Wake County Schools

Emails detail chaos behind Wake schools transportation

Posted March 6, 2013

— Chaos, distrust and frustration characterize angry parents' concerns last year over Wake County Public School System busing problems at the start of the school year, according to nearly 3,500 pages of internal emails obtained by WRAL News through the Freedom of Information Act.

Hundreds of complaints from parents poured into the school district's offices in August and September after students riding buses either arrived late to school or were not dropped off at their assigned stops. In some cases, students were dropped off several hours after the school day ended.

The emails, between Aug. 1 and Sept. 25, detail the behind-the-scenes chaos school administrators, including then-Superintendent Tony Tata, faced. They scrambled to fix routes and hire drivers to operate buses that had previously been taken off the road in an effort to cut costs. Ultimately, about three dozen buses were put back into service.

In the emails, administrators detailed encounters with parents. One principal wrote that parents were calling "in tears" because their children were dropped off at some place other than their stops.

Area Superintendent Rose Anne Gonzalez expressed concerns to transportation staff in another email about how principals were dealing the problems.

"I am afraid it won't be much longer before the principals start to rebel," she wrote.

One parent in Cary wrote that she was "disgusted" by the debacle.

"The sheer ineptitude of your transportation office is in plain sight for all of Wake and NC [sic] to see," she wrote in an email to Tata.

Wake schools bus debacle was chaos Emails detail Wake schools bus debacle

"Mr. Tata, I wanted to congratulate you on allowing the school bus fiasco to become a bigger disaster on week two, especially after all the assurances that u [sic] were working diligently all holiday weekend to correct the situation," the parent also wrote.

The emails also show that Tata rode bus routes to understand the problems better and went to schools to see delays firsthand. He fired off emails on Sept. 13 to his staff: "Where is the list of problems routes I asked for?"

The next day, he wrote, "How are we fixing this problem?" "What happened here?" he asked on Sept. 15. "Fix it."

The emails also detail the clash between Democratic and Republican school board members. At one point, former member Debra Goldman questioned a decision to let Democrats lead an audit of transportation saying it looked "too partisan."

Growing distrust is spelled out the in the documents as board member Jim Martin questions why Tata's administration didn't give members access to reassignment maps.

"Very frustrating," Martin wrote, "when it appears as though staff are working to undermine the board."

Board members were also constantly replying to angry parents over buses, school assignments and Tata's pending firing, most of them opposed to his ouster.

Democratic board members who voted to fire Tata cited the busing and reassignment controversies as some of the reasons for his dismissal.

Former member Chris Malone, a Republican, however, cited politics. In one email, he compared Democratic board members to a "coiled rattlesnake waiting for political cover to strike."

27 Comments

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  • douglively919 Mar 13, 9:43 a.m.

    Well, ..., the good news is that Tata is now in charge of transportation for our entire state! The proverb of how ineptitude bubbles to the top has been proven once again!

  • Tax Man Mar 11, 6:43 p.m.

    I can see why we need school transportation for kids in elementary school, but for middle and high school the kids should take public transportation at their families expense or the parents should take the kids to school and pick them up. What ever happened to neighborhood car pools? My school covered us for transportation if we lived more than a mile from the school but only for elementary. After that we took the city bus (discounted bus pass for middle/high school students) or our parents/neighbors took us and picked us up. Most of us had after school sports so we were at school until about 5 pm. All the neighbors chipped in on getting us to and from school. Wake county is wasting a lot of time and money over this issue. Let the parents be responsible for getting the kids to school.

  • natsfan1965 Mar 8, 5:44 p.m.

    Thank God I don't live in Wake County. I moved to North Carolina a year ago from Virginia.This is without a doubt the most dysfunctional school system I have ever seen or followed. For an area as affluent and growing such as this you would think the school system would be second to none. The leadership in the system is a disgrace to the area and the state. This is from the school board on down. ALL of the leadership should be replaced.

  • WhatIsTheDrama Mar 7, 1:37 p.m.

    It's a shame that the real "brains" behind this fiasco went unnoticed and unpunished. The Board, Tata, and Haydon were convinced by alot of white smoke and mirrors by the heads of the transportation department. Why wouldn't they believe the top guys who are constantly dancing in front of them saying "we can do this!" Transportation folks sure were quiet when all of this went down. Snidemiller and McNeill missed their calling...they should've been used car salesmen!

  • rlee1117 Mar 7, 11:39 a.m.

    Let see was any kid left on a schools bus with health issues during Mr. TATA's term. Was any child put into danger this way during his term. Please someone explain to me how this all got fixed in one day with no more busing complaints after he was pushed out? Seems to me if you fired Tony for kids being late should the current supt. still have his job after a child with health issues was lost or left on the bus alone? How bout the 32million in surplus we had under MR. TATA that is not their anymore. Why are we asking for more money under the current supt. That is running in the red with our tax dollars. I have a kid in wake county schools and I would rather him be late than be put in danger by being left alone with health issues any day no matter who the supt is. Did the supt. get fired at other places at the start of a school year over buses being late?

  • superman Mar 7, 11:14 a.m.

    If you life by the sword you die by the sword. It was political when he was hired and it was political when he was fired. He didnt even have Supt's certification. If it had been someone who wanted to be hired as a teacher and didnt have teacher certification there is no chance they would have been hired. And he also hired someone who had worked with him previously and she was the second highest paid person in the system.

  • independent_thinker Mar 7, 11:13 a.m.

    Heckuva job Tony...

  • superman Mar 7, 11:09 a.m.

    If you dont think the busing fiasco was enough to fire him what would you consider enough. He made several negative comments about two board members. He never came through with posting info on the website as promised. If you dont get along with your boss--just how long do you think you will be tolerated. He fired the transporation person so why didnt he think he would be fired?

  • Rebelyell55 Mar 7, 11:07 a.m.

    I guess he didn't realize that most were not qualified to do the job, and that many were just sitting around collecting a pay check. How crazy could he be?

  • superman Mar 7, 11:05 a.m.

    Tata never had support from his staff. No wonder-- people dont like a dictator who commands and wants a big "Yes Sir". And then maybe add a salute to that. You follow orders--do as you told without question or you get fired. That is why there was a busing problem--he didnt listen or want input from his staff. He didnt know what he was doing and his staff was forced to do it his way.

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