Wake County Schools

Tata: Good teachers priority even amid layoffs

Posted July 1, 2011
Updated July 5, 2011

— Layoffs are a reality in Wake County schools amid budget cuts, but the mission of educating children won't be impaired, and hiring high-quality, diverse teachers continues, Superintendent Tony Tata said during a weekly press conference Friday.

The Wake County school board will vote July 12 on proposals to lay off custodial staff and to reduce teacher's assistants' contracts from 10 months to 9.25 months, effectively cutting their pay by 7.5 percent, Tata said.

"It's been a tough budget. Real people with real jobs got laid off," Tata said.

Those cuts were planned in response to the $19.7 billion state budget that took effect Friday. School officials have said that Wake County schools received about $40 million less for 2011-12 than for the 2010-11 school year.

The school board also cut 165 clerical and 47 Central Office positions in the $1.25 billion budget it adopted in May.

Linda Dextre, who runs the media center at Wendell Middle School, said that her assistant was one of the clerical positions cut. Dextre said her assistant helped her teach new technology learn new technology and do research for papers and projects.

"Not as many students are going to be able to do meaningful, critical-thinking projects," she said.

Wendell Principal Mary Castleberry found a way to bring in part-time help for the media library.

Dextre said that's not enough. "I'm not sure that's what parents want for their children, to put them in an environment where you are doing the best with what you have, instead of providing the best services available," she said.

Despite the cuts, learning in Wake classrooms won't be affected much, Tata said.

"In a macro sense, we are able to continue to educate children in classrooms with minimal impact," he said. "At that the end of the day, that's my job: to make sure that principals and teachers have the resources that they need."

Hiring new teachers and renewing teachers' contracts has continued with an eye to "recruit the best talent possible for Wake County schools," Tata said.

Budget cuts now reality for schools Budget cuts now reality for schools

By mid-June, Wake schools had hired 45 new teachers, including 13 men and 27 blacks and Latinos, he said. Contracts had been renewed for 729 teachers, including 582 whites, 120 blacks and 16 Latinos.

Tata said he's directed human resources staff and principals to reach out to recruitment sources that had gone untapped for years, including historically black universities and colleges.

"If the minority population has gone up and our hiring rates have remained relatively the same, we're either not geared to tap into the talent pool of those populations or we're consciously not doing that. Neither one is a good thing," he said.

Tata described minority recruitment efforts not as "some big social statement" but as widening the search for talent.

"We've been leaving talented, prospective teachers on the table by not aggressively seeking high-quality teachers in every possible venue, from every possible background," he said. "Anybody who thinks I will lower standards quite frankly doesn't know me well."

Tata also talked about the student assignment policy, which has been undergoing a controversial shift from assigning students, in part, to balance diversity across the district.

Staff members are still crunching numbers and analyzing data from a trial run of one proposed plan in which nearly 14,000 families participated.

Preliminary data from a survey connected to that trial run showed that parents' priorities include:

  • a choice of schools
  • keeping cohorts of classmates together through elementary, middle and high schools
  • a guaranteed K-12 feeder pattern
  • having schools close to home
  • express busing to schools
  • the option of high-achievement schools

Tata also said that he believes Wake schools are "in good shape" to meet the concerns of the AdvancED accreditation group, which looked into the district after a complaint filed by the NAACP about changing the student assignment policy.

The superintendent expected to make a report to AdvancED in the fall.


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  • outback1967 Jul 7, 2011

    "Hey, Mr. Tata - I think it's great you're interested in minority hiring, but look at the who was affected by the layoffs. I'll bet you find the layoffs disproportionately impacted minorities as well."

    I hear the school district in Atlanta has some teachers he might want to hire....

  • Marvin Jul 1, 2011

    ""It's been a tough budget. Real people with real jobs got laid off," Tata said."

    But...but...but...Tillis and Berger said their budget fully funded education jobs. Yet another fabrication from the General Assembly, like the 1 cent sales tax reduction on the same day gas tax goes up 2.5 cents/gallon.

    Hey, Mr. Tata - I think it's great you're interested in minority hiring, but look at the who was affected by the layoffs. I'll bet you find the layoffs disproportionately impacted minorities as well.

  • BIlzac Jul 1, 2011

    Everybody hears stories.

    Intelligent people don't assume the stories they hear are automatically true.

    I brought two boys through the public school system and can recall many times I was told about some unreasonable or poorly behaving teacher, only to find out later that I was only hearing part of the story.

    Yeah, there are good teachers, not quite as good teachers, average teachers, and below average teachers.

    Just like there are good, not quite as good, average, and below average people where most of you work.

    The "last in, first out" system is flat out wrong, but understand that most teachers know it's wrong and needs changed too. But let me ask you this - who gets let go first at UPS, or Caterpillar, or similar places when there are cuts? I'm betting that in most cases it's the last ones hired. School's didn't make up this lousy approach all on their own.

    Take the time to find out what life is like as a teacher for yourself, rather than the heresay.

  • BIlzac Jul 1, 2011

    What's disturbing to me is that many of you have no idea what a quality teacher looks like, and yet you present your comments as though you have it all figured out.

    Teachers need to be masters of their content area.

    Teachers need to be able to get students excited about their content area.

    Teachers need to be able to construct a solid lesson plan that ensures the students are really learning something.

    Teachers have to be role models to the students in the entire school and community.

    Teachers have to like kids and enjoy working with them - they have to be willing to establish a rapport with their students to improve their chances of drawing the student in to the content area.

    Teachers have to be collaborators and willing to teach and learn from their colleagues.

    Teachers have to stay on top of the world around them, always keeping up to date with what kids are in to.

    How can any of you measure that? The NC teacher evaluation form runs about 6-7 pages now.

  • Not_So_Dumb Jul 1, 2011

    "So children are going to bond better, be more comfortable and learn more because they have the same race of the teacher. Experience tells me this is in no way a fact."- bnlncteach

    I agree 100%. Bonding and being comfortable for the kids are numbers 11 and 12 on the top 10 list of qualities a teacher needs. It is, as you said, all about the teacher's skills.

  • Bring on the 4 Dollar Gas Jul 1, 2011

    Quit feeding us the sauce man, we ain't buyin' it. How are you going to make the cuts with just cleaning people? Do we really have 100's of them in our schools? If so then maybe that is the correct way to cut. I'd also ask who will be cleaning those schools when you fire all the cheap workers?

  • bnlncteach Jul 1, 2011

    So children are going to bond better, be more comfortable and learn more because they have the same race of the teacher. Experience tells me this is in no way a fact. Children learn from teachers who know their content, know how to teach, spend time building relationships with the kids and families and care. I know many children that won't work and avoid the some teachers that are the same race as them but thrive in others rooms who don't share their race. It is the individual teacher and their skills..not what they look like.

  • whistler411 Jul 1, 2011

    You should make sure the teachers that are hired as the most highly qualified. Quite frankly, gender or ethnicity should be a "qualification". I understand fully that students, especially minorities, want to walk into some of their classes and see someone who looks like them, but you shouldn't actively seek candidates based on race. There are lots of talented minority teachers out there. If they want to work in Wake County, they will. I have a feeling the demeanor of the current school board would be a huge turn-off to a lot of minority candidates.

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Jul 1, 2011

    Aren't all teachers good teachers?

    If not, why are those that aren't kept to begin with? Isn't keeping them giving the children they teach second or third-rate educations?

  • Dukefan1 Jul 1, 2011

    People want GOOD teachers, but they don't want to pay them much. So sad.