Wake County Schools

Wake superintendent talks bus safety, teacher diversity

Posted April 1, 2011 12:18 p.m. EDT
Updated April 1, 2011 3:15 p.m. EDT

— During his first weekly media briefing on Friday, Wake County public schools Superintendent Tony Tata stressed the need for improved bus safety and creating more schools dedicated to science and global studies.

Citing an increase in school bus accidents in the first two months of this year, Tata asked for public feedback on transportation issues.

"Nothing is more important than the safety and security of our students, and I am convinced that we can do better," he said.

Anyone with concerns about bus safety issues should contact the Wake schools' Transportation Department.

“School bus safety is not just a school issue, it’s a community issue. We share the roads of Wake County with almost three-quarters of a million other vehicles. We all need to drive defensively and be alert,” Tata said. 

Tata recently met with Transportation Department leadership to investigate the rash of accidents and look for ways to reduce the number of incidents. He focused on three types of at-fault accidents: rear-end collisions, side-swipes and backing into objects.

Tata said Friday that all bus drivers will now have to attend monthly safety meetings.

During the briefing, Tata also mentioned a lack of diversity among the county's teaching staff. He said just over 50 percent of Wake students are black, while 49 percent are white. Eighty-five percent of the county's teachers are white and 12 percent are black. 

Tata said he has directed human resources departments to start targeted recruiting efforts. 

"I want the right kinds of role models in all my schools. I have fantastic teachers everywhere. I have complete trust, faith, confidence. At the same time, I want to make sure students latch on to the right kind of role models, male, female or ethnicity," he said. 

Tata also said he wants more schools to apply to become STEM and Global Network schools. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math, while the Global Schools Network promotes global awareness, language learning and international exchange.

The county has 11 STEM schools and 12 Global Network schools.

Tata said that applications for schools to join either the STEM Schools Collaborative Network or the Global Schools Network are available. The 10 schools selected to join the networks will be announced in mid-April.

"I set aside roughly $1 million to help schools that are struggling with dwindling enrollments and to also expand our network of schools with global and technological capabilities," he said.

Tata also addressed student assignment, saying the six-member task force he created has come up with six courses of action. Members are using 15 criteria to narrow the list to two or three ideas.

In the next few weeks, the task force will let board members and the public know about their proposals, with the hope that the board will approve a reassignment plan by June 20.

"I met with the task force (Thursday), and we are making good progress," he said. "We are in a good spot."

Tata also participated in a virtual town hall meeting online Friday morning. He answered about 20 questions during the hour-long event. About 325 people participated in the online chat, which will be held monthly.