Wake postpones vote on new superintendent

khui@newsobserver.comJune 7, 2013 

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Wake School Board chairman Keith Sutton opens the board's meeting on Tuesday June 4, 2013 at the Wake County Schools headquarters in Cary, N.C.

ROBERT WILLETT — rwillett@newsobserver.com

  • Bond referendum to be requested

    The Wake County school board voted Tuesday to request that the Wake County Board of Commissioners put an $810 million school construction bond referendum on the Oct. 8 ballot.

    The bonds would pay for the bulk of a $983.8 million school construction program that builds 16 schools, completes major renovations at six schools, begins renovations at three schools and covers other projects.

    The program would be paid for with $810 million in new bonds, $130 million in cash and $43.8 million in previously issued bonds. County finance staff project that the bond referendum would result in a 5.53 cent property tax rate increase, or $145.72 more per year on a $263,500 home.

    The last Wake school bond referendum was on the ballot in 2006, when voters approved borrowing $970 million.

— Last-minute snags reaching a deal with Wake County’s new schools superintendent means it could take another week for a leader to be named for the state’s largest school system.

The school board had been scheduled to vote Tuesday on hiring a new superintendent and approving the person’s contract. But the votes were pulled Tuesday afternoon, with school board members saying it would be “premature” to make the decision at this time.

School board chairman Keith Sutton said that while the board’s goal was to vote Tuesday, he hopes to call a special meeting within the next week to make the announcement.

“We want to be thorough and deliberate with our process,” Sutton said in an interview.

Sutton, who said as recently as Monday that the new superintendent would be at the meeting, did not say why the vote was delayed. But multiple sources familiar with the situation cited last-minute snags in the contract details.

School board members have not yet revealed who their top choice is to lead the 150,000-student school system.

The three finalists are Dana Bedden, the superintendent of the Irving Independent School District in Texas; Ann Clark, the deputy superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools; and James Merrill, the superintendent of Virginia Beach, Va., City Schools.

Sutton said none of the finalists has withdrawn from consideration. The board is hoping to make the announcement soon so that the new superintendent can start in August.

The school board appointed Cathy Moore to serve as interim superintendent until the new person starts. Moore is in charge of academics as deputy superintendent for school performance.

Stephen Gainey, who has been interim superintendent since September, will become superintendent of Randolph County Schools on July 1.

Wake has been looking for a permanent superintendent since Tony Tata was fired in September. Tata is now state secretary of transportation.

This was the first time since 1995 that the school board had announced the finalists and brought them to town to meet the public before holding the final vote. The three finalists, chosen from a field of 23 applicants, toured schools, met school employees and took questions at a community forum last week.

School board member John Tedesco, who had opposed firing Tata, praised Sutton for doing a “phenomenal job” in how the search has been conducted.

“It’s been a wonderful process that has served Wake schools and the community well,” he said.

The new superintendent will have many challenges to face. One of them is growth, which is bringing more than 3,000 additional students a year to the school system. One of the new superintendent’s jobs will be trying to explain to the public why passage of an Oct. 8 school construction bond referendum is needed.

Student assignment is another issue.

The new superintendent will be in charge of helping implement a student assignment plan that takes into account changes recently approved by the school board that make diversity a factor in assignments.

The new superintendent also will have to lead the district as it deals with expected state funding cuts and legislation that would transfer the school system’s control over school construction to the Wake commissioners.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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