Friday, May 30, 2014

Educator salaries: Charter schools and new CMS data

Salaries for Charlotte-area educators are finally ready.  It took a bit longer this year because we are publishing charter school salaries for the first time,  and got more extensive information from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

The charter list was challenging,  and not only because of the state's misfire in initially saying charter schools weren't required to provide the data.  Each charter school is essentially its own district,  which meant that even after that mistake was corrected and schools provided the data,  it came from different sources in different formats,  often with different job titles and abbreviations.  That can make it difficult to sort and compare,  but it's a good start toward giving the public a look at payrolls in a form of public education that has extra flexibility and plays a growing role in our region.

In past years,  I've requested salaries and bonuses from CMS.  This year,  after working on an article about pay at community colleges,  I realized there are additional sources of income,  including state longevity pay.  So I requested all of those sources.  The result:  The CMS information is more complete,  but it's not comparable to prior years.

CMS provided total compensation from salaries,  bonuses,  longevity pay,  overtime,  stipends for extra duties,  allowances and fringe benefits that are reported as income to the IRS.  That means some people's pay looks bigger,  even if they got no raise in salary.  Meanwhile,  some listings will look unusually low because the district provided actual earnings from April 1,  2013,  to March 31,  2014,  rather than listing an annual salary as they have in the past.  That means someone who started after April 1 won't have a full year's pay listed.

Even the total number of employees  --  18,515 this year,  compared with 18,665 in 2013  --  isn't comparable.  As you might recall,  CMS changed the way it accounts for people who are not actually being paid but have the option to return to district jobs.  That happened after people raised questions about a Providence High teacher who had been appearing on the salary listings and the school website year after year,  despite the fact that he hadn't set foot in school for a decade  (turned out he was getting worker's comp,  not a district paycheck).  After that flap,  about 200 people on leave or other inactive status were removed from the CMS roster.

Which brings us to the perennial question:  Why name names?

Most agree that salaries for the folks at the top should be public,  but over the years many have questioned why we would list individual information for teachers,  assistants,  bus drivers and others who are public employees but not public figures.

The answer:  It lets people see if something is amiss in public spending.

Are relatives of those who influence spending holding public jobs,  and if so,  are their salaries reasonable?  Remember First Lady Mary Easley and her lucrative job at N.C. State?  Or, conversely,  the false rumors that Superintendent Peter Gorman had his wife on the CMS payroll?  How about this year's revelation that an administrator at StudentFirst Academy,  a new charter school, had family members on the payroll,  with other staffers raising questions about whether they were qualified or showing up for work?

Lawyer Richard Vinroot,  who represented the StudentFirst board when that administrator contested her firing in court,  is now representing Sugar Creek and Lincoln charter schools in fighting the Observer's request to disclose salaries by name.  Lawyers, legislators and maybe judges will sort out the legality of that position.

The schools have provided names and salaries of a few top administrators,  and salaries with names redacted for the rest.  Vinroot says if there are specific questions about lower-paid staff  --  for instance,  are charter employees related to board members or administrators?  --  the schools can answer without having to reveal everyone's names.

But you don't know what you don't know.  It might be obvious  (at least in hindsight)  to check on the governor's wife.  But without seeing the individual teacher's name,  no one would have thought to ask if Providence High had a  "phantom teacher"  on the payroll.  It turned out that he wasn't being paid for work he wasn't doing,  but isn't that exactly the kind of thing the public ought to question?

And while schools that are trying to do the right thing might answer questions honestly and completely,  can we trust those who have something to hide to do the same?  Providing details on those paid with public money lets us all do our own checking,  without having to guess or trust.

Finally,  to answer the questions that are sure to follow release of these salaries:  We're working on 2014 updates for regional school districts,  the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.  Stay tuned.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

All public employees should have to show pay. Charters, governors, all.

gwalkerruns said...

If Vinroot won't match the names with the salaries how do we know its true? When CMS employees are matched with a salary, they can easily report an inaccuracy. This makes me question the accuracy of Vinroots numbers. Perhaps he doesn't want his employees to know what each other make which doesn't make sense if they have a fair, transparen pay system.

Anonymous said...

As a teacher who certainly has his salary listed on the CMS salary database...

That was one of the best defenses of public disclosure of salary information for public employees that I have ever read.

Keep up the good work :)

gwalkerruns said...

Wide spectrum of pay. Compare Queens Grant and Lake Norman, huge difference plus Lake Norman on retirement plan. A difference like that can result in different faculties. I imagine QG has a lot of retired double dippers from other states who don't need retirement.

Cornelia said...

What I would like to see is the per pupil expenditure on personnel (minus transportation and food services personnel) for each of the public school districts, e.g., CMS, Union County, etc. and for each of the charter schools. That would show how efficient each district or charter is and would help answer my question as to whether a huge district such as CMS is economically advantageous as compared to smaller entities. We already know its huge size has not helped it narrow the elusive"achievement gap". How about it? In terms of short term economics, is CMS giving us our money's worth?i

Ann Doss Helms said...

Cornelia, you can find that on NC school report cards. Takes a lot of clicking and compiling to compare, but they have it for all districts (and each charter is a district). http://www.ncreportcards.org/src/

Ann Doss Helms said...

Actually, now that I look at your request, the report cards have total per-pupil spending and they have the budget broken down by salaries, benefits, contracts, etc. But not per-pupil for personnel only.

Anonymous said...

wowzer..charter school salaries at Lake Norman are outstanding!

Cornelia said...

Ann, my contention is that huge districts such as CMS are staff heavy and that it does not translate into an efficient use I'd the education dollar as far as enhancing student learning. Rather than efficiencies of scale which theoretically should be achieved by uber districts, I would bet dollars to donuts that small districts get more bang for their bucks. If that is true, it would not be politically correct; hence, the CO not looking into it,
I have no children or grandchildren in public school. I would think those who do might be interested.

Bolyn McClung said...

.
USEFUL WAYS TO APPROACH THE CMS PAYROLL DATA.

Starting in 2006 I did comparative expense studies of every elementary school in CMS. I was lucky to have some good guidance from knowledgeable people in the District who saw what I was doing and were interested in what the results would show. It took almost a year to do it the first time. In the end we all found better ways to tell families about student achievement as it relates to everything from FRL to the activity funds.

It is with that background I started looking at the payroll data the Observer posted today.

In 2006 I found that comparing schools of the same size population was the secret to meaningful conclusions. At the time comparing Hickory Grove ES to Hawk Ridge, both overstuffed, showed it was taking more money per student, with more teachers to achieve results that were significantly lower at Hickory than Hawk Ridge. While it was kind of a no-brainer to make the assumption, the data was wickedly informative.

At little impoverished Allenbrook I found that it underspent its budget by $200,000 with predictable sad results. Then Superintendent Gorman knew the exact reason. Teachers left because of the principal. New teachers couldn’t be found who would go there. Gorman hired a new principal and the school has soared every since. Well, soared as best can be expected given the lack of preparedness of the students.

So it is with this background that I have confidently begun looking at the pay records, not for reason to punish CMS but to see if there are opportunities to make dollars work better.

Here’s a raw example: Hidden Valley with approx 815 students versus Ballantyne with 833.

PAYROLL:
Hidden Valley...…$3,421.067….. $4,198 per student
Ballantyne…….….2,555,459..……3,068 per student.

SOME INTERERESTING DATA
__The Hidden Valley principal makes less than the asst principal. Not unusual in CMS.

__Average salary of full-time employees
…….Hidden Valley…(102 )….$39,096/each
…….Ballantyne………( 71)…..$37,875/each

__Average students per full-time employee
…….Hidden Valley…(102 )…….7.99 students per FT emp
…….Ballantyne………( 71)…..11.73 students per FT emp

TOTAL EMPLOYEES LISTED ON CMS SITE NOW VERSUS THOSE IN PAYROLL CHART

…….Hidden Valley…115 in payroll data…..113 now
…….Ballantyne…..….86 in payroll data…….87 now

In 2013-14 the comparisons have been made more difficult by the creation of the K-8 model.

More to come

Bolyn McClung
Pineville
.

Anonymous said...

What about the federal employees, I'd like to see the observer publish those too. All of them in the MSA.

Wiley Coyote said...

Bolyn,

I'm not sure where you're going with the data comparisons, but to me it's apples to oranges.

The numbers are the numbers, but when you look at the top ten salaries between Hidden Valley and Ballantyne and what positions they are attached to, you see a few different job descriptions.

I've often wondered what the heck a "Dean of Students" does? Why doesn't every school have one?

The 3rd highest paid employee at Hidden Valley is the "Dean of Students" making $68,299, right behind the two principals.

Ballantyne doesn't have a "Dean of Students".

Hidden Valley's PE Teacher ranks 9th in salary ($59,151) while at Ballantyne, their PE Teacher ranks 37th ($35,419).

Hidden Valley has 2 temporary employees and Ballantyne has 11.

Does every elementary school need a staff psychologist, which is the 2nd highest paid employee at Ballantyne and 7th highest at Hidden Valley? Why not have one psychologist for every three or four schools in an area and have them rotate between schools to handle problems?

By the way, the staff psychologist at Myers Park Elementary is the 2nd highest paid employee at $87,596.

The 2nd highest paid employee at McClintock is a social worker making $70,831...

What I want to know is, how many kids at each school knows the answer to who the first President of the United States was and can they read.

If not, why.

Anonymous said...

I think most teachers would agree with you Cornelia. Mega districts are part of the Jeb Bush ed model. They thought they could stream line the large districts. If you want to ruin something, get the government involved. Federal or state. Education should be kept local.

Veronica said...

"The answer: It lets people see if something is amiss in public spending."


That's the usual cop-out from Observer writers who want to use personally identifying information as click bait.


There is no analysis of any kind that requires an individual's name. Nothing is lost by publishing every other attribute (job title, years on job, education, salary, etc.) - just not the names.


More clicks however means a couple more bucks. The Observer is a beast that is bleeding cash while facing extinction. To mop up some of that blood they are exploiting the privacy of public employees.

Pamela Grundy said...

Thanks for keeping on this, Ann. For programs paid with public dollars, transparency helps keep everyone honest, and helps voters and lawmakers make decisions. Exactly what a newspaper should be doing. With this kind of oversight, we'll be unlikely to see principals of small charter schools making huge salaries at the expense of their students, as has happened in other communities.

gwalkerruns: Richard Vinroot has been quite clear that one reason he does not want to release salaries by name is that he does not want salary differences to foment discontent within the staff.

Anonymous said...

Did you know that when you publish these numbers with our names parents and students alike print them and at a contentious conversation are quick to bring up how much we make? And because teachers are now seen as lower than criminals, gleefully students tell us they can get us fired by not doing well on tests.

I'm tired of being disrespected ....always remember if you can read and you have achieved a modicum of success it's because of a teacher. Your request to get our salaries and publish our every dime serves as an annual slap. Thank you for furthering the disrespect.

Larry said...

Well we now know Charters pay Teachers less, have larger class sizes, have leaders who make decision with out extensive central office overhead, pay for supplies, buildings etc, and have very long waiting lists.

Oh and they do so while getting about 2 thousand less than systems like CMS get.

Now keep in mind CMS gets buildings, free buses, food, just to name a few things on the free stuff list.

Oh and for some reason Charter Schools only require the same police protection we citizens have for security.

I hope I did not miss anything.

Larry said...

I need to get my wonderful Charter School Teachers up to Raleigh to demand more pay.

I think the taxpayers would say Charter School Teachers are the real victims in this whole attack on education folks have concocted.

In fact, Charters should get free buses, security from CMPD or the locals with a special police team.

That is just a start I will get back to you on the other things CMS gets, like millions for a Project Lift deal, so we can make Charters able to work even better.

After all it is about Education and the future and not Teachers, Schools, Money, Central Office, or politics, is it not?

Larry said...

Sorry I realized I said two thousand less than CMS gets.

When I should have said Charter School do all that wonderful work while getting around two thousand less Per Student than systems like CMS get. Sorry for the gaffe.

Bolyn McClung said...

.
To: Wiley

Now you’re getting the point. Most questions you asked referred to the school. What you’re looking at is what a principal goes through every year as she takes her budget and plots it for the best academic results. Yes, knowing Presidents is important. But being able to fit within a school budget, teachers who can get that done is a little more important.

At the end of the budget process, all schools should be funded for the maximum success. As an example, if you’ve ever met Hidden Valley’s principal Tisha Greene, you’d know she wouldn’t have a Dean of Students if she and her students and her teachers didn’t need one. This is an important part of the Career Status (tenure) debate that is being missed. The principal is responsible to the student more than she is for a staff member having a job.

These salaries by themselves are of little usefulness. I sort of wish they weren’t published, but they greatly supplement the ability to compare schools by more than FRL or achievement. For example, CMS has the Weighted Student Staffing which is the muscle behind closing the Gap. With the payroll numbers it is possible to see if the emphasis is on increasing the number of teachers or a particular quality of teacher.

With these numbers you can narrow the drill-down to the classroom level. Searches like comparing K-3 salaries to the rest of the school’s teachers gives insight into the need to focus on reading.

CONCLUSION
I could never make any judgment about what the teachers are doing based on these published numbers. I can make a judgment on whether the CMS administration is following through on the stated policies when salaries are aggregated in different ways.

Bolyn McClung
Pineville
.

Anonymous said...

Anne,

Can you post salaries in a comparable form from last year to this year. It seems as if my Principal's salary rose from approximately $160,000 to $165,00. I want to know why this is possible when her teachers haven't had a raise. Is she reaping the benefits of our hard work in the form of bonuses?

I also think parents would like to know if administrators and district employees have been receiving raises when the people who actually interact with their children on a daily basis have received nothing.

Bolyn McClung said...

.
To: Wiley

Now you’re getting the point. Most questions you asked referred to the school. What you’re looking at is what a principal goes through every year as she takes her budget and plots it for the best academic results. Yes, knowing Presidents is important. However, being able to fit within a school budget teachers who can get that accomplished is a little more important.

At the end of the budget process, all schools should be funded for the maximum success. As an example, if you’ve ever met Hidden Valley’s principal Tisha Greene, you’d know she wouldn’t have a Dean of Students if she and her students and her teachers didn’t need one. This is an important part of the Career Status (tenure) debate that is being missed. The principal is responsible to the student more than she is for a staff member having a job.

These salaries by themselves are of little usefulness. I sort of wish they weren’t published, but they greatly supplement the ability to compare schools by more than FRL or achievement. For example, CMS has the Weighted Student Staffing which is the muscle behind closing the Gap. With the payroll numbers it is possible to see if the emphasis is on increasing the number of teachers or a particular quality of teacher.

With these numbers you can narrow the drill-down to the classroom level. Searches like comparing K-3 salaries to the rest of the school’s teachers gives insight into the need to focus on reading.

CONCLUSION
I could never make any judgment about what the teachers are doing based on these published numbers. I can make a judgment on whether the CMS administration is following through on the stated policies when salaries are aggregated in different ways.

Bolyn McClung
Pineville
.

Cornelia said...

Larry, is the county paying for a school nurse for every charter school. Like they are going to do for every zCMS school?

Ann Doss Helms said...

12:34, it's a good question, but no, it's not feasible for me to request and publish two separate lists. But the salary you cite narrows it down to one person who happens to be in the top 10 for CMS pay. So if you go to the story on admin pay and check that sidebar, you'll see Maureen Furr's salary is unchanged and the additional money comes from state longevity pay, which teachers are also eligible to receive starting at 10 years.

Larry said...

Cornelia, I am not sure if the County would spit on a Charter School if it were on fire.

They send all the money to Charlotte Mecklenburg School and let them hand it out like Charters were beggars at a stop light and CMS is fiddling with the radio to ignore them.

But it would be nice for the county to provide nurses, and thanks for bringing that up.

Wiley Coyote said...

Bolyn,

What does a "Dean of Students" do?

Can we get two teachers for the price of that position? Why is this position in elementary schools?

Do we need to be paying nearly $90,000 for a psychologist at an elementary school? And as I asked, why not have rotating psychologists among a group of schools?

CMS will NEVER cut positions. Gorman is the only one I've seen make the hard choices and do it.

It's like closing schools. God forbid they close a school, as to some that ia akin to failure or defeat or giving up something that might translate into fewer dollars for the budget. It's not. We've already seen the re-opening of some of these schools in the CMS shell game.

It's common sense if positions need to be cut, then do it as well as closing schools.

Put the funding into more teaching positions.

The time to have a leader in the main office with some big ones to make those choices is way past due.

Anonymous said...

Ann:

While you are looking more deeply into the question of CMS salaries, please explain how the new principal at Billingsville went from AP last year at 68k to principal this year at 94k - where is that type of raise for us teachers?

Anonymous said...

for once I agree with Larry, I would also like to see charters get everything CMS and schools get, seriously, I really would, just as long as they also take the poor and under performing blacks kids. Then I predict several things would occur. The first is obvious, academic performance in CMS would increase, while charters would go down. Plus, many of the private school kids who left CMS to avoid going to school with the poor black kids would return to CMS, and many of the white kids who attend charters to avoid the poor black kids will also return to CMS. Sounds like a win win to me Larry, thanks for the suggestion pal! We need to get the state moving on this as soon as possible, but I am sure the charters really don't want to be able to buss in the black kids for obvious reasons. Especially the charters out in the suburbs.

Anonymous said...

you know what strikes me most after reading so many of these blogs (other than larry's love for charter schools, lol), no one wants to come out and admit the reality around the debate surrounding public education. Wiley has hinted at it once or twice, with his pointing out a number regarding CMS, 30.5%.

Whether we are talking about charter schools or traditional public schools. SCHOOLS ARE REFLECTION OF THE CHILDREN THEY SERVE.

If you don't believe me, research it for yourself and you will see the pattern. The Observer even proved my summation in a report published last fall, Nov 13th. The reason the Observer published the report was to show the effects of the new higher state standards at each area school. But there was something else the report clearly demonstrated. The schools that served the least African American students performed better, in most cases, much better. This trend was very evident with charter schools, some of the absolute worst performing schools in the entire region were two charter schools that serve primarily African American students, and oddly enough, they are still open, even though they are ABSOLUTELY horrible!

and those schools are Kennedy K-12 and Cross Roads. One actually scored less than 5% proficiency. So there goes the theory that all under performing charters are shutdown, because that is clearly not the case.

Also something worth pointing out to Larry "the Charter Guy". The top two performing schools were NOT charter schools, they were CMS high school, AK and Providence. Lake Norman Charter and Davidson Community were 3rd and 4th

and to add further support to what I am saying, research where Charter Schools USA is planning to open their new charter schools. This is a for profit company charter school chain. They are opening schools in Mooresville, Cabarrus County and Union county. While I question the quality of the education this company provides, they are not stupid when deciding where to locate their schools. They are in the business of making money and they are not going to jeopardize profit and reputation.

Anonymous said...

CMS is on a downward spiral, probably nothing that can be done about it either. keep in mind this number, 30.5%, Wiley pointed it out, he was right, this does not bode well for CMS. Once more, this school system lacks real leadership, look more and more like DPS (Detroit Public Schools)

Seriously, who builds a brand new high school in one of the worst communities in Charlotte and then shutters it in just a few years. I mean how freaking stupid can you be?

Larry said...

10:50 I see another person saying Charters do not serve, pick what ever group you want to use as a group which can not make it on their on.

This time I find it was strange we did not have Ann come in and add one of the helpful comments on this.

What do you say Ann did I need to go back to your story on this whole Charter Thing folks seem to take as fact as they are allowed to repeat it over and over with out someone like yourself helping them to understanding.

Larry said...

12:18 I am in love with EDUCATION, if sending kids to the planet zenon for 18 years makes them well adjusted, happy, and educated folks, I would be a volunteer at the gangway saying bye and hello.

The fact is something other than CMS is got to happen, or like the many, many, kids I have seen fall and just have no life, it will go on an on.

I will be volunteering at CMS the next two weeks to help, now where will you be? In fact we need more Proctors and I have yet to see a story in the observer on it.

So if you think I woke up one day and the Charter love hit me. No it took me going to see and helping one of the first Charter Schools in an old Church on Hawthorne Ave.

This served the Belmont Community and Piedmont Courts, and like some other Charters today, and those which hoped to open, only had African Americans.

I begged and did all I could to get the observer interested in helping it. Begged in getting the community helping it, but it closed after two years.

It seems it was just a few years ahead of its time. And folks like you most likely were not championing the cause you are doing so now, at that time. Note this was well before Obama.

Anyway, I got involved as I was an original volunteer when we started Gang of One. Yes I for some reason tried to keep kids from going into gangs way back before they even said we had gangs in Charlotte.

So unless you have been with me at 3 in the morning filming a gang liquor house so you can be a witness in court, getting the folks evicted, for folks who live all around it and are law abiding folks, then maybe you do not understand that I want to see a future for kids.

I will bet you are not to upset about the drop out rate for young black males at schools like West Charlotte, nor do you even know what it is today.

What I would like to see are real stories, follow the drop outs and have them write you from Prison telling you the sad stories they have, and saying things like they now understand what it was you were trying to help them out of back in the old days.

I would like to see stories on what makes education work, not people happy, not parents happy, just what works and kids learn.

We should put up signs at all schools that says, no matter what happened outside this sign, here we are only educating, and you are only here to grow and question.

You know the exact difference between the schools being an omnibus for the ills of the community and not challenging or even igniting the will to learn in so many kids.

Oh and be sure to note how many times I have said enclave schools. While most are located int suburbs of this so called Urban system of CMS, those are schools where learning is happening. Note one thing, they do not need to beg for Proctors like I an doing for the schools which I know need to be fixed and yet for some reason do not get 80 percent of the observers focus on helping them do so.


Imagine less Charters 11 thousand kids and more on the 120 thousand in CMS who are not getting a REAL education, in the observer.

What do you say Ann? Again we might need you to add something here.

That are we are trying to deflect attention from the ills and almost crimes of not teaching kids at CMS and keeping the public from noticing the real problems we have in our County.

Anonymous said...

12:18, you nailed it. From the outside looking in, teaching in NC is a dead end job. Nobody has figured out a magic bullet for low income minority children. The state seems to be doing more harm then good.

Larry said...

Well I guess we need to provide the link after all.

http://obsyourschools.blogspot.com/2014/05/report-nc-charter-schools-dont-get-fair.html

Or go to the report itself: http://www.uaedreform.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/charter-funding-inequity-expands-nc.pdf

And note where it says: Charter schools are LEAs in North Carolina and serve high percentages of at-risk and disadvantaged
students, including a higher percentage of special needs students (Figure 11). Therefore, it is unclear why
charter schools continue to receive substantially lower amounts of Federal revenues (36.8% less statewide
and 28.0% less in Wake County per pupil).

Any other misconceptions that need to be answered before they are posted on here over and over with out a challenge?

Anonymous said...

Larry, schools will not fix those problems. They are a symptom not the cure. Schools are reflections..

Anonymous said...

Larry,
I actually spend a great deal of my time volunteering at both of my children's schools. As a matter, I am proctoring at one of my children's schools tomorrow morning. I am taking time from my office to do so, I am also on the PTO at my daughters school.

The problem I have with the entire debate over education is virtually no one discusses the role of the parents or personal responsibility. For instance, you mentioned the drop out rate at West Charlotte, why are these kids dropping out of school? Dropping out of school is not an option for either of my children, so I have ask what kind of a parent would allow their child to drop out of school in this day and age?

And truthfully, it bothers me very much to see so many young people wasting the opportunity for a quality education. Darrel Allison claims that only 4 out of 10 African American males in this state graduate. A 60% drop out rate!

Here is where you and I differ, in that you hold the schools accountable and I hold the parents accountable.

Anonymous said...

larry,
let's set aside the charter school debate for one moment. I would like to understand what you think is the reason why african American children struggle so much in school? And why the achievement gap is so large.

Like you, I am involved with my local schools and I will tell you what I have observed. Generally speaking, whether white, hispanic or black, the children who have involved parents, achieve at much higher level.

granted, I think schools have not been able to solve the issue of trying to educate children where there aren't any parents present in the home.

Larry said...

I feel CMS is doing the job they have been championed by so many folks to do.

That job is to be Mother and Father to everyone who needs one.

That way people who have children will not be bothered with the expanse, time and effort to raise them.

So we both agree.

I want CMS to become a learning institution. One which has well paid Teachers, showing results for that pay. An administration that is only there, like an elevator, taking classes from where they are to where the very people in those classes wish to go. All in the background.

So we both agree. CMS is a failed business/social or what ever model and has produced some of most mediocre students one could hope for in this society.

And yet we hire the same folks that do the very same omnibus things while claiming it is for the children.

What is for the children, is to give them a real chance at a real future.

Anonymous said...

Why pay teachers more? The students will be learning via computer from now on, and teachers (or assistants) just there for crowd control.