Wake County Schools

Tedesco proud of Wake school board tenure, despite controversy

Posted July 18, 2013 10:17 p.m. EDT
Updated July 18, 2013 11:42 p.m. EDT

— A day after announcing he wouldn't seek re-election this fall, Wake County Board of Education member John Tedesco said there were a few things he could have done differently during his tenure, but that he was proud of the board's accomplishments overall.

"People saw the media frenzy on the outside. They did not see, behind the scenes, all the things we worked on," Tedesco said Thursday.

The "frenzy" began shortly after Tedesco's election in 2009, when the new Republican majority made swift and controversial changes to the district's longstanding policy of busing students to balance diversity. The change brought out protesters and ignited a period of in-fighting and political squabbling between board members.

"I wouldn't be worth my salt if I didn't say I could have done a couple things a bit differently," Tedesco said. 

But graduation rates are up and suspension rates are down, Tedesco said, and students have more access to programs and courses than in years past.

"We accomplished a lot of good stuff that got buried underneath the few things of controversy that brought out people and protesters," he said. 

The 2012 election shifted the school board's balance of power to favor the Democrats, who voted to oust Tony Tata, the superintendent Republicans had put in place less than two years earlier. When the school board hired Jim Merrill to replace Tata last month, Tedesco had thrown his support behind a different candidate – Ann Clark, deputy superintendent for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

He also found himself with fewer political allies after fellow Republicans Debra Goldman and Chris Malone resigned from the board.

Going forward, Tedesco expressed cautious optimism about the direction the school board will take in his absence. 

"I hope (the board doesn't) become complacent, more concerned with the adults in the room protecting their jobs and the system and less concerned with the individual needs of the children and their families," he said. "I think we will still see some controversial issues, but when it comes to the meat of it, we care about out kids."