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Filling Vacancies And Planning Safety Screenings Are Part Of CMS Back-To-School Prep

A new South Carolina law allows the state superintendent to declare a state-of-education emergency in school districts where 65% or more of the schools are rated “underperforming” for three straight years and potentially fire school boards in those districts.
CMS hopes to entice bus drivers with a $1,000 signing bonus.

Even with the distractions of a pandemic, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is focusing on some traditional back-to-school plans. Those include filling vacancies and protecting against threats that are not linked to a virus.

Human Resources Chief Christine Pejot told the school board Tuesday that CMS hopes to use American Rescue Plan money to offer signing bonuses for hard-to-fill jobs.

CMS needs drivers for about 950 buses, and as of Tuesday night it had 77 jobs to fill. The plan calls for $1,000 bonuses for new hires and current drivers.

"That is because that is the group that we're seeing the most turnover with," Pejot said.

She says CMS needs 123 more teachers. Scattered across 180 schools, that means most are fully staffed or close to it.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

"We have six schools across our entire district that have three or more vacancies, and of those schools, five of them have three. There is one school that has six," Pejot said.

Pejot says special education is the biggest gap. The plan would offer those teachers $2,500 for signing on.

And there’s another need related to the pandemic: The folks who fix and install air filtration systems, which are considered crucial to reducing the spread of COVID-19. CMS wants to offer $1,000 recruitment bonuses for those technicians.

"HVAC is incredibly important," she said. "It’s a challenge to find skilled people in this area, especially because of the high needs throughout our community in response to COVID."

CMS is also streamlining its process for creating a districtwide pool of substitute teachers. Pejot said CMS has 1,600 on the roster now, and she hopes to offer $250 bonuses for new recruits. Subs will also get an extra $20 a day for working in high-poverty Title I Schools.

Classroom Searches Return

With in-person classes resuming, CMS Police Chief Lisa Mangum says classroom searches will, too. Students are returning at a time when violence crime is at high levelsin the community.

Before the pandemic, officers and dogs trained to sniff out guns and drugs visited randomly selected middle and high schools.

"The safety screenings will be deployed again this new school year," she said.  

And CMS is continuing its active survival training to prepare educators in case an armed attacker enters a school.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.