by John Grooms
Remember a few weeks ago when CMS Supt. Gorman took around a dozen folks to New York City to pick up an award? CMS was runner-up to a Georgia school district for the 2010 Broad Prize for Urban Education. At the time, we wrote that it seemed excessive to take so many people to New York when CMS is closing schools and firing teachers. The Broad Foundation paid expenses for three attendees from CMS: Gorman; school board chair Eric Davis; and Mary McCray, president of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators. Eleven other people, all CMS administrators or board members, had their expenses including flight, hotel, food, etc. covered by a special Superintendents Fund. One former board member, Molly Griffin, drove to the award ceremony. Flights for 10 cost around $2100; hotel rooms came to about $3500. Those flights, hotel rooms, and other expenses for 11 people came out of a $250K fund given to Gorman by longtime Charlotte philanthropist C.D. Spanglers foundation. In the letter to Gorman announcing the donation, Spangler wrote, These funds are to be used for the benefit of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools at your discretion. Possibilities include, but are not limited to, professional development, conferences, and travel for the superintendent.
It is true, then, that no taxpayer dollars were used to pay for the trip. Its true, but its not the whole story; and frankly, its cold comfort for parents of students who are struggling with overfilled classrooms. So Ill say it again: considering the state of CMS, the public anger and worry over the schools budget cuts, increased class sizes, the shifting around of students like so many chess pieces, and the sight of people being arrested at board meetings in other words, considering current public opinion and the need for public support Gorman could, and should, have made a wiser decision regarding taking a football teams worth of people with him to pick up the award. I think its great that Gorman & Co. won the award, but taking 14 people, no matter where the money is coming from, was another in a series of CMS managements odd tone-deafness, its lack of connection with students and parents wishes and fears.
Speaking of the money involved, and the Spangler grant: Spanglers letter to Gorman said it was to be spent at Gormans discretion. That means that if he wanted to, Gorman could announce that since the school system is so terribly strapped right now, hes going to use the Spangler grant to, I dont know, hire more teachers, buy pencils, anything. Imagine how much goodwill and support such a gesture would bring to both Gorman and CMS. This superintendent, however, seems to have lost whatever knack he once had for keeping good relations with the people who pay his salary.