A group representing CMS staff is calling on district managers to double current retention bonuses.
CHARLOTTE, NC — Charlotte-Mecklenburg teachers and staff continue to push for higher retention bonuses this year.
This comes at a time when the district is dealing with resignations and teacher shortages caused by COVID-19.
The CMS Board of Education unanimously adopted an existing retention bonus in December. Full-time employees will receive a total of $2,500 and part-time employees will receive $1,250.
The letter, which was sent ahead of Tuesday’s board meeting, asked CMS to use more COVID-19 relief funds for retention bonuses.
“Now is the time to do it,” said Justin Parmenter, a CMS college teacher, Ink4EdEquity representative, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Education Association board member. “This crisis is not going to get better and I know that the number of people who quit is increasing day by day.”
CMS is using about $48-49 million of the $317.5 million in COVID-19 relief funds for current retention bonuses.
At a school board meeting, a parent said the current state of teacher shortage due to salary and COVID-19 district leaders need to take action.
“I heard the Superintendent and President tonight thank those who have worked so hard that words have sacred meaning when not backed by the compensation that could come from the second largest district in the state,” Jordan Boyd, a CMS parent and member of the PTA, said.
Board Member Jennifer De La Jara said in part in a statement, “Based on conversations I have had with CMS Leadership, there is a willingness to use more ESSER funds for other retention bonuses. I hope to hear more later this month about the application they will submit to the DPI.”
ESSER funds are emergency relief funds for elementary and secondary schools. The funds are money sent to states by the federal government to be used for COVID-19 relief. All COVID-19 funds used in schools must be reviewed by the North Carolina Department of Public Institutions.
“I agree that incentivizing our educators is of utmost importance,” De La Jara said. “Without them, education obviously does not exist, so teacher compensation is a critical factor.”
Chair of the CMS Board of Directors, Elyse Dashew said she also supports the group’s request.
“I will just say nothing is on the table,” Dashew said.
She said she didn’t want to preempt CMS management, board members or the superintendent, but she thinks there is support for higher retention bonuses.
“It’s like we keep saying unprecedented challenges, historic challenges, but it just keeps going up another level and then another level and another level,” Dashew said. “So we have to help our employees.”
Board Member Lenora Shipp, who has spent more than three decades in education, also expressed support for higher retention bonuses for all staff.
“I’ve really been in the trenches, so I understand the hard work of the teachers, the staff, the support staff of everyone,” Shipp said. “And it takes all of us to get there. I really want to see us increase that bonus for all staff.”
De La Jara said it was important that teacher retention and recruitment be multifaceted.
“We also need to be able to attract future educators to the classroom, so our state legislature needs to provide a competitive pay scale so that we don’t lose teachers in South Carolina like we are currently losing” , she said in a statement.
Dashew said the district needs to use all of its tools to keep teachers.
“If we’re able to do another round of retention bonuses, it’s still a one-off thing that feels like a band-aid on something that needs a systemic fix, a long-term fix. That means better salaries for our staff. And for that, we need to work with our state and county funding partners to make that happen.”
There are several steps to go through from the school board, central CMS staff and the State before funds can be disbursed.