Wake County Schools Superintendent Tony Tata apologized today for the delays in releasing updated student assignment results on Thursday while also continuing to say that most families like the schools they're getting.
During his press conference, Tata said he took "full responsibility" for problems that first delayed the posting of the results on Thursday and then led to the site being shut down for three hours. He said they hadn't encountered this problem in rehearsals in which the front end of the system where people logged in wasn't connecting to the back end where the results were located.
"I personally apologize to parents who needed faster service and better information," Tata said. "However, as I did mention, we did work into the night to fix the problems."
Families who haven't gotten off a waiting list shouldn't give up hope. Tata said they'll continue over the next few days to place students off waiting lists as more seats opened up from filling magnet seats and placing people off waiting lists from round one.
Two themes that Tata kept hitting on today was that most families are satisfied with the new plan and that the old node-baaed plan led to problems they're now having to confront.
Tata argued that the old plan put the problem of crowding at the school level rather than having it confronted at the district level. He said the node plan let schools get overcrowded, forcing principals to find space where they could.
"Instead of passing the problem on passively to principals, which the old node-based plan did, we’re taking a systemwide look at it," Tata said. "Capacity is a system-level responsibility."
He brought up the example of teachers using counselors' offices because there's no other space. He said the new plan is causing them to confront the problem as they try not to overcrowd schools.
"We have to give teachers the room to teach," Tata said. "The hard thing is accepting the sharp criticism of overcrowding that has been allowed to happen and is in existence and doing something about it instead of the easier wrong, which is accepting the status quo."
On the issue of the Mordecai and Oakwood parents who didn't get any assignment in round one due to lock of capacity, Tata said he had personally visited four elementary schools in the area looking for extra space. He said they found some empty classrooms and filled them after determining that the feeder middle schools and high schools could handle the impact down the road.
Tata was asked about real-estate agents saying the new plan is causing people not to come to Wake. Tata called it "a little bit of an urban legend being built," as he related how he's talked with Fidelity Investments officials who plan to relocate thousands of workers to the area.
Tata said capacity exists for those newcomers, the wait lists will dissolve and that the old plan created uncertainty too.
"There has always been uncertainty in assignment around here," Tata said. "It’s taking a look at what issue do you want to deal with. Do you want to pass the problem to the principal and feel good about it at the system level because you don’t have to worry about it and now the principal is teaching in counselor’s offices.
Or do you really want to take the hard right and begin to address this despite the criticism up front while still trying to take care of as many parents as possible and students as possible. And that’s the path we’ve chosen here.
The path is one where we do have a high satisfaction rate of parents. Those that are not satisfied, we are dealing with them individually attempting to give them something that is satisfying to them and their student.”
I asked Tata how he'd respond to people who say the computer glitch showed the plan isn't ready and has holes.
"The implementation of the plan has satisfied most parents," Tata responded. "And because we had a computer glitch that does not discount really what is a year of extraordinarily hard work. This is a hard business."
Tata also talked about how lean the team was that's implementing the new plan.
"To the extent that we created anxiety for parents, we apologize and I personally take responsibility for that," Tata said.