CMS reveals system for $500 raises

After months of work, Superintendent Heath Morrison on Tuesday revealed a complex system that will deem about 1,500 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teachers eligible for four-year contracts and $500-a-year raises.

Then he said he hopes teachers never learn who made the cut.

School board members took turns talking about how much they hate the plan. Then they approved it unanimously.

It’s part of the twisted dynamics of a state plan to phase out teacher tenure. CMS is inching toward complying with a law that has united teachers, administrators and board members across North Carolina in resistance.

The law, approved last summer, requires districts to select 25 percent of teachers who meet minimum standards for experience and job reviews and offer them four-year contracts. Teachers who accept must surrender their tenure, and all teachers are slated to lose that job protection by 2018.

“I just see this as being a divisive thing,” said board Chairwoman Mary McCray, a retired teacher.

The N.C. Association of Educators and the Guilford and Durham county school districts have sued to block the plan. Many other school boards, including CMS and Wake, have asked the state to repeal or delay the plan when they convene in May.

“We hope, we pray that they will hear us and be moved to do something different,” board member Ericka Ellis-Stewart said.

The CMS resolution asks for a one-year delay to allow districts to create a better plan for teacher contracts and compensation.

Board member Eric Davis called that a no-lose proposition for state legislators, especially those running for re-election. If CMS creates a better plan, everyone benefits. If the district fails, local officials take the blame, he said.

“All they have to do is be patient for one year,” Davis said. “We’re the ones stepping into the line of fire. We’re not going to come up with something everybody’s going to like, but I think we’ll come up with something better.”

The lawsuits seek an injunction barring the state from forcing districts to choose 25 percent for contracts. If that doesn’t happen, Morrison said he hopes legislators will act quickly to grant a reprieve.

If nothing changes, the plan calls for Morrison to bring the board a list of names for approval on May 27, “the last minute possible” for meeting the state deadline.

“I’m just hoping that we don’t have to bring those names to you,” he said.

The contracts would go to designated faculty on May 30, and they’d have until June 30 to decide whether to sign. Some teachers say they won’t give up their tenure, which provides due process before they can be fired. Those who accept the contract will get a $500 raise for each of the four years. For instance, a teacher making $40,000 now would be at $42,000 in 2017-18.

CMS estimates that 6,000 classroom teachers and other licensed staff, such as counselors, librarians and psychologists, meet the state requirements for proficient job ratings and three consecutive years working for the district. Twenty-five percent of them must be chosen.

Those employees will be awarded points based on ratings in various job categories, advanced degrees, National Board certification, whether they are licensed to teach multiple subjects and whether they work in hard-to-fill areas such as Montessori, math, science, foreign language, special education, speech therapy and English as a second language.

Administrators and teachers talked about including experience, attendance and/or student test scores toward the rankings but rejected those measures.

The group also discussed whether to select 25 percent from each school but decided that put an unfair burden on principals. Instead, points will be compared across the district for selection.

Members said they don’t like being forced to select an arbitrary minority of qualified teachers for rewards, but they praised Morrison for moving toward compliance while they and others lobby for change.

“I think this is making the best out of something that is not good,” board member Rhonda Lennon said.

Ellis-Stewart said she has talked to students who are aware of North Carolina’s low teacher pay and the frustration created by the 25 percent plan.

“They’re wondering: Are some of their best teachers going to return next year?” she said. “I think that is a shame.”

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