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Frontline's "The Education of Michelle Rhee" deserves a good grade

Just the other day, I got an email from studentsfirst, the education lobby group launched by education activist Michelle Rhee. It told of a state by state policy report card performed by the group, based on whether state laws are giving schools the tools to do the best job for kids. No state got higher than a B-; North Carolina got a D.

That's the kind of tough-mindedness that has earned Rhee a reputation as a no-nonsense leader. It's also the kind of thing about Rhee that turns a lot of people off.

While watching Frontline's excellent "The Education of Michelle Rhee" (10 tonight, UNC-TV), you'll see both of those groups represented. Frontline was given broad access to Rhee during her three years as chancellor of Washington, D.C. public schools, documenting her highs and lows and her laser focus on trying to build a better school system for the District's children.

Terry Stoops calls the Wake County school system's former diversity policy a "failure"

Terry Stoops is telling a national audience that the Wake County school system's former socioeconomic diversity policy was a "failure" and "that school districts cannot bus their way to success."

In an online piece posted Sunday by The New York Times, Stoops, director of education studies for the conservative John Locke Foundation, compares what happened after Wake adopted the socioeconomic diversity and Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools abandoned busing for diversity.

Stoops points to how "the performance of disadvantaged students in Wake County has stalled." In contrast, he notes that Charlotte's low-income students "outperformed their Wake County peers on most measures of student achievement."

Accusing Tony Tata of militarizing the Wake County school system

Is the Wake County school system undergoing "militarization" under the tenure of Superintendent Tony Tata?

That's a charge leveled in this Dec. 16 article by Jason Langberg and Lewis Pitts from the liberal Advocates for Children's Services. The article points to Tata's military career, the requirement of Junior ROTC for the new single-sex leadership academies and Wake's recent involvement in cybersecurity competitions.

The authors start by calling the Occupy Wall Street movement an "education justice movement." The piece charges that public education has "undergone a corporate coup" with the "mega-buck mafia’s buyout of public education."

Rick and Donna Martinez say "the reformers have been booted out of office"

Rick Martinez and Donna Martinez are calling the Wake County school board election results a rejection of education reform and another reason for minority parents to pull their children from the school system.

On their show this morning on WPTF, both conservative talk show hosts said giving back Democrats control of the Wake school board means a return to policies that resulted in low graduation rates for black, Hispanic and low-income students.

"That is what Wake County has voted for, and I think you get what you vote for," said Donna Martinez.

The looming role of Eli Broad in the Wake County school system

You should probably get to know the name of Eli Broad because he could have a major impact on the Wake County school system in the next few years.

As noted in today's article, one obvious factor is that Wake Superintendent Tony Tata graduated from the Broad Superintendents Academy. Another factor is that Tata hopes to use his contacts from the academy to draw in millions of dollars from philanthropists like Broad, Bill Gates and the Walton family.

One of the things Tata said he was surprised to learn when he started in Wake was that the school system wasn't heavily involved in raising money from the private sector.

Debating whether Anthony Tata should still be a political commentator

Should new Wake County Superintendent Anthony Tata continue to appear as a guest on national television news show and be a writer on conservative websites?

As noted in today's article, school board members say that Tata's contract allows him to continue those activities as long as he does it on his own time. Since he's typically in those roles because he's a retired Army brigadier general, he's not supposed to mention he's speaking as Wake's superintendent.

The question, which is splitting along partisan lines on the board, is whether Tata should exercise that right. He's on vacation and didn't indicate to board members one way or the other if he'd continue those activities.

Linking Anthony Tata's military background to his qualifications as superintendent

The GOP members of the Wake County school board sure love new Superintendent Anthony Tata's military background.

As noted in today's article, board members who supported Tata repeatedly argued Thursday that his 28 years in the U.S. Army were a good match for the school district's needs. In contrast, Tata's critics on and off the school board said being a retired brigadier general wasn't enough to offset his relatively limited experience in the education system.

"Mr. Tata's experience as a military strategist will complement our focus on academic achievement and encourage the implementation of new initiatives for the betterment of the education of our students," said school board chairman Ron Margiotta.

Anthony Tata as a hard worker and political commentator

Likely new Wake County Superintendent Anthony Tata comes in with a reputation as being a hard worker both in his day job with D.C. Schools and in his night job as a political commentator.

As noted in today's article, former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee praised Tata and said he's ready and qualified to lead the Wake school system. Rhee singled out Tata's work streamlining D.C.'s school nutrition and purchasing programs during his 18 months as chief operating officer.

"He's not a touchy-feely guy who will hold people's hands" Rhee said. "He's very goal oriented. He was a general so he knows about leadership. He knows how to get the job done."

Hiring a superintendent with limited education experience

Will Anthony Tata be named Wake County's new schools superintendent?

As noted in today's article, the school board has scheduled a special meeting for Thursday to meet in closed session and then to potentially hire the new superintendent in public. Several board members are describing the finalist as having strong leadership and business skills, being a graduate of the Broad Superintendent's Academy and having limited education experience.

One candidate who fits the bill is Tata, the chief operating officer of the D.C. Public Schools. He has been identified as being a candidate for the Wake job.

UPDATE

The D.C. Public School System is officially confirming that Anthony Tata is a candidate to become Wake County's superintendent.

Here's the statement from Safiya Jafari Simmons, assistant press secretary for D.C. schools:

"Mr. Tata has been a part of DCPS’ executive cabinet since June 2009 and is a well-qualified candidate.  His candidacy is a testament to the quality and talent of DCPS’ management team, and speaks to his wealth of experience.  We will not comment any further as Wake County School Board has yet to make its final selection."

Sources in Wake familiar with the search have idenitfied Tata as the leading candidate.

Talking to Michelle Rhee about applying for Wake County superintendent

There's a chance that former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee might become Wake County's next schools superintendent.

George Conway, the team leader from Heidrick & Struggles, said today they've talked to more than 100 people so far and are reaching out to more people daily. One of the people they've contacted is Rhee.

Conway said Rhee isn't an applicant. But he said she hasn't turned down applying either.

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