“Excellence without exception” is the theme going into the new academic year for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
As the district prepares for more than 141,000 students to return to classrooms on Monday, district officials want improvement in academic success.
Superintendent Crystal Hill said that progress will be made, but mistakes are also likely to happen along the way.
“Excellence does not mean perfection. None of us are perfect, so please do not expect perfection from us,” Hill told reporters on Wednesday.
“But what we are committed to is being one percent better every single day.”
Academic benchmarks will be given to every school and will be tracked throughout the school year, Hill said.
The district also addressed other topics of concern, including staffing shortages, transportation and student nutrition.
There are currently 516 teacher vacancies across CMS, according to Kecia Coln, the district’s chief human resource officer.
Recruitment has been a top priority recently. The district even hosted job fairs and hiring events throughout the summer. Hill said CMS is currently processing 200 applicants in hopes of having positions filled by the start of the school year.
Officials attribute the shortage to a decreasing traditional educator pipeline, and the decline that started before the pandemic, Coln said.
To combat this, CMS has exercised a number of hiring options, including a teaching residency program. Schools will also utilize more guest teachers.
Principals have also used their own unique tactics to recruit teachers, but the solution isn’t “one size fits all,’ Coln said.
Hill said she believes schools also have to move teachers around based on their strength and need for the school.
“The number one impact on student achievement is an excellent teacher in the classroom,” she said. “ [Teaching is] not going to look like the way it did 5 years ago.”
More than 70,000 students are signed up for bus transportation this school year.
The district currently has 30 bus driver vacancies, but believes the use of express stops will alleviate staffing issues.
The stops, located at schools near the students’ homes, will serve as pickup and drop-off points for students in need of transportation to farther magnet schools.
“While we see challenges, we believe that we are prepared for the first day of school,” Brian Schultz, chief operations officer, said.
Students who were registered by Aug.1 will have transportation available on the first day of school. Any date after is being processed for the second day of school.
The district has also hosted community engagement sessions to support families with navigating school transportation concerns.
General transportation information and a sign-up link can be found on the district’s website.
Food and nutrition
The district has increased its Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) schools from 68 to 111 this school year.
Schools designated as CEP are able to provide breakfast and lunch for every student enrolled each day at no charge.
If students do not attend a CEP-eligible school, they can apply for free or reduced lunch via the district’s website.