North Carolina Superintendent Elect breaks down priorities, responds to parents primary concerns

Updated: Nov. 4, 2020 at 6:26 PM EST
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It’s a topic that continuously gets brought up each year when Charlotte-Mecklenburg School’s Board of Education discusses its fiscal budgets on making schools a better place for children.

John Bugaiski, a Kannapolis City Schools teacher, said it starts in the classroom.

“The best way to reach students is when you don’t have an overcrowded classroom," Bugaiski said. “We get more and more kids every year, but we don’t have the funding in place to have adequate staffing."

Bugaiski said more funding wouldn’t just help with classroom sizes. It would also help staffing in schools for social, emotional positions.

He says oftentimes it falls on teachers who are stretched thin to begin with.

It’s a topic that continuously gets brought up each year when Charlotte Mecklenburg School’s Board of Education discusses their fiscal budgets.

“I’m very concerned with our funding of public schools,” said Charlotte Mecklenburg School counselor, Kathryn Schenk. “That leads to being concerned about having more social workers, goal counselors, psychologists, I think we definitely need more of that in the schools.”

WBTV asked North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction Elect—Catherine Truitt about her priorities for families.

“Do you think it’s important for schools to have those ratios that they need when it comes to social and emotional staff?," WBTV’s Education Reporter, Chandler Morgan asked.

“Absolutely," responded Truitt.

Truitt said in a perfect world, with a large amount of funding, it’s a priority she’d address right away.

“The first thing I would do would be to fully fund our school support personnel at the recommended ratios, school nurses, our counselors, our social workers, our school resource officers, school psychologists,” said Truitt.

Currently, Truitt said she’s focused on getting kids back inside the classroom for learning--a challenge she said was brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would love to work with those [state & local] entities to offer some semblance of local control to our local school boards, and our local superintendents," said Truitt. “I think that our most vulnerable children are not in school right now, and need to be.”

Truitt said she doesn’t think that it’s an impossible task to open our schools safely while giving families a choice.

“I think it’s it’s important to put politics aside when it when it comes to this and do what’s right for kids," said Truitt.

“I think it’s probably a combination of either not enough money to hire the number of adults they need, or it’s that they can’t find the qualified people that they need,” Truitt explained, referencing reports of overcrowded classrooms in Charlotte -ecklenburg Schools.

Truitt says there are creative ways to solve that, that that involves doing things differently than we have before.

“I’ve talked on the campaign trail about converting those position allotments to dollars, and saying to local leaders...superintendents and principals who do the hiring...' we’re not just going to give you till you can have these positions, we’re going to give you a pot of money, and you hire who you need,'," said Truitt.

Truitt says competitive teacher pay could also help with overcrowding issues.

“Alot of schools that do have an F are high poverty schools. So that is where the frustration comes from the people who work in those schools who are working really, really hard. And yet, the obstacles are just, they just seem too great to overcome,” says Truitt. “We need to do a better job of supporting our struggling schools, which is actually something I used to do.”

Truitt said she served as a turnaround coach, nationally for three years.

“We need to do a better job of supporting those schools and giving those teachers the tools that they need to overcome help those students overcome those barriers,” said Truitt.

Truitt said she plans to continue work that she says has already been started by the State Board of Education.

“67% of eighth graders in North Carolina do not read or do math proficiently heading into high school,” said Truitt. “We have left this unchecked for too long. And as a result, a four year residential college experience has definitely become a game of the haves and the have nots. This cannot continue.”

Truitt said her plan is to continue the work that she says the State Board has done; utilize the science of reading to make sure that the department is using research back methods of early literacy instruction when the state teaches kids how to learn how to read in early grades.

Truitt emphasized one of her top 3 priorities includes opportunities for students post high school graduation.

“All kinds of pathways when they finish high school, whether that’s a four-year residential college experience, one of our awesome community colleges, some sort of apprenticeship or training or certificate program,” explained Truitt. "There needs to be pathways for all students to get training and education beyond high school that is a marketplace value.

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