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Eric Gordon, the soon-to-be former CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, hands off the baton to his replacement, Warren Morgan, on Tuesday.
The baton was handed off both literally and metaphorically from past CEO to new CEO Tuesday morning at Garrett Morgan High School in Ohio City.
Warren Morgan, the former chief academic officer for Indianapolis Public Schools, took said baton from Eric Gordon, who spent the last 12 years helping to revive the struggling Cleveland Metropolitan School District
Morgan shares Teach for America experience with Bibb's chief education officer Holly Trifiro, which may have helped his case with the mayor.
In his brief speech, which clocked in at a breezy six minutes, Morgan thanked his four family members in attendance, along with soon-to-be CMSD colleagues, some of whom Morgan worked with when Gordon hired him in 2014.
Morgan leaned heavily on tones of selflessness and homecoming. He turned in acknowledgement to Gordon, his former boss, multiple times in his speech.
"This is a day of celebration with this announcement," he told a crowd of 50 during Tuesday's press conference. He smiled big. "We celebrate you. So I'm just blessed to share this day with you."
Morgan's debut as CEO trails months of careful planning and surveying by the CMSD board, with focus groups and engagement sessions, with student feedback and public input, all aimed to do what may be unthinkable to many: find a leader as well-admired as Eric Gordon. (The top request, that is, at a February engagement session, as Scene previously reported
A native of Chicago, Morgan worked as an itinerant Midwestern teacher and principal in the first decade and a half of his career. He was an award-winning science teacher in St. Louis, then a principal in Chicago public schools, where, a press release said, Morgan "led a school turnaround."
Following stints as a White House Fellow, Morgan got a job in CMSD's central office some nine years ago. Gordon had admired Morgan's work in Chicago, and was impressed with his future colleague's sense of ease and professionalism.
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Elianys Soto, a student at John Marshall School of Information Technology, admired Morgan's humility during the selection process. "He took the time to shake each and every student's hands," she said. "He didn't have to do that."
"I actually did
hire him," Gordon said at the podium. "That should be a signal of my personal confidence in somebody that I intentionally brought to Cleveland."
Gordon found insight in Morgan's shining track record as Indianapolis admin, a role Morgan leveraged to "make significant gains" in the city's grade averages, as Gordon reminded the audience of Tuesday. Also, of course, that CMSD itself has the "12th highest gain growth scores in Ohio."
"[Morgan] has the talent to do this job," Gordon said. "He also has the professional humility to understand that this is not an easy job. And he's not just going to return with simple solutions to complex challenges that face our young people."
And the young people present agreed with Gordon's overall sentiment. Morgan, students told the press, seemed transparent.
"He was very approachable," Elianys Soto, a student at John Marshall School of Information Technology, said from the podium, recalling her help in the selection process. "He took the time to shake each and every student's hands. He didn't have
to do that. But the way he did that made us feel like we were on equal grounds."
Which seems to be a key value for Morgan himself.
In his speech, Morgan recalled what appeared to be a traumatic event as a Chicago teenager. At the end of junior year, his family's house burned to the ground. "Essentially homeless," Morgan lived the remainder of his high school years in a hotel.
As a freshman at Butler University in Indianapolis, as a Black man from Chicago, Morgan found himself as "an other" for the first time, he said. But, Morgan said, the understanding professors at Butler "gave me a sense of belonging." He was elected Student Body President. He was homecoming king.
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Mayor Bibb, Warren Morgan (center) and CMSD student Mayar Abdelhady (right).
"There are far too many kids like I was who are facing personal challenges at home and feel ostracized," he said, looking at the students around the room. "And if we do not provide a high quality education and ensure that our students feel safe, seen, heard and valued, we will lose them, and they will not be successful."
Deonte Walker, an 18-year-old senior at Garrett Morgan, told Scene after Morgan's speech that it was just this ear he gave to kids like him that left an impression.
Walker, who's excited to attend Tri-C with an interest in mechanical engineering, said that Morgan's sympathy could help cut down on some of the more egregious aspects of CMSD—namely the ongoing safety concerns and occasional fights.
"I'd like to see a change in students' behavior," Walker told Scene. "With him as a new CEO, [they will] listen to him—or he listens to them." That ear, Walker said, "can change the way they act."
Morgan will begin his role as Eric Gordon's replacement after the end of the school year in June.
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