RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The Wake County Public School System is among the largest and fastest-growing districts in the state.
A new superintendent is now at the helm to face issues facing the district head-on.
Dr. Robert P. Taylor is 30 years into his public education career. Much of that has been spent in North Carolina.
He’s served as deputy state superintendent for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, Bladen County Schools superintendent, and assistant superintendent for administrative services in Clinton City Schools.
Taylor was sworn in to begin his new job as superintendent of WCPSS on Friday.
“Wake County is one of the flagship districts in this state and in this nation and to have the opportunity to come here and work, I don’t think a superintendent could ask for more,” he told CBS 17 in a sit-down interview.
Taylor said his first 100 days in the role are about getting to know the community. The new superintendent is planning roundtable sessions to get to know the district and those in it.
The six goals in his 100-day plan includes:
- Establishing strong relationships
- Creating a transition team
- Examining fiscal and organizational health
- Analyzing instructional practices and curricular programs
- Learning how the district supports all student groups
“It’s important that we have a dialog of exchanging information and ideas, knowing what’s important to them, and giving them the opportunity to know and recognize that I have a skill set that I think can be valuable to this community,” Taylor said.
The challenge of growth
One of the biggest challenges facing the community as a whole is growth.
“We have people coming from all over the country, all over the world. They come with specific needs that may be new to us. So we’ve got to make those adjustments and be ready to serve every child that walks through our doors,” Taylor said.
Issues facing districts around the state like teacher vacancies and bus driver shortages can also be exasperated with the growing number of students. Taylor says he’ll review teacher compensation and the process behind onboarding drivers to see what can be done to improve the situation
The largest in the state, the district serves about 160,000 students. With growth comes more students, the need for more buildings and the pressure of having sufficient resources in place.
“So, all of those changing dynamics really impact the work that you have to do as a school district,” Taylor said.
Assessing school safety
The school year has already seen several lockdowns and one case of a child bringing a gun to school. Safety remains a top concern for parents.
“You children are 100% safe here,” Taylor reassured parents. “We want to make sure that we have the right kind of technology to help us be safer as a school district but what I continually stress is about what we do with human behavior.”
For Taylor, that means ensuring families are educated in safe gun storage, that buildings are properly secured, and visitors are vetted. The superintendent says they’re still weighing the option of a potential weapons detection system.
“Our job is to make sure that when things threaten our school, we have a process in place to mitigate that,” the superintendent said.
An educator first
As a teacher first, academics are a top priority for Taylor.
“It is about having a laser-like focus on instruction, knowing that students are going to have learning losses and that we have put the proper resources in place to help close those gaps. And not only close those gaps, but to accelerate every student this year,” Taylor said.
With experience running schools at the state and local level, he also hopes to bring a fresh perspective.
“I will have an external lens that I use to view things, and it may cause me to question something that people who have lived in this community their whole lives may never think,” he said.
Taylor has the support of State Superintendent Catherine Truitt who he worked with at the state level. She says professionally and personally, he is the best fit for the job.
“It’s really important that someone who serves in a district leadership role. especially one as large as Wake County, knows what teachers are challenged by, knows what our principals are up against, knows what the challenges and the good parts of the job are,” Truitt.
And to her, Taylor is aware of all those things.