July 25, 2008

Board Votes for New Superintendent

By Morgan Josey Glover, News & Record, Greensboro, N.C.

Jul. 25--GREENSBORO -- Maurice "Mo" Green -- touted for his energy, team-building focus and experience in a large school district -- is expected to lead Guilford County Schools, starting Sept. 8.

The Board of Education voted 7-4 on Thursday to negotiate a four-year contract with Green, who currently serves as deputy superintendent of the 135,000-student Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. He would earn a base salary of $250,000.

"I'm excited about the opportunity and look forward to getting up to Guilford County soon to finalize a contract and start to get to work," said Green, who spoke by telephone after the vote. "I have conflicting emotions because this also means I will be leaving Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools."

Green said he did not know when he would next visit the Guilford district, but he expects to attend the Aug. 12 regular board meeting.

Jeff Belton, Garth Hebert, Anita Sharpe and Darlene Garrett voted against the motion. They wanted to hire fellow finalist Shirley Prince, a former high school teacher who serves as superintendent of the 6,700-student Scotland County Schools.

"This has been a long and grueling endeavor," Belton said. "I'm glad to bring it to a conclusion and wish Mr. Green the best."

Board members said they believed that despite Green's lack of classroom experience, he could build trust among educators and other district stakeholders. Past superintendents Jerry Weast and Terry Grier -- both former educators -- were criticized for a heavy-handed management style and inattention to teachers' needs.

Educators' lack of trust in previous superintendents became clear to board member Nancy Routh on Wednesday when a principal told her she was afraid to ask the finalists more questions because she would work under one of them.

"I said, 'It's been that long since you felt comfortable talking to a superintendent," Routh said.

Board member Dot Kearns said: "Mr. Green doesn't come with a ready-made plan. His method of operation is listening, learning ... then coming together with a plan that meets the needs of this particular system."

On Wednesday, Green told Guilford County Schools employees and members of the public that he would conduct "listening and learning tours" during his first 100 days in the district. He frequently referred to himself as a servant of educators.

"I, for one, like to get the voices in the room," Green said, describing his leadership style. "I like to have folks come up with their best ideas."

Green, formerly a practicing lawyer, was hired by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools as chief operating officer in 2006 and promoted to deputy superintendent in February.

Hebert said he didn't think those positions qualified Green to run the Guilford County Schools.

Garrett said teachers and administrators she spoke to wanted someone with strong experience in curriculum and instruction. She felt Prince, who was named 2007 North Carolina Superintendent of the Year, would bring that.

"What this board is getting ready to do is slapping them in the face and ignoring what they have to say," said Garrett, emotion in her voice.

Other board members expressed concerns that Prince's oversight of a small school system would not translate well to Guilford, which has about 72,000 students.

"I think Guilford County Schools by virtue of its size needs someone who can handle the things that will come up," said Amos Quick, board member. "We need someone who has seen these challenges before, who has helped to meet them in the largest school district in North Carolina."

Until recently, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools was the state's largest district. Wake County Public Schools recently outgrew the Charlotte district.

School board candidate Mike Stone of Oak Ridge said he was pleased with the board's ultimate decision, calling Green an excellent choice. Stone is running against Garrett this year for the District 3 seat and would work with Green if he wins.

"I do believe that he's a listener," Stone said. "It's refreshing to hear someone going into that position saying 'I don't know. I don't have the answers.' I think he's going to be this person that will draw people in."

Contact Morgan Josey Glover at 373-7078 or [email protected]


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