General Tata better bring his helmet.
The new WakeCounty schools superintendent is already taking incoming. He might be starting the job with half of WakeCounty mad at him.
People who don’t like the board’s (sometime) majority welcome his selection like a poke in the eye with a stick: a Fox-commentating, Sarah Palin-admiring, conservative-blogging retired Army general with 18 months’ school experience.
But there’s an issue here bigger than Tata. (Can that really be his name?) Call it the Great Republican Education Gamble – both in the legislature and in Wake County.
There is a whole raft of education reforms rising around the country – in the D.C. schools, in New York City and even in President Obama’s Department of Education. These are the next iteration of the standards and accountability reforms that Governor Hunt started here. But many Democrats shy away from reforms because teacher associations (or unions, if you like) oppose them.
That’s an opening for Republicans. The public is willing to put more money in the schools, but only if the money is spent well and produces results.
If Republicans play it right in Wake County and in the legislature, they could seize the education edge that Democrats long have held.
But if they fumble – and come across as anti-public schools – they could pay a price come 2012.
Another question about Tata is admittedly provincial: Can someone who’s not from here – or even from North Carolina – navigate the cultural and political shoals he will face? That never worked at UNC. And I remember Governor Hunt bringing in nationally known experts in fields like prisons and community colleges who turned out to be disasters. They didn’t get how we-all do things down here.
Tata is walking into a minefield. He’ll need a lot of skill and help. Without it, it will be ta-ta for him. And he’ll earn a few Purple Hearts.