“I know how important the school system is to every person in this room,” Tony Tata told a crowd of city, county and business leaders at a reception hosted by the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. “It is so important to every facet of life. Where you’re going to buy a house – is it near a good school? Can we attract businesses because of the school district? I get all that.”
Tata said the community needs to come together to do what’s best for students at a time in which the school system faces big issues, including a $100 million budget deficit, a controversial student assignment policy and whether to continue accreditation with a national firm in Atlanta.
“There are school children with hopes and dreams, and my goal is to help every child in Wake County achieve those dreams,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff going on in this community right now. What I ask of everybody is, let’s try to pull this thing together … We’ve got a lot of hard work to do as a community, and we need to sometimes hang our egos at the door.”
Tata hasn’t really spoken out about his views on the student assignment policy, which ends a 10-year practice of busing students for diversity reasons in exchange for placing students in schools closer to their homes.
Instead, he has said, his focus as superintendent will be on improving students’ academic performance and helping them prepare to be competitive in a global community.
“Data will drive decision making. If kids are learning, then we’ll keep doing whatever it is making them learn. If they’re not, then we’ll fix that,” he said. “There is no space in my heart that is going to ignore any child of any race.”
Currently the chief operating officer for District of Columbia Schools, Tata will take over as Wake County school superintendent on Jan. 31.
Friday’s visit is the second in a series of visits planned before then.
Last week, he was in Raleigh meeting with school administrators and educators, as well as community leaders concerned about the school board’s controversial changes to the district’s student assignment plan.
The school board hired Tata, a retired Army general, last month following a lengthy search for a replacement for former Superintendent Del Burns, who retired last year.
Tata on Friday called the move from a 28-year career in the military to education a “natural transition.”