Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata's weekly press briefing covered a variety of topics today, including the new student assignment plan, bus safety and school board chairman Ron Margiotta's request for board meeting videos that may have been used to attack Susan Evans.
Tata gave an update on implementation of the student assignment plan, saying letters were sent Wednesday to families explaining the plan had been adopted. He said a summit of his various advisory committees discussed Thursday how to do community outreach.
For those concerned about the plan, Tata stressed the oversight function that will be performed by staff and a community advisory board to monitor implementation.
Tata pointed to all the deadlines and important dates that will be taking place, including the Nov. 5 magnet school fair and the start of the magnet application period Dec. 5.
Tata also gave an update on his efforts to improve bus safety following a spate of accidents last school year.
Tata said the recent decision to outsource transportation parts will allow the transportation staff to focus more on service and maintenance issues.
Tata pointed to a summer review by the state of 92 Wake buses that resulted in 28 being taken out of service due to what he called minor and easily corrected fixes. He said they need to continue to do a better job of maintenance.
Tata also pointed to how the state gave Wake a bus safety score of 51.3 while the average for this region in the state is 36.7. The lower the number the better.
During the Q&A section, Tata was asked about the number of new buses that will be needed for the assignment plan. He said they'll get a better handle of how many of the projected 5 to 25 new buses will be needed as they see where families make their picks for next year.
Tata was asked if he felt Wake's new choice plan would be a model for other districts. Tata said yes, indicating he felt that people in fast-growing districts around the country will watch how Wake implements a plan that addresses growth without reassigning thousands of students a year.
Tata was asked if the continuing rise in the percentage of minority students meant he was concerned that more white students were choosing private schools. His answer was no as he said it represents growth in the community, particularly in the Hispanic population.
"I feel very good about the representation in our schools," Tata said.
Tata was also asked about the public records request that Margiotta had made for staff to provide him the video of the public comment sections from six board meetings. Evans spoke at all six meetings and video from several of those meetings appeared in YouTube videos attacking her.
Public records requests from multiple groups for information on what Margiotta was provided were answered this week.
The e-mails don't show direct proof that Margiotta gave the video to the anonymous person who made the YouTube videos, which are not officially connected to his campaign. (The lack of a smoking gun is we haven't previously reported on it, especially with none of the campaigns or groups willing to publicly make the charge against Margiotta.)
Tata said he's not investigating and has not been requested to investigate whether Margiotta's request may have constituted a misuse of school district resources. He said questions about why Margiotta made the request should be directed to him.