CMS School Board member opens up about status of district

RAW VIDEO: Tom Tate one-on-one

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) board member Tom Tate is talking about the district's challenges and successes of 2014. Tate says the major accomplishment is the district's increased graduation rate, which rose to 85.1% last year.

"Getting the graduation rate up," Tate said, "Is really a huge thing for this past year."

Tate hopes the increase will continue. While he is pleased with the graduation rate he says the biggest disappointment is the sudden resignation of former CMS Superintendent Dr. Heath Morrison.

He agreed with the resignation but not how Morrison left.

"We could have taken time," Tate said. "If we had chosen to say - let's talk about this some. Let's do something more."

Tate wanted to give Morrison a bonus for all the work he did for the district.

"I think we didn't have an opportunity," the school board member said. "Through all of this - to say thank you."

While many in the community are requesting the school board to hire an outside agency to review how the school board handled Morrison's departure, Tate doesn't think so.

"I don't see a need for it," Tate said. "I know that a number of people from the community has called for that as well. I don't think that we would find out anything differently."

Some question if CMS general counsel should have conducted an investigation on allegations that Morrison bullied, harassed staff and lied to the school board.

"I think that our general counsel did a really good job actually," Tate said. "Gathering things in a fairly significant time crunch."

Tate also expressed his feeling about conducting a National Search to find a new superintendent or should home grown talent fill the vacancy. He says he is a fan of Deputy Superintendent Ann Clark. She is in charge while the district decides next steps.

"I think she is a great candidate." Tate said.

He also believes now is not a good time to start a search.

"To do it right," Tate said. "I think we are looking at a fairly significant period time before we begin a national search and so the question is what the board wants to do."

The board may discuss next steps at its January 13 meeting.

"I think the best superintendents," Tate said. "Are going to want to finish out the year they are in with their own school districts. I'm not sure I want a superintendent who would pick up in October, if that's when we finally go through with it, and just leave a district at that point of the year. I think we need to follow the school year."

The school board member has been on the school board for 10 years. He hopes in 2015 the school board communicates more.

"Sometimes we don't talk as a full board until we are ready to act," Tate said. "And I think we would be better off with workshop type meetings. The more we can do together, the more we can pull together in the same direction and figure out where everybody else is."

Tate also addressed the so called culture of fear that is hanging over the district's head.

"I don't know if I would call it fear or not," Tate said. "But a culture of high expectation. It's something we need take very seriously and if there is a culture of fear then it needs to be addressed, because it doesn't matter how big or how small we are - we have people who have to do a great job for us."

Tate says when it is time to interview superintendent candidates, he will be careful.

"I want to hear something from the next person about will they work with people," Tate said. "How do they use their staff - what do they do getting the right people in the right position. Listen to what somebody says to us, to see if there is anything around the edges that we might be missing."

Besides finding a new superintendent, Tate says CMS will be looking at the district's magnet program.

"Whether we have them in the right places," Tate said. "If we have the right numbers, whether we have the right kinds."

Tate says the district is in good shape and claims through distractions in 2014, teaching and learning has not skipped a beat in the classrooms.

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