Support staff in Wake County schools generally like their jobs, but only about one in seven teacher assistants feels their paychecks are adequate for the work they do.
And TAs, whose jobs have become political footballs during budget discussions in the state legislature, were generally less satisfied than other support employees, such as custodians and secretaries.
Wake school board members meeting Tuesday heard results of a survey conducted in the spring, which came as teacher assistants, part of the non-certified work force, still don’t know how their jobs will be funded in the new budget year. Even before the survey results were presented, board member Susan Evans noted that Superintendent Jim Merrill had recently urged the legislature to resolve its budget discussions positively for Wake schools.
“I was so appreciative that Dr. Merrill went last week to the public meeting and spoke to the North Carolina House,” Evans said. “We are already spending the money that we don’t know we’re going to have.”
The survey, conducted last spring, was the first time Wake, or any North Carolina county, had surveyed working conditions for these categories of employee. More than 3,000 teacher assistants, media assistants, data managers, custodians, child nutrition workers and others took the survey, which was given in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.
“It was a great opportunity for us going forward, and I hope it will supply us a baseline for our future planning,” said Bradley McMillen, assistant superintendent for data, research and accountability.
An additional question on overall satisfaction showed that teachers, in data from a similar survey, gave the lowest positive response at 86 percent, compared to clerical staff at 96 percent, instructional support at 94 percent and non-instructional at 93 percent.
Under last year’s salary schedule, teacher assistants started at $19,855 for 10 months and $23,726 for 12 months.
Some key points of the survey, as presented by McMillen:
▪ Items about the adequacy of pay and benefits drew positive reactions from only 14 percent of instructional support workers, 19 percent of clerical staff and 34 percent of non-instructional workers.
▪ Support staff mostly responded positively to questions about working conditions, with responses of about 90 percent to items such as “The schedule I am supposed to work is reasonable.”
▪ When groups had different takes on the same questions, the instructional support workers, including TAs, were less satisfied than the other segments.
▪ Nearly all the employees, or 95 percent, planned to stay with Wake schools. However, about one in five would like a different job within the system.
Board member Jim Martin said the system should be concerned about reactions that showed about a third of TAs thought they were not protected from being given too many extra duties.
Chief Business Officer David Neter said the administration has received a draft survey from a consulting firm engaged to see how Wake support staff salaries and benefits stack up against compensation for similar positions at other school systems and private companies.