Wake County Schools

Tata meets with clergy, community leaders

Posted January 8, 2011 1:50 p.m. EST
Updated January 8, 2011 7:49 p.m. EST

— Wake County’s new superintendent met Saturday morning 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,” Superintendent Tony Tata said Friday. “Then, from that point forward, we can make other decisions about other things.”

Ending the school system’s student assignment policy 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.”

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.

The meeting at Saint Matthews AME at 1629 Bennett St. in Raleigh was the end of Tata's three-day visit to meet with school leaders, educators and the community as he prepares to take over the superintendent post at the end of the month.

Tata caught a flight back to the District of Colombia on Saturday afternoon. He said he would return on Jan. 14 for a reception with the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce.