Wake County Schools

Wake names new superintendent

Posted December 23, 2010 3:06 p.m. EST
Updated December 23, 2010 10:58 p.m. EST

— The Wake County Board of Education named a new leader Thursday for the state's largest school system.

Anthony J. Tata, a former U.S. Army officer and a leader in the Washington, D.C. school system was tapped to take over the reins of Wake County schools.

"It was evidently clear he is the right man for the job," said board member Chris Malone.

"We found the best," board member Deborah Prickett echoed.

Before the board met to make its decision, member Carolyn Morrison issued a statement detailing the shortcomings she saw in Tata's résumé and declaring her intention to vote against his hire. (Read Morrison's statement.)

Morrison praised Tata's military service but wrote, "nothing in his background of experience suggests that he is prepared to lead the largest school district in North Carolina. He has had no experience with instructional leadership."

The vote to hire Tata was 4-2, with Kevin Hill voting with Morrison against him. Two members of the board, Keith Sutton and Anne McLaurin, were not present. 

Sutton said the meeting was called on short notice and that he didn't feel he had the information to make an informed decision.

After the vote, both Morrison and Hill pledged to work with Tata.

Tata, a former brigadier general and author, most recently served as the chief operating officer for District of Columbia Public Schools, where he oversaw purchasing, food service, technology and other support areas for the school system. He replaces Del Burns, who stepped down from the role in June.

Tata's contract calls for a salary of $250,000 per year plus benefits for a term beginning Jan. 31 and ending June 30, 2014.

"I am humbled by the board's selection," Tata said. He issued an extensive statement outlining his background, both military and academic, and the approach he plans to take in addressing the pressing issues facing Wake schools.

"One of my goals will be to energize all aspects of Wake County's very large, complex organization to operate at maximum capacity and minimum cost so that we can push as many resources as possible to where they belong -- the classroom," Tata wrote.

Tata faces two significant challenges when he begins work in Wake County. The school system faces a budget shortfall estimated to be $70 to $100 million. As he and the board try to find savings, they will also take on the implementation of a new student assignment policy.

The board majority voted in February to convert Wake schools from a student assignment policy based on economic diversity to one that focuses on keeping students in schools close to home. That change has prompted accusations of racial bias, protests, board meetings lasting up to 12 hours and dozens of arrests.