Wake County Schools

Wake superintendent visits 60 schools, recommends teacher bonus

Posted March 29, 2011 8:51 a.m. EDT

— Wake County public schools' new superintendent Tony Tata said Tuesday that he has visited 60 schools in 60 days and that his first priority is to "protect teachers and classrooms, first and foremost."

Tata appeared on WRAL-TV's morning news and said he is budgeting enough money to keep teachers and give them a bonus.

"We found enough money for the next year to keep every teacher in the classroom and to grow teachers," he said. "I’m actually recommending a $500 bonus to every full-time teacher."

Tata presented a budget proposal to the Wake County Board of Education two weeks ago, 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.

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. 

"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."