Former Army general named new Wake superintendent

Published Thu, Dec 23, 2010 03:39 AM


RALEIGH — A divided Wake County school board tapped retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony J. Tata today to be the new superintendent in charge of the state’s largest school system.

Mirroring many of the votes that have split them over the past year, the officially non-partisan board split 4-2 along party lines with Republicans backing Tata. Democrats Kevin Hill and Carolyn Morrison voted no.  Keith Sutton and Anne McLaurin were absent, complaining about lack of notice about the meeting, which was scheduled Tuesday.

A motion backed by Morrison and Hill to defer the vote to Jan. 4 to allow for parental comment was defeated by the same 4-2 vote. But both said they’d back Tata now that he’s hired.

GOP school board members praised Tata’s leadership skills, saying his military background are what the school district need to help with the budget and improve academic achievement.

“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, 51, who was not at today’s meeting, but will start work in Wake on Jan. 31, according to board member Debra Goldman, who headed the search committee. He will receive a salary of $250,000. His contract runs through June 2014.

“I am humbled to be selected as the next superintendent of the Wake County Public School System,” Tata said in a written 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.”

His predecessor, Del Burns, who announced his resignation in February because of his opposition to board decisions such as the elimination of the socioeconomic diversity policy, had a base salary of $273,000. Donna Hargens, Wake’s chief academic officer, has been serving as interim superintendent.

Tata said his first step will be to ask Hargens to stay on as chief academic officer. Board members heaped Hargens with praise for her work filling in for Burns, saying she and other senior administrators would be able to help offset Tata not being a career educator.

Tata, has been the chief operating officer of the D.C. Public School System, where he has been in charge of purchasing, food service, technology and other support functions.

“He’s not a touchy-feely guy who will hold people’s hands” said former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, who recruited Tata to work in the troubled school system. “He’s very goal oriented. He was a general so he knows about leadership. He knows how to get the job done.”

Previously, Tata, 51, spent 28 years in the military, rising to the rank of brigadier general — a career that included stints in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Panama and the Philippines. He’s been a battalion commander for the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg and the deputy director of of a group with a $4.5 billion budget charged with developing ways to protect soldiers from improvised explosive devices.

“Gen. Tata is not afraid of the challenge, as evidenced by his superior leadership talents with our troops,” said GOP board member Deborah Prickett.

Tata was recommended, along with a list of other top candidates, by Heidrick & Struggles, an Illinois-based executive search firm hired by the GOP board majority. The search process has been largely closed with no information released about any other applicants for the position.

Goldman said more than 120 candidates were contacted with 11 names going to the school board. She said Tata was one of three finalists.

GOP school board members said that keeping the names confidential improved the qualify of the applicants.

Board members said they chose Heidrick, in part, because of the firm’s ability to recruit beyond traditional educators. The firm was paid $82,500 plus expenses to do the search, nearly twice as much as the nearest bidder.

Tata is also an author of four military action thrillers, a commentator on conservative websites and a frequent guest on national television network news shows.

The board was able to hire Tata because the GOP members pushed through changes this summer that eliminated the requirement that the superintendent be an educator.

Democratic board members objected today to both Tata’s background and the hurried pace and lack of openness in the hiring process.

“Nothing in his background of experience suggests that he is prepared to lead the largest school district in North Carolina,” said Morrison, a retired Wake principal.

Morrison added that she felt that Wake “could do better for the parents, children, staff and taxpayers” than to hire Tata.

But supporters cited Tata’s work in D.C. and his training at the Broad Superintendents Academy in California, a program designed to train business people and retired members of the military in how to become superintendents in urban school districts. The program is run on extended weekends over a 10-month period.

While still not typical, some large school districts have turned to non-educators to be superintendents. From 2006 to 2008, retired Vice Admiral David Brewer served as superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest school system in the nation.

Last month, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg tapped former USA Today publisher Cathleen Black to run the nation’s largest school system.

Tata will take charge of Wake, whose 143,000 students make it the 18th largest school district in the nation, during a time of major challenges.

Wake is facing the likelihood of layoffs, larger class sizes and program cuts to make up for the projected loss of more than $100 million in state and federal dollars next year.

Wake is also dealing with a federal civil rights investigation over its student assignment practices and a special review by the group that accredits its high schools. Both investigations stem from complaints filed by the state NAACP.

Tata will also have to help the board implement the new student assignment model that will move Wake toward neighborhood schools. “We need someone who can run a large organization,” said GOP board member Chris Malone. “He’s the right guy.”

by Thomas Goldsmith or 919-829-8929 and or 919-829-4534

Strengthen the NC School Funding System

Summary of Report by APA Associates

December 17, 2010


The General Assembly interim committee on Funding Formulas has met over the past two years and contracted with APA Associates to review the State’s funding formulas for K-12 education. The report was presented in early December 2010 to the committee.


APA was asked to: 1) Conduct a comprehensive review of the state education funding; 2) Evaluate the funding structure for education to determine whether it encourages efficient use of resources and determine if the funding system is too complex to be transparent and understandable,  and 3) Provide the strengths and weaknesses of the current education funding formulas.

APA conducted their research over the course of 7 months – from March to September of this year (2010) –  resulting in the following series of fiscally neutral modifications for consideration:

  1. Combine all allotments that are distributed on the basis of total enrollment in to a single per student allotment and give LEAs flexibility to use the funding as needed.
  2. Modify the Special Education Allotment by setting three different payment rates based on the severity of the disability and cost of each group.
  3. Modify the Low-Wealth County Allotment to create two distinct allotments on a simple formula basis or create a single formula similar to other states.
  4. Modify the At-Risk Student Allotment and the Disadvantaged Student Supplemental Fund Allotment by combining them and adjust distribution based on number of low-performing students or the number of Title I eligible students or eligible free and reduced lunch children.
  5. Modify the Small County Supplemental fund to focus exclusively on size of the LEA not the county.
  6. Change the way the Lottery Funds are distributed to support school buildings, to primarily wealth equalize paying for facilities.
  7. Modify Teacher allotment to change the way the number of state-paid teachers (allotted to each district) are calculated. Recommend using a student-weighted count, not ADM. Weighting for categories such as Special Education, At-Risk, LEP, Gifted students, and CTE students should be considered in the weighting.
  8. Modify Teacher Salary Schedule by adding other factors that impact teacher salary such as cost-of-living issues in various counties and incentives for teachers to work in districts that struggle to attract the best and brightest teachers.
  9. Modify the way Teacher Allotment Salaries are applied-The current system might be changed if the state were to pay a total amount to each district to cover the cost of teachers based on the number of eligible teachers multiplied by the statewide average  teacher salary with some specific adjustments based on factors in recommendation # 8.
  10. Modify the Teacher Salary Schedule Structure-Nationally changes are being considered for teacher salary schedules to include replacing education level with professional development plans, limiting experience, adding multiple responsibilities, leadership, days of work, student performance.
  11. Create a “Foundation” Formula- Set a base cost with adjustments for student and district characteristics.

The above recommendations are separate and distinct from one another and could be implemented individually, or simultaneously.  The final recommendations in the list subsume others that precede them. Further work will need to be completed to ensure that the cost of implementation would be fiscally neutral. The State’s current system could incorporate some or all of the recommended changes listed in this report to allow it to continue to evolve and improve.


Follow the link below for the complete report posted on the Committee website:


NC Fiscal Research Division Budget Forecast Summary

December 16, 2010

On December 15, Dr. Barry Boardman and Richard Bostic, fiscal analysts, presented to members of the General Assembly on the state of the NC Budget. Collections through the end of November are meeting the $7.5 billion, 2010-2011 budget target. In March 2010, fiscal staff had projected a growth of 3.5 percent, but this was revised downward and right now the growth is projected at 2.7 percent for 2010-2011. Growth projections for 2011-2012 are projected to reach 5 percent at this time, but it is still too early to count on that number. Unemployment in NC is still an issue. The job losses have ended, but there are less job opportunities available in the public and private sector. Private employment numbers are still down. Home sales are showing some improvement, but they are moving up and down. Eighty seven percent of the general fund is based on the following collections: personal income tax, sales tax, and corporate tax, all of which are showing growth numbers: Personal-3.0 percent, Sales-1.5 percent, and Corporate-3.6 percent. Last year personal income was down 2.8 percent, while the number so far this year has shown a modest increase of 0.8 percent and withholding is up 1 percent.

State Budget Gap – The Federal Recovery Funds are gone for 2011-2012 and nationally there are 35 states with projected budget gaps. Twenty-one states, including NC, will have a budget gap exceeding 10 percent ($3.7 billion). Nationally, in 2010, 15 states have budget gaps, while 43 of the states cut higher education, 34 states cut K-12, 29 states cut the disabled and elderly, and 11 states instated or increased Medicaid provider assessments. North Carolina closed a budget gap in 2009-2010 of $4.6 billion and will need to find $5.8 billion in 2010-2011. The budget gap is caused by the following funding losses and requirements: $2.4 billion budget adjustments, $1.6 billion ARRA (Federal)) funds, $1.2 billion in temporary taxes, $0.1 billion in fees, $0.5 billion in other availability. Estimated budget availability for 2010-2011 is $18.2 billion. The projected funding needed for the budget is $21.9 billion, leaving a gap of $3.7 billion. Education accounts for 57 percent of the budget in 2010-2011 ($10.8 billion) with Health and Human Services, and Justice receiving the next two largest percentages of state funding. The top three individual funding programs are K-12-37 percent, higher education-20 percent, and Medicaid-12 percent. Suggested budget changes in public schools include: adjust class sizes, eliminate optional spending (salary supplements and capital), and review the role of non-instructional staff. In addition to the spending requirements in the budget, there are other funding pressures for economic development, the rainy day fund, transportation, and debt. NC has borrowed more than $2.35 billion from the Federal government to pay unemployment claims and the interest on the borrowed funds begins in January 2011, with final payment due September 2011. These and other funding concerns will challenge the Republican majority with reduced revenue and funding requirements. The power point can be viewed by clicking the link below:



Lottery Money?

The NC Education Lottery collections are expected to be $17 million below projections. The lottery funds were used in 2010-2011 budget to fill some of the funding gap.

What will this mean for K-12 education, which requires lottery proceeds for teacher salaries and was being used for general fund revenue in the 2010-2011 budget?

Perhaps the  2010-2011 possible reversions from public schools may be short a portion of the $17 million lottery proceeds shortfall, to cover the K-12 operational budget requirements.

Budget Puzzle: You Fix the Budget

From the New York Times:

If you were in charge of the nation’s finances, what would you do?  Some of your options have more short-term savings and some have more long-term savings. Work to close the budget gaps for both 2015 and 2030 and share it when you’re done.

From the New York Times:


When you’re done, be sure to read HOW READERS CHOSE TO FIX THE DEFICIT

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