CMS schools will be closed on May 1 in response to the large number of district teachers who have requested time off to participate in a march and rally in Raleigh. Teachers will also use the day to lobby legislators for pay raises, increases in per-pupil spending, additional resources and other benefits.
On Tuesday, CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox told school board members that more than 1,200 teachers and more than 100 other personnel had requested the day off to attend the rally. He said it would be difficult to cover those absences. In announcing the school closure, Wilcox said the teacher leave requests had ballooned to nearly 2,000 today, making it even harder to cover classrooms on the day of the march.
"At this time, we cannot guarantee sufficient substitute teacher capacity and this decision is based on those considerations," Wilcox said in a statement. "We expect the number of our educators participating in the May 1 rally to increase as the day draws closer."
Wilcox says May 1 will be an optional teacher work day and no make-up day will be needed. Any student testing on that day will be rescheduled, after-school programs will be cancelled but high school athletic conference tournaments will be held. Parents are advised to call officials about scheduled field trips to find out if they will go forward, be rescheduled or cancelled.
"CMS will be working to ease the burden of a closed school day," Wilcox said. "We may not be able to fulfill all needs, but we will do our best in this community to collaborate and coordinate with area partners to support our families."
Erlene Lyde, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators says they want to continue to push legislators to approve more funds for education. She says veteran teachers in Charlotte have received only about a 1 percent annual pay increase in recent years and that teachers don't have the resources that they need in the classroom.
"Last year we sent a message to the state that we want them to do better by not just teacher pay but per pupil funding and we plan to go back this year to make that point and especially getting our low-wage workers up to $15 an hour," Lyde said. "That includes bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians and teacher assistants."
Last May, the rally, which is organized by the North Carolina Association of Educators, drew about 19,000 teachers and others from across the state. State Superintendent Mark Johnson had encouraged teachers not to attend the rally because of the loss in instruction and also because hourly workers, such as bus drivers and custodians will not get paid if their school districts close. He suggested that the rally be held on a non-school day.
As of Thursday, CMS and seven other school districts are closing on the day of the rally. They include Wake, Durham, Guilford, Winston-Salem/Forsyth, Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Orange and Lexington counties.
"Together their collective voice will change communities across our state on May 1 as they advocate for investments in public education that matter most to our students and their futures," Wilcox said.