Twenty-six Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools administrators, including 15 principals, got raises of more than $10,000 a year based on a 2007 market-rate study, according to a list the school system released Wednesday.
CMS officials say the market raises for 6,377 employees are an overdue bump that would have come four years ago if the recession hadnt hit. Those raises, paid for with $3.6 million in county money, are in addition to the 3 percent raises going to all 18,000-plus CMS employees, the first pay increase most have had in three years.
Most of the market-based raises go to hourly workers who will get an additional $1,000 a year or less. But 58 principals more than one in three systemwide are getting market raises, many of them at the higher end of the scale. The 3 percent is added after the market increase.
Teachers werent part of the market study, so they get the 3 percent. That adds $1,412 to the salary of a teacher with 10 years experience and a masters degree, who made $47,080 last year.
The market increases are raising questions at a time when CMS leaders had hoped that long-awaited raises would boost morale.
This might be the biggest slap in the face to every teacher in CMS, said a high school teacher who asked that his name not be published because he hadnt had a chance to talk with his principal.
School board member Rhonda Lennon said she almost voted against the budget Tuesday because of her reservations about giving such large raises based on data collected five years ago, before the recession.
Is the data even still accurate? she asked. I would have found it more palatable had there been an upper cap.
Board Chairman Ericka Ellis-Stewart said Wednesday that she had not reviewed the raise list, so it would be premature to comment.
Daniel Habrat, the chief human resources officer for CMS, said Wednesday that private companies would normally update market studies every one or two years, but salaries in public education dont fluctuate as fast or as sharply.
I believe the process that was followed in 2007 was a thoughtful and valid process, said Habrat, who joined CMS in 2011. He said he doesnt think 3 percent for teachers is enough to make them whole after three years of rising costs of living, but said he hopes people will remember how hard leaders worked to get that raise.
My true hope is that our whole staff feels like the community went to bat for them, he said. It has been quite a journey to get here.
The top market-based raise
The top raise, $17,202 a year, went to Susan Norwood, executive director of a federally funded merit-pay program known as TIF-LEAP. That would bring her annual salary of $82,306 to $99,507, with the 3 percent raise boosting it to $102,492.
The TIF-LEAP program will expire this year and does not appear to be one of the specific jobs examined in the 2007 study. Habrat said the raise was based on a market value for all executive directors and on Norwoods length of time in that job. When the TIF-LEAP job disappears, he said, Norwood will keep the new salary if she moves to a comparable position.
The only other two raises that topped $15,000 a year went to an inventory and distribution executive director ($16,058) and a routing and scheduling manager ($15,038).
Rick Parker, principal of East Mecklenburg High, got the largest raise for a school administrator, at $14,744 a year. He was making $93,000 a year before the raises.
Most of the market raises went to hourly workers, such as teacher assistants and bus drivers. Their raises range from 1 cent to 50 cents an hour, with most at 30 cents. None of those raises added more than $1,040 a year to hourly workers pay, CMS said.
When the school board approved the pay plan June 26, Habrat told the board that about 250 salaried staff members were getting market raises. Most of them were assistant principals.
The Observer has been requesting specifics ever since. The list provided Wednesday afternoon shows that 246 salaried staff got market raises, including 34 assistant principals and 58 principals. Principals dominated the higher end of the market raises.
Even principals were privately raising questions about who got how much. Some who got market raises have also gotten raises or bonuses through CMS programs to attract strong principals to struggling schools.
The study by Deloitte Consulting compared 2006 pay for CMS principals and assistant principals with similar positions in 14 other districts, including Wake, Guilford, Forsyth and Union counties; Louisville, Ky.; Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Atlanta; Memphis; and Montgomery County, Md., in suburban Washington, D.C.
That report was not updated for current conditions. Tuesday night, Superintendent Heath Morrison said that it made sense to deliver on the raises that had been promised, rather than waiting and spending money for a new study. He was not available to discuss the raises Wednesday.
Of the salaried staff, 26 got bumps of more than $10,000 a year, 93 got $5,000 to $10,000 and 127 got less than $5,000.
The superintendent and executive staff were not part of the market study. However, some assistants to top administrators got market raises.
Mixed feelings for teachers
Judy Kidd, president of the Classroom Teachers Association, said she has mixed feelings about the market-based pay. She said some of the principals and others on the list deserved a raise, but its just kind of hard to imagine why someone would be able to command a $17,000 raise when were getting a measly 3 percent.
To top off the frustration, some teachers logged onto the CMS system, as recommended by a CMS email sent Wednesday, and were told they were ineligible for the 3 percent raise. That was an error that will be corrected Thursday, Habrat said.