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CMS BOE meeting: School leaders discuss staffing, school safety, advanced courses

The board of education also voted to give final approval to the 2021-22 budget during its Tuesday meeting.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education met Tuesday, discussing several key issues impacting students from staffing to safety.

Teacher shortage

Since the start of January, CMS has averaged 1,000 teacher absences a day, according to the superintendent report. Of these absences, the district has been able to fill less than half. 

Since late last week, Superintendent Earnest Winston said the district has averaged 400 absences. In particular, on Monday the district had 542 absences, 352 of which were covered by substitutes. 

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

The amount of bus drivers absent on average has also been almost cut in half.

One day in early January, 145 school nutrition employees were absent. Winston said on Tuesday that number was down to 91.

“This does not mean we don’t face challenges," he said. 

RELATED: Eased leave rules seek to get more NC employees in schools

Progress monitoring reports

At Tuesday's meeting, district leaders also heard a progress monitoring report regarding college-level advanced courses. The goal for the district is to increase the percentage of students that complete at least one advanced course by graduation from 47% in October 2017 to 75% by October 2024. 

So far, the district is off track for that goal. 

Currently, 56% of students in grade 12 have passed or are on track to pass a college-level advanced course in the year 2021. In order to get closer to the district's goal, schools will follow a three-pronged plan consisting of a 30-day strategy, a 30-90-day strategy, and a 120-day strategy. 

CMS Board of Education Student Advisor Juan Torres Muñoz asked how the school district is encouraging students to take the advanced courses which are, by design, more challenging. 

Winston said the district has room to grow.

“Certainly the awareness, more school-wide events to share more specific information about these opportunities that exist," Winston said. 

Board members also called for insight on disparities in enrollment. Board Chair Elyse Dashew pointed out that despite qualifying for AP and IB courses, Black and Latino students have not enrolled in the courses at the same rates. 

Winston said awareness is a huge issue, and staffing issues have prevented students from receiving adequate support. 

In response, multiple board members called on principals, counselors or other school staff to get directly involved in encouraging students to enroll in these courses. 

School safety

Clear backpacks are also finally going to be issued for CMS high schools. The move, which district leaders have discussed at previous meetings, is in response to a sharp rise in guns at schools in the district.

Winston did not provide an exact date for when to expect the clear backpacks to become standard but said it would be within the next few weeks.  

The announcement comes the same day that students started getting trained on the Say Something anonymous reporting app. 

RELATED: CMS launching violence prevention program

District leaders are also considering body scanners similar to those in use at the Bank of America Stadium. 

Budget approval

The board of education also voted to give final approval to the 2021-22 budget. The $2.2. billion operating budget includes $472.1 million in temporary federal funds for coronavirus impacts, and was delayed until the state budget was adopted. 

In addition to approving the 2021-22 budget, the board approved the following:

  • $80.6 million School Nutrition Services budget 
  • $8.7 million After School Enrichment Program budget
  • $18 million in sustainment capital funding 
  • $4.9 million in capital replacement funding

“We are glad to have completed the full budget process,” Dashew said in a statement. “Although this was a formality, it’s an important part of the total budget process we do each year.”

New principal announced

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education also approved the appointment of a new principal for Harding University High. 

Glenn Starnes II has a history in education spanning since 2009 over several districts and multiple positions. He most recently served as an administrator at KIPP North Carolina Public Schools, where he worked since 2001.

Eric T. Ward, Sr., Harding University High School's previous principal, died on Sept. 22, 2021. Ward had worked at CMS for more than 20 years. 

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

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