CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Christmas came early Wednesday for hundreds of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools employees. The school board approved bonuses earlier this month, and while some teachers and staff say they appreciate the thought — many still think more should be given.
A petition is now underway urging CMS to consider increasing the retention bonuses from $2,500 to $5,000. Those petitioning for more money got the $5,000 figure from Wake County Public Schools, which they call a comparable district.
Teachers Rae LeGrone and Justin Parmenter, who started the petition, said it was a way to gauge if other people, like them, thought the current retention bonuses for staff wasn’t enough.
"My daughter goes to my school, and after winter break, she doesn't have a science teacher anymore," Parmenter, a seventh-grade language arts teacher at South Academy of International Languages, said. "Her teacher took a job in the private sector and moved to Texas, just because she's got a small child, and she can't afford to stay in the classroom. It's as simple as it's a simple economic decision."
Those in support of the change say more money could help keep encouraging even more employees to stick around if they felt more appreciated.
CMS used around $48 million out of the $317.5 million of the American Rescue Plan.
"Just this week, the US Secretary of Education said that the federal money that they're sending to localities, they would like to see that being used to keep people in the field," LeGrone said.
Between Aug. 1 and Oct. 19, 524 teachers left the district, with nearly 100 more planning to leave by the end of 2021. According to data provided to WCNC Charlotte on Dec. 7, at least 871 CMS teachers have resigned this school year.
LeGrone works at Olympic High School.
A school that has seen the highest number of staff resignations this year.
“We do believe that everyone, everyone staffing buildings and buses, needs to be recognized at this time and the Exodus," LeGrone said. "I know we talk a lot about teachers leaving the field, but everyone's leaving the field. So bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers, secretaries, front office, people, everybody's leaving.”
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education unanimously passed the existing retention bonus plan on Dec. 8 in a virtual emergency meeting. The bonuses will go to all employees, including teachers, janitors and cafeteria workers.
Full-time employees will get $2,500 and part-time employees will get $1,250. The retention bonuses will be paid out in two payments, one on Dec. 22 of this year, and one in September 2022. Substitute and guest teachers are exempt from the bonuses.
After taxes, the first half of the $2,500 bonuses came out to around $800 dollars for many teachers. They won’t see the second half of the money until Fall.
“That didn't land well with people," Parmenter said. "You know, especially since it was called a retention incentive. And especially, you know, when people found out what was happening in other districts.”
Parmenter is talking about Wake County Schools in the Raleigh area getting around $5,000 in retention bonuses this school year.
Lockdowns, violence, resignations, and COVID-19 struggles are just some of the reasons LeGrone and Parmenter say CMS needs to consider the higher bonuses quickly.
"We've got a lot of staff here in Charlotte Mecklenburg that have stuck it out, you know, that are committed to their job, and committed to their students," Parmenter said. "But I think everyone has their limit. Everyone has their breaking point, everyone has their limit, we've seen a lot of people that just couldn't do it anymore. And I think we probably have a lot more people who are right there.”
The school board has not indicated if they're considering increasing the bonus pay.