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CMS Picks Heath Morrison

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“I used to say to aspiring superintendents and new superintendents, ‘Hey, 90% of this job is political. I was off by about

Heath Morrison in Charlotte on April 11, 2012. Photo: Tanner Latham The next superintendent of CMS Schools is going to be Heath Morrison, the current superintendent of the Washoe County school system in Reno, Nevada. Morrison has been superintendent for three years in Reno, Nevada. He says he's excited to move on to CMS. "It's a school district that I constantly point to as one that we have tried to benchmark against," says Morrison. The board voted Wednesday to offer Morrison the job. Board chairwoman Ericka Ellis-Stewart says that he is "future-minded" and a "strong communicator." "Dr. Morrison had just a vivacious energy and sense of enthusiasm, and that really stood apart for us," says Ellis-Stewart. "We are looking for someone who can help CMS move to the next level, and that includes helping to rebuild public trust in education and within the district." "He's done his homework. He has the skill set. He has the knowledge," says board member Joyce Waddell. When asked if Morrison was her first choice, however, Waddell was apprehensive in answering at first and then said, "He was the board's choice. And as a board, that's our candidate, and that's who we will rally around." Morrison says he'll spend the first three months visiting schools and meeting with teachers, parents, and community leaders. "It's very important to build political support and public trust so that you can do bold things on behalf of students," he says. "If the public doesn't trust us to do the small things, then when we say we're getting ready to do some initiative , we're getting ready to create some program that makes it better for a large number of students, the public doesn't trust us and then they don't want to fund it or support it." Morrison was quick to rally businesses and the community around the schools when he first arrived in Washoe County Schools three years ago. During his time there, the district increased its use of data to track student performance. Morrison also had to deal with tens of millions of dollars in budget cuts. The district reduced pay, but didn't lay off teachers. Dana Galvin, president of the Washoe Education Association, an educators group, says teachers will miss him. "Teachers are working harder than they ever worked," says Galvin. "But I also think we've showed such great gains that people can't help but be proud of those accomplishments." The board selected Morrison over CMS administrator Ann Clark and Memphis schools superintendent Kriner Cash. Cash announced yesterday that he was withdrawing his name from consideration for the position. But board chairwoman Ellis-Stewart says that did not have a bearing on the decision. The board was already in deliberations at that time. Morrison says he's not sure when he'll start. He still needs to work out a time that is good for both CMS and his current employer. And CMS still needs to approve his hiring and final contract. Ellis-Stewart says she would like him to start in July.