Op-Ed

Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board doubling down on deception after superintendent quits

The following editorial appeared in the Charlotte Observer:

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools community hasn’t learned nearly as much as it should about the departure of its superintendent, but it’s learning more each day about the leadership that remains.

Here’s the latest: School board chair Mary McCray says she wants the Mecklenburg District Attorney’s office to find out who leaked a report detailing allegations that Heath Morrison created a “culture of fear” among staff and misled the board about the cost of a building project at UNC Charlotte.

That leak, of course, revealed that Morrison was not resigning simply to care for an ailing mother, as he and the school board indicated last week.

Instead of apologizing for that deception, McCray wants the DA to find the person who exposed the lie.

Instead of finally providing insight into what led to Morrison’s resignation, McCray wants to punish the supplier of the report she wanted to keep secret.

“Unprofessional,” McCray said Monday of the leaker, without a hint of irony. It’s a blend of ineptitude and arrogance that should worry CMS parents and Mecklenburg taxpayers, as well as any candidate who might consider the vacant superintendent’s job.

From the beginning, McCray and the board have hidden behind half-truths to avoid explaining the events leading up to and following Morrison’s departure. Along with perpetuating the sick-mother story, they’ve suggested incorrectly that employer confidentiality laws prevent them from saying anything about the Morrison resignation.

On Monday, McCray tried a new dodge: “We followed the tenets of the superintendent’s contract to a T,” she said.

Then show us. The Observer has requested from CMS numerous documents that might help, including emails to and from Morrison, board members, CMS attorney George Battle III and other officials. Those are public records, despite the board signing a confidentiality agreement with Morrison’s attorney designed to keep the public in the dark.

McCray and Vice Chairman Tim Morgan don’t have to wait for public record requests to answer some critical questions. When did the board first hear of potential problems with the superintendent? Was anyone else – including other high-ranking officials – aware of those problems earlier or involved in any way? Was the UNCC deception part of a pattern?

Crisis is instructive. It tests all the things we want in our leaders, including integrity and truthfulness. Until McCray and the school board realize that, Morrison’s resignation will remain a dark cloud over the district, including employees such as acting Superintendent Ann Clark, a Morrison deputy. We’re not sure what the board is gaining with its secrecy, but it’s already lost the public’s confidence.

MCT Information Services

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