Wake County Public Schools

The entrance to the Wake County Public Schools administration office.
Brian Batista / For WUNC

Schools in Wake County are among hundreds across the state preparing to meet a legislative mandate to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through third grade. The Wake County school district is faced with making that reduction while expecting the same steady student growth it has seen in the past decade.

Wake County School Bus
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

A number of racially charged incidents in Wake County Schools has prompted the district to bring together principals to talk about race.

Image of teacher Angie Scioli
At Large Productions

Teachers are a common subject in Hollywood films. Portrayals of teaching range from the unorthodox style of Robin Williams’ character in “Dead Poets Society” to the dull and droning econ teacher in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” A new documentary film about a veteran North Carolina teacher explores how popular culture’s portrayals of the teaching profession are a far-cry from what happens in most classrooms around the country day-in and day-out.

Wake County School Bus
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Activist groups in Wake County are urging the U.S. Department of Education to take action against what they say are discriminatory disciplinary practices in Wake County Schools. In their letter, the groups have cited a video of a school resource officer slamming a Rolesville High School student to the ground.

Wake County bus driver Auh-murel Wright has worked for the school district 10 years, and sill makes less than a "living wage."
Jess Clark / WUNC

In the parking lot at East Cary Middle School, bus driver Auh-murel Wright walks down the aisle of her bus between rows of empty seats, checking the alarms and the emergency exits. She does this before each trip to make sure her ride is safe. And she knows the exact minute she can expect the first students to climb aboard—2:13 p.m.

Millbrook High School students pregistered to vote in their science class.
Jess Clark / WUNC

One of the lesser known provisions of the sweeping 2013 voter ID law ended voter preregistration for 16 and 17-year-olds. Now that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down those 2013 restrictions, preregistration is back, and some North Carolina high schools are taking advantage. In Wake County Schools alone, 3,000 students have already preregistered or registered in school-based registration drives.

classroom
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Wake County school board members have made some creative cuts to fill a $17.5 million budget gap.

Board members approved a 2016-2017 operating budget this week that they say manages to avoid any layoffs, but reduces air conditioning usage slightly, cuts the number of days schools are swept and vacuumed and increases class sizes.

Wake County School Bus
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Wake County school board members are considering where they can make cuts in order to fill a $17.5 million budget gap. A proposed plan would increase class sizes, freeze teachers' local salary supplements and cut back on custodial services.

A picture of a laptop.
Kristoferb / Wikipedia

The Wake County Board of Education has voted to update its discipline policy.

The changes will limit the number of students in long-term suspension, according to Bren Elliot, Wake's Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services, adding that principals will have more discretion to transfer students to an alternative web-based education track called SCORE.

students with laptops in classroom
Enokson / Flickr/Creative Commons

Wake County Public Schools plans to ask permission to run two elementary schools like charter schools.

Rob Wall / Flickr Creative Commons

A new program in the Wake County public schools aims to keep some students out of the criminal justice system.

The program is designed for students between the ages of 16-18 who commit a nonviolent misdemeanor such as petty theft or drug possession.

A picture of a family reading together.
Chiotsrun / flickr.com/photos/chiotsrun/4876331893

More new students enrolled in charter schools, home schools or private schools last school year in Wake County than in the traditional public school system.

Taken together, charters, home schools and private schools enrolled almost 3,600 new students last school year in Wake. Meanwhile, the public school system added around 2,000 new students--far fewer than predicted. Wake enrolled about 1,000 students fewer than projected in each of the last two school years.

10-year-old Tiylar Friday
Reema Khrais / WUNC

Tiylar Friday is a long-time reader.

"Ever since I was, I think, five," he says.

Today, he's 10. And he's got a lot of books.

"Sometimes I wouldn't like to read a book, but after I get in the middle of it, I just want to keep going cause I’m curious about what would happen next."

When Tiylar was in the third grade at his school in Greensboro, he and his peers were tested for gifted classes.

teacher
Jaine / Flickr Creative Commons

A tentative pay schedule from the Wake County school board bumps up Wake’s local contribution to teacher’s salaries. Teachers would see increases from $875 to $3,202, depending on experience and specialty.

The plan also gives a 3-percent raise to non-faculty employees, such as bus drivers and maintenance workers and increases additional pay for teachers with extra duties, such as coaching and advising.

Reema Khrais

This summer, North Carolina senators pushed a plan to cut thousands of teacher assistants. Educators from across the state rallied against the idea, and in the budget compromise unveiled this week, lawmakers decided to keep funding for teacher assistants.

But there’s a catch, and it’s one that many educators say is problematic.

Under the budget deal, schools would be required to use money for teacher assistants for only that. Nothing else.

school bus
wikimedia commons

Wake County schools is transporting more students with fewer buses this year.

The school district cut 70 buses from its routes—even while the number of riders jumped by about 1,500.

"Our transportation funding has decreased at the same time that our student ridership has increased," said Lisa Luten, a spokeswoman for the district. "And so those two factors really pushed us to look at our transportation and see how we could improve it. "

An image of former NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata
NCDOTcommunications / Flickr Creative Commons

Tony Tata  is resigning from his post as North Carolina Department of Transportation Secretary to pursue other endeavors. Governor Pat McCrory abruptly announced the resignation this morning in a release.

Tata said he will spend more time with family and writing fiction books. In an interview set to air Wednesday night on Time Warner Cable, Tata was asked about a possible run for Congress in 2016.

Alberto G. via Flickr

The Wake County Board of Education- home to the state's largest school district- wants to cut back on the number of benchmark tests it requires students to take.

The district has been offering three CASE21 benchmark tests per year in subjects including math, language arts and science. These assessments have come in addition to the statewide End-of-Grade and End-of-Course tests.

Image of the jacket cover image of The End of Consensus
UNC Press

School board elections usually garner little public attention, but in 2009, media outlets across the country were covering the contentious school board election in Wake County. The election occurred against a backdrop of increasing concerns over student assignment policies, tremendous population growth, and the rise of the state’s Republican party.

Wren in Durham admires a snowman she and some neighbors made.
Catherine Brand

Wake County public school leaders say don't intend to change their decision to use spring break for snow makeup days, despite rising concerns from families and teachers.

Officials are assuring students and teachers that schools will do their best to make sure they aren’t penalized if they can’t attend those days.

An online petition has garnered more than 7,700 signatures, urging Wake County school leaders to “bring back spring break.” Many of the comments explain that they've already paid for their vacations and can’t get refunds.

15-501 in Chapel Hill. Southbound is bumper-to-bumper at 1:30 p.m.
Carol Jackson / WUNC

Many North Carolina school districts will have to make some tough decisions on how to make up the recent snow days.

State law requires all public schools to have at least 1,025 instructional hours or 85 instructional days in their calendars. Most school districts have some snow days built into their calendars, so they don’t have to make up all of the lost time.

But for the days they do have to make up, school officials have several options, which include:

a teacher in a classroom
Bart Everson / Flickr/Creative Commons

When North Carolina charter schools were first imagined in the mid 1990s, there were two big dreams: The first was to create something different, a sort of hotbed of innovation. The second was to take all of that new thinking – at least the stuff that worked – and share it with traditional public schools.

“But the second half of that never occurred,” said Jim Merrill, superintendent of Wake County Public Schools.