CMS students and teachers sing,
Dozens of students, parents and community leaders turned out yesterday to support teachers who've lost their jobs as part of cuts in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools budget for next year. WFAE's Simone Orendain reports: As rallies go, it was a small group of less than 100 that gathered at Marshall Park. But the protestors voices carried. They sang against the district eliminating close to 1,300 jobs - most of those teachers. CMS is cutting staff to try to fill a $120 million hole in next year's budget plan. Carolyn Smith-Hester taught third grade at Reid Park Elementary until she was laid off recently. She worked at CMS 30 years, retired, then returned to teach three years ago. At the rally, she held up one of two big signs: "Like my sign says, every child deserves a certified, qualified teacher in front of them teaching. And I think it's a shame that we are letting the most experienced, most qualified, most highly effective teachers go!" In making the cuts, the district first targeted low performing staffers. Then it looked at whether certain employees were licensed, retired or had been with CMS for less than five years, to determine whether to renew their contracts. The rally continued during the CMS board meeting when students and community leaders spoke during the public comment portion. Myers Park senior Sharon Eshet pleaded with the board to rehire two popular veteran teachers that were recently let go. "I ask you, as someone who cares about tomorrow as much as you say you do, to please rethink your decision. My friends and I, we're all graduating seniors and we're a small group, but I think you can understand we're fighting for something far bigger," she said. Superintendent Peter Gorman has said he hopes the district will be able to rehire star teachers. The budget plan has flexibility to recall teachers if money becomes available. The county ordered CMS to trim about 10 percent of its budget request. Meanwhile, a legislative committee is discussing a potential cut of 11 percent to the state education budget. Both sources fund 90 percent of the CMS budget. The district won't know exactly how much it's receiving from both bodies until their budgets are adopted this month. But budget negotiations could last into July.