Wake County Schools

Wake names new superintendent

Posted December 23, 2010

— The Wake County Board of Education named a new leader Thursday for the state's largest school system.

Anthony J. Tata, a former U.S. Army officer and a leader in the Washington, D.C. school system was tapped to take over the reins of Wake County schools.

"It was evidently clear he is the right man for the job," said board member Chris Malone.

"We found the best," board member Deborah Prickett echoed.

New Wake superintendent not a unanimous choice New Wake superintendent not a unanimous choice

Before the board met to make its decision, member Carolyn Morrison issued a statement detailing the shortcomings she saw in Tata's résumé and declaring her intention to vote against his hire. (Read Morrison's statement.)

Morrison praised Tata's military service but wrote, "nothing in his background of experience suggests that he is prepared to lead the largest school district in North Carolina. He has had no experience with instructional leadership."

The vote to hire Tata was 4-2, with Kevin Hill voting with Morrison against him. Two members of the board, Keith Sutton and Anne McLaurin, were not present. 

Sutton said the meeting was called on short notice and that he didn't feel he had the information to make an informed decision.

After the vote, both Morrison and Hill pledged to work with Tata.

Tata, a former brigadier general and author, most recently served as the chief operating officer for District of Columbia Public Schools, where he oversaw purchasing, food service, technology and other support areas for the school system. He replaces Del Burns, who stepped down from the role in June.

Tata's contract calls for a salary of $250,000 per year plus benefits for a term beginning Jan. 31 and ending June 30, 2014.

"I am humbled by the board's selection," Tata said. He issued an extensive statement outlining his background, both military and academic, and the approach he plans to take in addressing the pressing issues facing Wake schools.

"One of my goals will be to energize all aspects of Wake County's very large, complex organization to operate at maximum capacity and minimum cost so that we can push as many resources as possible to where they belong -- the classroom," Tata wrote.

Tata faces two significant challenges when he begins work in Wake County. The school system faces a budget shortfall estimated to be $70 to $100 million. As he and the board try to find savings, they will also take on the implementation of a new student assignment policy.

The board majority voted in February to convert Wake schools from a student assignment policy based on economic diversity to one that focuses on keeping students in schools close to home. That change has prompted accusations of racial bias, protests, board meetings lasting up to 12 hours and dozens of arrests.


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  • nrosie09 Dec 30, 2010

    Re-reading my post, I found that I was unclear about something important. In order to be hired as a university instructor, an individual was only required to have actually spent 2 years in a classroom with real kids. Of course they had to have racked up at least a master's level of university coursework. These are the folks who (unless qualifications have changed in the meantime) are teaching potential educators how to teach....

  • nrosie09 Dec 30, 2010

    Overseeing a large school system is about logistics, not setting educational policy. The State of NC sets the course of study, and many layers of academic supervision implement the teaching thereof. As for the man having no "background in education", in the late 80s when I got my teaching certificate through UNC-CH, professors/instructors required only two years of actual classroom-with-kids experience. Just maybe his "no background" will mean that he retains some independent thought and common sense as opposed to following the latest ideology/philosophy in "Education" as defined by the university community. The job of schools is to educate kids (learn how to learn, be able to read, write, and be viable in today's world) in a safe and secure setting, not promote the latest social engineering scheme. Let's hope his fresh eyes will help the schools fulfill this job under dreadful economic conditions.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Dec 24, 2010

    Ms. Meeker needs to resign from the school board.

    Her position on the board is to allow Mayor Meeker to have undue influence on the school board when the schools are Wake County Schools and not Raleigh City Schools.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Dec 24, 2010

    Finally somebody will run the schools as a business and cutout unneeded waste especially in the administration office on Wake Forest Road.

    Also, eliminate the unneeded administrative overhead in the schools.

    Tata's is a conservative with a backbone. That's why the four liberals on the school board don't like him.

    Time to end the social engineering in the schools along with the failed socio-economic diversity (race) based busing.

    Let's go back to neighborhood schools and end the socialist social engineering programs.

    We also need to focus on the 3 R's for the first time in several years in WCPSS.

  • injameswetrust2003 Dec 24, 2010

    "Keith Sutton is neither the first nor the last board member to miss a meeting.."

    That really isn't the point though, is it? For someone who outspoken against his counterparts and their ideals, a 'boycott' does little to help his cause. Of course if he and Ms. Meeker were there, it would have been a 5-4 vote, everybody knows that. The voters have spoken, let's move forward and get rid of socioeconomic busing. Ms. Meeker should resign regardless because a mayor's wife on the school board is a conflict of interest.

  • mrchevalier Dec 24, 2010

    I went to high school with Tony where he was a stand-out wrestler. His mother was my school counselor. I can attest to his family's emphasis on education. His success at West Point and his notable military career is further evidence.
    The military lives by constant training. Nearly all officers serve as an instructor at some time. My father was career Navy and many of my most valued professors had some connection to the military. Tata's career should not be entirely discounted.

    However, we have also demanded that our teachers be more accountable, gain more certification, and have more experience. Given all the challenges, it is a near miracle what our dedicated teachers achieve. I have seen this dedication on the "front lines" as a long-term sub, volunteer, and parent of 3 in WCPSS.

    Is what we ask of the “troops” in experience and education not applicable to the leader? Schools can learn from business and military. However, they MUST take all and have little choice what to sell.

  • Andiecat Dec 24, 2010

    $250,000 -- for someone who thinks Sarah Palin is more qualified to be President than President Obama? What? He may have excellent credentials otherwise, but that statement is telling. Of course, the board members who hired him probably think the same way. For the sake of the school kids and their parents,let's hope he does a good job.

  • pappy1 Dec 24, 2010

    Tony Tata is the man for a job that will be as difficult as this one. One can only hope those with a political axe to grind don't cause him to reconsider before he even starts work. The race-baiters are up in arms. They couldn't care less about educating children.

  • 2kids Dec 24, 2010

    Mike H Sorry but we have never had a union in my place of work and we never will. Dont need it cause we know what needs to be done and lazy people do not last long here cause they end up getting left behind.

    Andy2 I am glad you thought it was stupid. That is what I think of the teachers union. They would rather see 100 teachers loose a job than to have the teachers pay 1% for insurance. So again I hope the teachers walk out so we can start over. Then TATA can take out the trash union and give the teachers and state what it needs, a balanced system.

    blackdog you are right the most important elections are the ones that are close to home. You know maybe making the school system private is not a bad idea. Then the GOV can get out of it.

  • Ladybug Dec 24, 2010

    Sorry RET Tata but I don't think you know what you're headed for. The Wake Co. School Board will not listen to you, they have their own agenda to run the schools into the ground. I'm just thankful that I don't have kids in Wake Co. schools any more. GOOD LUCK!