MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools continue to see teachers resign as the school year progresses. The total amount of teacher resignations for the school year is now at least 1,056. This represents about 11% of CMS’s total teaching staff but paired with hundreds of teacher absences due to COVID-19 and a nationwide teacher shortage the district is seeing a strain.
Many school advocates in the community can’t remember a time quite like this for teachers.
The challenges to staff classrooms around the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area are why Shamaiye Haynes, founder of nonprofit Charlotte Community Think Tank, put together a virtual question and answer session about open CMS positions.
“We're about quality -- okay, but we're in a crisis situation," Haynes said. "And nobody on this webinar believes that this is the optimal place that we want to be as a school system or even members of the community for children and school.”
CMS has about 300 open positions on its site for teachers. Neighboring district Union County Public Schools also has open positions. Across the UCPS district, there are 172 openings but these include non-instructional staff as well. In January, 30 staff members resigned, according to a recent submission to the board.
CMS has had success with its guest teacher program. It’s funded by emergency COVID-19 funds given to schools by the federal government.
“There was an overwhelmingly a lot of positive feedback about how the guest teacher program is working," Leah Davis, Executive Director of Central 2 Learning Community, said. "It's really been kind of something that has really helped them in being able to keep in person learning going.
The session broke down the different opportunities community members can use to help CMS.
They include the district's guest teacher program, substitute teaching, before and after school positions, and volunteering.
Ross Danis, president and CEO of MeckEd, was inspired by students’ stories volunteered.
"They were just telling stories that made me cry, frankly, you know," Danis said. "They go into school every day going, 'Do I have a sub or I've been dispersed?'"
At one time CMS was facing an average of 1,000 teachers a day out during January. That number has since gone down to about 400 to 500 a day according to CMS.
"What do you mean being dispersed? Well, they're dispersed to like the gym or to the cafeteria where they just work on campus on their laptops," Danis said.
The school needs more than just teachers.
“We have a need for substitute secretaries," Deitra Haynes, a CMS recruiter, said. "Just when you go into our schools and you see the smiling faces that greet you when you come through the door.”
The group said there is a way for everyone to step in and help during unprecedented times.
RETENTION BONUS PROPOSAL
One solution proposed by district leaders was doubling the retention bonuses for staff. Currently, the bonus for full-time staff $2,500, meaning the suggested increase would boost it to $5,000. Part-time also would get a doubled bonus if approved, from $1,250 to $2,500.
Guest teachers would also get bonuses under the new plan; right now, they're not eligible.
The price tag for this proposal is $49 million. CMS would draw on funds from the American Rescue Plan to pay for this.