WCPSS Board of Education addresses teacher, staff shortage and student reassignment plans

Wednesday, September 20, 2023 3:31AM
WCPSS Board of Education working to address teacher shortage
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WCPSS said there are 252 open teacher positions, 130 instructional assistant openings, and 316 bus driver vacancies -- causing longer routes, longer pick-up times -- and late arrivals to class.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Wake County Public School System's Board of Education is trying to address a high number of vacancies in the district that could have an effect on student learning outcomes and transportation.

The district's assistant superintendent of human resources, AJ Muttillo delivered a report to the school board on Tuesday night that detailed the number of vacancies within the district.

"We know that even one teacher vacancy in a classroom impacts students in the building as well as other staff members who may have to help and try and cover that," Muttillo said.

Muttillo told the board there are about 91 fewer vacancies than last year.

"We are getting about a dozen new hiring recommendations a day," Muttillo said. "In the interim, we do have substitute teachers."

One parent told ABC11 that her child's teacher quit the first week.

That's a rare case but it still came as a surprise, and parents and students are feeling the effects of the staffing challenges.

"It was tough in the beginning," said Sheila Henderson, reflecting on the first month of high school for her son Kevin. "He had a lot of adjustments with trying to really find classes, things like that. I think he's coming along now."

And the adjustments went beyond the classroom -- because of bus driver shortages.

"I work early. I work in Durham at the VA Hospital," Henderson said. "So, I had to take him. That means I'm late for work. To take him home. I had to possibly get a ride for him to go home. So that's maybe Lyft or maybe a family member."

The district said there are 252 open teacher positions, 130 instructional assistant openings, and 316 bus driver vacancies -- causing longer routes, longer pick-up times -- and late arrivals to class.

The open teacher positions represent a small percentage of the total number of teachers in the district. Nearly 2,100 teachers have been hired since July, but it's still not enough.

"We have teachers who are qualified seeking other states, moving to other areas because of the wages being so low," parent organizer Mike Figueras said.

WCPSS said it lost a significant number of teachers during the summer who did not return to the classroom.

"It's support. They're not feeling supported. From the ones I've spoken to personally -- a lot is asked of them -- and I think in the beginning, they start out excited about being around students and sharing about what they learned. But then it's just a lot of bumps along the way down the road," Figueras said.

The majority of those who left were classified as general education teachers.

"It's bad," said one teacher who did not want to be identified. The mother of two even has a master's degree and said she is "struggling."

"Both of my kids want to be teachers, and I tell them no," she added.

In response to the update, the district is planning to use targeted recruitment efforts which include early contracts, radio and social media advertising, and following up with interested applicants by phone and email.

Of the available positions, WCPSS received the most interest from instructional assistant and bus driver/mechanic candidates.

The district has ramped up recruitment efforts focusing on student-teachers.

There are also plans for a big district-wide job fair in November.

Additionally, parents and students of Baucom Elementary and the soon-to-open Woods Creek Elementary in Holly Springs were expecting to receive an update Tuesday on student reassignment plans for the next school year. Other reassignment plans were on tap for Tuesday's meeting.