Catty Moore on retirement, how schools have changed and lessons she's learned after 35 years in education
Wake County Superintendent Catty Moore is slated to retire from the position July 1.
Moore has been working in public education for over 30 years and has served as the county's superintendent for the last five years.
Ahead of her retirement, Moore will be spending much of her time at the Raleigh Convention Center presiding over high school graduations that will take place there.
WRAL News met with Moore Wednesday for an interview ahead of her impending retirement.
WRAL: What's going through your head right now?
Moore: (I’ve) been in the Wake County Public School System since 1988, a really long career here in this community, so for me it's all sort of wrapped up together. It is not just about having been the superintendent the last five years, but really having invested in and reaped rewards from what the public school system means to Wake County. My children were educated here, my husband worked in the Wake County Public School System, retired from the Wake County Public School System, now it's my turn.
WRAL: What's been the most rewarding for you?
Moore: The most rewarding things for me always happen when I'm visiting schools. Just being in schools, being around students, being around teaching and learning, that close to where the work is actually happening every day is really important to me. So all of my highlights are always going to be around being in schools.
But I will say from the role of the superintendent and the leadership roles in the last few years, the ability to work through our prior strategic plan, Vision 2020 and then move into our new strategic plan that keeps a lot of the core beliefs and mission and vision intact during a time when there's been a lot of change but we are committed to that work moving forward and then adding to it the notion of equity and excellence for all students as the work that will be done over the next five years in the district that will be carried on after I'm gone is very exciting and very rewarding.
WRAL: What advice would you leave for the next person that takes your position?
Moore: I think that when I think about education in general and the Wake County Public School System, I think the first thing I would say is, this is a community that loves its public schools and has always supported us, and I think they will continue to do so.
So leverage that support, leverage the excellence that's in our schools every day because it is there. And then second, I think I would say that we need to trust our teachers and our principals, continue to build their capacity, and we want to listen to our community.
I think both of those are incredibly important and maybe even more so as we move forward in the environment that we're in now.
WRAL: State lawmakers did recently pass a bill to expand private school vouchers giving more families options to choose from. What are your thoughts on investment in private school education as opposed to public school funding?
Moore: I think I would say this from two different perspectives. First, I think that choice in our districts and schools is incredibly important to our community. We see that with the choices that already exist. I think those are important. I support choice. The Wake County Public School System offers lots of choice to our families. I do think that when choice is touted at the expense of, or in opposition to the value that our public schools bring to a community, that is a false narrative and a problem that needs to be addressed.
Our public schools are the bedrock foundation of democracy in this country, and that is a position to be respected and supported. And when initiatives and efforts work contrary to that, I just think it doesn't make good economic sense not to mention moral sense.
WRAL: Are you going to sit down and retire or do you see something else?
Moore: I have no professional plans. Beginning July 1, I'm going to the beach. My family … they are taking little wagers on how long I actually do nothing. But I do know that 37 years as an educator is a really long time. I am tremendously grateful and appreciative of all of that time and all of those experiences. I may do something in the future, but it'll have to be super flexible and something that I'm really passionate about.
WRAL: What are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing Wake County Public Schools right now?
Moore: I think that a tremendous opportunity that we have before us, quite frankly, is really the coalescence of the work that the board has done to adopt a new strategic plan, to also adopt an equity policy, and to have five, almost six new board members, quite frankly, in the work to lead this community forward in the next few years.
There's a lot of opportunity there in the vision, the mission, the ambitious goals that have been set there, the work of how the equity policy and incoming framework for equity will support all of that work, and quite frankly the energy of those new board members who are working to support our schools. I think there's tremendous opportunity in that.
In terms of challenges, I do think that we're just in an environment where we have to expand a good bit of energy reminding folks how fabulous our schools are, how important our schools are to the overall community. And we need to continue to lift those folks up.
We need to continue to show them the ways that we respect, value, and honor what they're doing in our schools every day, whether that's compensation or innovative hiring strategies, making sure that we are able to fill the pipeline with excellent educators and staff in schools, those are some of the challenges that I see moving forward.
WRAL: You've been with Wake County since the 1980s?
Moore: I started as a teacher in 88.
WRAL: How has it changed?
Moore: We're larger, for one thing. (There have been) incredible periods of growth during that time. I remember when we were opening six, seven schools a year, growing by six or 7,000 students a year. That growth has ebbed, and it's more disparate, and families have more choices, so all of that is a part of the landscape moving forward. And I think, really, that's okay.
We want the opportunity, I think we relish the opportunity to show our families on any given day that all of our schools are a best choice and a first choice for our families. I think that's what we're gonna need to be able to do moving forward.
WRAL: What are the biggest things you've learned in your time here? What have been your biggest takeaways?
Moore: I think the need to remind ourselves, myself, to find common ground in terms of the dissonance that we hear, the challenges that we have, the crisis of the pandemic.
For me, the common ground that I always go to in any difficult situation, whether it's a challenge, someone who is unhappy, someone who's looking for something different or new, is really to remember that we all care about our kids.
Parents love their children, want what's best for their child. We as a district have to love our kids and want what's best for them as well. I often reflect on the fact that when I'm asked, how do you work with the families of 160,000 students? And the only answer to that is one at a time.
It is very hard work, it's incredibly challenging work, but our students are not just 160,000 in a group, they are individuals, the families that they represent, the communities that they are a part of, all need time and attention.
WRAL: Do you have anything you'd want to say to the folks who've looked to you as a figurehead? Anything you want to say to those families that have stuck with you all these years?
Moore: I think it's important for families to know that my orientation towards this work really is about the individual kid, the story, the teacher, the parent. And I love to listen to those stories, even when there's conflict, even when there's dissonance.
The greater understanding we have of each other, the greater care we can exhibit for each other. And there's no aspect of the Wake County public school system that I don't feel like I've immersed myself in to really understand. But I also know that it's important to hire great folks that actually do day-to-day and manage this $2 billion organization. But I also know that it's important to hire great folks that actually do day-to-day and manage this $2 billion organization.
So mostly what I would say is just thank you for the trust, for the opportunity, and continue to support your public schools.