Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' long trek toward teacher performance pay took another twist Tuesday, when CMS leaders backed away from submitting a plan to the state this week.
Superintendent Heath Morrison and the teacher task force that has been working on the proposal since late last year decided there was no way to meet the March 1 deadline set by House Bill 950, despite an earlier announcement that CMS would seize the opportunity to take the lead on this issue with a teacher-crafted plan. CMS asked for an extension and didn't get it -- but to hear Tuesday's presentation, that's just as well.
The Pay for Excellence bill invited districts to develop performance-pay plans by March 1, with bonuses or raises awarded for such factors as student growth on test scores and teachers taking on additional responsibilities. But lawmakers have allotted no money to help districts do that. Essentially, that means there's no reward for making the deadline and no penalty for missing it. So CMS decided to submit a proposal on its own timetable, which remains undetermined. Morrison said 2014-15 would be the earliest a new pay plan could debut.
As of Tuesday night, neither Morrison nor the task force had seen a draft proposal from Battelle for Kids, the nonprofit consultant that's been guiding the work. Rather than try to whip something out and risk repeating mistakes that have marred the district's past work, they opted to carefully shape a plan that includes teacher voices and vet it with the district's employees before taking anything to the state. CMS emailed a summary of the work so far and a 9-minute video promoting the work to employees on Tuesday.
In 2010, when then-Superintendent Peter Gorman launched the first performance-pay push, he consulted teachers as well. But he lost the confidence of many employees when he worked behind their backs to get legislative clearance for a pay plan that wouldn't require teacher approval.
Without getting specific, board members Eric Davis and Tom Tate both acknowledged the harm those early efforts inflicted on morale. "I deeply regret the anger, frustration and trust that was lost," Davis said, adding that he didn't regret starting a worthy effort. "We certainly screwed up before," Tate agreed.
Erlene Lyde, a veteran teacher from Harding High who spoke to the board Tuesday, talked about the fear she has heard from colleagues: Fear that they'll get a pay cut. Fear that CMS will launch one more pilot without money to sustain it. Fear that "someone would try to force an already-designed plan down our throats."
The task force agreed that any change in pay should be opt-in for current teachers, allowing them to stick with the current system if they don't want to take the risk. Lyde and her co-presenters -- Allison Moore from Dilworth Elementary and Michael Pillsbury and Steven Oreskovic from Randolph Middle -- voiced strong hope that this will eventually be the plan that is shaped and embraced by teachers.
"I want to save our profession," Lyde said, "and to save our profession we must do things differently than we have in the past."
So the question remains: Who will submit plans by Friday, and what will happen next? State officials said they'd received none as of Tuesday. The Gaston Gazette reports that Gaston County Schools has worked up a plan for bonuses up to $10,000 and is hoping the state will agree to pick up the tab.
Meanwhile Thom Tillis, the House speaker from Mecklenburg County, has launched a weeklong focus on education initiatives that include performance pay, according to Carolina Journal Online. He met with superintendents on Tuesday and will follow up with principals and teachers.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Posted by Ann Doss Helms at 6:00 AM