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With hundreds of teacher vacancies, CMS Board approves even bigger retention bonuses for staff members

Guest teachers also get bonuses under the new plan, now eligible for a total bonus of $2,500.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education unanimously voted to double the district's retention bonuses for employees during its Feb. 8 meeting.

The original bonuses were $2,500 for eligible full-time staff and $1,250 for eligible part-time staff in two payments -- one of which has already been issued. Under the newly-approved modified bonus plan, full-time employees will receive an additional $2,500 and part-time employees will receive an additional $1,250.

Guest teachers would also get bonuses under the new plan, now eligible for a total bonus of $2,500. Previously, they weren't eligible.

RELATED: All CMS employees won't receive maximum retention bonus

The cost of this modification is estimated to be $49 million added to the initial plan’s cost of $48 million, and CMS says the entire cost of approximately $97 million will be covered using funds from the American Rescue Plan.

“CMS employees have kept our students learning and schools functioning through the incredible hardship of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Board chair Elyse Dashew said in a statement. “Many have been pushed almost to the breaking point. We are so grateful to them, and these new bonuses are an additional way of recognizing their amazing work. However, we must remember that a bonus is but a temporary response. We must work with the state and the county for a sustainable solution: better pay for the heroes who serve in our public schools.”

As of Monday, CMS had just around 250 open positions for teachers. The district has had success with its guest teacher program. The program, which debuted in October, hires full-time employees to help cover classes during staff shortages. Guest teachers are assigned to specific schools and earn $150 per day with benefits. 

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Data obtained by WCNC Charlotte shows that 1,056 teachers have resigned so far this school year, which represents about 11% of CMS' total teaching staff. The staff shortages are impacting more than just the classroom. A CMS recruiter said the district also needs substitute secretaries to greet guests on campus. 

Proponents of increased retention bonuses say extra money could go a long way in helping burned-out teachers stay on the job. 

“I’ve heard from the superintendent and chair tonight thanking those who’ve worked so hard words have hallow meaning when not backed up by the compensation that could come forth from the second-largest district in the state," Jordan Boyd, a CMS parent and PTA member, said at a board meeting in January.

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