Wake County Schools

Tata: Wake parents will be 'toughest commanders yet'

Posted January 7, 2011

— Meeting with several mayors from across Wake County Friday morning, retired Army general and incoming school superintendent Tony Tata said the district’s parents “will be my toughest commanders yet.”

Tata met with eight of the county’s 12 mayors for about an hour, talking about major budget challenges for the school system, the controversial student assignment policy and equity among schools.

“I don't think there were any surprises,” Tata said after the meeting. “There were obviously some discussions about equity and Knightdale versus Cary, etc., and I plan to get out in those communities and learn what the issues may be.”

Knightdale Mayor Russell Killen, also president of the Wake County Mayors Association, pledged the group’s support and urged Tata to use the group as a resource.

Mayors said Tata – hired last month in a split board of education vote and amid controversy over whether he was the most qualified candidate for the job – made a good first impression.

“I believe the community will rally around him and the school board will get together because of his leadership,” Apex Mayor Keith Weatherly said. “I think that is the most important thing.”

“Superintendent Tata is a very well-spoken person, and he's listening carefully to everyone in Wake County to learn what he needs to do as our new superintendent,” Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said.

Meeker and his wife, school board member Dr. Anne McLaurin, have both been critical of the school board majority's decision to drop the district’s longstanding diversity-based student assignment policy for one that focuses on assigning students to schools closer to home.

One on one with Anthony Tata One on one with Anthony Tata

Opponents believe the move could result in segregation, high teacher turnover and a disproportionate quality of education among students.

That criticism didn't come up Friday morning, but Meeker did say he hopes the student assignment issue would be resolved in a “fair and reasonable manner” and said that school funding would be key.

Friday’s meeting comes on the second of a three-day visit from Tata, currently a District of Columbia Public Schools official – and the first of a series of visits to learn more about the schools and community – before he takes over as the school system’s chief executive officer on Jan. 31.

Tata shared with the mayors how his background – a family of educators, 28 years in the U.S. Army and service as a brigadier general – translates to serving as the eighth superintendent for North Carolina’s largest school system.

Educators, parents, community groups and some school board members have expressed their concern about his lack of experience in education. Tata has admitted that he is not the traditional pick for the job but believes he is the right choice, having mentored public school graduates in the military and getting them ready for combat.

On Thursday, Tata met with educators and students at Millbrook High School in Raleigh and spoke at a meeting of the Wake County Taxpayers Association. Outside that meeting, he talked to protesters worried about school diversity.

He’s expected to visit two more schools Friday before meeting with the news media and then with school board members. On Saturday, Tata will meet with community leaders concerned about school diversity.

“I am not coming in with any pre-ordained decisions,” he said in an interview Wednesday, vowing to gather all public input on the issue. “I have made no decisions whatsoever about any direction, and I am distinctly apolitical.”


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  • josephlawrence43 Jan 10, 2011

    Hopefully it will be the parents who determine the direction of the board--and not the antagonistic racist bunch from the naacp.

  • musthavecoffee Jan 10, 2011

    The office in Cary is for HR. They just moved to a bigger one, in fact. They can now be right on Dillard Drive instead of tucked behind it. With a district as large as Wake, I'm not surprised there are so many offices. They really need to go ahead and split the district and get it over with.

  • btneast Jan 10, 2011


    That would be a good way of putting it.....lot's of fancy sounding titles and programs, each program having a full staff, administrative assistants, etc. However, if you think this is excessive, you REALLY need to go take a stroll through the NC Dept of Education building downtown....several THOUSAND folks, none of them teachers.

  • btneast Jan 10, 2011

    What is their rationale for having three offices???

    And why does Cary have one while Knightdale does not???

    There may be more than 3, I just have been to those 3 frequently on business. Where the office is has nothing to do with the community, it's a matter of getting office space that is located where most of the work force is. We are talking very large office complexes here....well over a thousand administrative folks.....I'd guess closer to two thousand....

  • YoucanthandletheTRUTH Jan 7, 2011

    jbrit, you only list poor examples of businesses...You clearly don't believe there have been successful businesses because all you list are the "failures". Find a good argument!

  • harmstrong4 Jan 7, 2011

    jonnraleigh---and she does not know the new Gentleman. Nor do you. In addition, why are you answering for her? Might you be a teacher protected with tenure by the NEA? hummm...

  • HapiApiGirl Jan 7, 2011

    "Further, while leadership skills are invaluable, they still have to be coupled with sufficient experience to gain credibility and exercise appropriate judgment to make good decisions."

    Evidently most people in the US don't agree with this statement, as they elected Obama as President of the US...what sufficient experience did he have that made him the best qualified candidate...I know this is not really related to this story...but I couldn't help but make this POINT!!!!

  • jonnraleigh Jan 7, 2011

    Harmstrong...You don't even know teacher56's students. WCPSS produces many bright students who are accepted at prestigious schools. Please don't be so ignorant that you would disagree that our school system produces many fine citizens.

  • harmstrong4 Jan 7, 2011

    teachert56..I am not impressed with the results of the children you have supposedly taught... so what?

  • IMHO05 Jan 7, 2011

    fatchanceimwrong--You so totally nailed it! Very well put!