Wake County Schools

Controversy surrounds Wake schools chief's appointment

Posted December 24, 2010

— The head of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP voiced his concerns Friday about the appointment of a new leader for the Wake County Public School System.

During a special meeting Thursday afternoon, the board voted 4-2 to hire Anthony Tata, a retired U.S. Army officer and the chief operating officer of the District of Columbia Public Schools, to replace Del Burns, who resigned in June.

The NAACP’s Rev. William Barber called the decision a “secret appointment,” criticizing the fact that a list of candidates was never made public. The board majority decided against publicizing names in an effort to attract top candidates to the job.

Barber also took issue with the board’s vote, noting two board members were absent.

“We are deeply concerned about this appointment,” Barber said. “It’s a split vote, done at a time when board members couldn’t even be at the board meeting, which violates just fundamental basic board responsibility.”

Barber, a vocal opponent of a new Wake County Board of Education student assignment policy, made the comments Friday morning during a news conference on immigration reform and the importance of the federal DREAM Act.

The four votes in favor of Tata’s appointment came from members of a Republican board majority who back a change from the school system’s longstanding practice of busing students to achieve socio-economic diversity in favor of a model where students are placed in schools based on where they live.

The two Democratic board members present at Thursday’s meeting voted against Tata, expressing concerns that he might not be as qualified for the job and a lack of public input. The two other Democrats on the board were unable to attend Thursday’s vote.

Not everyone agrees on the value of public input.

“If you get the public in the mix of the interview process, you're never going hire a superintendent,” said Patrice Lee, a parent and co-founder of the community group WakeCARES.

Tata is a former brigadier general, an author of military action thrillers and a commentator on conservative websites and news shows who has written that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is far more qualified to be president than Barack Obama.

He served for about 18 months as chief operating officer for DC schools, where he oversaw purchasing, food service, technology and other support areas.

“Education is pretty foremost in our minds,” said Lee. “We need someone in the position who is a take-charge type person.”

Lee said she believes that Tata will surround himself with educators to help him make decisions that are in the best interest of the school system.

“The superintendent has to be a mover and a shaker,” Lee said. “They have to be someone who can take charge, to delegate, evaluate.”

Yevonne Brannon, chairwoman of Great Schools in Wake Coalition, echoed the criticism of the NAACP. She called the move “appalling,” saying the board ignored the public’s desires for an experienced educational leader and public input in the hiring process.


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  • junkyard Dec 27, 2010

    Objective Scientist, very nice post.

  • fl2nc2ca2md2nc Dec 24, 2010

    I love how people are condemned before they have even begun to work on our schools' problems. It's almost like stereotyping is it not?

  • michaelllee11 Dec 24, 2010

    I just dont understand hiring a guy who has no education background, to run an education department of one of the largest school district in the country. That is mind boggling to me. If he needs educators around him to show him the way, then he is obviously not qualified.

  • ranquick Dec 24, 2010

    This man needs to keep himslef in Durham and not in Raleigh business

  • blackdog Dec 24, 2010

    United we stand, divided we fall.

  • 6079 SMITH W Dec 24, 2010

    "Rage Against The President"....that would be a good name for a band. ;)

  • EverythingTicksMeOff Dec 24, 2010

    Everything that this new school board majority has done has been political. Why should they stop now? They needed an uber-right-wing soldier to try to give credence to their racist desires. Nobody dares to criticize a soldier, right? Remember, he risked his life trying to defend out right to bash him, so he gets a free pass on anything and everything he wants to do. Pathetic.

  • blackdog Dec 24, 2010

    "objective aci..Qualified? As the Chief Executive Officer of the State of Alaska, former mayor of one of its city & other position I found her much more qualified than a Senator who held that position for less than 2 full years, spending much of his time on the campaign trail. + NO MANAGERIAL OR EXECUTIVE EXPERIENCE which of course Gov Palin did have. As a political INDEPENDENT for well over 30 years I favor no "party" but try on voting for any position, to find out as much as I can about the individuals opposing each other. Not in hindsight but in 2008 what made you feel that by experience, did Obama appear to "better" qualified to be President that Palin to be VP. By the way, at least two who did not get to the final round, I found to much more qualified then either Obama & Palin. Ms Clinton & Mr Romney"

    Here, we have a comment impertinent to the topic of our board decision. Instead, we see the rage against the president continue into any topic...

  • blackdog Dec 24, 2010

    What is at stake citizens, is the future. These students ARE the future. What is also at stake, and highly sought after, is the tax funding for private enterprise. With a budget over a BILLION dollars, it is very attractive to the millionaires who funded the election, to spend a few thousand dollars for a BILLION. But what is really at stake, is our future.

  • Objective Scientist Dec 24, 2010

    The Wake school board suffers from the same "disease" as the US Congress... terminal partisanship. It has become all about "winning", about "slam-dunking in your opponent's face". The tactics employed by the majority (a majority of only one it seems on most/all issues) are despicable and only serve to drive a community apart.

    Added comment... it is easy to get "get off track"... Tata stated that Palin was "more qualified than Obama to be POTUS"... forget the comparison to Obama or ANYONE... Palin is decidedly, unequivocally NOT qualified to be POTUS and "leader of the free world".

    Additional point... Obama "inherited the economy in shambles" and that is a statement of fact, not of politics! And as a true political INDEPENDENT of over 4 decades, I look at such matters from a true pragmatic perspective... not political. We will never know if the economy today would have been better under McCain... but I would bet not.