Garner Cleveland Record

Wake school board picks superintendent semi-finalists

The Wake County school board has picked four semifinalists to be considered for the job of superintendent of the state’s largest school system.

Last Wednesday, the board met behind closed doors for three hours, narrowing the field of 23 applicants to the semifinalists, who will be interviewed this week.

The names of the semifinalists are being kept secret, but school board Chairman Keith Sutton said they’re all veteran educators who are currently serving in leadership positions in their respective school districts, ranging in size from 30,000 students to close to Wake’s size of 150,000 students.

“They’re all highly qualified, very capable of running the district,” Sutton said. “They stood out above the rest.”

The semifinalists were from a field of seven applicants recommended by the board’s search firm, McPherson & Jacobson.

Board members hope to narrow the list in the next few weeks to two or three finalists. The finalists, who will be publicly identified, will come to Wake County to meet the public and go through more interviews with the board at the end of the month.

Sutton said the final vote could take place by early June.

The new superintendent will be in charge of leading the nation’s 16th-largest school system.

The board is hoping to fill the position soon because interim Superintendent Stephen Gainey will become superintendent of the Randolph County school system July 1.

Gainey has been in charge since the board’s Democratic majority fired Tony Tata, a retired U.S. Army general and now state secretary of transportation, in September.

Democratic board members cited issues such as the school bus problems at the start of the school year, parental complaints about the choice-based assignment plan and their worsening relations with Tata as reasons for the firing. But Republican board members have charged the firing was political, noting that Tata, now the state secretary of transportation, was fired without cause and received a $253,625 severance payout.

Tata, a retired U.S. Army general, was hired in December 2010 by the board’s former Republican majority.

Members of the new majority have said they’d like Tata’s successor to be an educator who has had experience working in large school systems.

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