Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Morrison's final eval, Hattabaugh's farewell

Heath Morrison got a final job evaluation from the Washoe County school board this week, and it's glowing. He got top marks in every category, with the board calling him "a recognized tour de force."

Wednesday was Morrison's last day as superintendent in Reno; he starts work as head of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools on Monday.

Read the summary of his evaluation here and the full report here. The rating scale used in Washoe County is here.

Meanwhile, interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh, who will leave the district when he leaves the post, sent this message to CMS employees:

From: Hugh E. Hattabaugh
Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 11:19 AM
To: cmsmailall
Subject: Thank you and farewell

Dear CMS employees,

As I leave CMS, I want to thank all of you for helping make my year as interim superintendent a success. Your work, your attention to duty and your dedication helped make the 2011-2012 school year a strong one.

We had a successful opening of schools in August, launching the Pre-K-8 schools and adapting smoothly to the changes wrought by school closures and new bell schedules. Transportation, Child Nutrition, building maintenance, human resources, curriculum and instruction – every department worked effectively this year.

September brought national recognition with the Broad Prize – another acknowledgement that we have some of the best teachers, principals and employees of any district in America!

As the year progressed, the budget uncertainties were less damaging. Unlike many districts in North Carolina, we anticipated the end of the federal EduJobs money. Careful financial planning spared us a reduction in force this year. And I’m happy to tell you that your three percent raise is almost certainly on the way. Our Board of Education has provided a plan for paying the raises to the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, which should free up the $18.5 million the county set aside for raises. Coupled with cuts and redirections, as well as some state money, there is enough to fund the raises in our original budget request. If you’d like to see how the raise will affect the teacher salary schedule, view the attachment.

I’m very proud of early returns on the end-of-year tests. Preliminary data – final numbers will not come from the state until October – suggest we have increased the number of schools making high growth by 10 percent – from 45 percent to 55 percent. More than half our schools made high growth. Preliminary data also shows that our graduation rate rose by about two percentage points, to around 75 percent (the precise number continues to bounce around but hovers around 75). These increases are meaningful. They show that CMS is increasing achievement, school by school, student by student. This is our core mission and we made real progress this year.

All of you should take pride in that academic growth and in our successful year, because all of you had a role in it. It has been an honor and a privilege to lead CMS this year, and I wish each of you all the best as CMS continues its journey under the leadership of Dr. Heath Morrison. I’ve worked in several districts in Indiana, Arkansas and Florida – and this district and its employees are second to none. Thank you for all you do.

Best regards,

Hugh E. Hattabaugh
Interim Superintendent
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
Government Center
600 East 4th Street
Charlotte, NC 28202

Monday, June 18, 2012

Twin law gives parents new power

Putting twins, triplets and other siblings into separate classes may be standard practice, but the N.C. General Assembly has legislated that parents get to decide whether that's the best approach for their children. Here's the text of the law, which is being circulated by parent groups and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials.

The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:
SECTION 1.   Article 25 of Chapter 115C of the General Statutes is amended by
adding a new section to read:
§ 115C-366.3. Classroom placement of multiple birth siblings.
(a) As used in this section, the term "multiple birth siblings" means twins, triplets, quadruplets, or other siblings resulting from a multiple birth.
(b) The parent of multiple birth siblings who are assigned to the same grade level and school may request a consultative meeting with the school principal to consider that the initial school placement of the siblings be in the same classroom or in separate classrooms. The request must be made no later than five days before the first day of each school year or five days after the first day of attendance of students during the school year if the students are enrolled in the school after the school year commences. The school may recommend to the parent the appropriate classroom placement for multiple birth siblings and may provide professional educational advice to assist the parent with the decision regarding appropriate classroom placement.
(c) Except as provided in subsection (d), (e), or (f) of this section, a school shall provide the multiple birth siblings with the classroom placement requested by the parent.
(d) A school is not required to place multiple birth siblings in separate classrooms if the request would require the school district to add an additional class to the grade level of the multiple birth siblings.
(e) At the end of the first grading period following the multiple birth siblings' enrollment in the school, if the principal of the school, in consultation with the teacher of each classroom in which the multiple birth siblings are placed, determines that the requested classroom placement is disruptive to the school, the principal may determine the appropriate classroom placement for the siblings.
(f) This section does not affect the right of a school administrative unit, principal, or teacher to remove a student from a classroom pursuant to the student discipline policies of that school administrative unit.

SECTION 2.    This act becomes effective beginning with the 2011-2012 school year.
In the General Assembly read three times and ratified this the 17th day of June, 2011.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Inside the 'Rock Hell' Hells Angels

The indictment that prompted today's arrests of 19 members and associates of the Rock Hell City Nomad Chapter of the Hells Angels offers a rare glimpse into the secret workings of the motorcycle club -- a detailed system of hierarchy, rules and biker-speak.

Among the highlights alleged in the indictment:

- Regular chapter meetings were referred to as "church," and only full-time members could attend.

- The chapter president had ultimate decision-making authority and reported directly to regional officers of the Hells Angels. Regular East Coast officer meetings rotated from state to state. Agenda items included  chapter updates, world events, world votes and financial matters.

- The Rock Hell City Nomad Chapter was started in Rock Hill, S.C., in 2008. Prior, the group operated as God's Few until it was "patched over" into the Hells Angels.

Winged death head
- Full membership was referred to as "full patch," and meant the member had permission to wear the full three-piece patch on jackets and vests. It included the club emblem (the winged death head); surrounded by the top "rocker" with the words "Hells Angels" and a bottom rocker identifying the territory claimed by the club.

- Members may also wear a diamond-shaped one-percenter patch that reflected the Hells Angels recognition that its members are among the one percent of motorcyclists who are "non-law-abiding outlaws."

- Associates who are not members, including girlfriends and wives, are referred to as "old ladies" and may wear the numbers 81. The 8 and the 1 stand for the alphabet positions of the letters H and A.

- Membership was limited to white males. They had to own one or more American-made motorcycles, mostly Harley Davidsons.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Latest plan for CMS raises

As Mecklenburg County commissioners prepare for tonight's budget vote, Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board Chairman Ericka Ellis-Stewart has emailed them a plan for a "three-way partnership" to provide 3 percent raises to CMS employees. She asks commissioners to go back to the plan County Manager Harry Jones presented,  which boosts the CMS budget for 2012-13 by about $9 million without putting restrictions on the money.  Commissioners voted informally but unanimously last week to approve the total sum Jones recommended but put about $18.5 million into a restricted fund that would be released only for raises.

This proposal can be a bit confusing,  especially the reference to a $10 million decrease in the state discretionary cut.  As careful readers may decipher,  a decrease in a cut equates to an increase in the money CMS planned for when preparing its budget this spring.  CMS and the county are waiting to see what state lawmakers approve for education spending.

It's unclear whether this proposal will cause a majority of commissioners to rethink the restricted fund. "I have read it twice and I am still not sure what she is driving at,"  said Commissioner Bill James,  who has long pushed for restricting CMS money.

Here's the email:

From: Ericka Ellis-Stewart []
Sent: Tuesday, June 05, 2012 10:42 AM
Cc: Rhonda Lennon; Richard McElrath; Joyce Waddell; Tom Tate; Eric C. Davis; Amelia Stinson-Wesley; Tim Morgan; Mary T. McCray; Hugh E. Hattabaugh; Sheila W. Shirley; George E. Battle; LaTarzja N. Henry
Subject: Open Letter from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education

Dear Commissioners,

Over the past few years both of our Boards have had to face difficult, controversial issues. Both of us have had to make decisions we wish we had not had to make. The Board of Education respects your decisions, and we want to thank you for the support you have provided our public school students and staff during these financially challenging times.

Recently, many of us have had the opportunity to discuss with Commissioners our 2012-2013 budget request. We have heard a number of concerns such as, why are we looking to the County to fund raises that are a State responsibility, what are we doing ourselves to fund this increase if it is a high priority, how will we insure that our staff gets this pay increase? Reflecting on these conversations with you, our partners, we realize that we need to clarify our request. We consider our 2012-2013 budget request for additional funding to be a statement of our students’ needs to both the State and County. While by state law the Board of Education is required to make a formal request of the County, it is equally important to communicate that the funding for our students' needs could come from either of our two primary funders. And we have shared this statement of need with members of our State delegation.

More specifically, in providing a modest and well deserved 3% pay increase to our teachers and staff, as well as meeting our other needs, at this juncture we propose a three-way partnership to fund the budget. First, the Board of Education will provide at least $16.4mm through budget reductions already presented in our request.  The second component could come from at least a $10mm decrease in the discretionary cut in our State funding, pending action by the Legislature. This assumes the state funding is ongoing, without restrictions that would prevent us from leveraging that funding into a local level salary increase. This funding is far from a certainty. The final component could come from an unrestricted increase in county funding similar to the County Manager’s recommendation in the amount of $9.1mm. This approach enables the State, County, and CMS to share as a team the opportunity to improve our system and allows each partner to support CMS teachers and staff. Should our own cuts plus any additional recurring funds from the State and County exceed what is necessary to provide the 3% increase, we will use those recurring funds in accordance with our budget request which includes adding teachers in our 9th grade classrooms.

Another advantage of this approach is that we are able to avoid further staff reductions resulting in elevated class sizes which negatively impacted our students’ education. This approach will help to restore to some degree the morale of our teachers and staff and with it, provide a better classroom experience for our students.

We would be glad to continue to meet with you and to answer any questions you have about our budget. Again we thank you for your partnership and for supporting CMS students in the past and in the future.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education

Friday, June 1, 2012

Hattabaugh: CMS raises aren't certain

Mecklenburg County commissioners said Wednesday that their preliminary agreement to restrict $18.5 million of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools budget was designed to ensure that employees get 3 percent raises. But interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh has sent a mass email warning that CMS leaders are studying "possible consequences of accepting restricted money" and celebration would be premature.

Here's his email:

Dear CMS employees,

On Wednesday, May 30, the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners held a straw vote on CMS funding, saying our requested raise would be partially funded by a restricted contingency. This means that the commissioners will withhold $18.5 million of our total county funding until we have shown the commissioners proof that the raises have been given.

The county manager’s proposal would give CMS a total of $335 million plus about $2 million in fines-and-forfeiture money. The total of $337 million is significantly less than the $356 million we requested and the county would hold on to $18.5 million of it until proof is provided that employees will get a three percent raise. The total cost of this raise is more than $26 million.

Forcing us to use county money in this way, coupled with giving us less than we requested, means that we will have to cut more from our operating budget, unless the state funding exceeds our estimate. This is unprecedented. To have our operating budget restricted by a governing body other than the Board of Education is not desirable. For that reason, our Board members are concerned and are reviewing the possible consequences of accepting restricted money in this way.

The good news for employees is that the county commission appears to be aware of your value to our community. However, the final budget votes have yet to be taken. We also do not yet know the final amount of our state allocation, which accounts for about two-thirds of our funding.

For that reason, I’d hold off on celebrating your raise just yet. We will keep you informed as our Board and the county take action on the budget.

Best Regards,

Hugh E. Hattabaugh

Interim Superintendent
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
Government Center
600 East 4th Street
Charlotte, NC 28202