Wake County Schools

Tata prioritizes teachers, classroom in Wake budget proposal

Posted March 15, 2011

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— Superintendent Tony Tata presented a "very creative" budget proposal to the Wake County Board of Education Tuesday, prioritizing teacher retention and classroom investment in the face of a projected $2 billion to $3 billion state budget shortfall next year.

The school district will cut 46 central services clerical positions, reduce contract months for assistant principals and reduce per-student spending by $52 next year, Tata said, while funneling additional resources toward teacher retention in under-enrolled schools and creating new technology and international studies programs in ten schools.

Twenty of the positions to be cut are currently vacant, according to school district leaders. One clerical position at each school would also be cut in Tata's proposal.

The district plans to eliminate 181 months of employment for assistant principals and Tata said he hopes to reduce contracts rather than eliminate positions altogether.

Tata requested a county appropriation of $313.5 million, the same as the school system got last year, despite an expectation that an additional 3,400 students will enroll in the district.

But with some federal funding drying up and state funding in question until the state budget is finalized, Tata said the district faces funding shortages that will require creative solutions.

He outlined a plan to the school board that would re-purpose funds to create "high-demand schools."

"Every student deserves to be in a high-quality school," he said.

He plans to stabilize five traditional elementary schools that are either under-enrolled or have lost significant populations by retaining teachers, which will keep class sizes small and maintain or improve current teacher to student ratios. Tata said this retention will make under-enrolled schools more attractive to parents.

Hillburn Drive, Root and Jeffreys Grove elementary schools are currently at the top of the list, Tata said, but those choices could change depending on where students are assigned next year.

He said his budget would maintain art, music and physical education programs at designated elementary schools – protecting 3.5 teacher positions at each school – and retain six additional teacher positions that would have otherwise been cut. Nineteen teachers total will be affected by the plan.

The $1.25 billion budget also ensures foreign language programs at all of the district's middle schools, maintains 26 pre-kindergarten classrooms that will no longer be funded federally and expands alternative learning program seats from 1,346 to 2,106. 

Board members praised Tata's proposal during a work session before the scheduled school board meeting Tuesday evening. Keith Sutton called the proposal "very innovative" and Chairman Ron Margiotta commended the superintendent for presenting "somewhat surprising" educational initiatives.

"It affects many jobs and many lives, so we have to have a pretty somber tone around this budget," Tata said. "But we do feel like in some tough budget times, we've been able to mitigate the impact on the classroom."

Later Tuesday at a public forum sponsored by the Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African American Children and Great Schools in Wake, dozens of parents spoke out about the proposed Wake Schools Choice plan for student assignment, which would allow parents to choose from 10 elementary, five middle and five high schools based on their addresses.

wake schools Parents weigh benefits of Wake Schools Choice plan

The plan was developed by consultants hired by the Wake Education Partnership and Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce in response to the board's controversial neighborhood schools assignment policy.

Charles Upchurch, a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, has six grandchildren in Wake County schools.

"I have mixed emotions about (the Wake Schools Choice plan), but it's better than what they were originally proposing," he said.

Others were skeptical. While Lisa Morrell, the mother of two Wake County students, said the plan gave her "some hope," she still had concerns.

"We could still end up being a system like Charlotte with completely segregated and poor-performing schools," she said.

The board has not formally discussed or adopted any part of the choice plan. Tata said he is reviewing the plan carefully, but isn't ready to make any recommendations on the issue.

48 Comments

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  • Jackieann Mar 17, 12:17 p.m.

    I'd like to hear this from more superintendents.

  • superman Mar 17, 11:09 a.m.

    The 30 million dollar federal grant they failed to receive would have gone a long way toward their budget deficit. And I like to remind him of the 3 million the board wasted when they changed the location of a high school. Waste not -- want not! I thought asst. principals were state funded. You cant save money when you cut state funded positions. You would save the state but no impact on the school budget except losing the position. Lastly remember he submits the budget to the board and the board submits it to the CC. So anything can happen along the way to change his recommendations. Maybe the CC will increase the tax rate to help make up for the 33 million. Oh well, some people seem to support the board no matter what they do as long as some parents get what they want.

  • T-Man Mar 16, 5:29 p.m.

    'The money we save by cutting the pre-k program could be used to teach the minority of children that are behind and/or other programs that are needed in the grades K-12.'

    The point of the pre-k programs is to be proactive instead of reactive. Get them caught up BEFORE they enter the regular classroom, and avoid trying to catch them up later, once they are further behind.

  • cunhell29 Mar 16, 1:33 p.m.

    Several areas need to be cut. I would start with guidance counselors in the middle schools. What does A MIDDLE SCHOOL NEED 5 guidance counselors for. Next I would get the "BLUE DIAMOND TESTING" this requires a teacher or hired counselor to control or administer. Next I would look at the WORK record of my "ASSISTANT PRINCIPALS" not up for the job gotta go. KEEP IN MIND THAT PRINCIPALS ARE PAID ON THE NUMBER OF TEACHERS AND STAFF THEY HAVE needs to be revamped .Mental health reps,some schools have two a social worker and school nurse,one would have to go.Special transportation "LUCAS". transport big expense for Wake county.Contract lawn care for schools; Big budget? Just some food for thought,,,,,

  • ForHim Mar 16, 12:12 p.m.

    If there is such a shortage of money in the Wake County School System why in the world do they pay for a full sized school bus to take a student to work at a grocery store in the middle of the day and wait in the parking lot for them? I was so surprised when the transportation department told me that when I called about a bus being at the grocery store at lunchtime. Really?????

  • ForHim Mar 16, 12:08 p.m.

    Way to go.

  • trianglelawns Mar 16, 10:50 a.m.

    As a teacher I hope that we keep the people in the classroom. We don't need bonuses or raises but we do need to get our cost of living step back which is minimal but it makes no sense that a new teacher gets paid exactly the same as a 3 year teacher. I would rather coaching supplements be cut then anything related to the classroom. I hope you stick to your guns Mr Tata."

    Yeah and as soon as you cut the coaches supplement, we will have kids "pay to play" which in turn means kids will not participate in sports. So what do we have then? Kids on the street? More involved in drugs/gangs etc?

  • trianglelawns Mar 16, 10:46 a.m.

    Forget the "cutting contracts of assistant principals", CUT them period! Some high schools have 8 assistant principals, doing nothing half of the time. Also, cut some of the counselor positions, esp at the high school level. They do not counsel, they just help kids with registration...or better yet...cut there contracts to 10 months. I agree with the clerical staff. Make AP's do work and stop letting them have a secretary to do all of it for them. I can save the county a bunch of $$...cut all of these area superientendents, cut clerical, cut 1/2 the AP's and leave the teachers alone. Better yet, how about giving teachers a raise that they haven't received in 4 years!

  • ctya Mar 16, 10:17 a.m.

    hsingmom2my3
    you need to get your facts correct. State employees and teaches do not earn the amount of sick days you are speaking of. Also where do you get it they earn personal days. That to is not a true fact.

  • cad Mar 16, 9:10 a.m.

    Tman

    The majority of pre-k children I know are educated at home or private pre-school programs, or daycare. The minority can be taught their colors, letters, and numbers when they reach kindergarten. The money we save by cutting the pre-k program could be used to teach the minority of children that are behind and/or other programs that are needed in the grades K-12.

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