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CMS Board of Education doubles retention bonus for employees, guest teachers now included

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – Thousands of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools employees are getting an extra boost in their retention bonuses.

The CMS Board of Education unanimously approved increasing the amount of money for the retention bonuses for all full and part-time staff on Tuesday.

The board unanimously approved the increase. Please see the new payment dates below.

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In December 2021, the Board approved a $2,500 bonus for full-time employees and $1,250 for part-time employees. This did not include guest teachers or daily substitutes. The first installment was paid in December with the second to be paid in September.

“It means extra groceries, gas is going up, I want to buy a home so I’m very excited with the extra money,” said CMS guest teacher Karen Stokes.

Tuesday’s vote included guest teachers and increased the amount to $5,000 for full-time employees and $2,500 for part-time employees.

This will cost $49 million dollars and will come from American Rescue Plan funding.

This also made guest teachers eligible to receive a retention bonus. Olympic High School guest teacher Karen Stokes says she was grateful to be recognized for her hard work.

“I feel like I’m a part of it now. I’m sure I speak on behalf of all guest teachers that we really play a role and we should be recognized for our efforts,” Stokes said.

CMS custodian Brandon Chuck Brown says this increase is well worth it especially for the other employees who contribute to the school system.

“For the work that the average custodian, the cafeteria worker, the bus drivers put in, I think it’s a start it’s a great start but we’re looking forward to getting more bonuses throughout the year,” Brown said.

Robert Wright is an Exceptional Children’s teacher at Olympic High School.

Wright says every dollar helps but he’s hoping the district uses federal funds for long-term support especially with staff shortages and extra responsibilities.

“It’s beyond the monetary support, it’s great but what are we doing to really kind of build morale as a CMS support system, as a teacher support system, and as a human being, how is that helping us out rather than just giving us money,” Wright said.

Wright acknowledged the bonuses were helpful especially for making ends meet, but is pushing for higher salaries.

“It’s nice to have, no one is ever going to complain about getting more supplemental money to support them; however, what is the more permanent solution that we’re looking at? How is this going to affect teachers in the long run,” Wright said.

“I hope that county officials and at the state level that they would recognize the fact we are doing an awesome job and we should be paid for it,” Stokes said.

Thousands of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools employees are getting an extra boost in their retention bonuses.

Several Board members acknowledged the increase in bonus money isn’t a long-term solution which is why they’re requesting more support from county and state partners.

“I’m very much aware that we’re not going to bonus our way out of the teaching crisis or the general labor shortage that we’re experiencing,” said At-Large Board member Jennifer De La Jara.

Last summer the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners and CMS leaders reached an agreement after weeks of battling over the budget and a strategic plan.

The BOCC allocated 538 million dollars to the district for this fiscal year. More than 11 million dollars went toward salary and benefit increases.

School leaders are advocating for more money for this next fiscal year.

“I’m also calling on our county leaders, and we’ve already been in discussions with them about increasing the teacher supplement because we’ve done our part, we’re continuing to do our part but we need help,” De La Jara said.

District 5 commissioner and former educator Laura Meier agreed.

“Jennifer De La Jara said it best when she said we can’t bonus our way out of the teaching crisis. We can’t, they need their partners, they need the state, they need the county. I firmly believe that we have got to honor what CMS is asking from us,” Meier said.

CMS will present their budget request to the county in May – while Meier is just one person she says she’s on board with getting all school staff the money they deserve.

“It’s half our budget practically and that’s what we need do practically. We need to pay for education it’s just that simple,” Meier said.

“You all need a permanent sustainable solution and that’s going to require support from the county and the state,” said Board Chair Elyse Dashew.

“I mean this bonus is wonderful, we need to encourage our partners at the state and the county to make meaningful increases in our employees’ salaries,” said District 4 board member Carol Sawyer.

“I also call on our state leaders to make a meaningful increase in pay,” said At-Large Member Jennifer De La Jara. “We need help from our partners.”

The next part of the bonus will be paid this month, then again in September, and in November.

Employees who joined the district by December 31 of last year will be paid their portion of the bonus this month.

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