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Mom Congress delegate updates and good news – finally - in Wake County (NC)

Luanne Goffnett

One of the best outcomes of participating in the 2010 Mom Congress event held in May at Georgetown University is getting to know so many amazing moms from across the country. I like hearing about what they are doing and learning ways to connect others to important initiatives. Here’s the latest on three of our Mom Congress delegates followed by a wonderful change in the education climate in Wake County (NC).

  • Luanne Goffnett, MI Mom Congress delegate is on a mission to help orphans. By voting for Luanne’s family photo that includes the Orphanage Outreach logo, they could win a trip to the Dominican Republic to help children in need. You can help Luanne’s family help others by voting for their photograph – that’s it! They have 185 votes (as of 1/10/11) and need about 100 more. Luanne is not new to help others. In her Mom Congress application she wrote this, "I take the time to get to know the teachers and the classroom environment by volunteering in the schools. The roles I have taken include teaching specials (computers, Spanish, or Serve and Learn), and providing labor support (creating bulletin boards, organizing books, or making copies). In addition, I look for ways to collaborate between the schools and the community. For example, I lead a Girl Scout troop, have started a K Kids Club, and this year led the initiative to begin a Builder's Club."
  • Melissa Bilash, PA Mom Congress delegate recently won a Stevie award for being the Best Entrepreneur – Service Businesses - Up to 100 Employees - All Other Industries. Melissa is the president of Advocacy & Consulting for Education. The words of those Melissa has helped, say it best: Without Melissa Bilash's dedication and support I do not know where my child would be. Melissa's knowledge and confidence was the answer to our long battle with the school district. Not only did her assistance allow us to get the funding we needed for appropriate programming, it also enabled our son to meet his full potential. She worked quickly and efficiently, keeping us informed every step of the way while working with us to keep our bill down. - Single mom of school aged child in Delaware County
  • Gwen Samuel, CT Mom Congress delegate, is constantly on the move helping children and parents  in her area. On Monday, Jan. 17, she will be a speaker for the Stamford MLK celebration. Gwen is the founder and president of the State of Black CT Alliance. According to a recent bio, Gwen works tirelessly to promote effective and sustainable practices that foster the academic and social development of our children while seeking to strengthen our families and communities. She firmly strives to ensure that “each and every child has access to the right of a high quality education and equitable access to opportunity, and that we must work effectively until neither race nor socio-economic status is a predictor of student success.”

In a recent blog posting, I lamented on the negative education climate in Wake County. I was hoping for a leader to step in to change the tide and restore civility. Last week, the newly hired superintendent, Anthony J. Tata, made the rounds to meet and greet students, administrators, parents and even stopped in for barbeque with the Wake County Taxpayers association. All areas agree that Tata demonstrated a willingness to listen and learn before making recommendations to move the school system forward.

Tata’s open letter to the community published on Dec. 23, set the positive tone for his round of meetings on January 7. “I am humbled to be selected as the next superintendent of the Wake County Public School System. I intend to focus the system's impressive resources on the academic achievement of our students and on closing the achievement gap in student performance. I will ensure our teachers and principals have the resources they need to deliver this improvement. One of my goals will be to energize all aspects of Wake County's very large, complex organization to operate at maximum capacity and minimum cost so that we can push as many resources as possible to where they belong -- the classroom,” wrote Tata.

In the January 7 announcements, the community learned that Donna Hargens will stay on as the Chief Academic Officer. Hargens has been serving as the interim superintendent since former superintendent Del Burns stepped down in March of 2010. At that same time, Hargens also continued in her role as CAO. The combination of Tata’s leadership and Hargen’s experience truly makes them a dynamic duo to capably move Wake County Public Schools beyond the controversy of the previous months to focusing on learning and teaching.

Although I didn’t meet with Tata yesterday, I did receive a very quick and positive reply to my welcome to Wake County e-mail. Tata wrote “Thanks Liza for reaching out and for all that you do. I look forward to meeting you and listening to your viewpoint. Best, Tony”

Even more impressive, Tata is heralded as the next Tom Clancy and is giving 100% of the proceeds of his book “Sudden Threat” to USO Metro D.C. wounded soldiers. The book is dedicated to three soldiers who are heroes. Hear more from Tata in the video of the left.

With all the good news about Wake’s new superintendent, I would remiss if I didn’t also mention the $3 million windfall the school received as a result of fraud case ruling last week. According to reports, this is the largest single fine awarded to a school system. Under state law, cases of this nature that are settled are directed to pay the fines to the public schools where the case is heard.


Liza Weidle is the NC Mom Congress delegate and author of "Truth about Parenting: Navigating the Elementary Years."