It looks like the question of reducing autonomy for Wake County principals is something that Superintendent Tony Tata will be pushing for as he continues to put his stamp on the school district.
Tata has questioned the extensive level of autonomy that principals have in both of the school board retreats, including the one on Saturday. He said he wants Central Office to have more authority while still preserving some autonomy for principals.
"A theme today is that there needs to be a higher degree of accountability between Central Office and the schools," Tata told board members Saturday.
(There actually wasn't as much discussion as Tata planned. Board members didn't want to hang around for five hours so they compressed the agenda into half that time.)
The high degree of principal autonomy in Wake was also questioned a few years ago in the curriculum management audit done at the request of then-Superintendent Del Burns. But, if Tata's words are any indication, not much change was made on this issue.
Tata said one theory of autonomy and action is that Central Office tells schools what to do.
Tata said another theory is that schools have complete autonomy.
On a line with complete centralization at one end and complete principal autonomy on the other, Tata said it's tipped way over toward the autonomy side. He said his goal is to get it toward the middle of the line, which he called "managed performance empowerment."
Tata said for principals at schools that demonstrated they're making academic growth "you can let them go in that direction" of more autonomy. But he said they can go in the other direction and "take more control" at schools which aren't demonstrating that growth.
Tata also brought up another example of the problem of principals having too much autonomy when discussing textbook acquisition.
School board vice chairwoman Debra Goldman talked having been at schools with rooms full of textbooks they don't use. She asked if there was a way to get those books into other schools that might need them.
Tata said those rooms full of unused textbooks are "part of the dysfunction of having highly autonomous principals."
Tata said he's talked with some private companies who could come in at no cost to schools and inventory the textbooks, removing the material that's not relevant and telling Wake what's missing.
Tata said those companies would sell the unneeded textbooks and give part of the proceeds to Wake.