Wake County Schools

Superintendent: Accreditation advice will be useful

Posted February 23, 2011 3:25 p.m. EST
Updated February 23, 2011 4:23 p.m. EST

— The Wake schools superintendent and members of the Board of Education gathered for a committee meeting Wednesday, their first opportunity to compare notes since a round of interviews with accrediting agency AdvancED last week.

The six-member panel from Atlanta visited with board members, community groups, principals and students over two days to review how the school board operates. The meetings were prompted by a complaint from the state NAACP and other community groups about policy changes voted in by the board, including the elimination of the district's long-standing policy of assigning students to schools to balance socio-economic diversity across the county.

The school board majority, elected in November 2009, voted a year ago to instead prioritize geography in student assignment, setting off a flurry of protests that led to the complaint.

Board member Kevin Hill said his interview with AdvancED focused on board governance and policy, and he is not overly concerned about any recommendations the group might make.

"Based on the questioning, I would be very surprised if we were to lose accreditation," Hill said. "I would not be surprised if we were to get some type of probation."

Accreditation is one element college admissions officers take into account when evaluating high school graduates.

Superintendent Tony Tata agreed with Hill that any recommendations can be used to improve the Wake County schools.

"I am looking forward to getting their report and taking any action items they give to us," Tata said.

Since his hire in January, Tata has immersed himself in the student assignment controversy.

"I've talked to thousands of parents, students, teachers, principals and citizens of Wake County," he said.

Last week, the board voted to disband a student assignment committee and await input from Tata on how to proceed. Tata accepted that charge, saying it is his responsibility as superintendent to develop a plan that conforms to the school system's student assignment policy.

He is expected to synthesize the work of the committee along with community input and a proposal from the Wake Education Partnership and Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce that provides more parental choice and naturally fosters diversity.

"The plan from Wake Ed and the chamber is a good strategic starting point for how we want to move forward on student assignment," he said Wednesday.

Tata and the board have not set a deadline for a new student assignment plan. Tata said he expects to present something to the board later this spring.