Saturday, April 20, 2024

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Graham, NC 27253
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Musical chairs for ABSS teacher staffing


Well, we hate to unload on the school system all at once, but school officials invite public scrutiny and ridicule with some of their policies.

We were surprised a few weeks ago to read a news release from the school system, saying that new superintendent Dr. Dain Butler, who started work July 1, had decided three weeks later to begin offering $10,000 signing bonuses in order to attract additional teachers to the school system for the 2022-2023 school year.

At the time, Butler said the school system had 100 teaching vacancies across its 37 schools.
We guess we didn’t realize Dr. Butler had his own personal kitty with tens of thousands of dollars at his disposal.

Somehow, we’ve labored under the illusion that the school board – seven elected members – are responsible for making such decisions.

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But we went back to double-check. Nope. The school board had not been consulted, had not discussed, and had not voted to approve the decision to offer such signing bonuses.

Butler just went off and did it on his own authority – which we very much question if he has in the first place.

We were equally surprised that when the school board met this week there was nary a peep of dissent from any school board members about Butler’s rather audacious decision.

Aside from our very great concerns about the propriety of a school superintendent making such steep financial commitments on his own (granted, a rather “process-oriented” objection), we also question the long-term effectiveness of these bonuses.

Butler was not unique among local school superintendents or school boards in coming up with the idea of signing bonuses.

In that sense, he was just jumping on the bandwagon.

For it is true that other nearby public school systems are also offering varying degrees of signing bonuses in hopes of filling vacant teaching positions in their school districts.

Hoping to fill approximately 150 teacher vacancies, Guilford County schools announced in June that it would offer $10,000 signing bonuses to newly-hired teachers who agree to work there at least two years, according to multiple news reports.

Other N.C. public school systems – including the two largest, Wake County public schools and Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, which as of late July had 439 and 400 vacant teaching positions, respectively – are also offering signing bonuses to attract teachers to work for their school systems, according to news reports. Durham public schools, which had 220 teaching vacancies as of mid-July, is also offering signing bonuses to recruit teachers for hard-to-fill positions.

But here’s the problem we see on the horizon.

ABSS schools (and other systems doing these parallel kinds of bonuses) are in for a season (probably of several years) of teacher musical chairs. Teachers will gravitate to the school system paying the best bonus (and salary).

Then when they’ve fulfilled that system’s qualifications, they’ll be looking for the next best “signing bonus” to go elsewhere.

And will there be more signing bonuses? We suspect yes, because once the lid on public funds is opened, it is rarely closed.

Now, we will grant Butler this much: at least he structured his signing bonus to give $5,000 (the first half) at the beginning of the school year, with the remainder at the end of the year. So teachers won’t bolt mid-year, we hope.

Other districts however – Guilford and Durham counties, for instance – included multiple years, not just one school year, in the structure for their bonuses.

Oh yeah, and what about faithful, dependable, veteran school teachers who’ve stayed with the school system over the years – and remain in their classrooms this year?

Well, they’ll just be out $10,000, compared to their more financially-motivated colleagues.

They did get an early Christmas bonus last year.

Not a very good way to run a school system, in our judgment.

Butler is new in his role as superintendent, so we’re willing to grant him some leeway, but we don’t consider these inaugural moves – on naming a new school, or buying more teachers – a very auspicious start.

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