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Charlotte community taking a proactive approach to teacher shortages

A non-profit is leading a virtual Q&A session with CMS schools on how to be a guest teacher or volunteer.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is seeing a drop in the number of teacher absences in schools, but they still have hundreds of teachers and other staff out every day.

Superintendent Earnest Winston said the district has averaged around 400-500 teacher absences per day. At the beginning of the month, it averaged closer to 1,000.

Not all of the absences are able to be filled. For example, on Monday the district had 542 absences; 352 were covered by substitutes. This is causing the district to continue its search for guest teachers and volunteers.

Charlotte Community Think Tank is leading a virtual Q&A session with CMS on how to be a guest teacher or volunteer.

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“I’m not inherently a rich person. I don’t really have a lot of time to give all the time, but what I do have I try to contribute it back to the thing I say and love and is my passion," said Shamaiye Haynes, founder and project leader of the think tank.

Winston said at a recent school board meeting, the district saw its teachers' absences cut in half.

“It appears the trend is due to lower numbers of COVID cases among staff," he said. 

The virtual event will help communities members make an informed decision on how they can help.

"We think maybe up to 50 people may join the actual virtual stream, but it can be in the thousands of who has access to it once it's out there," Haynes said. 

The information session is Monday, Jan. 31, at 5:30 p.m.

You can pre-register online for the event here.

A different approach to recruiting school staff  

School districts across the Charlotte metro area are competing with one another to fill staff positions. Like other school districts, Cabarrus County Schools is facing a shortage of staff across the board. 

In a job fair on Wednesday they focused on recruiting non-instructional staff like bus drivers, school nutrition workers, and janitorial staff. 

The focus on teacher shortages around the country is a real and pressing issue, but human resource staff at the district said the focus on a shortage of support staff is just as pressing. 

“So bus drivers and mechanics, our custodial staff, our child nutrition workers, and our before- and after-school care workers," said Michael Williams, Cabarrus County Schools HR Director.

They’ve found the key to making people want to apply for a job is not just good pay, bonuses or incentives -- it's a personal connection.

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"We're Michael and Courtney and you know, they know who to reach out to," said Williams, pointing to district HR coordinator Courtney Smith, "and we have been able to walk them through the process and just make them know that this is a great place to work.” 

There’s a limited pool of qualified people to choose from for all positions in a school system. 

“You know, Michael and I and our colleague Leslie, we were able to be here and really help individually. And I think that's what matters," Smith said. 

The district said they have 11 bus drivers, 11 custodian and facilities staff, 6 school nutrition workers, and 10 before- and after-school staff under conditional hire thanks to a job fair that happened on Jan. 26.

Contact Shamarria Morrison at smorrison@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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