My Convertible Life

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Vacancy: Leadership of the Wake County Public School System

I keep peeking out my window for a glimpse of the airborne porcine wonder.

Because any day when I find myself agreeing with Paul Coble and John Tedesco is a day when pigs are flying, hell is freezing over and the end must be fast approaching.

This afternoon the Wake County Board of Education voted to remove Superintendent Tony Tata. I'll be the first to admit that I was skeptical (to put it politely) about him when he was hired. With only four months of education experience in the Washington, D.C., school system, the retired army general was one of those Outsiders Who Can Fix Public Education. As a former teacher, I generally bristle at the notion that someone with little or no education experience is somehow more qualified to run one of the nation's largest school districts.

But my sense of Superintendent Tata -- and what I believe the majority of the general public sees -- is a man who has (for the most part) kept a calm, professional face on what has been a ridiculously crazy school system. Since he was hired, he has followed the direction of the Board of Education, calmed some of the initial chaos with the old board, continued to work with the new board when they were elected (minus an embarrassing name-calling issue with a few members that showed poor judgement but for which he publicly apologized) and generally embraced the idea of innovation to move the district forward. I don't necessarily love Tony Tata, but I have no reason to hate him.

When the district was mired in a school bus disaster at the beginning of this year, Tata stood up, took responsibility and started working on a solution. He might not have made everyone happy, but I haven't seen grounds for immediate dismissal. I've heard rumors that he has bullied principals and undermined school board members, but none of that hearsay has been confirmed by any credible sources. (And if I learned one thing in journalism school, it's verify -- if your mother says she loves you, check it out.) I've heard just as many stories about parents commending him for his responsiveness.

The school board members who voted Tata out of a job today are the ones that I voted and campaigned for. I want to believe that they know things -- real, substantial, documented, horrible things -- that I don't know. I want to defend the district and the board and encourage people to believe that our school system is making decisions that benefit all students. I want to trust that all of this chaos is heading toward the right solution.

But from where I sit, it's really hard to imagine what's worth a $253,625 buy-out and yet another massive distraction from what the board should actually be talking about: teaching and learning.

Our kids deserve better. Our teachers and principals deserve better. Our community deserves better.

Instead of focusing on student achievement, teaching quality and what's going inside our county's classrooms, I'm thinking about who is going to fill the void. Who in the hell is out there with an ego big enough to want the job of Wake County Superintendent or an ego small enough to actually be able to handle it?

16 comments:

  1. I really like your post. I usually vote Dem and this situation is a big disappointment to me.

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  2. I am dumbfounded that the board took such swift action that comes with such long term ramifications destroying community trust in their decision making and fiscal responsibility. My concerns are great for our community, our schools, our teachers, and most importantly all the students including our own children who must somehow keep calm and carry on while the grown ups in charge of their academic future fight without resolve.

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  3. I too would like to know what he did that was so horrible to warrant a $250k buyout! Our kids deserve better. Good luck wake co. Finding a replacement!!!

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  5. You know how we feel. This was not the time for this, there is already way too much going on. I guess they forgot how we got in this situation, it wasn't the last two years but decades of misfit board member actions.

    I am no longer disappointed with the school board. I find them impotent and have come to the sad stage of acceptance of that fact.

    They are elected officials, which doesn't translate to leaders. Now to weigh the options of private school over college savings. Although I hope it does not come to that.

    Adrian

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  6. Democrats and Republicans, let's remember this when it comes time to vote.

    We deserve to know the whole truth and how they came to make this swift decision. There must be valid rational thoughts and reasoning , right? Well, lets hear it.

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  7. Couldn't agree more.

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  8. I totally agree! This was not the time for this nor can we afford this right now. I don't know who in their right mind would apply for this position!!

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  9. As Linda Loveland said this morning, the one's who cannot vote (the 150,000 school children in WC) are the one's who get hurt. I am amazed and saddened that no one seems to look at the over all picture and what message this sends the children. At least give us parents, other than "you don't know the whole picture, something to make this make sense.

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  10. THE VOM coming out of Hill and Sutton's mouths right now on the news conference is... I just have no words!!! Not Partisan? BULLSHIT! We care about the kids? UH NO - you don't! Tata was heavy handed and senior staff were fearful? GOOD! WTF! The last 20 months have seen more measurable, real, MEANINGFUL gains by students in almost EVERY SINGLE SUBGROUP in decades! Those staffers were fearful because a non-academic delivered what they HAVE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO DO!!!!!!!!! This whole thing sucks and I am trying to find a 2nd job to get my kids out of this cluster f(*K of a system!

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  11. Well said, Cyndi!

    We enter the fray when Lily starts kindergarten next year, and I dread it.

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  12. I was curious about what you that about all of this recent stuff. I would like to think that the school board made a thoughtful decision based on solid thinking...seems like the negative PR and claims of partisan politics will have a detrimental impact on getting any bond issues approved in the near future.

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    1. Yes -- I think the board members who voted to remove the supt were thinking less about politics and more about their frustrations with whatever is going on behind the scenes. If they were really being political, they'd have fired him a year ago.

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  13. Great post Cindi - level headed as you always tend to be. With a "two month" limit on Stephen's realm as interim, I suspect the follow on has already been identified, don't you? Hard to go through a bonefied search in two months unless you have someone waiting in the wings. Any thought as to who?

    Virginia P.

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  14. I hope everyone just remembers that the teachers are still working their buns off to teach the children. No matter who the super is, we should still support our public schools.

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    1. Agreed! I am so grateful that my son has wonderful teachers and administrators at his school who continue to work hard despite the political chaos.

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