School board vote moves district closer to pay-for-performance model
by Staff Writer
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education voted down an attempt to halt the district’s controversial plan that would tie teacher pay to student performance, despite loud outcry from teachers and community members.
At the Tuesday, May 24, meeting board member Tom Tate proposed the district ask N.C. House Rep. Ruth Samuelson to “take no further action” on House bill 546, which establishes a district-wide performance-based employee compensation plan without teacher input or approval. The House approved the bill last month. The N.C. Senate is currently debating the measure.
Tate said the board failed to properly inform teachers about the measure, and any performance-based compensation plan would “require a majority of teachers to buy into it in order to move forward.”
The proposal failed 5-4, with board members Rhonda Lennon, Trent Merchant, Eric Davis, Joe White and Tim Morgan voting against it. Lennon pointed out that the N.C. Senate’s proposed budget, which lawmakers shared with the public Tuesday, May 24, includes $1 million to research a statewide public education merit-pay system, indicating that a pay-for-performance plan may be part of the district’s future even if the board abandoned its own plan.
School board Chairman Eric Davis said the district is better off creating its own compensation plan, instead of being forced to adopt a “one-size-fits-all system stretched across the state.”
Voting with Tate were Joyce Wadell, Richard McElrath and Kaye McGarry. They cited negative reactions from many of the district’s teachers as a reason to shelve the plan. Unlike a 2007 bill that attempted to revise teacher compensation, Samuelson’s bill, originally drafted by Superintendent Peter Gorman, did not require teacher approval.
“We did not consult with (teachers),” Tate said. “We did not inform them. We did not seek their input.”
Lennon wants comprehensive review of Bright Beginnings
Lennon also asked the board to approve a comprehensive review of the district’s Bright Beginnings pre-kindergarten program. She said the board should look at the program from “a clean slate” and study ways that nonprofit and for-profit early childhood education programs reduce operating cost.
She also reminded the board its primary responsibility is to fund K-12 education. Gorman’s proposed budget eliminates 80 Bright Beginnings classrooms throughout the district, unless it receives $50 million in extra funding from the county or higher-than-anticipated funding from the state.
Lennon said the board should honor the “need to wrap most of our budget toward K-12 education” and acknowledge the program has remained immune to budget cuts in recent years.
County Manager Harry Jones proposed the county give the district about half of the additional funding, but County Commissioners Chairwoman Jennifer Roberts indicated last week that she wants to send $40 million to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools by keeping the property tax rate the same. Jones’ plan lowered the tax rate by less than a cent.
In a statement made last week, Roberts said Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools risks losing steady gains made during the past three years even if the county provides the district with Jones’ suggested $26 million in additional funds.
Three agencies interested in Davidson IB building
Executive Planning and Project Management Director Michael Raible and Facilities Planning and Real Estate Director Dennis LaCaria also informed board members that 60 organizations have expressed interest in leasing empty school buildings, including Davidson IB. The Guardian Alliance, Lake Norman Christian School and the Town of Davidson have expressed interest in leasing the Davidson building.
Raible and LaCaria will work with the board in selecting a potential tenet, taking concerns such as profit and education value into account. At its second meeting in June, the board will rank the 60 total inquiries, and the staff will negotiate leases for the facilities. Lease holders will be responsible for all costs associated with operation and maintenance.