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When can N.C. teachers expect bonuses?

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State employees can expect their bonuses by the end of January, the State Board of Education clarified in a called meeting this week.

As previously reported by Alex Granados, teachers will be eligible for up to $2,800 in bonuses.

All full-time state employees, including teachers and principals, who were employed as of Dec. 1 will be getting $1,000 bonuses. Employees making less than $75,000 a year will get an additional $500.

However, employees working fewer than 20 hours/week are considered “temporary employees,” and are therefore not eligible for these bonuses.

On top of these bonuses for state employees, teachers will get an additional $1,300 in bonuses, while principals will get an additional $1,800. You can read more about what pay educators can expect here.

Torchlight Academy put on probation

The State Board also voted to put Torchlight Academy, a charter school in Raleigh that has been operating for over two decades, on probation due to “longstanding and widespread failure” to comply with federal special education laws.

Though charter schools are not subject to the same regulations as other public schools, all schools are required to follow the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The Department of Public Instruction’s Exceptional Children Division said it noticed deficiencies at the school as early as February 2020. After giving the school a year to remedy these issues, DPI said it saw little to no progress, calling the issues “systemic.”

According to a letter sent to school officials from the Office of Charter Schools, this decision was based on several findings:

  • “Grossly negligent administrative oversight of the EC program;
  • Failure to properly implement the Individualized Education Program process as mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act;
  • Alteration and falsification of EC student records;
  • Lack of federally mandated “Maintenance of Effort” for the previous three (3) consecutive years;
  • Inability and/or failure to provide access by NCDPI EC staff to EC student and finance records when requested;
  • Lack of qualified staff in the EC program;
  • Falsely reporting staff’s compliance with Every Child Accountability and Tracking System (ECATS) training; and
  • Failure to provide all documentation requested by DPI’s EC Division.”

“The Board also remains concerned that rather than acknowledge its failures, Torchlight continues to blame the Office of Charter Schools and DPI Exceptional Children’s Division for Torchlight’s noncompliance,” Chair Eric Davis said, “and takes little or no responsibility for its failure to comply with federal and state special education laws, rules, and regulations.”

The State Board put Torchlight Academy on Level 3 Governance Noncompliance Status, which lasts 10 calendar days and means the school must immediately correct the issues. For comparison, Levels 1 and 2 give a school up to 30 days to correct any issues.

If the school does not address the issues outlined above, the State Board could revoke its charter.

In a letter to DPI officials, the school denied each of its findings of negligence.

When the school was notified that the issue would be put before the State Board, it responded that the school needs more time for the “new highly qualified EC Executive Director” to respond to the situation.

The letter school officials sent to DPI notes that the 10-day time frame poses additional problems because it overlaps with the holiday season, when many employees will not be working.

“A 90-day period would be more considerate of parents, students, DPI staff, and school staff and enable an appropriate resolution to the identified issues,” the letter from school leaders reads. “Torchlight Academy consistently served its EC students during the COVID-19 face-to-face closures, including providing related services. We believe the (Charter Schools Advisory Board)’s actions are unwarranted and overly severe.”

In the letter, the school said this punishment would be unfair to the school’s other 600 students, who are mostly Black and Hispanic.

The State Board will discuss the school again at its January meeting.

Anna Pogarcic

Anna Pogarcic is a Reporting and Engagement Fellow for EducationNC.