COVID stress rises as CMS schools do not have enough staff


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Some Charlotte educators say they are exhausted and unable to find the time to plan lessons, prepare for class, and grade student work.

Staff shortages in everything from bus drivers to guards to teachers compound the problem, and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Educators Association is calling on the community to take note.

More than 20 people gathered outside the Government Center on Tuesday evening ahead of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board meeting to “shed light on the current conditions in CMS schools,” according to the CMAE leaders who organized the event.

“If this is not resolved, we will face higher numbers of COVID-19 in schools, more staff shortages and a lack of support for our students and their results,” said the president of the CMAE, Amanda Thompson-Rice. “We know our community values ​​education. We want them to hear from educators and frontline allies so they know what we need and how to support us.

Thompson-Rice and others want more funding and more pressure on heads of state. for education. Schools across North Carolina and across the country face staff shortages and increased stress as teachers run classrooms marked by pandemic interruptions and concerns about how students will catch up. their delay.

In CMS, 500 teachers have resigned since August, and 91 more are expected to resign by December. Earlier this month, district officials said there were 83 unfilled teaching positions.

“Staff responsible for covering vacations and absences find themselves in situations where they are unable to do the basic necessities of the day, such as eating or using the bathroom,” said Rae LeGrone, CMS teacher. “Staff fall ill with exhaustion, which creates more absences. It’s a vicious circle. ”

CMS facing shortages

Staff shortages, including substitute teachers, have been a problem since the start of the school year in August. CMS addressed the issues with salary increases and new initiatives.

Last Friday, the district’s human resources department announced an expansion of the visiting teacher program and a new replacement performance bonus to help attract more workers.

The Visiting Teacher initiative has been extended to the entire district to provide at least one Visiting Teacher for each school in the district. Additional allowances will be distributed based on a number of factors, including vacancy and replacement rates.

CMS also created a higher rate of pay for certified visiting teachers at $ 180 per day. The non-certified visiting professor rate remains at $ 150 per day. All visiting faculty positions will receive full benefits, and the positions are considered temporary and funded until June 2023.

Additionally, from November 1 through June, Daily Replacements will earn a bonus for completing a minimum number of missions each month, the district said. Daily replacements who complete between five and nine assignments per month will receive a bonus of $ 200, and those who complete 10 or more assignments each month will receive a bonus of $ 500.

“This bonus program is designed to inspire and recognize our valued replacements for their important work and to encourage them to take on additional duties,” district officials said.

CMS also increased the starting wage for bus drivers from $ 15.75 per hour to $ 17.75 to help the district become more competitive. Districts in the state and country are experiencing a shortage of bus drivers.

Parents say the shortages are having an impact on students.

“It’s not ideal that 2 of my 3 kids don’t have a full-time licensed teacher to educate them,” said Corey Nutting, CMS parent. “My high school student is learning pre-calculus primarily via Canvas in a distance learning style while sitting in a high school classroom. And none of my kids have reliable bus transportation to and from school. The daily uncertainty leaves my children exhausted by the time they get home – sometimes at 5 pm, sometimes not before 6 pm. ”

“Now is the time to act”

On Tuesday evening, board members voted 8 to 1 to make Monday, November 1 a working day for teachers to help cut down on time lost due to COVID-19 – time, according to executives district, significantly hampered the ability of staff to properly plan, implement and evaluate their teaching based on student achievement.

Specifically, the day will help elementary school teachers in the district carry a “heavy load of state-mandated professional development.”

In April 2021, the state legislature passed updated Read to Achieve legislation that requires all K-5 teachers who teach literacy to complete LETRS Professional Development. The deadline to complete the training is August 2022.

According to a member of the CMS communications team, pre-K teachers take a one-year course totaling around 35 hours. For K-5 teachers, the professional development package consists of eight units to be completed over two years. LETRS indicates that the average time to complete a unit is approximately 20 hours. Six hours of this learning are synchronous in a virtual environment.

CMS has scheduled synchronous sessions on working days and early exit days throughout the school year.

“The difficulty of carrying out this professional development has been exacerbated this year due to a lack of replacements,” Yaviri Escalera, of the CMS communications team, told Observer. “This has made it more difficult for teachers to be able to follow synchronous professional development during their working hours. “

Thompson-Rice said something has to give way.

“CAME calls on our school board, local leaders, district leaders, parents, students and allies to pressure state leaders to fully fund education in North Carolina,” said Thompson-Rice. “Now is not the time for politics. Now is the time to act. Funding shows where your heart is, and your heart should be with our students. “

This story was originally published October 27, 2021 10:12 a.m.

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Norma A. Roth