Heath Morrison, formerly the superintendent of the Washoe, Nev. district and the 2012 superintendent of the year as selected by the American Association of School Administrators, was appointed Thursday to be the new leader in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C. district.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg was the 2011 winner of the Broad Prize for Urban Education. The growing district has about 138,000 sudents, compared to 63,000 students in the Washoe District, which serves the city of Reno and surrounding areas. He has been in the position for three years. (See Morrison's letter to the community announcing his departure.)
Other candidates for the post were Kriner Cash, currently the superintendent in Memphis, who withdrew his name from consideration, and Ann Clark, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg chief academic officer. The district's former superintendent, Peter Gorman, left in August 2011 to become a senior vice president at the education division of News Corp.
The Charlotte Observer notes that part of Morrison's job will be to heal fractures in the community over layoffs, testing and teacher ratings, among other issues. From the article:
None of the three finalists offered dramatically different visions and strategies for [the district,] so the choice came down to experience and style. Since 2009, Morrison has led a majority-Hispanic district that's struggling with deep budget cuts. It's less than half the size of CMS, but before that he held a top administrative post in Montgomery County, Md., a large, diverse district near Washington, D.C.
Morrison, who said he was happy in his Reno job, originally hesitated to go public with his quest for a job he might not get. Some districts and search firms advocate confidential searches, where no one meets the public until they've been chosen.
But Morrison's personal appearances may have clinched the job. He spoke with authority on CMS issues and worked the crowds, shaking hands and making connections.
"He brought a certain charisma, a certain energy, an academic excellence that this district needs to move forward," Chairman Ericka Ellis-Stewart said.