Wake County Schools

New Wake superintendent begins first day on the job

Posted January 31, 2011
Updated February 1, 2011

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— Wake County public schools' new superintendent Tony Tata spent his first day on the job touring Monday schools and meeting principals, teachers and students.

“Wake County has a heck of a lot to be proud of, and people can say what they want, but we’ve got great students, great teachers (and) great administrators. If somebody wants to talk about us nationally, tell them to come to me, and I’ll tell them how great we are,” Tata said Monday.

Tata started the day by meeting with all Wake County principals. Then he hit the halls of Enloe High School for a tour.

"My first priority is just to understand as much as I can about this school system from east to west (and) north to south so that, as we get into the really tough decisions that we've got to make, I have the most informed information," he said.

Enloe Principal Beth Cochran guided Tata's tour and said she enjoyed hearing his thoughts and expectations for the county's schools.

"I think all of us are just really hopeful that he'll help us look forward and move forward and not backward and do what's best for the students of Wake County," Cochran said.

Tata, who also visited Carnage Middle and Aversboro Elementary schools on Monday, was the chief operating officer for District of Columbia Schools. The school board hired the retired Army general following a lengthy search for a replacement for former Superintendent Del Burns, who retired last year. He has called the move from a 28-year career in the military to education a “natural transition.”

New Wake superintendent goes to work New Wake superintendent goes to work

His appointment comes at a time when North Carolina’s largest school system is facing numerous challenges, including high student enrollment and $100 million in school budget cuts that could mean teacher layoffs.

The Wake County school board that hired him also faces a public challenge to their vote for a controversial student assignment proposal that opponents say will violate the civil rights of economically disadvantaged students.

Compounding those issues have been concerns from the public, educators and some school board members that Tata might not be the right person to lead the school system because of his lack of experience in education.

"I understand there’s some anxiety,” he said in an interview earlier this month. “I’m a non-traditional pick, but what they have to understand is (that) all of my life, I have been taking care of these 17-, 18-, 19-year-old enlistees – young men and women – that have come from mostly public schools around this country. 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.”


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  • Awake in Wake Jan 31, 2011

    Nancy - I am beginning to think that you are an apologist for the new School Board. You and the new School Board have still not answered of what will happen when the schools in lower socioeconomic areas fail due to the new policy. The governmental response is to throw more money at the problem. So I am expecting my taxes to increase. We have some of the lowest property taxes in the country which has helped fuel our economic growth. Some on the Board are pushing us toward neighborhood schools which are in districts that have some of the highest property tax rates in the country (e.g., NJ). How is the School Board going to take steps to avoid this outcome? Also, if the schools continue to fail by having low test scores, then Wake County is required under federal law to close the underperforming schools. How much is this going to cost the Wake taxpayer? Mecklenburg County switched to neighborhood schools and now they are facing the prospect of having to close 10 schools.

  • Nancy Jan 31, 2011

    wildcat - my children are long done with WCPSS, the youngest being 23 now, but the assigned school was obviously for diversity in our neighborhood, not proximity nor due to overcrowding.

  • due_whats_right Jan 31, 2011

    beachbum - it is obvious that you are not an educator or you would know that diversity is not race or neighborhood schools. If you have ever taught in a low achieving or even a high achieving school, you would understand what the issues are around keeping school diverse. It is about giving ALL students the chance to learn and access education, not just those in the high property tax district.......It is so NOT about race!

  • due_whats_right Jan 31, 2011

    Kayle - Enloe is a performing arts magnet - that is why they have dance, orchestra, drama, etc. There are students who actually make careers in dance - I know, a former student of mine (a grad of Enloe) is on broadway now! One man's fluff is another man's livelihood!

  • djofraleigh Jan 31, 2011

    Is diversity a code word for dilution? Is diversity not the strength of our schools, or is it really dilution and just a solution?

    I don't necessarily accept the premise that blacks or poor people are incapable of having good schools if equally funded school, do you? That seems racist or elitist doesn't it?

    I liked the schools are they were despite the failings of the old board to achieve their goals of balance. I can also see why people want community schools, including Cary wanting to separate from WCPSS, or Chapel Hill/Carrboro wanting to keep their community schools as a separate district from Orange County.

    The NAACP,Mayor Meeker and others want no change in Wake, and that difference weighs with AdvancED accrediting, but if nothing changed, then would not the voters then be evidence of the same?

  • taylor3297 Jan 31, 2011

    All schools offer electives/specials. Dance is offered at some but not all schools. In order to graduate students also have to complete elective courses too.

  • packersfan4life Jan 31, 2011

    Good Luck Mr. Superintendent. You will soon realize that even the US Military can not prepare today's educators for what they are exposed to. My advice to you: Find a foxhole and stay in it.

  • djofraleigh Jan 31, 2011

    Think the community will give him a chance? He's white, military, and from out of town. People are going to want him to take sides, not orders from the board.

  • kaylemoine Jan 31, 2011

    Would someone please tell me why there is a DANCE class at Enloe? Get rid of the fluff and teach the children how to read and write. Dance class and orchestra and all other of that ilk are good for clubs that are conducted after the school day is over. Why do I have to pay for a bunch of kids to learn to dance jazz?

  • wildcat Jan 31, 2011

    Give the new Superintendent a chance and see what he can and will do.