Wake County Schools

Tedesco defends new job

Posted June 21, 2011 10:56 p.m. EDT
Updated June 22, 2011 5:23 a.m. EDT

— Wake County school board member and new vice-chairman John Tedesco defended his new job Tuesday night.

Last week, the nonprofit North Carolina Center for Education Reform named Tedesco as their president and chief executive.

Tedesco said the community organization has no major donors as of right now, although they would be open to anyone who wanted to give.

"Most of (the funding) is small-level contributions from local donors and supporters, and that's where we are going to expand our base," Tedesco said. "We are going to take this grassroots."

Tedesco said he is collaborating with community leaders and school board members from across the state – some as far away as Asheville – in his new role. They are talking about better ways to empower and change public education. Those local leaders currently make up a small board of eight, with plans to add two more members this week, Tedesco said.

They hope to get up to 15 members total by the end of the summer. The Center for Education Reform plans to release and post the full list of board members on its website by Friday.

Tedesco says there is no conflict of interest with his new position and his role on the school board.

"There are no contracts; there is nothing of that nature that we're doing," he said. "(We are) advocating for change and strengthening our public schools, and that's what I am going to keep fighting for."

The center bills itself as a "catalyst to empower, innovate and transform education on behalf of the children of North Carolina." It is trying to address issues like student suspension, dropout rates and low test scores.

"John Tedesco is a passionate advocate for educational reform," the group said in a news release. "He has been a direct force for student achievement, personally pushing advanced rigor, new data systems, increased participation in advanced mathematics for all students, expansion of themed academies for STEM and Global Studies and the creation of both the Economically Disadvantaged Student Performance Task Force and four Renaissance Schools."

Tedesco has been a lightning rod for criticism on the school board for his efforts to end the long-standing practice in Wake County to assign students to schools to create socioeconomic diversity in favor of neighborhood schools. His work was halted last fall when fellow Republican board member Debra Goldman sided with Democratic school board members to kill the student assignment plan he was working on.

Superintendent Tony Tata has been working in recent months on a plan that includes some aspects of the neighborhood schools plan.

Tedesco resigned his position as chief development officer for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Triangle more than a year ago. He said at the time that he wanted to focus on his work with the school board, although he also suggested that proponents of student diversity had pressured Big Brothers, Big Sisters because of his work.