July 18, 2023
North Carolina’s second-largest K-12 school district is in the hands of a veteran educator.
That is not to say that everything she will initiate during her superintendency will be welcomed by every educator.
But Dr. Crystal L. Hill presents herself as determined to use what executive powers she has, and what powers of cajolery she can muster, to ensure that the multiple constituencies in CMS are focused on excellence of educational outcomes for every student.
Outcomes. Not just slightly better test scores.
To a community inured to CMS leaders who shied away from the public square, Dr. Hill expressed a commitment to be the communicator-in-chief with the school district’s multiple constituencies that she will serve.
And in this credentials-first world, Dr. Hill opened her comments not with her doctorate from Gardner-Webb or her B.A. and M.A. from NC A&T, but with talk of what she learned from parents and grandparents that accounts for what she called the “grit” she brings to her new position.
In a presentation this morning and in the Q&A session that followed, Hill set out what former Supt. James Pughsley used to call “big rocks,” a likely allusion to the Greek Sisyphus myth. Big tasks. Important tasks. Tasks that immediately demand one’s best.
– Hill said a “huge mindset” change is under way this year as CMS begins to return to high expectations for adult and student behavior, some of which were jettisoned under the stress of pandemic. “It’s something that won’t happen overnight, but it is something we are committed to,” Hill said.
HIgher dress code expectations for adults were mentioned, as was a reset on the purpose and methods of discipline. CMS will “reteach expectations for behavior,” she said. There will be consequences for misbehavior, but “discipline is really about teaching expectations.”
– Hill did not back away when asked how CMS would “get those top teachers who are currently in CMS into Title 1 schools.” In the past, teachers effectively have controlled their work location. Many experienced teachers avoided high-needs schools, leaving children there with newly graduated recruits and lateral-entry teachers.
Hill said she has started with leadership “because that is what I control.” She said she had made “lots of changes” via principal transfers to raise schoolhouse expectations for excellent outcomes. New principals will be doing more to match high-needs children with experienced teachers, she said.
Earlier incentive programs brought teachers higher pay if they agreed to work in high-needs schools. But Hill said the teachers kept the higher pay as long as they stayed – not as long as they showed verifiable success in raising those students’ achievement. It may take real grit to pull off that linkage, one that previous superintendents and previous school boards never tackled.
One or more of the educators Hill has hired since May to help her lead CMS were in the room this morning. So were some current school board members, some former board members, and some reporters. Jalon Hill’s report in QCityMetro is here.
Dr. Hill’s PowerPoint presentation can be downloaded as a PDF file here. Below the video from the morning’s presentation and Q&A are the 56 individual slides from the presentation.