachers to low-performing schools has drawn national attention.
But Mr. Gorman has also received a lot of harsh criticism, especially in the past year. As the district began looking at closing 11 schools to save money, parents, teachers and students lined up at public meetings to berate him. Most of the schools were in low-income and minority areas. Many leveled charges of racism.
And lately, his push to pay teachers based in part on how their students perform on tests has prompted both anxiety and accolades.
“As far as Dr. Gorman is concerned, no one can say he didn’t work 24/7 for CMS,” says board member Kaye McGarry, a frequent critic of Mr. Gorman’s. “But I think you want to make the best of a situation and we do have a system where the teacher morale is so low and we need someone to pick that up a bit.”
[Ms. McGarry told DavidsonNews.net that sometimes change can be a good thing. “CMS has a new beginning,” she said. “We can re-look and re-think things, and that can be exciting.”]
Next week, the board will meet to start the process of finding a new superintendent. But that will likely be a long process, and November elections will put at least two new faces on the board. [Mr. White and Trent Merchant have said they won't run again.]
Mr. White said he’s sorry to see Mr. Gorman go, but says it’s a good deal that likely comes with a much bigger paycheck than the $267,000 he currently earns.
“You think about working for Rupert Murdoch is a whole lot bigger than working for Charlotte-Mecklenburg,” White says.
News Corp. is based in New York, but Mr. Gorman says he’ll continue to live in Charlotte. His boss will be Joel Klein, a former chancellor of the New York City public school system.
June 8, 2011, “CMS Superintendent Peter Gorman resigns,” with reporting by CorneliusNews.net and WFAE-FM.