WAKE SUPT. ANTHONY TATA
By Cash Michaels
The first line of the News and Observer’s June 20th Wake Ed Blog, the same day the Wake School Board voted 5-4 to reincorporate diversity in student assignment, said it all - Wake County Schools Superintendent Tony Tata literally played the good soldier at today’s press conference as he didn’t criticize the school board’s call to develop a base school assignment plan.
Indeed, even though Tata, after the Democrat-led board gave him new marching orders to scrap his floundering school choice plan, maintained that it was beginning to bare fruit after a rocky start with a “high satisfaction rate” among a majority of Wake County parents, he reluctantly conceded that he and his staff, “…work at the direction of the board.”
More specifically, a Democratic board majority with which Tata, a conservative Tea Party sympathizer who sources say has US senatorial aspirations in a few years, has had several very public nasty fights with in the six months they’ve been in charge.
With his heart really not into establishing a base school model with aspects of choice, and elements of stability, proximity, student achievement and diversity, will Tata drag his feet in meeting the 2013-14 school year deadline, or will the retired US Army brigadier general be the “good soldier,” and follow the directive?
No matter what Tata’s personal feelings, some community leaders expect him too, beginning with his boss.
“I’ve talked with Supt. Tata a little bit about this,” Wake School Board Chairman Kevin Hill told The Carolinian last week. :”I think he’s a professional. My expectation, as chairman…is as superintendent, you take our direction from the Board of Education, and whatever direction the Board of Education points Wake County in, I need you to enthusiastically and wholeheartedly work to make that happen, and he understands that, that’s his intention.”
But Chairman Hill also added a cautionary note to Tata’s “intention.”
“I’m going to take him at his word, and look to partner with him, again with the caveat that somewhere along the line, every superintendent has to make a decision if they’re comfortable with what the board is directing them to do or not,” Hill said, reminding of Tata’s predecessor in the job, Del Burns, who resigned shortly after a Republican-led majority on the board, with intentions of scrapping diversity and instituting racially segregated neighborhood schools, took over in 2010.
That board majority hired Tata, who had no classroom experience, and only 18 months of any school administration experience, to run the nation’s 16th largest public school system.
Chairman Hill seemed to suggest that he wouldn’t be surprised if Tata, now given the change in board majority leadership, had a change of heart.
“I compare superintendents to major league baseball managers - they kind of come and go,” Hill told The Carolinian. “I respect Tony, I respect the service that he has given to our country, I like him an individual, and want to take him at his word that he will work in the best interests of the children of Wake County.”
Even Tata’s staunchest critics expressed the belief that the “good soldier,” no matter what his personal beliefs, will get the new directive done.
“It would be my thought that he understands that [in] the governance process that the board dictates what [is done]… and as an employee of the Wake County Public Schools, I’m sure he understands…the protocol of what that demand means,” said Calla Wright, president of Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African-American Children.
Yevonne Brannon, chair of Great Schools in Wake Coalition - a frequent adversary of Supt. Tata and his school choice plan - agrees that it is his job to now come up with a workable base assignment plan that connects student addresses to particular schools.
That’s Tata’s job, but she’s not so sure he’s going to do it!
“I don’t know, because I don’t know Mr. Tata,” Brannon told The Carolinian. “He seems to be more interested in following his own beliefs, his own interests. His personal will seems to be stronger than listening to the board’s will. So I’m not so sure that he’s good at following direction and following orders. I haven’t seen that. I don’t know him personally.”
But Brannon added, “ I would say, I hope so. I hope that he has taken an oath as superintendent that serves the best interests of the Board of Education…and I hope he will do what he can to make [WCPSS] successful.”