Friday, April 18, 2014

Charter pay disclosure: Resistance continues

The state's education leaders now say charter schools,  like other public schools,  must disclose what they pay their employees.  But some leaders of the charter movement say they disagree.

Richard Vinroot,  a lawyer and charter pioneer who works with Sugar Creek and Lincoln charter schools,  says those schools will provide salaries to the Observer but will withhold the names of all but the highest-paid employees.  He says that's because the charter schools,  which aren't bound by the state teacher salary schedule,  pay teachers based on performance.

"I don't want Sally to know what Jimmy got paid,"  Vinroot said.  "It would create disruption within our school."

As Superintendent Heath Morrison noted when I mentioned that argument,  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools also has a number of teachers who receive merit-based bonuses,  which we've reported every year.  It may or may not create tension among colleagues,  but it tells the public more about how those pilot systems are playing out,  at a time when performance pay is one of the biggest public policy issues in education.

Chris Terrill, head of Pine Lake Preparatory School,  sent a salary list with all names and even specific job titles withheld.

"I believe that the data shows a high level of fiscal responsibility and a stewardship of public tax dollars.  We have tried to provide salaries that are high enough to recruit and retain an excellent faculty and staff,"  wrote Terrill, who is presumably the administrator listed at $115,360 a year.  "Pine Lake is a model for openness and transparency," he added,  citing the school's compliance with the state's Open Meetings Law.

Baker Mitchell,  a Wilmington charter school operator who serves on the N.C. Charter School Advisory Board,  has been blogging against disclosure since I raised the issue in March.

"Although charter schools are subjected to the same accounting standards and annual auditing that govern traditional schools, they are not required to invade the privacy of their employees by publishing their salaries,"  Mitchell wrote in March.  He contends that the tax forms filed by nonprofits provide enough information,  and noted that many other nonprofits receive public grants or subsidies without being required to disclose salaries.

This week he suggested that test scores should provide what taxpayers need to know about their investment in charter schools.

"We frequently measure costs in terms such as dollars per gallon of milk, or dollars per foot of fence,"  Mitchell writes.  "We don’t need to how much the farmer pays his helpers or how much the fence contractor pays his carpenters – we want to know the final cost of the product.  Similarly, we should ask,  'How much are we paying for each test passed by the students of a school or district?'  What is the taxpayer’s cost per successful test?  Individual salaries give no information whatsoever about how well students are being taught."
And in a comment on an Observer charter-salary story,  Mitchell noted that private vendors get public money from traditional public schools:  "Pearson, Inc. receives hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars for their student testing software.  Thomas Bus Company received hundreds of millions for their school buses.  McGraw-Hill receives hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars for textbooks.  Duke Power, Xerox, Apple, Microsoft, etc. all receive huge amounts of taxpayer money.  Why would invading the privacy of their workers' personal salary information help improve their products?"
Mitchell, Terrill and Vinroot are omitting a key point:  Charter schools agree to abide by the state's open meetings and public records laws when they accept the public money.  That law protects many parts of personnel files for employees of school districts,  the state,  cities and counties  --  there's no specific protection for employees of charter boards  --  but it says that names, salaries and many other specific items remain a public record.
It's possible that these folks told state officials when they accepted their charters that they'd only follow the parts of the law they agreed with,  but I doubt it.  The boom in charters means those schools are starting to get the kind of scrutiny other public schools receive,  and that can be uncomfortable.  (The Observer doesn't cover Mitchell's schools,  but his Roger Bacon Academy charter management company has faced public questions about enrollment,  personnel decisions and an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education.) 


Larry said...

We all have a fascination with Charter Schools, and some have an agenda.

But in the mean time things are having to be hashed out. Just like with that currently closed charter school, which was on the ropes. Four or five stories, on right after the next on a couple of hundred kids.

I am glad the observer has had three or four on this disclosure thing. That should get things going like above for those close to 11 thousand kids in Charter Schools.

As soon as it is cleared up we will get get stories on CMS and the 150 thousand kids, I am sure.

Always read the last line.

The boom in charters means those schools are starting to get the kind of scrutiny other public schools receive, and that can be uncomfortable.

Yes all we need to do is to data mine the stories from just the last few months and see who is getting the scrutiny and who is not.

Thanks for keeping on this subject with out wavering on anything else.

I feel they should disclose. And I know you will not let up until they do.

Anonymous said...

Vinroot has a point if it were a private, religious, or parochial school with 100% private funding and not funded with tax dollars as all Charter schools are.

Withholding salary information on any public state employee including teachers or administrators that use tax funding is illegal needs to be acknowledged and reported in full as he being an attorney should know.

Charter schools are 100% public funded and all salaries need to be reported immediately without delay or get reported to state officials in Raleigh.

Unknown said...


The only valid point that Mr. Vinroot and Mr. Mitchell can make is that the General Assembly intends Charters to lead the way in doing public education so much differently and better that it will cause beneficial change throughout the public school model. That could mean non-disclosure of salaries; however, it would be surprising that just keeping salaries confidential is the catalyst for higher student performance.

But let’s give these two men temporary credit for an earthshaking idea. If grades increase because salaries are confidential, wouldn’t all districts want that no-cost solution to student achievement?

It could give rise to doing away with how legislatures and school districts make the education budgets.

So the question to Mitchell and Baker, can you prove non-disclosure raises grades?

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

Get a grip Larry, everyone has an agenda. The Kochs, the Waltons, the Gates, Pearson, Pete, Repete, Cannon, Tillis, Hillary, Bill, Pope Francis, Elevation, the General Assembly, Democrats, Republicans. Better yet, create your own blog and flail away.

Anonymous said...

Regular public schools have to disclose teacher salary information and it really doesn't help anybody. But it doesn't hurt either because teacher salaries are set by a strict formula based on years on the job.

Charter school salaries are not set by a strict formula. If the salaries are disclosed, this will make it harder for the schools to maintain costs. The reason: if they're paying one teacher a little more than another, everyone will suddenly know it and the lower paid teacher will ask for more money. This will ultimately force the charters to have less money available than they do now, as teachers bargain for better salaries.

None of this will help the public at large and the disclosure will have a harmful effect on charters.

I suspect Ann Doss Helms is a liberal and is on a crusade to use the paper to level the playing field between charters and regular schools.

Disclosure of teacher salaries isn't really going to help students learn any better. Why is Ann so focused on this issue?

Anonymous said...

What do they have to hide? Withold their funding if they do not comply. P.S. Larry, this wouldn't be a story if they had released it months ago when requested. That is on them.

gwalkerruns said...

I hate to tell Vinroot and Mitchell this but I promise you your teachers already know what the others make. I'm wondering if the real intent is to hide administrator salaries (though Vinroot claims they will release those). Regardless, if my kid was in that school and they refused to disclose salaries I'd wonder what other secrets they might be keeping. Charter schools are like foster parents. Some get in with good intentions to help kids; others are focused only on the riches it will bring. Disclosure of salaries is a great and mandatory way to lessen the latter.

Anonymous said...

Larry, this may be a classic case of "Be careful what you wish for." How many years did you scold me for covering CMS too much and ignoring charters, which I believe you also interpreted as a sign of my support for CMS.

Wiley Coyote said...

If charters receive tax dollars, then their books should be open to the public - including salaries.

Again, another non-issue being kept in the forefront to deflect the dismal job public education is doing to educate kids.

How's that $55 million dollars working out for Project LIFT, which includes big bonuses for "quality teachers"?

Anonymous said...

If " pay for performance" is something you have to hide, then it is wrong. It is patently unfair. Yes- pay a teacher for his/her PERFORMANCE - not a child's test score.

BC said...

Vinroot's comments also potentially violate the National Labor Relations Act. Under the NLRA, it is unlawful to any private employer to prohibit employees from sharing information about their compensation (as sharing such information is critical to the right to engage in concerted activity under the statute). Even Vinroot's comment could create a per se violation of the NLRA.

As a parent with kids in 2 different charter schools, I think we have a right to know how the public money is being spent. The StudentFirst debacle shows how critical transparency and accountability are for recipients of public funds.

Anonymous said...

I think everyone on here will be presently surprised, if and when, charter schools are forced to provide salaries. As a substitute teacher for one school system and a charter school, it makes no difference to me what they make. Why? Because, the state or boards at that those charter schools can't pay them enough. Charter schools are awesome because they can use the money differently. You will be shocked to see that charter school teachers are indeed making much less money. Everyone is dying to know the formula for success and failure of a charter school. It's called sacrifice. You are wanting to know so much that you will sacrifice a teacher's dignity to do so. Those same teachers are sacrificing income to give a better education and have a better work environment. That's pathetic and sick for all of you to be so focused on this. Instead of being focused on something so stupid, you all should be focused on all the silly testing your children are having to participate in. Your children are being tested to death just so the state doesn't have to give raises. We aren't 46th for nothing. None of the salaries should be public knowledge. It's not our business. What is our business is what our children are learning and how it's being shoved down their throats. I am embarrassed these conversations are even happening and embarrassed for education in the state of North Carolina

Larry said...

Yes Ann I invited you to many group meetings and organizations which were starting or supporting Charter Schools, and you did not find time.

Thanks for reminding me.

7:47 AM Please provide the facts you have that Charter Schools are funded 100 percent by the public, since we all know they are not.

8:17 Sorry I do not work for a newspaper which says it is fair and balanced, as well as represents all of Charlotte. But I would be happy to help the observer for free by having a fresh opinion for them to print.

8:25 AM, oh the old if they are not guilty then why am I reading about them in the paper. Especially since we know the paper is Absence Of Malice, which just happened to be a movie, in which a person was innocent but hounded by the print media.

10:15 Thanks for some clarity and understanding of the real purpose of education.

Kevin M said...

Publishing names is not necessary and is an invasion of privacy for public employees (at charter schools or anywhere else).

The demand for transparency should be directed at the agency not the workers. Whatever wisdom is gleaned from knowing salary amounts would be no less gleaned if a name were not attached.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, the links to Baker Mitchell's blog worked yesterday, but now I get "error establishing database connection" when I click these links or go to his blog. Anyone else getting a connection?

Anonymous said...

8:19, Because of the way the state has frozen teacher salaries in years past, there are teachers with less experience earning the same or more than teachers with more experience.

If charter schools are going to receive state money, they should be subject to the same rules, regulations, and requirements as public schools. Period.

Anonymous said...

The charter school where I worked did not pay me on the NC teacher scale, which is one of the reasons I chose to leave.

Anonymous said...

It may help the teachers.. What if a charter board members girl friend/wife teachers and she gets a higher salary.. If its public money it should be open to the public.

Larry said...

Looks like the Word Press Engine dropped out.

But the cached version can be found here:

Larry said...

A way to always check is to go to

or just

And put in the site you are checking.

Currently it shows the server is not responding.

Anonymous said...

For over a decade pay for performance has been all the rage and it has done nothing. Millions have been spent in our state alone and still nothing. The number one (two) factor in a childs life is mom and dad. Pay for performance in this state is an excuse not to pay teachers at all. It has not worked in one state. Children are not commodities. You can't take the broken one's back. You can't even make children go to school. I have received bonus pay. Some customers would get more attention then others. Some who I new would not help my numbers were given less attention. Are we going to do that to children?

Anonymous said...

7:57 Actually you say that pay for performance has been successfully fought tooth and nail for the past decade. Please name the North Carolina school districts that use pay for performance. It would be more accurate to say that preventing pay for performance has been all the rage.

In contrast, many charter schools use pay for performance and they are popular as a result. The main goal of the salary disclosure effort is to hinder pay for permorance at charters.

Anonymous said...

Clearly this conservative ex-mayor attorney is using this to counter the recent liberal d'rat Obama weak attempt to socialize private business with a fraudulent equal pay for women trial balloon that cdeflated after it was exposed his own male staffers made more than his female staffers.
Hypocrisy at its best but typical from this administration.

Vinroot needs the excellent conservative controlled current Republican NC Legislature and governor to approve this concept and change the current liberal socialist laws.

Larry said...

I am glad, that folks are finally getting on the bandwagon of how much folks are getting paid.

For some reason the salaries at CMS, and other systems, eclipsed what one would consider even high for the results they produced.

And yet not too many jaws dropped considering the results they produce at CMS.

I am glad we will finally see that no matter how the Charter Schools are spending the money, they fact is, in the majority of the cases they produce a great product, of education, over the majority of CMS producing mediocre products.

Salary look up for CMS

Just hit the search with all and all and it will start with the highest.

Look at how much folks make and yet they do not find money for the actual class room teachers.

Maybe we need to direct our anger and get that changed first then work on the few charter things we see in the paper everyday.

For some reason this little bit of competition has created this firestorm, and can you imagine if all those parents on waiting lists for Charter Schools could find an available Charter School, what would happen?

First Name Last Name Location Position SalaryDescending Total Compensation
Heath Morrison Superintendent's Office Superintendent $288,000.00 $288,000.00 Details
Ann Clark Superintendent's Office Deputy Superintendent $190,000.00 $190,000.00 Details
Sheila Shirley Finance Chief Financial Officer $180,000.00 $180,000.00 Details
George Battle Legal General Counsel $173,040.00 $173,040.00 Details
Maureen Furr South Mecklenburg High Principal, Senior High $160,346.90 $160,346.90 Details
Kelly Gwaltney Human Resources Chief Human Resources Officer $160,000.00 $160,000.00 Details
Frank Barnes Accountability Office Chief Accountability Officer $160,000.00 $160,000.00 Details
Valerie Truesdale Chief Information Office Chief Information Officer $160,000.00 $160,000.00 Details
Millard House Chief Operating Officer Chief Operating Officer $160,000.00 $160,000.00 Details
Kathryn Block Communications Division Chief Communications Officer $160,000.00 $160,000.00 Details
Nancy Bartles Zone Admin Office Area Superintendent- Learning Communities $155,195.28 $155,195.28 Details
Sharmel Watts Zone Admin Office Area Superintendent- Learning Communities $154,500.00 $154,500.00 Details
Guy Chamberlain Auxiliary Services Associate Superintendent For Auxiliary Svcs $153,277.60 $153,277.60 Details
Thomas Spivey Myers Park High Principal, Senior High $146,348.83 $146,348.83 Details
Curtis Carroll Berry Academy of Technology Principal, Senior High $143,997.34 $143,997.34 Details
Dawn Robinson Zone Admin Office Area Superintendent- Learning Communities $138,905.21 $138,905.21 Details
Tyler Ream Zone Admin Office Area Superintendent- Learning Communities $138,905.21 $138,905.21 Details
Charity Bell Zone Admin Office Area Superintendent- Learning Communities $138,905.21 $138,905.21 Details
Katherine Rea Zone Admin Office Area Superintendent- Learning Communities $138,904.77 $138,904.77 Details
Diane Adams Providence Spring Elem Principal Elementary $137,104.04 $137,104.04 Details
Ronald Dixon David Cox Road Elementary Principal Elementary $136,338.96 $136,338.96 Details
Ynez Olshausen Waddell Language Academy Principal Middle $135,839.00 $135,839.00 Details
Nancy Brightwell Mallard Creek High Principal, Senior High $135,505.89 $135,505.89 Details
John Wall West Charlotte High Principal, Senior High $135,000.00 $145,000.00 Details
Andre Mayes Legal Counsel, Deputy General $133,900.00 $133,900.00

Unknown said...

Mitchell has a lot to hide.
Full disclosure should be required.

Anonymous said...

All OVER $100,000 with ongoing "Market Adjustment" raises with


All on the backs of frontline teachers who actually do work on a daily basis. No person working in CMeS should make over $100,000 without teaching at least ONE class.

Anonymous said...

Many states have tried and it has proven unsuccessful for the most part. Colorado has had some but it is not based on student test scores. It is a comprehensive evaluation based on observations. The program was also based on a high base salary. NC couldn't have such a program. It doesn't want to pay it's teacher's anything. I was once for paid for performance until I moved to NC. Its become an excuse not to pay teachers a fair competitive wage. I don't think teachers should be paid 6 figure salaries but 40 grand after 11 years of teaching is pathetic. I understand we had a rescission but no other states are gutting education like NC. My sons school has lost 3 great teachers. I used to stay out of local political issues. Not anymore!!!

Anonymous said...

I have had 2 student come back from charters because of behavior issues. It's nice to pic and choice. Regardless, given the same demographics, studies have shown characters performance is about the same as public schools. I am all for charters, I attended catholic schools. I believe in parents choice and money should follow individual students. Sorry folks, charters performance is not that much better.. They are just cheaper and used as a placebo for the middle class. They will always be cheaper because they do not have special education (for the most part). Public schools even give special education services to charter schools. Charter school students even play on public school sport teams. I am fine with it. Where I come from public school busses take catholic school kids to school. Catholic schools perform well and the parents pay taxes. Just make sure we don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. I have watched many good teachers leave. I myself am looking for a VA job.

Anonymous said...

Baker Mitchell is using the charter school trend as a means to make himself a fortune, he is currently under federal investigation for financial questions, he has made about 16 million from his charter school business, edcuating around 900 students. I wonder if the state investigated these questions surrounding his charter schools since he is on the board that governs charter schools in this state.

Larry, as as disclaimer, I am not a liberal, I am a moderate to conservative person who is very concerned about this charter movement in this state.

Shamash said...

If they take public money, they should have public disclosure.

Too many charlatans out there wanting to have that gubmint cheese.

Anonymous said...

I don't have an issue with good/effective principals making over $100K a year. A great principal can have a profound impact upon a school. That said, I would like to see good/effective teachers be paid more also. It's a fine line because we don't want salary to be the reason why people teach, yet we need to be able to attract and retain the brightest in this profession. A great teacher can make a huge difference, I have seen this with my own children.

and to Larry, Charters are not a superior option. If charters served the same student make up and still scored higher then you might have a point, but they don't, so your assertion that Charters are better is false. The successful charters in this region all share one common trait, mostly all white student populations with little to no diverity. If you don't believe me, look for yourself.

Shamash said...

Anon 11:09am

" The successful charters in this region all share one common trait, mostly all white student populations with little to no diverity."

And how is this different from the successful non-charters?

The main difference I see is cost, not so much the final product.

(Discounting the "poverty" excuse, of course, which also seems to apply more to some groups than others, though few like to admit it...)

Larry said...

Again if you say it enough folks begin to believe it as fact.

Charters have to take all students who apply, and with the extensive waiting list apparently many folks feel they are a great alternative to CMS and systems like CMS.

And if you are worried about black students, you need not worry as white students in the suburbs get about 5 thousand per student, while urban students get up to 20 thousand per student.

Most folks do not seem too upset about the many futures and careers those suburban students may have lost due to lack of adequate funding by CMS.

Anonymous said...

Larry, look it up.. I have no problem with charters. They are not a cure all. I know fox news likes them. I agree with parent choice but many states have had charters for years with little success.

Shamash said...


"Most folks do not seem too upset about the many futures and careers those suburban students may have lost due to lack of adequate funding by CMS."


Don't know how many times I've mentioned this.

But few seem to care about those geese who lay the golden eggs for everyone else to divvy up.

That's the true tragedy of public education. And why the "rich" usually choose private schools.

Some think it's the kids at the middle and bottom who are "forgotten", but I disagree.

Maybe the "middle" needs a little help, but the "bottom" is well represented.

Larry said...

You mean systems like New Orleans which Fannie Flono wrote about praising the outstanding results of how well test scores, graduation rates rose.

And how is was not until I posted the fact that they were all, almost Charter Schools, which serve some of the most challenged students, that she even knew they were Charter Schools?

Can not find the Flono fawning piece but I am sure someone with better search capabilities at the observer will be able to find it and post it here for us.

Shamash said...


Couldn't find the Flono article praising New Orleans schools.

Found her praising KIPP Charter Schools, though:

Larry said...


I found the article, but I am too cheap to pay for it.

Maybe Ann can post it here for us.

4. Peeking behind the graduation numbers
Associate Editor
Fannie Flono
A heightened realization that high school graduation rates are unacceptable is taking root across the nation - not just here in Charlotte or in North Carolina. This week, Louisiana released data on its high school graduation and dubbed the results "historic."
Statewide, the four-year rate rose to 70.9 percent, up from 67.2 percent the year before. State education officials said that level of growth is nearly three times the increase seen over the previous three years. Among New Orleans...
Published on 2011-10-21, Page 11A, Charlotte Observer, The (NC)