Saturday, February 25, 2012

Who pays CMS' $1 million legal loss?

News that a jury ordered Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to pay more than $1.1 million to a teacher whose career was ended by a rushed resignation had people asking who foots the bill.  Taxpayers?  An insurance company?

The verdict came in too late Friday to get an answer from CMS,  but I'll work on that Monday.  The budget includes about $2 million for the CMS legal department,  but I'm not sure whether that includes money set aside for settlements.

Some online commenters suggested that the verdict would wipe out teacher raises.  I don't think that's likely.  However it's handled,  CMS' financial folks know legal expenses are part of the cost of running a school district.  The award won't bust the $1 billion-plus budget.  Raises are much more likely to be torpedoed by the reluctance of county officials to raise taxes or slash services to come up with the $30 million interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh is seeking for a 3 percent across-the-board bump.

The federal courthouse,  where I spent most of last week covering the teacher's suit,  is a digital desert (even cell phones aren't allowed in),  so I fell behind on blogging.  Here are some catch-up items.

* The target for hiring a superintendent has been pushed back from mid-March to early May.  Chair Ericka Ellis-Stewart says that allowed for three new members to take part in crafting a profile. The search firm will stop taking applications March 8;  after that there will be background checks, screening, narrowing the list and eventually a chance for the public to meet finalists.

*Chris Cobitz,  the CMS administrator who recently resigned after erroneous graduation-track data was included in the district's school progress reports, is now a senior associate with edCount, a Washington, D.C., firm that works with states and the U.S. Department of Education on assessment and accountability.

*Finally, I have learned that disabling the annoying "Prove you're not a robot"  CAPTCHA log-in does indeed allow computers to create comments about hot Latin girls, real naked celebrities and "galerie erotyczne prezeznaczone."  But since they're almost all landing in the spam filter, that's no skin off my (human) nose. I'm happy to let the robots slug it out.  Come to think of it, I suspect those strangely garbled words that cause so many of us to flunk the humanity test are actually created by computers. Sounds like the start of a science fiction movie ...

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