Schools brace for nearly 560 layoffs as budget cutbacks loom

Facing an insurmountable budget shortfall that could reach $100 million, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education has voted to layoff 559 employees within Mecklenburg County schools in preparation of the worst-case scenario.

Superintendent Peter Gorman laid out the criteria at March 8 board meeting on how the teachers cuts would be selected, including 389 teachers 164 librarians, counselors and facilitators and six talent development positions.

“This is not a pleasant process for anyone but we believe it will be less upsetting if it is transparent,” Dr. Peter C. Gorman, superintendent of CMS, told employees in an e-mail distributed before the Board meeting. “We want our employees to know and understand how we will make these cuts, and why. The last three years have been hard ones in CMS. Reductions year after year, school closings, the unceasing media drumbeat about lack of funding and layoffs. It’s taken a toll on morale in our district and that’s certainly understandable.”

No decisions have been made about what to do with the pre-kindergarten program Bright Beginnings, but any teachers laid off from the program would not be included in the board’s 559 cuts.

Under Gorman’s guidelines, first-year Teach for America participants and teachers recruited for strategic staffing initiatives or hard-to-fill positions such as math, science and special education will be protected from layoffs, while non-tenured teachers with low performance ratings or issues with their teaching licenses will be first on the chopping block. The district will notify teachers who are being laid off by May 15.

Math, science, Exceptional Children, English as a Second Language, Montessori and foreign languages teachers will be exempted.

“Teachers licensed and teaching in these disciplines possess specific skills that are essential for the district and/or are difficult to replace,” the guidelines for the cuts said. It also notes that these teachers may be reassigned to other schools as needed.

The school board voted in favor of the decision 6-3, facing one of the biggest budget cutbacks in recent memory. The worst-case scenario will be $100 million slashed from next year’s books.

If, however, cutbacks aren’t as drastic, teachers given pink slips in May could be told over the summer their jobs will not be cut.

Learn more about the district’s plan to cut $100 million from the 2011-2012 budget at www.cms.k12.nc.us/mediaroom/budget/Pages/default.aspx.

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