New Wake superintendent makes first rounds

WAKE COUNTY Tony Tata hit the ground running --touring schools and meeting with the Wake County Taxpayers Association and a divided school board still split over policy and the decision to select him as the county's eighth superintendent.

He started off his day side-by-side with Wake County School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta.

Tata's first stop Thursday was Wake County School's central office to meet with what will be his new staff.

"My goal is just to get to know to know the great people of Wake County and this great school system," Tata said.

From the administrative offices, his next stop was Millbrook High School for a first-hand encounter with the students, teachers and principal Dana King.

"I think his heart and his vision aligns with what we're currently doing," King said.

Tata also met with the president of Wake NC Association of Educators.

"I would say that we're pleasantly surprised," Tama Bouncer said. "But not totally surprised. I would say that because having a military background you'd have to be willing to listen especially if you're in leadership."

Tata says his vision is to improve academic achievement by bringing accountability to principals and teachers and making sure they and their students have what they need to succeed.

"I lead from the front," Tata said. "I intent to be very visible and during my military career I was on the frontlines of Pakistan and Afghanistan and I intent to be in the schools while I'm the superintendent of Wake County."

But with a $100 million deficit and possible layoff's looming, he acknowledges that'll be a challenge.

"We're going to attack these challenges one by one and try to do the best by the students and I'm going to make every decision with the students of Wake County first and foremost in my mind," Tata said.

After touring offices and schools, Tata wrapped up his day at the Barbecue Lodge on Capital Boulevard where he had dinner with members of the Wake County Taxpayers Association.

Before the dinner, Seth Keel and a handful of students with Heroes Emerging Among Teens, also known as NC Heat, gave Tata a rough welcome.

"We met with Mr. Tata when he was going in," Keels said. "We gave him a cake that read 'Equity' and we gave him 12 balloons."

"Equity" refers to the board's controversial decision to end the diversity policy.

"This is a superintendent who is working for teachers, students and parents, not for Mr. Tedesco, Mr. Malone, Mr. Margiotta," said Monserat Alvarez with NC Heat.

During his dinner with members of the Wake County Taxpayers Association, Tata talked about his upbringing with parents --who are both educators-- about his West Point years, career as an Army General and his 18 months as Chief Operating Officer of Washington DC Public Schools.

But it's his military background and limited public education experience that worries Wake County resident Linda Suggs.

She believes Tata will follow orders from the school board's current majority without question.

"They can sell him a bag of goods he wouldn't know the difference," Suggs said. "They can bamboozle him."

Meanwhile, it appears some of the more vocal opponents of the Wake County School Board are planning their next move.

Friday afternoon the NAACP is holding a news conference to discuss an interfaith prayer vigil and mass community meeting.

NAACP leader Dr. William Barber has expressed concern about Tata. Barber says he thinks Tata will bring his politics into the job.

Tata is on the record as being a vocal critic of President Obama.

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