Apex, N.C. — After less than a month on the job, Wake County’s new school superintendent is already on the defensive against recent national critics, including a recent comment from former President Bill Clinton that the school board should not have ended the school district’s longstanding policy of busing students for diversity.
“I think it’s bad form to throw 143,000 kids under the bus with an off-handed comment,” Tony Tata said Friday. “It’s really a cheap shot at a great school district. I invite all those people to come down here and talk to me, and I’m going to take them around the school district, if they have the courage to come down here, and I will show them how great this school district is.”
Tata is also dealing with a divided school board that has argued about what is best for students of North Carolina’s largest school district.
While some members say the contention is played up by the media, others say it is real.
“I think there's some truth to that,” board member Keith Sutton said Friday. “I don't think it's perception. There's some truth and reality to that."
So, Tata brought in education consultant Jim Huge to facilitate a daylong retreat to help build consensus among board members.
”I've seen boards that are far more contentious than this one come together,” Huge said.
The group spent several hours Friday morning developing a new mission statement and set of core values. There were discussions about whether the issue of poverty levels of students should be a factor.
Tata has said he believes that, if he can get the members to agree, decisions later on could be easier.
Ultimately, the board decided on these goals, mission and vision:
1. All children, regardless of socio-economic environment, can be high-achieving students.
2. Academic achievement gaps can and will be eliminated by aggressively challenging students at all achievement levels.
3. Highly effective principals and teachers are the key to improving growth in student achievement.
4. The Board of Education and Central Services promote an environment of continuous improvement, which results in a high-performing organization that is 100 percent focused on supporting schools and increasing student achievement.
5. The supportive, passionate and multi-cultural Wake County community serves as the foundation of our school system.
Wake County public schools will significantly increase achievement for all students by providing a world-class education that equips students with knowledge and expertise to become successful, productive citizens.
The Wake County Public School System will serve as the national standard for increasing student achievement in the 21st century. Highly effective teachers are empowered to raise the achievement of all children and will provide students with high-quality classroom instruction that fosters intellectual development
WCPSS recognizes children have different needs and is committed to ensuring all are challenged to reach their full potential. Students will graduate in increasingly high percentages and compete successfully as productive citizens. WCPSS will continue this community's proud tradition of education leadership and academic excellence with a proactive school staff effectively supported by the Board of Education and Central Services.
“As a school system, we need to believe that every child has the capability to learn and be high-achieving students,” board member John Tedesco said.
Friday’s retreat was funded with no taxpayer money. The meeting room at Apex Town Hall was rent-free, and the Board Superintendents Academy, of which Tata is a member, paid for Huge’s services.