The Wake County school system will open traditional-calendar schools on Monday with 100 teaching vacancies and uncertainty about how many teacher assistants will be funded by the state this school year.
School officials said Friday that the 100 open teacher positions are slightly higher than normal for this time of year but that it isn’t a large number for a district with 10,033 teachers. Any classrooms without teachers will either have substitute teachers on Monday, or principals will work with their staffs to make sure those classes are covered.
“We know that we are entering the school year with over 10,000 teachers that are ready and excited to teach our students,” said Raushawna Price, Wake’s senior director for recruitment and retention.
But hanging over North Carolina’s public schools is the fact that the final state budget for 2015-16 hasn’t been adopted yet.
House and Senate leaders have agreed to set the budget at $21.74 billion, but details such as how many teacher assistants will be funded haven’t been worked out. The $21.74 billion figure is closer to the original Senate budget that would cut thousands of teacher assistants than the House plan that would have kept all the positions.
TA Plan B possible
While school districts such as Charlotte-Mecklenburg have warned some teacher assistants they may not have a job after Sept. 4, Wake hasn’t taken that step with its 2,200 teacher assistants. Doug Thilman, Wake’s assistant superintendent for human resources, said Wake is focused on putting those teacher assistants to work when schools open Monday.
“If we have to come up with a Plan B, we certainly will,” Thilman said. “We don’t have that yet because we’re confident that the folks at the legislature will recognize and see the value those TAs add to our classrooms.”
Wake school officials gave an update on hiring over the summer:
▪ Wake hired 697 new teachers.
▪ Of Wake’s new teachers, 372 are first-year teachers.
▪ Wake has 830 bus drivers for 825 bus routes with 50 substitute drivers.
Among Wake’s newest hires is first-year teacher Vasti Rodriguez, 26, who was undergoing orientation training Friday. Rodriguez, who will teach special-education students at Fuquay-Varina Middle School, said she made it her goal to work in Wake after graduating from East Carolina University.
“My family has lived in Greenville, North Carolina, and we just wanted to move to the city,” Rodriguez said. “There’s just more opportunities, more variety, diversity.”