Local News

Local teachers, schools face uncertainties

Posted July 31, 2009 6:02 p.m. EDT

— High school Spanish teacher Janet Schwarz has three degrees from North Carolina State University. She never thought she'd be without a job.

"It's just frustrating not knowing where I'm going to be next year," she said.

Schwarz, of Fuquay-Varina, taught at Knightdale High School under a contract that ended in June. It was not renewed because of state budget cuts and an uncertainty of how much state funding the Wake County Public School System will receive.

Knowing how much funding the state will provide is critical, school system leaders have said. It makes up two-thirds of the Wake school district's budget.

Nearly 1,500 Wake teachers, like Schwarz, had contracts that ended in June, and with funding still unclear, the school system has 550 teachers on a month-to-month contract.

Lately, Schwarz has been sending out her résumé and recommendation letters to other school districts.

So far, she has applied at 23 schools in the area. The responses, she said: "Absolutely nothing."

Dhedra Lassiter is principal at Heritage Middle School, a year-round school in Wake Forest.

Four weeks into the school year, she has nine fewer teachers. Those positions have been eliminated.

"Every day, we look at what we get, what we need, how we can be more efficient," Lassiter said. "You have to rethink how you manage the work."

Until a state budget passes, every Wake County principal can only have 95 percent of the teachers they need, and there might be further budget cuts, depending on the final numbers from the state.

Lassiter doesn't think she'll be able to hire any more teachers. Schwarz said she's holding out hope.

"I am optimistic that schools will start calling once that budget passes," Schwarz said. "There comes a time when it just needs to be passed, because there are so many people like me, just waiting."