New CMS boss Morrison heads to Ballantyne

Heath Morrison

As new Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Heath Morrison makes his way around town, meeting with parents, students and employees, south Charlotte residents get another chance to voice their concerns at the Ballantyne Breakfast Club later this month.

With ever-growing class sizes and low per-pupil expenditures, south Charlotte residents have a lot of concerns, Tim Morgan, at-large member of the CMS board of education, said, and it’s important that Morrison knows what they are. Traditionally, the August meeting of the club, this year scheduled for Aug. 11, has been education-related, in the past hosting superintendents and board of education members.

And with the first month under his belt, Morgan said he’s excited to see the tradition continue with Morrison.

“Morrison is doing a number of meetings this year and this is just one opportunity for him to introduce himself to the community and have a conversation with the community (in south Charlotte) on what the challenges they think are for CMS,” Morgan said. “I think the issues are going to be the same ones I’ve been hearing for a number of years.”

Those issues, such as more money being spent on kids in inner-city schools than students in the suburbs, student assignments and concerns of overcrowding and new schools in the area are nothing new to the minds of south Charlotte residents. They’ve been fighting the issues for years. Even concerns about how the district maintains the high performing schools while other area schools continue to rise up, Morgan said, adding that south Charlotte schools perform the best in the district.

“(The issues) were on his radar when he interviewed with us. I was amazed on the feel he had for the community before he even came here,” Morgan said, adding that Morrison has already met with different areas of the community, making his way through the west side of the county and the suburbs, meeting with community and religious leaders along the way.

And after several years of cuts and tight budgets, Morgan said people in south Charlotte should be happy to know relief is on the way.

“The budget that was just passed – there are a number of items that will impact south Charlotte, like additional teachers for ninth-grade classes, as well as money for AP and IB exams,” Morgan said. Two years ago, students lost the luxury of school-paid exams, Morgan said. Now, CMS is hoping to pay half the cost. “There are so many kids in south Charlotte that take those classes and those tests, so that will definitely impact the pocket books,” he added.

Other board of education members also are expected to attend the Breakfast Club meeting. District 6 representative Amelia Stinson-Wesley said she hopes to make the meeting and encourages her district constituents to do the same.

“I want people to get to know the Heath that the board got to know during interviews. I saw somebody with enthusiasm; I saw someone with specific goals with the district in mind,” Stinson-Wesley said. “I really want people to pick up on his enthusiasm. He’s just so affective in everything he does and I’m just really impressed with him.”

Stinson-Wesley said she feels Morrison is aware of south Charlotte concerns, since Morgan, Mary McCray – board of education vice chairperson and at-large member – and herself all live in south Mecklenburg and have expressed their constituents’ concerns.

“(Morrison) understands we are a varied district. We know the issues very well, but I would like for him to hear District 6 issues from more than just me,” Stinson-Wesley said.

“He needs to know the bell schedule is a big issue here. He needs to know there are still class size issues, but I think parents need to be the one to tell him,” she added.

Both Morgan and Stinson-Wesley said the meeting is a vital way to advocate on behalf of south Charlotte students, stressing the importance of community involvement to make a difference.

“Education and our public education system is one of the biggest and most important services our local government provides,” Morgan said. “It’s important for folks to come out and share their concerns with the new superintendent, as well as here what his top priorities are.”

Head out to the Aug. 11 meeting
The Ballantyne Breakfast Club, a south Mecklenburg advocacy group, will host Morrison and members of the community on Aug. 11, a Saturday. at 9 a.m. at the Ballantyne Hotel, 10000 Ballantyne Commons Pkwy. Refreshments and breakfast will be served.

The group typically holds meetings throughout the year focusing on issues key to south Charlotte — including local politics, traffic and transportation, crime and other such issues. Later this year the group will hold its annual chili cookoff and candidates forum for local to meet those running for city, county and state office.

For more details on the event, contact Ray Eschert at reschert@aol.com, or  www.ballantynebreakfastclub.com.

Morgan Smith, morgan@thecharlotteweekly.com

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