New WCPSS superintendent Anthony Tata, begins his duties on January 31. Tata (pronounced TAY-tah) is a retired general who was selected to replace Dr. Del Burns, who resigned last year.
Tata will have major issues to deal with that will affect even his first day as the school system’s leader, even after the resolution of controversy regarding Wake schools’ accreditation. For instance, last week, the board voted to submit to an audit by the AdvancED accreditation agency. Had the board refused for any longer, Wake students would have risked losing the accreditation that allows colleges to give proper attention to Wake schools’ transcripts.
Now looming over Tata are the issues that incite the worst from Wake citizens: Zoning and reassignment — that ever-reoccurring debate — and the nationally understood struggle over busing and neighborhood schooling.
“I am not coming in with any pre-ordained decisions,” he said to WRAL.com. “I have made no decisions whatsoever about any direction, and I am distinctly apolitical.”
Many questions remain as to how Tata will approach these particularly toxic problems Wake County schools are dealing with. The superintendent has spent a month meeting with various Wake organizations supporting all aspects of the political spectrum and has already had to experience the ire of displeased Wake students, who, in some more extreme cases, have organized into groups like NC HEAT (Heroes Emerging Among Teens).
Some of this ire, though, exists outside of the student body.
“Nothing in his background of experience suggests that he is prepared to lead the largest school district in North Carolina,” said Democratic board member Carolyn Morrison, a retired Wake principal.
The members of the board majority, however, had their reasons for the selection. “He will be the CEO of a $1.2 billion business,” said GOP school board member John Tedesco. “There are few and far between the number of leaders of his caliber who have entered Wake County.”
Tata declared his agenda in a January statement: “I intend to focus the system’s impressive resources on the academic achievement of our students and on closing the achievement gap in student performance. I will ensure our teachers and principals have the resources they need to deliver this improvement. 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.”
This disconnect is evident among citizens and among the board members, but the keys are being handed over to Tata in hopes of some sense of balance — and, more importantly, progress.