'Labor of love': Wake Schools superintendent reflects on lessons learned as her retirement nears

Joel Brown Image
Tuesday, June 13, 2023
Retiring Wake Schools superintendent reflects on lessons learned
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Catty Moore explains why it's the right time to retire as superintendent of Wake County Schools

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- She's in her final days at the helm -- Wake County Public Schools System Superintendent Catty Moore retires at the end of the month.

After 34 years working in the massive school district, five as superintendent during the pandemic that upended classrooms, Moore sat down with ABC11 to talk about what she's learned along the way.

When you're the superintendent of North Carolina's largest school system, graduation season gets exhausting.

"At least 20 to 30 a year for the last 10 years," said Moore who in her five years as schools chief has attended every commencement, every year. "While attending 34 graduation ceremonies is a grind, it is a lovely grind to watch every single graduate of (the school district) cross the stage."

Between ceremonies, Moore sat down for what may be her final interview with ABC11 before her July 1 retirement. She's stepping down with three years remaining on her contract. We asked why she decided to leave before the contract ends.

"When I took the role of superintendent in 2018, five years ago, I knew that it would take a minimum of five years to begin to do the work to make the impact in the areas of greatest need for the district," she said. "And then, we had the pandemic."

Managing the district through COVID-19 may come to define much of Moore's tenure. It was an unprecedented interruption that came with its share of backlash.

"The (tensions through the pandemic) was wearing. But it has not worn me down. Because it is the process," Moore said. "I've had to continually remind myself for the last couple of years during this time of lack of civility, as you called it, that we really all want the same thing. Every single parent wants what's best for their child."

Moore described the biggest challenge of her job as "meeting the diverse needs of all of our learners."

Post-pandemic, WCPSS remains a top 10 district in achievement. But test scores have dropped, not unlike most districts. She led work on a new district-wide strategic plan aimed at creating a more flexible school system that's able to pivot to what students need in real-time.

Moore also beefed up the district's equity affairs office during an ongoing moment of hot-button culture wars.

"We live in a political arena and education, more than ever now, is in the middle of that political arena," she said. "We teach students. We're in schools... and that position requires compassion and inclusivity. It requires appreciation of every child or adult that walks through our door."

She's the first woman and first Latina to lead Wake Schools. But for Moore, it's the title of "educator" that she may hold most dear.

"Teaching, learning, education, the magic that is school does not happen in the superintendent's office, it happens in our over 10,000 classrooms every day," Moore said. "So any day that I get to visit a classroom, visit a school, is a great day."

Moore predicted that given the challenges wreaked by the pandemic, it will take another three to five years to get the school system where it needs to be. She said now seemed the ideal time to pass the baton to a new leader to carry the district forward in the plan.

WCPSS school board members are slated to begin finalist interviews for Moore's replacement on June 23. The district has kept the names secret through the weeks-long selection process. An interim superintendent will take over until a permanent superintendent is named.

Moore, meanwhile, said she plans to join her husband in retirement, eager to spend more time with her young grandchildren, including being present, next fall when her oldest grandson begins kindergarten.