Wake County Schools

Tata: Student achievement, not diversity, will be focus

Posted January 7, 2011

— When it comes to students, Wake County’s new superintendent insists his focus will be on improving their academic performance and preparing them to be competitive on the world stage – not diversity.

“We have to look at what is best for these students and if what we’re trying to do is create a diverse environment and we’re not concerned about their student achievement, then that’s not something I’m interested in,” Tony Tata told reporters Friday afternoon at the Wake County Public School System’s administrative building in Raleigh.

Tata was in Raleigh Friday on the second day of a three-day visit to meet with school leaders, educators and the community as he prepares to take over the post at the end of the month.

He meets Saturday morning at Saint Matthews AME at 1629 Bennett St. in Raleigh with clergy and community leaders who support the school system's policy of busing students across district lines to help achieve socio-economic diversity. Proponents worry the vote of the school board last year to change that policy will lead to segregated schools and unequal educational opportunities.

“What I’m interested in is student achievement, and I’m going to approach everything from a student achievement perspective,” he said. “Then, from that point forward, we can make other decisions about other things.”

Ending the school system’s student assignment policy of has been a point of contention among Wake County school board members and the community for more than a year.

Last year, the board’s conservative majority voted in favor of a new policy, to take effect in 2012-13, that would assign students to schools closer to where they live and eliminate diversity as a factor in the student assignment process.

Tata said Friday he likes the concept of neighborhood schools and that it has been successful in District of Columbia Public Schools, where he currently serves as chief operating officer.

“On diversity, studies have shown that students may not have grown the way we want them to grow,” Tata said. “We have to look, first and foremost, at what will increase student achievement.”

Wake schools' superintendent holds news conference Tony Tata Jan. 7 news conference

Supporters of the neighborhood schools policy say neighborhood schools will do just that.

But opponents, such as the state chapter of the NAACP, believe that neighborhood schools will lead to segregation and prevent economically disadvantaged students from getting the same education as their counterparts. In addition, they fear a high turnover rate of teachers.

“When you look at the diversity and school assignment, I’m still listening to everybody. I’m still trying to learn,” Tata said. “Come Jan. 31, I think I will have a good feel for the student assignment process and where we intend to go with that.”

Tata – a retired military officer and Republican political pundit – has said he plans to meet with community members Saturday about the student assignment debate, but some members of the community have said they are fearful that he has already aligned himself with the conservative school board majority that selected him.

“I think what everybody’s going to learn about Tony Tata real quick is that I’m my own man. I’m not going to toe anybody’s line but the one that increases student achievement,” he said. “Anybody who thinks I’m in their pocket has got another thought coming.”

“I was very clear with this board when I interviewed with them. I said, ‘You all need to know what you’re getting with me and that is a very forceful leader that leads from the front line, backward,’” he added.

“So, I’m going to be in these schools. I’m going to be talking to teachers, I’m going to be talking to principals as I’ve been doing, and I’m going to make sure they have what they need to do their jobs.”

26 Comments

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  • DocA Jan 11, 4:40 p.m.

    jonnraleigh
    Also- PTAs are not what they used to be. The economy has hit them as well. Middle class families are trying to stay afloat. More families have both parents working. The ones not working are the parents of the FR% kids, who do not volunteer or dont have the transportation to be able to. The parents who want to donate money / supplies don't donate to the school, but to their individual students classes with supplies for that year. Many parents are put off by the fact that their donations will not benefit them because they get reassigned every other year. Why donate for a playground, field, computers and resources when your kids wont play on it, more than likely because you will be reassinged. Sounds wrong, but that is what is happening. Schools have lost their community feel and spirit and are just herding kids through the system.

  • DocA Jan 11, 4:34 p.m.

    jonnraleigh
    I am not talking about basic MOE. I am talking about supplemental services. I am referring to this: "According to the U.S. Department of Education the purpose of Title 1 funding, “is to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high quality education and reach, at minimum, proficiency on challenging state academic achievement standards and state academic assessments.The basic principles of Title 1 state that schools with large concentrations of low-income students will receive supplemental funds to assist in meeting student’s educational goals. Low-income students are determined by the number of students enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program. For an entire school to qualify for Title 1 funds, at least 40% of students must enroll in the free and reduced lunch program."
    Read more: http://www.brighthub.com/education/k-12/articles/11105.aspx#ixzz1APdArL2v

  • cwmllc1952 Jan 11, 12:15 p.m.

    When it is all said and done we have hired someone who knows or understands nothing about the Wake County School System but is going to lead from "the front line,backward".From what I have seen thus far we would be better off with a TATER than a Tata.

  • Bartmeister Jan 7, 7:55 p.m.

    But opponents, such as the state chapter of the NAACP, believe that neighborhood schools will lead to segregation and prevent economically disadvantaged students from getting the same education as their counterparts.
    ============================================================
    Betcha Rev Barber never thought that "economically disadvantaged" students weighed down their "counterparts" from getting a better education............. Just saying......

  • geosol Jan 7, 7:54 p.m.

    "All complaints aside lets get a look at that community based schooling plan. I hope that is his first assignment. This is our guy and nothing is going to change that."
    There ya go!! As long as he is bound to that attitude, our school system will be broken. Kids first, politics should be WAY down the list - not the other way around like it is now.

  • raboyette Jan 7, 7:45 p.m.

    Wow johnraleigh. I wish all administrators and teachers would actually hold the children accountable, so they would learn responsibility! At our school, we have the ABC I grading system. Students can basically retake a test as many times as they want until they get the grade they want. We cant have any child feel like a failure! The teachers get so tired of regrading that some, I've heard, basically give the students the answers before the retake, just so they will finally pass!! The teachers are burned out and its a disservice to the students to let them believe that when they move on to college or the workfoce they will be given chance after chance etc.

  • raboyette Jan 7, 7:34 p.m.

    lawncare5 I agree with you. Wouldnt it be nice if the schools in eastern Wake county would focus on encouraging and challenging the average and above average students instead of focusing only on the underperforming students. I dont think the school board even knows there are schools in eastern Wake county!

  • jonnraleigh Jan 7, 7:33 p.m.

    DoctorA-

    With all due respect, you have no idea what are talking about. The money is allocated by head count. No matter what the F&R, if two schools have the same number of students, each will receive the same number of MOE. The only financial difference is that the school with the lower F&R will probably have a more active PT(S)A and will receive more money through that group's efforts.

  • jonnraleigh Jan 7, 7:28 p.m.

    lawncare5 - In your school of yesteryear, did your mother bring your lunch to you everyday because you forgot it? Did she bring your books and homework to you everyday because you forgot it? Did she call the teachers and curse them out because they had high expectations of you? Because that's what happens everyday at the middle school where I work. And no, it's not a low income school, it is one of the most affluent schools in Cary.

  • personalbias Jan 7, 7:26 p.m.

    Diversity is born out of the Liberty that is ultimately earned from the bounty of being well educated. Educate and prepare each student as if it were the holy grail, regardless of race, and achieving your vision of diversity will come from the seed of having choices, Liberty, in where you and how you want live your life.

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