Cary News

Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata apologizes for student assignment computer glitches

Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata apologized Friday for computer glitches that delayed the release of updated student assignment results on Thursday. But he added that the problems shouldn’t detract from how most families are satisfied with the schools they’re getting.

There were multiple delays in accessing updated student assignment results as school officials first missed their goal of having the data online Thursday afternoon and then shut down the website for several hours. The problems weren’t fixed until 10 p.m. Thursday.

Tata said he took “full responsibility” for the “hiccup” that resulted in some families not being able to look up their results or getting incorrect results.

“I personally apologize to parents who needed faster service and better information,” Tata said at a news conference. “However, as I did mention, we did work into the night to fix the problems.”

Thousands of families were trying to access the results to see whether they had gotten the school they wanted under the new choice-based assignment plan.

Wake is using a new plan that replaces the old system of assigning every address to a specific school. The previous assignment plan also attempted to limit how many low-income students attended individual schools.

The new plan has families rank from a list of choices where they want to go this fall.

Some families who didn’t get their first choice or who had to wait until Thursday’s second round of results to get any school assignment have been complaining about the plan.

Tata reiterated Friday that he feels most of the parents of Wake’s 146,000 students are satisfied with their schools in the new plan, which stresses proximity, stability and choice.

“The implementation of the plan has satisfied most parents. And because we had a computer glitch that does not discount really what is a year of extraordinarily hard work,” Tata said.

School officials have said that 74 percent of the 19,000 applicants in the first round of the plan got their first choice.

Tata said the satisfaction rate of families continues to rise. Among the parents who got good news this week are people like Nicole Hathaway, whose daughter was moved from a waiting list into her first-choice school.

“It’s been a very long wait, and that was the most frustrating part of it,” said Hathaway, whose daughter will now attend kindergarten at Conn Elementary in Raleigh.

Tata said that Wake will continue to place students off waiting lists and into their first-choice schools in the next few days.

‘One day at a time’

David Smith is among the parents who are still hoping they’ll get their top choice. His son remains second on the waiting list for eighth grade at Durant Road Middle School in North Raleigh.

“It’s going to be one day at a time,” Smith said Friday.

Tata said families who don’t get the school they want can apply for transfers between May 15 and June 1.

Some real-estate agents have said that the new plan is discouraging people from relocating into Wake because of the uncertainty of where they’ll go to school. Tata called that an “urban legend” on Friday, saying he talked recently with Fidelity Investments officials who plan to relocate thousands of workers to Wake.

‘Doing something’

Tata said Wake is now confronting problems that he said the old assignment plan had ignored. In the past, he said, Wake would crowd schools and force principals to make decisions such as having classes in the hallways or in counselors’ offices.

“We have to give teachers the room to teach,” Tata said. “The hard thing is accepting the sharp criticism of overcrowding that has been allowed to happen ... and doing something about it instead of the easier wrong, which is accepting the status quo.”