Choosing a superintendent for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is a big deal. It will shape educational opportunities, teacher morale, public spending, local confidence in CMS and the nation's image of Charlotte.
But the process can be a bit of a snooze. The school board has had two special meetings, focused mostly on finding a search firm. HR Chief Daniel Habrat said about a dozen have already approached CMS, including the five or six national companies that tend to place superintendents in large districts.
"The minute Pete announced what he was doing, (companies) were sending us their dossiers," Habrat said, referring to the June resignation of Peter Gorman, who built a high national profile in his five years with CMS.
The board agreed Tuesday to allow local firms to have a crack at the job, even if they aren't experts in superintendent hiring. Details were a bit fuzzy; the plan seems to be that local firms will learn from the media that they can apply.
Board member Trent Merchant, a headhunter with Coleman Lew & Associates, has been advising his colleagues about search tactics. He said today that the president of his firm has expertise in education; when Gorman resigned, Merchant said, he and the president agreed not to talk about the CMS opening. If Coleman Lew were to land in consideration for the CMS search, Merchant says he'd probably recuse himself from voting.
Board member Richard McElrath said a local firm could help increase trust in CMS. And former board member James Ross (he served an appointed term from 2008-2009) was sitting in Tuesday, hoping his firm might get the business. Ross said he thinks he could find a leader who's less bureaucratic and better able to connect with Charlotteans than the last few.
Current board members have also talked about how to make sure that the three at-large members chosen in November will be ready to dive in the minute they take office in December. The departure of Merchant, Kaye McGarry and Joe White, who aren't seeking re-election, means everyone but District 5 Representative Tom Tate will be doing their first search. Even Habrat, hired in March from Wells Fargo/Wachovia, is exploring new territory.
So far, the 16 people seeking the at-large seats haven't been flocking to the search meetings, a point that has raised criticism from some current members. (Tim Morgan, a district representative seeking an at-large seat, has been at the sessions.) After a reporter tweeted White's jibes about absent candidates in July, Elyse Dashew and Ericka Ellis-Stewart dashed to the meeting and began tweeting. On Tuesday, Jeff Wise and Hans Plotseneder attended part of the search meeting. (I admit, even I haven't been sitting through the whole meetings, which tend to last hours. Bloggers Bolyn McClung and Susan Spaulding seem to be the most devoted followers of the early process.)
Tuesday night, Ellis-Stewart asked the board to consider holding search meetings in the evening "so that working parents and working adults can attend."
p.s. Sorry we haven't been feeding the blog much lately. When one reporter is covering CMS, it's hard to keep up. As a makeup, here's a little blog humor: Paul Simms in the New Yorker on what commenters would have said if God blogged the creation.