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CMS needs 377 more teachers when classes start in less than three weeks

CMS held an event Tuesday for more than 600 teachers new to the district.
@CMSBTSuccess Twitter
CMS held an event Tuesday for more than 600 teachers new to the district.

Less than three weeks before students return to classrooms, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has 377 teacher vacancies, officials told the school board Tuesday.

That's more than twice the number at this time last year. It represents about a 4% vacancy rate in a district with 9,000 teachers.

Associate Superintendent Laura Francisco said as of Tuesday 41 of the district’s 181 schools were fully staffed. "Of the remaining, the average number of vacancies per school is three," she said.

CMS had to replace 2,100 teachers who left during the past school year, Francisco said. In recent years CMS has lost fewer than 1,000 per year, according to state reports.

Francisco and Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh said a number of factors contributed to the shortage going into the opening of schools.

"I need to address the very shallow pool of teacher candidates, not only in Charlotte-Mecklenburg but across the state and the nation," Hattabaugh said. "Teacher education programs at the college and university level have declined dramatically over the last decade."

Francisco said other barriers to recruiting include North Carolina's licensure process and teacher pay. "I do think affordable housing can be a barrier," she added.

And she said an influx of federal COVID-19 relief money and Title I funding has been used to create new jobs.

CMS is continuing to recruit and offer signing bonuses. It also has 375 guest teachers, or permanent subs assigned to specific schools, who can help fill gaps. Most, however, are not certified teachers.

Kondra Rattley, chief of equity and school performance, told the board this year’s opening will be challenging.

"But we’ll drive home forward with ensuring that students have a responsible adult in front of them, not just to watch over but to actually begin the instructional day," she said. "It is not going to be easy and time is ticking, as we know. But we are all committed to ensuring that our students have what they need day one. "

CMS also still has 40 bus driver vacancies, or about 4% of the total fleet, with another 40 on leave. The district is also seeking about 150 teacher assistants and 100 cafeteria workers.

The first day for students is Aug. 29.

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.