by John Grooms
One thing about CMS administrators: They dont let the bad times get them down. Schools are hurting, as the system absorbs deadly budget hits; teachers are routinely laid off by the busload; the school board is catching hell for the slipshod way its deciding which schools to close or consolidate; people are now arrested at school board meetings; and a kid nearly kills another with an exploding pen. None of those woes, however, could stop the indomitable Supt. Peter Gorman from taking a dozen school board members, staffers and others to New York City for an award presentation. Travel expenses? No problem. They simply dipped into a $250,000 grant from the C.D. Spangler Foundation to pay everyones tab.
The awards ceremony was for the 2010 Broad Prize for Urban Education; CMS was the first runner-up to Gwinnett County (Georgia) Public Schools, and will receive $250K for scholarships. Read about it here. Now, it seems reasonable to send someone to the award ceremony, maybe even two or three people. But a dozen? When the system as a whole is hanging on by its fingernails?
Speaking from experience, and from numerous stories told by friends in the corporate, government and academic worlds, there is nothing suits enjoy more than sitting around with other suits, congratulating one another. But this group trip to NYC, as wonderful as it probably was for the participants, comes across as the latest example of CMS managements odd tone-deafness, its lack of connection with students' and parents wishes and fears.
Gorman could have earned a PR coup by publicly announcing that he would only take a couple of people with him to New York for the award ceremony in order to save much-needed money, and that he would take the rest of the Spangler Foundation grant and use it to hire back some laid off teachers. Pete, youd be surprised what that kind of gesture can get you in terms of public approval.
In any case, its too bad no one from Gormans regime will be picking up any prizes from State Superintendent June Atkinson, who last week recognized 10 N.C. school districts and 20 high schools for having the highest graduation rates in the state.But a trip to Raleigh wouldn't have been as much fun, anyway.