09/19/09 — Wayne school shuffle only four teachers

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Wayne school shuffle only four teachers

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 19, 2009 11:43 PM

Wayne County Public Schools fared better than most districts this year, only having to shift four teachers since the start of school.

Each year, administrators estimate where to assign educators and until the 10th day, closely monitor the rise or decrease in student numbers around the county before determining class sizes and allotments.

Coupled with the lack of a state budget in place when classes resumed Aug. 25, making assignments was a gamble, officials said.

As it turns out, the district was "pretty close" in its calculation, Superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor told the school board Monday night.

"We will have to move a few teachers around, move some students around," he said. "We have asked our parents to be patient with us."

But the budget concerns might not be over.

"We were told, if you think it's bad this year, wait until next year," Taylor said. "That was not the news we wanted to hear.

"I'm being told now that some of the other state agencies have been told to hold money back. We will hope and pray that we will not be asked as we did last year to give money back to the state."

Wayne County fared better than most, said Marvin McCoy, assistant superintendent for human resource services.

"After the 10-day count, we only had a four-teacher adjustment," he said earlier this week. There was also a fifth teacher lost to attrition, which means she retired and will not be replaced.

"The four teachers in the K-6 environment were readjusted to schools needing an increase," he said. Basically, he explained, if the targeted number goes up, an additional teacher may be needed; if numbers drop sufficiently, the allotment is reduced by one teacher.

The way it played out this year, McCoy said, was a form of trade-off -- Greenwood Middle lost one, Eastern Wayne Elementary gained one; Spring Creek Elementary needed one more, Grantham had to give one; and Brogden Middle also lost one.

"The question that would come to mind was how can Greenwood, which is a middle school, lose a teacher to the elementary school?" McCoy said. "Because of the classification, they lost one of their K-6 grade teachers that's qualified to teach fifth and sixth grade, which is middle school."

Class sizes, which the state increased by two students in grades 4-12 this year, were readjusted by individual schools' principals to accommodate the shift, he added.

At present, McCoy said, "We are near capacity on the average, at or near capacity."

Even in the northern end, where population has climbed markedly in recent years.

"They have their allotments that's commensurate with their student body size," he said.

Other increases around the district were attributed to consolidations at several schools this year.

In the central attendance area, which encompasses schools within the city of Goldsboro, enrollment was up at Dillard School, which now has grades 5-8.

Numbers are also up at Mount Olive Middle School, where fifth grade was added, resulting in a drop at Carver Elementary, where the fifth grade was formerly housed.

"Teacher allotments went with that shift," McCoy pointed out, as did modular units.

Compared with larger districts like Wake County, where hundreds of teachers were released due to the state budget, Wayne was able to offset the potential problem through retirement.

"Seventy-one retired teachers were released, which helped to compensate for that along with the normal attrition helped," he said.

And while McCoy said he is feeling "encouraged and optimistic" about the teaching pool in the district, there are still some adjustments.

"We have had a couple resignations since the start of school," he said. One was a middle school science teacher, another a high school math teacher.

"We're in the process of replacing them," McCoy said. "There are two international teachers en route, but unfortunately they're not here yet."

Such is the nature of his job, securing highly qualified teachers for all the schools, replacing ones where needed.

"We are extremely pleased not to be down 15 and 20 teachers, having to fill vacancies, for substitute teachers, because in years past we have had anywhere from 15-20 teacher vacancies at the beginning of school," McCoy said.

One way he is able to replenish the pool is by surveying the surrounding landscape. Wake County's latest reduction "made the pickings good for us," he said. At the same time, however, Wayne has also lost candidates to neighboring counties.

In the past, that has occurred because of a better benefits package or higher salary, especially in Johnston and Wake counties. But this year, short of having contracts in place before the school year resumed, Wayne also lost teachers to Duplin and Lenoir counties.

"There are specialty area teachers that left because they did not have a contract, and we did not want to hire and have to release, because for them, of course, they want the security," McCoy said.