The school board grappled with two parts to Superintendent Peter Gorman's recommendation to trim the classroom positions. First was the part about eliminating 456 teachers and 83 assistant principals. This brought about 120 teachers and school support staff to a protest behind the CMS Education Center uptown prior to the board meeting.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators Vice President Dennis Townsend rallied the crowd, yelling, "No to cuts! No to cuts!..." The advocacy group wants staff cuts to come from the top. Several speakers at the rally pointed to executive positions at the Ed Center as the place to start. "Why not this building here?" asked Townsend, pointing behind him.
Mary McCray is the local association president. She says starting pay for four teachers is equivalent to a $130,000 a year position at the central office or any of the district's seven area offices. "I really believe that you could find good people to fill the positions that you cut there. But it is very difficult to find a good teacher to replace in the classrooms," she said.
The rally also brought an unlikely supporter. Republican board member Ken Gjertsen promised the crowd he would not vote for the move. During the board meeting attended by many protestors, Gjertsen said that at budget talks the board had repeatedly called for leaving classroom positions untouched. He said, "We kept getting lobbied about how there's a need to get rid of teachers or cut teachers. I don't believe it and I don't want anyone else to believe it. No you can clap, you don't have to wave your hands!..." as the crowd cheered loudly.
Board vice chair Kaye McGarry has long been vocal about what she has called bloat in the CMS budget. But she also didn't support the proposal. McGarry said there are too many unknowns such as the outcome of the state budget plan and federal stimulus allocation rules. She said, "I think it's premature and I think we need a better picture of the financials before we tell teachers, 'Outta here!..."
The second part of Gorman's recommendation was how to go about trimming those classroom positions. "The goal is not to let people go at all. But there are certain processes and timelines we have to put in action both by state law and board policy that we need, to give people appropriate time," he said.
Under this recommendation, teachers would be eliminated based on their performance. Another determining factor would be how long they've been with CMS. Gorman reminded the board that the district had to act soon because principals need to have staffing plans for next school year. The district faces a possible shortfall of $85 million to $100 million in next year's budget. Gorman has said this would mean cutting about 1,200 jobs district-wide.