Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Heath Morrison is taking his blueprint for the district’s future directly to parents and taxpayers next week when he speaks at a special meeting of the Ballantyne Breakfast Club.
Morrison recently unveiled “The Way Forward,” a detailed plan of what he feels is needed to continue shaping a district of more than 141,000 students and nearly 19,000 staff into what it needs to be. Morrison already has started that work, now in his second semester at the helm of CMS, and is becoming a regular at public forums in south Charlotte – giving parents unrestricted access to the man who’s trying to prepare their children for a rapidly evolving workforce.
“I’m looking forward to the conversation,” Morrison said. “I’ve really enjoyed all the discussions so far and my last meeting there was very positive and I hope to have the same success this time around.”
This time around, Morrison will be explaining – and possibly defending – a package of capital improvements projects that would cost at least $400 million and require a bond vote. And that’s just for the top 25 proposed projects on the list. It’s a list that Morrison and others say needs to be completed, and includes a number of south Charlotte projects that could improve aging campuses and relieve overcrowding in spots.
Morrison said he plans to discuss Thursday “what we know and what we don’t know about our funding, and what would be significant and relevant for the southern part of the county.”
“There are some things in my operating budget that I think show we are working in Ballantyne and southern Mecklenburg,” Morrison said. “When I was at the meeting at the beginning of the year, I said it’s important for people to see me as the superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg and that people see that we are meeting the needs all across our district.”
Morrison specifically pointed out two projects – the proposed kindergarten through eighth-grade school that would relieve overcrowding at elementary and middle schools in and around Ballantyne at a cost of around $29 million (“we’ve got a lot of great feedback from that,” Morrison said) and a new science, technology, engineering and math high school at the Smith Family Center for $43 million. Other projects on the list include improvements at South Mecklenburg High such as a new kitchen and cafeteria building and a three-story, 30-classroom building ($18 million) and a replacement for Lansdowne Elementary School, at $19 million.
“I’ve been to several events in south Mecklenburg and there is a lot of positive support for the district,” Morrison said. “All parents have questions about our capital plan, operating budget (and) technology.”
Another issue Morrison expects to come up Thursday is school safety. CMS, like other school systems in the area, plans to ask for funding for improved security measures following the shooting last year at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. CMS wants $19.3 million for security improvements – down from the more than $33 million the district considered asking for. The funding would pay for things such as cameras and an identification system for people on campus.
“We presented a revised security plan that our board voted on positively … adding additional cameras at elementary and middle schools and finding single entry access,” Morrison explained. “Now it’s on its way to the county commission for their consideration.”
Morrison will make a presentation at the Ballantyne meeting, scheduled for Thursday, April 11, at 7 p.m. The meeting was moved from its usual Saturday morning spot in order to accommodate more people interested in attending.
Morrison will answer questions from the crowd following his presentation.
“As Dr. Morrison points out, we should not want to accept a good school district when what we need for our children is a great one,” read a news release from the Ballantyne Breakfast Club, which is hosting the event and others throughout the year to engage area residents. “This meeting will provide you with the opportunity to engage Dr. Morrison and ask what it will take so that our schools provide a level of education for every child that will help them become productive members of our society.”
The meeting will take place at the Ballantyne Hotel, 10000 Ballantyne Commons Pkwy. Find more information on the advocacy group and next week’s meeting at the group’s website, www.ballantyne breakfastclub.com.
Find more information on Morrison’s blueprint for CMS, “The Way Forward,” at the school system’s website, www.cms.k12.nc.us/superintendent/Pages/TheWay Forward.aspx.