Wake County Schools

Tata gets first look at Wake schools

Posted January 6, 2011
Updated January 7, 2011

— Wake County’s new school superintendent met with school staff, teachers and students Thursday on the first of several visits scheduled before he officially starts Jan. 31.

Tony Tata, who currently serves as chief operating officer for District of Columbia Public Schools, met with administrators at the Wake County Public School System and visited Millbrook High School in Raleigh, where he spent about an hour touring the campus and meeting teachers and students.

“I'm listening, and I’m asking teachers if they’ve got the resources to do their job,” he said. “I’m on personal leave from Washington, D.C., public schools, and I’m coming down here to listen and learn so that I can begin leading on Jan. 31.”

Tata, who was expected to visit two other schools during his three-day visit, also addressed a meeting of the Wake County Taxpayers Association Thursday evening.

On Friday afternoon, he'll meet with the news media before a closed-door meeting with the school board.

Tata's appointment on Dec. 23 was not without controversy as educators, parents, community groups and some school board members expressed concern about his lack of experience in education.

A former Army brigadier general, Tata admits that he is not the traditional pick for the superintendent job but believes he is the right choice.

“I understand there’s some anxiety,” he said in a WRAL News interview Wednesday. “I’ve spent a career dedicated to caring for, coaching, teaching and mentoring young men and women across the country in a multitude of assignments.”

Tata gets first look at Wake schools Tata gets first look at Wake schools Tata hasn’t discussed his specific plans for Wake County schools yet, but he has shown an interest in creating a rating system for teachers that would reward good teachers and attempt to help struggling ones.

"If their students are not learning, they should not be teaching,” Tata said.

Tama Bouncer, of the Wake County chapter of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said she would not support a pay-for-performance program.

“This year, a teacher may have a class with fewer challenges. Thee next year, there are a little more,” Bouncer said.

Tata said that every decision he makes as superintendent will be in the best interests of students and teachers and that he plans to listen to parent and teacher concerns before making decisions that affect them.

Some of those decisions will likely be difficult.

Tata becomes the eighth superintendent of Wake County schools at a time when the district is facing a projected $100 million budget deficit, high student enrollment and a controversial student assignment policy that opponents say will violate the civil rights of economically disadvantaged students.

“It’s all about the students and the parents and the employees of Wake County public schools for to me, and if we just stay focused on student achievement and clear away the rest of the noise, everything is going to be OK,” he said Wednesday.

Still, some critics Thursday evening questioned the motives behind his first public meeting being held with the conservative Wake County Taxpayer’s Association, which has supported conservative members of the school board.

They say the move is an indication that Tata will support the conservative board majority.

Tata, however, says his schedule on the first trip also includes meeting with people from different points of view, including community leaders concerned about diversity in schools.

He maintains he does not have any political agenda.

“I am not coming in with any pre-ordained decisions,” he said Wednesday. “I have made no decisions whatsoever about any direction, and I am distinctly apolitical.”

Outside the taxpayer’s association’s meeting Thursday night, Tata stopped to shake hands with protesters. The move had protester Monserrat Alvarez feeling cautiously optimistic.

"I appreciate him stepping out to the side to speak with us," he said.


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  • injameswetrust2003 Jan 7, 2011

    I predict Mr. Tata will be one of the best Supts. Wake has ever had. Then the local liberal newspaper will have nothing to write about and they'll go out of business.

  • hwhiteford Jan 7, 2011

    I think it is very funny that he is going to Baucom and Lacy to get a view of Wake County schools!!! How realistic is THAT??? Let him go where the middle and lower classes live to see the reality of Wake County schools.

  • fatchanceimwrong Jan 7, 2011

    bill0: Good point. A great example of that is the Dixie Chicks. They had a promising future in country music, but Natalie chose to make public political statements and their career went down the tubes. Radio stations quit playing their music and people quit buying their albums.

  • EZeegoing Jan 7, 2011

    I want to see his results before I pass judgement on his quarter million dollar salary. He makes almost half that much on his retired general pay so experience or not I expect a major change in the school system. Time will tell.

  • bill0 Jan 7, 2011

    "it would be nice if all public service jobs were filled by people with no political interests"

    There is not such thing as a person without political interests and I implied no such thing. Everyone is entitled to their personal politics. However, the manner and scope to which one publicly expresses those opinions can compromise a person's ability to successfully do their job. You don't see the heads of big companies wading into thorny political issues because they know that doing so will alienate a percentage of customers and cost the company money. They might discuss the issues with friends and family, but they don't go on national TV to do it.

    BTW - the same can definitely be said of Rev Barber. NAACP does a lot of work helping inner-city kids, but his publicity stunts have alienated so many people that he is no longer able to impact policy decisions.

  • Sarge Jan 7, 2011

    He'll be beaten down within the year.

  • fatchanceimwrong Jan 7, 2011

    bill0: It would be nice if all public service jobs were filled by people with no political interests, but that's just not the case. Some don't make public statements, but all public service employees have political interests that affect their decisions. Politics affects all key public positions.

  • bill0 Jan 7, 2011

    "Are you so blind as to believe anyone is apolitical? There's a forest out there amongst all those trees."

    There is difference between having political opinions and going on national news programs to share them with the world. If you want to hold a high level public service type job such a school superintendent, you are going to need to lead a diverse group of people to accomplish your goals. Alienating half of those people isn't productive.

    Look at what happened in washington. His old boss, Rhee, was an educational reformer. She gained a lot of national attention, did lots of interviews, and made a lot of enemies. In the next election cycle, a political opponent was elected mayor. Now, Rhee has resigned and her staff (including tata) is bailing for other school systems. Rhee had lots of good ideas and Tata probably does too. However, most of them are going to fall by the wayside if he gets caught up in politics.

  • fatchanceimwrong Jan 7, 2011

    rhess2: Good point, and without rudeness. Thanks.

  • fatchanceimwrong Jan 7, 2011

    "liberal or conservative, I really don't care. I just don't want someone to call themselves apolitical when their actions represent obvious partisanship." - Mike H

    Are you so blind as to believe anyone is apolitical? There's a forest out there amongst all those trees.