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Morton receives ‘exemplary’ rating on evaluation

Entering his eighth year as Harlan Independent Schools superintendent, C.D. Morton’s annual performance evaluation resulted in “exemplary” ratings across all seven leadership standards by the Harlan Independent Board of Education.

Kentucky Boards of Education perform an annual evaluation of superintendents rooted in the Next Generation Superintendent Effectiveness Standards.  These standards are designed to cover seven wide range leadership areas: strategic, instructional, cultural, human resource, managerial, collaborative and influential.

Board chairman Dr. Matt Nunez highlighted the influence of Morton’s leadership, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down schools in March.

“Under Morton’s leadership, I felt like our district was positioned to adapt very well during a very unusual time. The staff had been trained on 21st Century skills and every one of our students had access to computers,” he said.

“While unexpected, our district was prepared. The planning, implementation, and then the celebration of our senior class was second to none. He did an admirable job organizing and unifying our district in support of our students and families under some of the most difficult circumstances. It was clear the students were the priority and it was something we could all take pride in.”

The district has experienced widespread academic success under Morton throughout the years at the local, state and national level. Results from the latest assessments were among the very highest in the district. Both Harlan Elementary and Harlan Middle/High are annually recognized as top performing schools across the Commonwealth with state accountability assessments and routinely rank among the highest in Kentucky.

“When measuring the health of a school district, the academic performance of the students should be at the heart of the assessment,” said Will Miller, vice chairman. “When looking at how our students perform while in school and after graduation it is clear the system is running at a very high level.  From Sunshine Preschool to our Harlan High School graduates, the results speak for themselves.”

Noting the district’s recently approved construction documents for more than $7 million in planned renovations across the district, Miller went on to say, “In addition to academic success, Morton has been able to strengthen our financial position with regard to the general fund budget while also increasing our capital construction funds, allowing the district to invest in the school community for years to come.

“Morton has helped grow our culture of excellence and increase our funding streams to the benefit of our students and families in spite of some very difficult economic obstacles. Like the leaders before him, he has provided a great balance to meet the needs of current students while ensuring future generations are afforded the same opportunities at Harlan Independent.”

Morton noted that it takes a great deal of cooperation for a school district to produce students who perform at a high level each year.

“The success of our students and families has always been my number one priority, but in order to see that become a reality, it is the work of dedicated students, families, teachers, administrators and board members who value quality education. The strength of our district rests on the backs of quality instruction, rooted in the belief that all students are capable of achieving at high levels,” Morton said.

“Collectively, we have raised the bar in spite of the challenges we face each year. This district has given me so many things to be proud of over the years, none more than our focus on trying to push every student, regardless of background, home life, or life circumstances to rise above.”

He went on to add, “you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with, I have to say we have some of the most dedicated district and school leaders out there. They devote long hours and a lot of energy in helping make excellence synonymous with Harlan.”

Morton will enter his 29th year of education in the fall of 2020. He also serves on the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents Board of Directors and as a mentor to incoming superintendents through the Kentucky Association of School Administrators.