Editor’s note: Hugh Hattabaugh provided the following remarks during his first school board meeting as interim superintendent on April 26. Remarks have been edited for space.
It was great to listen to the discussion that you had regarding the important goals that we have set. And I want to reiterate that it is truly a privilege to return to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools as the interim superintendent. First, there will not be a superintendent doing a 100-day entry plan with the listening and learning tour. Hearing the dialogue here, we’ve got to get into the weeds here and get things working in the right direction.
I have served CMS prior from 2007 to 2012 as an area superintendent for the North Learning Community, chief operating officer and interim superintendent. I’m very familiar with the challenges of a large urban and diverse school district such as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. There have been a lot of changes since 2007. There were only 144 schools at that time and only 37 Title 1 schools. Today, in 2022, CMS is comprised of 180 schools with 85 Title 1 schools.
The CMS board has established new expectations and direction for the superintendent and CMS staff, in the new goals and guard rails, which take effect in the coming school year until 2024. The governance model is student outcomes-focused and is the driving force to produce increased student achievement. The intent of the model is to ensure essential resources are driven rapidly to the students and schools in greatest need to decrease the achievement gap for our minority students and students in poverty.
On my first day yesterday. I met
with cabinet members who oversee all services and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. And I will say I really feel good about the transition here because it’s great to have smarter people than me in the room.
Our most essential department that drives student learning is our academic service team. All other departments support our core business of teaching and learning. I have charged Dr. Kondra Rattley, chief equity and school performance officer; Dr. Matt Hayes, deputy superintendent overseeing our academic services; Brian Schultz, the chief operation officer formerly the chief academic officer for four years in CMS, to bring a reorganization of our learning community offices with input from Sheila Shirley, chief financial officer; Dr. Frank Barnes, chief accountability officer; and Laura Francisco, associate superintendent of human resources department. The intent is to expand the number of learning communities, utilizing present staff and academic services in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. It will include the line of authority from the superintendent to the schools, a results-driven line with high expectations for results to close the achievement gap. The reorganization of learning community offices will be presented to the board at the end of May for their approval. It may create a little angst and concern with some staff. Dr. Hayes and Dr. Rattley have notified the team members and academic services department of the aforementioned reorganization process. They are outstanding educational leaders with a solid track record over decades of service to CMS and we need utilitze their strengths in the most effective way to improve academic achievement in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
One of the first questions I asked the board chair and general counsel when they called regarding the interim superintendent position was, ‘Will I have authority to recommend changes and keep personnel that affect student outcomes?" The answer was yes.
Secondly, we do definitely appreciate the support of the various foundations in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. We cannot close the achievement gap without their continued support.
I had an interesting discussion this past weekend with Dr. Munro Richardson, who is a strong advocate of the Read Charlotte and (an initiative), which we began in the middle of the school year approximately around February or March. I do realize they are supported and we’re very fortunate and same as to have the support from various foundations and in that particular initiative with Belk Foundation being a key contributor.
We will begin the 2022-23 school year with the original six. designated elementary schools using the Read Charlotte program. Since one-time Federal monies are being used to support the program with combined tutoring, I have requested. Dr. Frank Barnes chief of accountability office to provide the CMS board and all stakeholders with data and a comprehensive program evaluation. Anytime you implement any instructional program, you need to be abel to answer, did it increase student achievement. Can we sustain it in the future, when the federal dollars leave and can we take it to scale? So that’s the discussion will have with budget. You can’t start pilot programs with federal one-time dollars. We’re going to have to ask the county commissioners to support initiatives that they’re on board with.
We understand students are reading at the level they are in the third grade. There’s all kinds of research, reliable and valid, and I’m sure we could have Dr. Barnes, give the board what happens with third-graders in the future when they aren’t reading at grade level.
Lastly, the key drivers to students reaching your maximum potential is very important in the budget discussion that we’ll be bringing to the board. You have to have the funds to hire and retain effective and caring teachers in every classroom. We’re going to be battling all urban districts across this nation to bring in teachers to this district. If you open the school year up with 500 to 600 vacant teacher positions, we’re in trouble. None of this is going to work. So that’s number one. We have to have the funds, the heart to hire teachers – ESE/ ESL. And then we have a plethora of different coursework.
A physics teacher, for instance – I remember I had to go get an engineer who was ready to retire, got him through a credentialing process to get him ready to teach our physics class because they can make more money working in companies across the country, so it’s hard to get them in. So that’s number one, and the budget will drive that. Second, we all know great principals in every school is essential. They’re really the CEO of their school house and they really drive the learning in their everyday. We as the cabinet, we have to support them and their job. And thirdly, we discuss this is engaged students. They got to be in the seat in the school if they’re going to learn. And that’s an important factor. And I think sometimes we use the phrase free public education. Ask a property tax owner. All of you around here. Look at your property taxes. Corporate America, look at your property taxes. There’s nothing free about it. It’s an advantage that every child and every parent should ensure that their child’s in a seat when the bell rings and they stay the full day. That’s a huge factor.
Thirdly, of course is having the parents and guardians that are supportive. And we know that we have community members to help if there is a gap there to help. We have a lot of people coming in. They’re scared to death because they can’t speak the language. They can’t find a place to live and we expect the community to step up and help those people.
More importantly, the nine elected board members here have set high expectations with clear direction for their superintendent and staff to increase student achievement, close the achievement gap for minority students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. And I thank you for the opportunity to serve in this capacity at this time as we do a major transition. You have set the table for us and it is my job to work with staff to get the job done.