School & District Management

Unusual Staffing Plan Helps N.C. District Snag Broad Award

By Christina A. Samuels — September 27, 2011 3 min read
Principals from Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools cheer the announcement that the district won the Broad Prize for Urban Education on Sept. 20.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

In 2008, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system was searching for a way to promote fast but sustainable improvement at some of its lowest-performing schools.

Peter Gorman, then the superintendent of the 135,000-student district, created a plan called the Strategic Staffing Initiative: teams consisting of a principal and up to five handpicked teachers were placed in seven schools and given bonuses of up to $20,000 over three years if they brought up test scores.

The initiative, now in 25 schools, had its detractors, including those who were upset that teachers already at those schools weren’t part of the bonus system. However, the program’s success in improving academic achievement on some measures was cited last week as one of the reasons Charlotte-Mecklenburg won the prestigious Broad Prize this year.

The award, now in its 10th year, was announced Sept. 20. Sponsored by the Los Angeles-based Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the prize comes with a $550,000 award that will be distributed as college scholarships for the district’s high school seniors. The three other finalist districts—the Broward County and Miami-Dade systems in Florida and the Ysleta Independent School District in El Paso, Texas—will each receive $150,000 in scholarships for their students.

Previous Finalist

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg district, in south-central North Carolina, is growing and ethnically diverse. About 41 percent of students are black, 33 percent white, 16 percent Hispanic, and 10 percent Asian, American Indian, or multiracial. About 53 percent of its students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, a commonly used measure of student poverty, and 10 percent are designated as English-language learners.

Like the other finalists this year, Charlotte-Mecklenburg had been singled out by the award program before. The district was a finalist in 2004 and 2010.

Hugh Hattabaugh, the district’s interim superintendent, said in an interview before the announcement that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district had made strides on more than two dozen education indicators, including improved graduation rates, sat scores, and scores on end-of-course exams.

The nomination “really says wonders about our teachers and their commitment to excellence,” said Mr. Hattabaugh, who has served as interim superintendent since July.

Mr. Gorman was the superintendent from 2006 to June of this year. He left the district to become a senior vice president with New York City-based News Corp. Mr. Gorman is also a 2004 graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy, which trains business executives, retired military officers, education administrators, and others to work in the nation’s largest school districts.

Mr. Gorman joined other district administrators in the audience as they waited through presentations from Eli Broad, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and singer and education advocate John Legend before the winner was announced. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg contingent erupted with cheers when the district’s name was read, as did school personnel back in North Carolina watching a live webcast of the program.

“This is the result of years of work focusing on student achievement,” Mr. Gorman said afterwards. “And they’ve done it at a time of declining revenues.”

Mr. Broad acknowledged in his remarks the hard work of all four districts, but he noted that at dozens of urban districts around the country, the outlook for many students is still bleak.

“The reality is, in the last decade, America’s schools have not come far enough,” Mr. Broad said.

Award Criteria

The Broad Prize is the largest education award honoring school districts. Its purpose is to reward districts that improve achievement for disadvantaged students, to highlight successful urban districts and promote best practices, and to create an incentive for districts to improve. Last year, the Gwinnett County, Ga., district outside Atlanta won the award.

Seventy-five urban school districts are identified each year as eligible candidates for the award, based on size, low-income enrollment, minority enrollment, and urban environment. School districts cannot apply for the prize.

A 21-person review board then narrowed the list of candidates to four, basing the selections mostly on quantitative data. The foundation sends teams to each district to collect reams of quantitative and qualitative data, from which a second panel of seven business, government, and education leaders chose the winner.

A version of this article appeared in the September 28, 2011 edition of Education Week as Unusual Staffing Plan Helps N.C. District Snag Broad Award


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
Challenging the Stigma: Emotions and STEM
STEM isn't just equations and logic. Join this webinar and discover how emotions fuel innovation, creativity, & problem-solving in STEM!
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management How Central Offices Can Lay the Groundwork for Tutoring in Schools
From data mining to making master schedules, principals need central offices’ help to implement tutoring.
5 min read
Teamwork and leadership.
DigitalVision Vectors
School & District Management What the Research Says Most Schools Have Early-Warning Systems. Some Kids Are Still Getting Lost
A study finds that one such system prevented absenteeism among some students but not others.
4 min read
Illustration of a warning symbol.
Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Opinion Restorative Practices Don’t Just Belong in the Classroom. Leaders Should Use Them, Too
Respectful conflict resolution, starting meetings with a talking circle, and other ways this administrator is walking the walk.
Sonja Gedde
5 min read
A team of colleagues comes to a resolution in a conceptual illustration about building bridges
Vanessa Solis/Education Week via Canva
School & District Management Electric Buses Hit Some Road Bumps, But They're Still Catching On
The number of electric school buses is rising—and there’s no shortage of growing pains involving funding, legal mandates, and operations.
8 min read
Yellow electric school bus plugged in at a charging station.
Thomas W Farlow/iStock/Getty