Wake school board leaning toward educator for superintendent

khui@newsobserver.comMarch 7, 2013 

The next Wake County schools superintendent will likely be an educator following the tumultuous 20-month tenure of retired Army Brig. Gen. Tony Tata.

The school board this week ranked leadership experience in a school system, including in an urban or large district, as the top trait it’s looking for in a new superintendent. The board ranked being an educator as fourth on the list of traits.

“It’s likely we’ll hire an educator, but it’s a bit premature to say until we’ve seen the applicants,” said school board Chairman Keith Sutton, a Democrat, on Thursday.

Other traits at the top of the board list include someone who is a consensus builder, a strong communicator, who can keep the district focused on student achievement and who has human resources experience.

The new superintendent will replace Tata, who was fired in September. Stephen Gainey, the assistant superintendent for human resources, has been serving as interim superintendent. Gainey declined to comment this week about whether he’ll seek the permanent job.

When Tata was hired by the former Republican board majority in December 2010, members cited his military experience and his 18 months as chief operating officer of the D.C. Public Schools. The hiring attracted national attention because Wake is both the state’s largest school system and the 16th-largest nationally.

But Democrats, who retook the board majority in 2011, cited Tata’s lack of education experience as one factor when they bought out his contract for $253,625. Tata was appointed North Carolina’s secretary of transportation in January by Gov. Pat McCrory.

School board member John Tedesco, a Republican, said his colleagues are looking for a “classic educrat.”

“It will be a wild card for a non-traditional educator to become superintendent this time,” said Tedesco, who had opposed firing Tata.

Sutton said they’ll treat all applicants fairly.

Setting a timeline

Also Wednesday, board members agreed on a timeline that they hope will result in the new superintendent being hired by July 1.

McPherson & Jacobson, the Nebraska-based search firm hired by the board, will hold public meetings with March 25-27 to find out what people want in a new superintendent.

Wake will take applications through April 8.

The board will meet May 8 to select semi-finalists for interviews. The list will be trimmed to two or three finalists, with more interviews and the final vote potentially taking place in early June.

Board members said they will decide by May whether to publicly release the names of the finalists so the community can meet the candidates. In the search that led to Tata’s hiring in 2010, none of the other finalists were publicly identified.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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