Superintendent's Community Report
January 25, 2024
To the community we serve,
A little more than 100 days ago, I received the honor of a lifetime when I was sworn in as superintendent of the Wake County Public School System.
As promised, I have spent much of my time since then traveling all over Wake County to meet with thousands of students, families, staff, business partners, and community leaders - to listen, to learn, and to connect.
In October, I hosted 14 roundtables with approximately 1,600 attendees from various parts of our community and every geographic region of the county. More than 2,000 ideas emerged from these groups that we divided into two categories: celebrations and next-level opportunities.
I also have spent time visiting schools, our central services departments, and many other community events to gain a first-hand perspective on the everyday work that drives everything we do and stand for.
My purpose was both personal and strategic.
It was essential that I begin by getting to know the people of our district and letting them get to know me. It was even more essential for me to get a deeper understanding of this school district in all its complexities and to hear from the people who know best what’s working and what needs to improve.
The problems we face and how best to address them are indeed complicated. But I was reminded time and again that our families’ most fundamental desires are straightforward, universal, and timeless:
- They want their children to be happy, safe, and well.
- They want their children to gain the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in higher education, the workplace, and life.
Here is what I knew before accepting this position and what was confirmed at every stop along my 100-day journey: to a remarkable extent, the Wake County Public School System delivers on all those fronts.
By virtually every measure, our students outperform their counterparts in other school districts, and thousands graduate every year well-prepared for college, career, military service, and productive citizenship.
So, I hope the first thing people will take away from this report is that our school district is exceptional.
This report outlines what our community celebrates about WCPSS, including:
- Prioritizing student learning and well-being;
- Working to establish equitable practices in all facets of school and district operations;
- Providing a wide variety of school programs to support the varied needs, talents, and interests of our diverse student population;
- Hiring and retaining highly trained, qualified, and dedicated staff; and
- Building and nurturing strong community partnerships.
The most critical feedback we received addressed how we can get better. This report summarizes the recommendations provided by our community.
The most important finding comes down to this: We strive to serve all students exceptionally well, and we usually succeed. However, the reality is that we do not always meet the personalized needs of every student.
Our community generally agrees this isn’t good enough. We have a duty to meet the needs of every child, each day.
The challenge, of course, is figuring out how we get there. Feedback from staff, students, and essential community partners is critical in identifying the work we need to do to reach our goals.
Among our areas for improvement, a few key themes emerged, including:
- Designing instruction to empower students where they are academically, emotionally, and culturally;
- Increasing access to mental health services;
- Ensuring our highest needs students have adequate resources and staff support;
- Recruiting and retaining high-quality staff to serve in all job roles;
- Continuing to focus on being good stewards of public resources; and
- Improving communication and working relationships between district leadership and school-based staff.
The challenges we face are not new or unique to WCPSS. My hope is that this report will be a guide for all of us - Board members, staff, students, families, and the community - as we work toward lasting improvements.
After meeting with so many of you, I’m even more optimistic that we can achieve real progress in reaching students who have been historically marginalized while continuing to meet the needs of all students, regardless of background or ability.
And I was heartened to realize how closely the desired outcomes identified by this community aligned with those of our Strategic Plan.
When we succeed in better serving all students, we will continue to be the first and best educational choice for all Wake County families. This is my charge for all of us. By working together, we can and will achieve our goals.
But we must be clear-eyed in acknowledging that progress will not always be linear or without dissent. Everyone has a vested interest in our school district and deserves to be heard. Ultimately, some tough decisions will be made.
My commitment to you is this: When it is time to listen, I will listen intently and with an open mind. When it is time to deliberate, I will do so transparently and in pursuit of consensus. And when it is time to act, we will act prudently but decisively.
I hope everyone will spend some time reading and reflecting on this report. It will inform the critical work that lies ahead.
Together, we will take the Wake County Public School System to the next level of national excellence.
Dr. Robert P. Taylor,
This report outlines the celebrations mentioned most often by roundtable participants, as well as students, staff, families, and community partners in site visits and informal conversations. These themes identify what we do well and what we need to continue to expand upon.
Dedicated, High-Quality Staff
Intentional Focus on Equity
Variety of Student Program Opportunities
Throughout the roundtables and in other less formal settings, we asked students, staff, families, and essential partners, “What would take WCPSS to the next level?” These are the suggestions that were given most often. These are the commitments that we need to make collectively to respond to the feedback given by our community.
Equitable Instruction and Curriculum
Safety and Well-Being
Employee Recruitment and Retention
Organization for Excellence & Equity
I am inspired by this dynamic community of learners, teachers, leaders, families, and engaged citizens. What we do is important, and how we do it makes all the difference.
This in-depth, community-wide review of our school system has made clear the district’s commitment to placing students first. It also highlighted that this is indeed an exceptional place, brimming with multi-talented and caring students, families, and staff.
We will strengthen our work to ensure that each and every student enters a safe, welcoming, supportive, inclusive, and engaging school environment each day. Our dedicated staff, intentional focus on equity, and supportive community position us to be a national model of excellence. The improvements necessary to reach this goal are grounded in the commitments outlined above.
The collective dedication of our community, families, students, and staff is evident. I am confident that we possess the knowledge, talent, skills, and resources necessary to pursue meaningful change. I am humbled and honored to join you on this transformative journey toward greater excellence and equity.