Thursday, May 19, 2011

A laid-off CMS employee speaks out

We get lots of e-mail from readers on our stories. Some want more information, or want to offer it. Others want to take issue with something we've written. But often, people just want to express how they're feeling. With so much discussion and debate brewing over teacher layoffs and possible property tax increases, I thought I'd pass along this e-mail below, from one of the 739 CMS employees notified last week that their jobs are gone. The writer didn't want to be identified, but this seemed to give a glimpse of the emotions those folks are feeling:

"I just finished reading your article about teacher layoffs, in particular, media specialists, and I feel the need to inform you of my own current layoff within CMS. I am a licensed school psychologist as well as a provisionally licensed school counselor who has just recently been given my non-renewal packet for employment. In other words, I am out of a job.
What's even more devastating is I was informed last January that I would need to return to graduate school to complete the Master's in School Counseling in order to remain employed within CMS. Not only would I take a pay cut, I was expected to pay for graduate school on my own, which is currently up to $8,000. Since January 2010, I have completed 9 semester hours through Lenoir-Rhyne University with a 4.0 and somehow find myself unemployed starting the next school year. How can someone overly qualified for the position be out of a job? I would like to know. Not only are the budget cuts affecting teachers and media specialists but the main support staff for students, staff and parents the school provides. My list of responsibilities within the school are endless, from legal paperwork (504 plans, McKinney-Vento, Intervention Team and suicide risk protocols) to working with students both in whole classes, small groups and individuals. I regularly assist teachers with various academic and social/emotional needs of their students and provide a bridge for outside resources in the community for the entire school community. As mentioned earlier my roles and responsibilities are vast and to think they will be expected to be taken over by teachers is astounding. Teachers have enough on their plate between larger class sizes and the addition of these summative tests to be able to effectively meet all students' needs, especially the social-emotional needs that help to develop the whole child. Our district is in a crisis and all the necessary supports for our students to help develop the leaders of tomorrow are disappearing. The community needs to realize, this is much bigger than they know.
Thanks for your time!
Sincerely,
A concerned professional

What do you think about CMS' budget dilemma, and what's happening with employees like this one?

41 comments:

Rev. Mike said...

It is sad to see. It is also what the rest of us in private industry live with every day. Who in private industry has not seen their defined benefit pension plan ditched in favor of a cash balance plan? Who else has received more than adequate cost of living raises over the last ten years only to see those raises then gobbled up by having to eat a higher portion of their health insurance premium. Having realized this negative real income growth, who has not worried about how they are going to pay for their kids' college tuition, which has risen at double digit rates in real terms? Who has not watched their colleagues frog-marched out of the building, carrying their personal effects in a copier paper box, escorted by security?

I sympathize with these folks. I really do. I hate it for them, every bit as much I hated when it happened to me. But this is the world the rest of us have always lived in.

Anonymous said...

Aren't you happy firing you allows cms to continue paying $60-70m to phys ed teachers?

Dorne said...

I am distressed to hear your story but not surprised. CMS has lost my trust. Dr. Gorman has lost my trust. The School Board has lost my trust.Many, many other parents who care about decent education for our children feel this way. Gorman and the board have blown it. It is my fervent hope that our county commissioners can restore funding for CMS, and can pressure the board to release Dr. Gorman from his contract as soon as possible.

Anonymous said...

As cynical as it sounds, communities get the schools they deserve. If, as a community, we aren't willing to pay higher taxes to support our teachers and fund our schools, nor to ensure that there is racial and socio-economic balance in every school, then we get what we have now. I hate to say it, but as a community, we deserve this.

Anonymous said...

It's a sad reality that layoffs are happening. However, I have little sympathy for professional support workers because their skill set is easily transferable to a non education related field in most cases. Certainly in the case of this person who now has job experience & will soon have a Masters in Counseling! This person may have to relocate, but they will have more options with that degree than they did without. Now compare that with a professional teacher. Teaching is that person's career & that skill set isn't recognized as easily transferable. And with similar layoffs & budget shortages all over the country, a laid off teacher will be hard pressed to find another teaching position. My fear is that this situation will ultimately criple the teaching profession in this country. Who will be going to school for education, knowing the job outlook is so bad?

jon golden said...

at Rev. Mike: Quit using the "real world" argument. There are professions that are essential to a society, educators are one of those professions. The country can exist with a few less bankers, HR professionals, etc...But without teachers, police, fire fighters, etc..., society crumbles. The school system should be the first priority, after the security and safety of the citizenry. The sacrifices we educators make (mainly financial) should have given us respect in the community and security in our profession. Sadly, we get neither...

Wiley Coyote said...

Jon,

One of the biggest problems facing public education is that educrats don't view education in the "real world". Their vision is blurred by the constant turmoil that they create.

"Oh we have to have money to keep our gains going" or "we need money for the children" or we need to spend millions on testing for teacher evaluations" and so on and so on.

All the while turning a blind eye to monies being poured into bottomless buckets without anyone questioning them. The BOE won't do it. The BOCC won't do it. All they do is throw more money at the problems and hope by some miracle the problems get fixed.

In the "real world", the watchdogs were asleep at the wheel and allowed our country to go into the toilet, much like what the County is doing by insisting on raising our taxes to keep funding a pathetically broken school system.

The "real world" facts are that half the White student population in Mecklenburg County do not attend CMS schools. Why is that?

Another "real world" fact is that CMS doesn't have a clue as to how many "low income" students they actually have yet in the "real world", Jennifer Roberts expects all of us to throw more tax money at an already broken system without "real world" facts to back up doing it.

These are the same people who begged in the "real world" a number of years back that we needed to build more schools! yet we can now close 10?

I know what world I'm living in and it looks pretty damn real to me.

part-time teacher said...

"I was expected to pay for graduate school on my own..." Who did you expect to pay for it, the taxpayers? If you wanted some taxpayer help, you could have chosen a public university.

therestofthestory said...

While I clerly empathize with anyone losing thier jobs at any time not of their own doing, this has been common place in private industry for years especially the last 3. Addtionally from the writer's comments, the public school system has become the dumping ground for fixing societal ills rather than just educating. While there are those that say, you can not teach a child if they are broken, that does not give the obligation to the public schools to also fix the child. Yes the feds have mandated the public schools to "house" exceptional children even if it requires a one on one "handler".

The public education system is simply not adapting to societal needs and sadly you are simply caught in cogs.

What would I do? I would devise a system to dispense the "lessons" to the child each day or week, like virtual high school has become, and return the "fixing" of the child to the parents with explicit golas of the is the expeceted behaviour the child must master to return to a "public" classroom. Therein, send them to the county mental health department and await some determination of "fitness" to return and then place the mon probation as a test when they return.

I am puzzled why society thinks rapists, those who assault teachers, staff and other students, should be returned to "public" classroom once they have simply "served time".

Anonymous said...

Education today is a much more complex enterprise than it was when many of us were kids. That complexity costs money to manage. With an educated citizenry being the cornerstone of a functioning democracy, we can't afford to allow vast swaths of our kids to be under-supported in a global economy. Nobody likes the idea of paying more just to get the same results we got a few years ago, but that's what's required right now. Classrooms with 40+ kids and no librarians, teachers’ aides, and counselors can't possibly produce highly performing students in this day and time. Private schools and home-schools aren’t feasible solutions for a majority of the citizenry, even with vouchers. Let’s restore some of the funding to CMS so at least it can continue to operate at a respectable staffing level.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. The person writing this said that s/he had to go back to school to get a Master's degree, and then latter asked how someone who was over-qualified for a position be out of the job. My question is: How can a person be considered over-qualified if s/he does not have the prerequisite degree? And yes, most of us do have to pay for our own graduate education.

jon golden said...

@ Wiley: You will get no argument from me that CMS squanders its funds. Athletics, PFP, layer upon layer of redundancy in central office, and then 45 kids in a class. However, the contention that teachers do not live in the real world, or do not have a real job is asinine! No one, me, you, the president, would be where (s)he is without teachers. What other profession is so universally utilized?

Anonymous said...

I am sorry that anyone is losing their job but the writing was on the wall long ago. CMS continues to pay 'administration' a crazy salary and continues to spent hundreds of thousands of dollars transporting kids across town so everyone can be happy. My salary last year was less than 1/3 of my salary 3-4 years ago and thanks to HJ, JR and others my property taxes are getting ready to rise more than $700/year. I am a single parent with a college age kid... I can no longer afford to live here.

Anonymous said...

But, Rev. Mike, those in the private sector have been able to increase their pay during the "good times." The educators' pay scale did not substantially rise when the economy was good.

part-time teacher said...

Many small-business owners did indeed see increased income during the good times, but we also saw exponential increases in the cost of our health care coverage. Did teachers?

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 2:03..

My wife was cut back two years ago to 4 days per week, but thankful she kept her job. She also hasn't a raise in over two years and her 401-k match was eliminated.

Many of her coworkers were let go due to the economy, as her company is in the construction industry.

CMS is no different, regardless of whether it's teachers or someone working in the office.

The pain is being felt across the board.

Rev. Mike said...

@jon golden:
There are professions that are essential to a society, educators are one of those professions. The country can exist with a few less bankers, HR professionals, etc.

And arguably, we might be able to get along with fewer engineers at nuclear power plants, except for the part where John Q. and Betty Public still like to blow dry their hair in the morning and need someone to generate the electricity for them. But the market determines whether there is a need for such services.

..But without teachers, police, fire fighters, etc..., society crumbles. The school system should be the first priority, after the security and safety of the citizenry. The sacrifices we educators make (mainly financial) should have given us respect in the community and security in our profession. Sadly, we get neither...

jon, I really, truly do feel for you. You seem to be a passionate, motivated individual, and I suspect that if you were one of my children's teachers, we would actually be, not only allies but good friends. But for every one of you, there is another, maybe even two others that are just phoning it in, and they set the reputation of your school. Unfortunately, I have encountered more like them than I have those like you. Respect is not something to which we are entitled merely by virtue of our profession, whether we teach, preach or engineer. I wish we could abrogate the law of supply and demand on your behalf, but as long as the market works the way the market works, i.e., lots of people with education degrees and certifications = not much demand, teacher salaries will remain paltry.

Anonymous said...

The value of my house increased 78%, so my taxes are going up, whether we stay revenue neutral or rate neutral. If I can be guaranteed that the money would go to CMS - I completely support going rate neutral. Yes, my taxes go up more - but CMS has been decimated with the last round of pink slips. Now if JR and gang did a U-turn and decided to spend that or ANY money to make a pretty park in uptown for the Democratic convention - that would end any last respect I have. You cannot say you have no money and then find some to 'beautify' Charlotte for the TV cameras.

Rev. Mike said...

But, Rev. Mike, those in the private sector have been able to increase their pay during the "good times." The educators' pay scale did not substantially rise when the economy was good.

Anonymous, again, let me go back to my previous statement, to wit, sure, my salary went up anywhere from 2-3%, maybe even 5% annually during the "good times," but for every good raise that kept up with the cost of living, there was also an offsetting increase in the portion of my health insurance I had to pay. Even the cash balance pension that replaced my defined benefit plan years ago is contingent on my employer choosing not to do away with it. If the corporate tax deduction for 401(k) matching contributions ever goes away, you can kiss that one bye bye as well.

Have the similar benefits teachers receive been subject to this kind of walking back?

Anonymous said...

CMS is a sham - even in the published "list" of those being laid off, as accessed from the observer - there is a teacher listed as being laid off from stoney Creek who hasn't worked there at all this year, and the year before was not a regular contract teacher. Are they lying about the rest of the layoffs as well? Someone at the observer could earn a Pulitzer Prize if they had the courage to really investigate the layoffs, the morale, and especially the tests, which if exposed wound show just how much of a joke Mr. Gorman's plans are (why do you think teachers are sworn to secrecy - it's really because they know they could be found out!) And the hours actually spent giving the tests - I know of teachers who basically say they haven't been able to actually teach for as much as 6 to 9 full weeks' worth of class time this year - see posts that have been made in this education section elsewhere!. Who on earth ever heard of testing lower elementary kids 3+ hours a day? And all this without so much as a cost of living raise in 3 years, while having benefits reduced! It is a testament to the4 sense of calling on the part of the teachers that ANY of them remain. PLEASE LOOK INTO THIS with some serious investigative reporting, Charlotte Observer - or are you quite content to be a part of the sham?

Anonymous said...

I'm saddened whenever I learn of the loss of employment for anyone who has to work. Unfortunately, we are still in a recession and the loss of revenue has affected all of us in so many different ways. The writer has many skills that are transferrable and I wish her well in her job search?

Anonymous said...

Use whatever college degree you have to find a job in a related field. Relocate! Some of us haven't havd a raise in 8 years. And many people I know with years of work experience have been laid off and had to take a low paying job (retail, servers, cleaning) and take home less per hour now than they did 25 years ago.

Ann Doss Helms said...

2:39 p.m., I know this is only part of your point, but thank you for pointing out a source of confusion. The list posted is LAST YEAR'S layoff list; I've asked our online people to take it down. We will request names from this year's layoffs a little later, when the actual termination date comes.

Anonymous said...

Termination date is June 14th.

Anonymous said...

So where is the list?

Anonymous said...

CMS should be forced to reimburse you for the costs you've incurred to meet a previous mandate. This happens all too often. Before I left CMS, I was told that I would be taking a two week AP summer workshop because I was being assigned an AP class for the upcoming year. I told the principal that I had already accepted a summer school teaching position and would be unable to take the 2 week AP workshop on such short notice. He looked me right in the face and told me that he wasn't asking me...he was telling me what I was going to do. I started sending out resumes that day and was elated when the time came for me to tell him that I was resigning. CMS is filled with total jerks.

Anonymous said...

Termination date may be June 14, but the notices have already been sent - they are already "terminated" effective June 14 - evidently the observer is about as incompetent as the folks at CMS - big surprise there, eh! That, or in bed with them - neither of which comes as much of a surprise.

Anonymous said...

My question: How can CMS "RIF" a person who teaches IB and has multiple degrees, master's, and "real world" experience and has until 06/30 to complete licensure renewal and who has been in the classroom for 5 years...while at the SAME TIME justifying putting in baby grad, TFA recruits with NO EXPERIENCE and being OK with a 5 week boot camp---but the person whose licensure hasn't come back yet doesn't have a job next year and even though it has until 06/30 to get back from THE STATE OF NC?? Anyone? Can you answer that one? Let's boot our experienced, high performing personnel in favor of people who have NEVER been in a classroom on the basis of a "licensure" snafu... WTH??? Gorman, YOU ARE AN IDIOT!!!

Anonymous said...

WE HAVE THE MONEY!!!!SAVE WADDELL

HIGH SCHOOL.HARDING IS OVER CROWDED FOR THE NEXT YEAR.WE NEED
EE WADDELL HIGH SCHOOL TO STAY OPEN.....

Ghoul said...

Anon @ 12:51 said,

Education today is a much more complex enterprise than it was when many of us were kids. That complexity costs money to manage.


Well anon, why is education more complex today? Because all those people making the big bucks at the taxpayers' expense have to justify their salary, so they make it more complex.

There is no difference in teaching 1+1=2 today than it was in 1980, 1960, or 1920. The difference is parents back then valued education and their kids shared that value. No amount of money can force someone to value education, so no amount of money we throw into the bottomless pit known as CMS will make a difference.

Anonymous said...

What you don't understand is that we need to save the money from the schools to pay for the additional prisons we're going to need as a consequence of these short sighted decisions.

Anonymous said...

Ann once again, is this the best you can do. I mean this letter does nothing by fry the profession even worse. She had to pay for graduate school???

Anonymous said...

Just to clear up confusion. She and close to 40 other professionals with masters, education specialist (minimum for school psychologist to practice ONLY in schools), and doctorate degrees were forced to go back to graduate school by cms to practice a profession they were already in (counseling, social work, and psychology are interrelated specialties with similar coursework). This was not a state requirement, it was done by cms to get rid of professionals and replace them with new ones. Instead, due to their love of children they stayed and went back at their expense (because while cms will reimburse for your first graduate degree, they won't for extra ones even if they are the ones forcing you to do it) for a degree level all of them had already. As for transferable skills, only social workers can be hired privately With existing degrees. Everyone else has to pay for years of documented supervision for a possible lpc license. School psychologist have to have a ph.d. to use those skills privately. So, long story short, without schools the vast majority of these people are S.O.L.

Anonymous said...

Obviously, she was going to do the right things for the students and CMS wanted her to do some "shady" business like mis-diagnose some students in order for the district to cover their butts in a lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

"CMS is no different, regardless of whether it's teachers or someone working in the office."

Teachers are already paid a significant amount less than what they truly deserve for all of the "hats" that they are expected to wear. I agree that the rest of the world has felt the burden of the economy with lay-offs and such however everyone is entitled to an education and the children that will eventually solve the problems of the world REQUIRE an education. Not sure if you have kids or if they go to public school, but would you want them in a classroom that is over capacity with limited resources in terms of access to technology and assistance. Those same people that say that this is just another group of people that are losing their jobs, either don't have children or complain about the quality of their child's education. So I understand that we are are just another group of people losing their jobs, however we are not just another group. We are the people that are helping you prepare your children for success in the future. Without us teachers who knows where the rest of the world would be. No this is not just another group losing their jobs, this is a vital and integral group of individuals that helps shape children to be those productive members of society. Education is important and the sole providers of that education are you child's teachers, and you of course. Never underestimate the role of a teacher in your community.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 10:16...

Your comment is typical of the educrat/teacher mentality that "I'm a professional, I'm a teacher therefore I deserve to be put on a pedestal".

Yes, I have a child that will THANK GOD graduate in 5 Weeks from CMS.

Also, I was married to a teacher in a past life for 12 years so I've lived that "I deserve to make more money" whinning from her and her friends.

I have stated here numerous times that there are by far more good teachers than bad ones, but don't expect me to put you (teachers) in a different category than me or anyone else who works, pays taxes and is raising a family.

Anonymous said...

Why does a school system need to employ someone who attempts to justify their position by using the phrase "social-emotional" at least three times?

The LAST thing public money should be paying for is quack government shrinks who repeat new age psychobabble over and over and over.

You want to work in a school system? Master math or history. Save the "social-emotional" mumbo jumbo for Oprah.

esteopy said...

The veneer of this issue looks like our community is showing disrespect and ingratitude to teachers. Countless numbers of people say, “Our schools and our children deserve the extra money required, why can’t the taxpayers just cough it up?”
May I comment that all this chatter is like the debris on the ground after a tsunami --it has great visual impact, but that thing that we cannot see, the breech of the nuclear core containment vessel, is the more dire, life threatening problem.
Yes, much glass is being broken and dreams are shattered with the budget battles. I hope we do not miss the bigger issue. Schools and classroom teachers are being forced into the position of surrogate parents. Our model of instruction is designed so that (a) the teacher plans lessons and gives instruction, and (b) the parent holds expectations for the child and monitors progress regularly. If the teacher does not have someone functioning as the parent partner who holds performance expectations and ensures that the child gets at least 6 or 7 hours of sleep at night, there is nearly nothing that the teacher can do to keep the child from warming the seat and staring into space zombie-like until the bell rings.
Fifteen years ago, a 15-year-old high school girl without attentive parents got pregnant and dropped out of school when her child was born. Now her child is sitting in ninth grade, just dreaming of the day he turns 16 so he can drop out too. What are the odds that a teacher can persuade that boy to apply himself to be able to write a topic sentence or factor a quadratic? It will be daunting because no one has held him accountable for his learning for the last five years, so he cannot work with fractions nor can he distinguish between a noun and a verb.
We need a modified design to adapt to the present reality of schools with a high percentage of students with uninvolved parents. Change the pupil assignment procedure so that kids with uninvolved parents are grouped into schools where there will be failsafe designs that the students will at least learn to read, write, and do math on grade level through the end of 8th grade. Make the teacher-pupil ratio as small as is necessary to make this happen. Establish a category of licensure so that teachers will be trained in the special skill set necessary to accomplish the desired result at these special schools.
If we modified resource allocation in this way, and let schools with involved parents do extra fundraising events for their own school community, more people would be willing to teach, teaching would be more productive, and the cost pressures would be relieved. Sticking with the present design is so mindless because it is a money pit that asks taxpayers to divert more and more of their income to a program that generates less and less learning.
Investing in public education is wise for citizens because, in theory, it produces graduates that will become financially independent. If our education dollars only produce a growing body of helpless drifters dependent upon welfare, we are the proverbial fool that is soon parted from his money. Before the state can redistribute the wealth, there has to be some wealth generated to be redistributed.
Don’t just tweak the budget CMS. Change the system design to make it more productive. If you do, I wager that the taxpayers would eagerly cough up the dough you need to make it hum.

Anonymous said...

I am with the poster that states that our community deserves this. This community has set back and allowed ignorant DR. Gorman and the School Board remove CMS’s excellent teachers for the last three years. He promised you each time that he was replacing them with quality teachers…Folks this is not happening! He hates Charlotte more than you hate yourselves! But, goody goody, I am glad you are being made to pay those higher taxes for his benefit only. Teachers you will be fine, this is a blessing in disguise . CMS is not the CMS you remembered. Walk into the sun and don’t look back.

Anonymous said...

Funny. The deregulated bankers just about crashed the global economy with their sham financial creations, and all people want to do is villainize educators.

Anonymous said...

to Anonymous 5/19 @ 11:41:

Yes, let's get rid off all the School Psychologist, School Counselors, etc. in the schools then maybe you can tell us who will conduct all the requests for evaluations for Special Education services made by parents and re-evaluations, that are state mandates. With the numbers these professionals are kept in the schools currently, they only have time for testing. So take them away and people like you, unqualified, can handle the special education testing and counseling of all the students and add incompetence to an already broken system. School is more than teaching, especially when a lot of students come to school with emotional baggage. It is not "psychobabble". And before you all jump to conclusions, let me remind you that the emotional baggage is brought to school by both RICH AND poor kids/families so don't make the assumption that our poor kids are the only ones that need the help. You all need to look deeper into the article and what the writer was saying. They were actually trying to reveal some of the "shady" CMS practices that are going on, like replacing qualified professionals with other personel who are less qualified to do the job, but can be paid much less. The writer is trying to let you see what next year will be like without people like them in those jobs. Who will do media and technology instruction when the media specialist is fired? Who will counsel your child, assist with behavioral issues, or stop someone from bullying your child when counselors are gone? Who will assist in professional development of teachers, coverage for teachers to take breaks, administrative duties, making sure teachers are following standard course of study, when literacy/academic facilitators are gone? Don't expect a lot from your local public school next year because the support personel will not be there to help. So, Anonymous, the school building will be just like you want it, just full of overworked teachers who have to pick up the slack of lacking support personel, but have no support themselves. Just the way you like it. Can't wait to see how your vision works. Seems to be in direct alignment with Peter Gorman's. No wonder our schools are failing.