Memo to Wake Board: No more imperial CEO’s please

It’s hard to know what’s more offensive: The fact that the old Wake School Board agreed to pay former Superintendent Anthony Tata $250,000 per year in the first place or the fact that the man accepted that much money and is now apparently accepting a severance payment of the same amount.

One of the biggest scams in modern America is, what Nobel Prize-winning economist Dr. Paul Krugman accurately describes as, “the rise of the imperial CEO.” Over the last few decades, Americans have been snookered into believing that supposedly brilliant chief executives are somehow worth the princely sums they demand and receive.

This  is, in a word, baloney.

The skyrocketing salaries of CEO’s have much, much more to do with the cozy and rigged game constructed by the insiders who run corporate America than they do with “market forces.”

And one of the few things worse than the scam being perpetrated by the fat cat corporate CEO’s is the phenomenon of public institutions falling for the same trick. The notion that Wake County had to pay a person with Tata’s limited education experience a quarter of a million dollars per year to run its schools because of his supposedly brilliant managerial skills was and is absurd. It was a huge and ridiculous blunder by the folks who hired the man.

But here’s the really offensive part about all of this: Tata’s apparent acceptance of a giant severance package as part of his dismissal. Why in the world does he feel he deserves this money?

He’s not going to be working for Wake County or the kids in the system.  The man was making more than $20,000 per month! What? he couldn’t put away a little nest egg to ease his transition out of that rather amazing income?

Sure, I understand he can get the money. I’m sure his lawyers are seeing to that. But that doesn’t make it moral or right.

What Tata’s acceptance of the “severance” money shows is this: His tenure as Superintendent was never about the kids; it was about him. Anyone who would take a quarter of a million dollars from a financially strapped school district for not working as “payback” or to ease his “transition” or simply because he can get it, is not the kind of a person to lead such a vital public institution anyway.

If that’s the kind of every-person-for-himself “morality” that Tata represents, then the two words seem most appropriate at this moment are these: Good riddance.


  1. Jeff

    September 26, 2012 at 8:59 am

    I was wondering how the progressives were going to spin this power play by the Democrats. Blaming Tata for taking the money and the Republicans for giving him that salary to begin with. That’s brilliant. Just one quesiton: Why did the board have to fire Tata now and pay him for doing nothing?

  2. Rob Schofield

    September 26, 2012 at 9:01 am

    See this post.

  3. Rob Schofield

    September 26, 2012 at 9:12 am

    And by the way, this has nothing to do with Democrats or Republicans. Elected officials from both parties have fallen for the absurd argument that we must pay corporate types gazillions of dollars to do jobs that good public servants could do just as well at a fraction of the price.

  4. Todd Morman

    September 26, 2012 at 9:32 am

    What could be more hilarious than Tedesco supporters complaining about “power plays” on the Wake School Board? Hearing folks who spit on process two years ago now whining about process is a hoot. Tata was sold as an excellent logistics person, wasn’t he? That was his big plus, right? The school bus logistics debacle at the beginning of the year is itself more than enough reason to show him the door.

  5. Jeff S

    September 26, 2012 at 9:35 am

    Rob, this post embarrasses me. It will surely be held up as a sign of progressive pettiness by Tata supporters. The best thing you could do for all of us is remove it.

    Everyone involved negotiated a legal contract and to question his morality for expecting it to be honored makes absolutely no sense. If you want to attack someone, attack the people who offered the contract.

    That will just be painting yourself in a corner though. It will be a “democratic” board that signs the next contract, likely for a similar amount of money and with similar provisions.

  6. Rob Schofield

    September 26, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Thanks for the advice, Jeff, but I’ll leave it up just the same. Whoever offers this kind of money to a school system leader (and whatever their ideology) is simply wrong. Now the current board may have had no choice because of what their predecessors committed them to, but it still stinks.

    And just because a severance is “legal” does not mean an honorable person has to accept it.

  7. Frank Burns

    September 26, 2012 at 11:09 am

    I agree, paying these outrageous salary and benefit packages to senior executives is out of control. But how can it be stopped? We had the senior executive from United Way living like a Queen here in Charlotte, it will take several years before United Way recovers from that scandal.

  8. Mary Pollard

    September 26, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Rob, the Margiotta majority lit WCPSS on fire, and we’d made some progress in getting that fire tamped down to where it was just smoldering, and some progress could be made for all our kids, and then the Dem majority threw gasoline on it yesterday. I read your post “Tata’s Troubles,” and I just don’t buy it. Fire him for cause, or don’t fire him at all. I’m sure Tata was unpopular with some longtime school employees – that happens anytime new management comes in and makes (sometimes very necessary) changes. As for relations with the board, there is plenty of blame to go around on that front. I worked hard to get Hill reelected and and I gave money to Evans’ campaign because I believe in diversity. But my neighbors, whose homes have been redistricted over and over and who are not fortunate enough to have their kids in the magnet programs, have legitimate beefs with the pre-2009 school admin that need to be addressed. It’s growth causing the problems, and if the new majority was smart it would have figured out a way to work with Tata and to get adequate funding from the county commission. That would have protected their majority, and allowed them to protect diversity.

  9. Rob Schofield

    September 26, 2012 at 11:45 am

    Hey Mary — I hear you. That’s why I wrote yesterday that the Board has done a less-than-perfect job of making their case. And we all have beefs with student assignment — it’s a huge and complex thicket. And, clearly, from a poltical standpoint it would have made more sense to leave well enough alone. But I have to believe that the board members know the implications of their actions (some of which you identify) and that they simply had to feel that they had no choice.

  10. Roland Harris

    September 26, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    Completely misses the obvious…at $250K/per, are you saying the NEXT Superintendent (presumably one hand-picked by the Dem majority) will NOT be payed at least $250K/per, or even more? When they find someone similar for, say $50K/per, I’ll be really impressed. Unlikely. Not only has money been wasted, but time, and that costs even more. All to score political points? What are those point worth to the parents?

  11. Tammy Dyson-Ward

    September 27, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Party’s , Democrat or Republican, should not be brought into this BIG PILE of CRAP!! The decisions the Board of Un-Education is SO SO MESSED UP!! It was a MESS before Mr. Tata . I totally agree that CEO’s are paid way too much!! I do believe salary should be based on experience and knowledge. Mr. Tata TRIED to fix the broken wheel and was stopped and had HOLD ups from several of the Croonie/Holier Than Thou’s on the Board!! Do you really think that only Republicans care for their kids or vis versa? So stupid!! And just another reason WHY NOTHING gets done by brings in personal Party’s affiliations. The problems were there before him and they are they now!! This is such an embarrassment to me as a Mother of 2 Wake Public students and as a native North Carolinian. We are Blessed to live in Raleigh and Wake County is the LARGEST school system , I do believe if not right behind Charlotte. For a JOB this BIG you have to PAY for it. There are car sales men/women making 6 figures!!!! This is for the Education and ECONOMY of Wake County and NC. NC has some of the BEST colleges in the world. WHY in the world can’t we get the BEST public education too!! Why can’t they FIX this !!?? It’s been messed up ever since I moved to the area 9 years ago!! It gets WORST every year!! Not everyone can afford to send their kids to private schools. And we shouldn’t have too!! I implore everyone to get out and VOTE!!! We need to do something about this!! We need to GET THE PRESENT CROONIES OFF the Board. So it will once again to called the Board of Education, not the Board of the UN-Education!! I also want to say the I believe it should be a CONFLICT of INTEREST of you are a Board Member and YOU put YOUR CHILDREN in PRIVATE schools!! It’s pretty sad when the “board” member(s) won’t EVEN put THEIR kids in public schools that THEY TRY and govern over!!! And who PAY THEIR salaries too!! They ALL need to be OUT!! All of them!! No wonder the public schools are a mess when you have a TRAIN WRECK for a Board!!

  12. dj of raleigh

    October 6, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Do not agree. This is the same pay the former superintendent was getting and the county signed a contract. This is business, administration and not teaching jobs. By this memo’s thinking, the next superintendent is going to be asked to work pro bono and without a contract. The man should have been left in position, complaints aired, then if Tata failed to “work with staff & board” someone else found to replace him by contract’s end.

    Tata comes from military administration to the Broad? program out of San Francisco that is producing the majority of new school administrators in the USA, and along with those new minded leaders come the non-profit grants. . That endowed program does not want teachers to rise to administration keeping “same think” alive, but they want new thinking and less comfort in the status quo. there is logic in that position.

    The current board and existing central office naturally want no one coming in to rock the boat. Tata for a while did stop the bickering between the two party board, a bit. Tata demanded a “Can Do” attitude. Tata demanded change. The board hoped for change.

    Now the board is wanting someone who will agree with the majority and do the bidding of the majority of the board, who, in fact, are the ones who set the policy of the school.

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