Wake County Schools

Tata, two Wake school board members spar over community group

Posted February 21, 2012

— Wake County schools Superintendent Tony Tata has apologized to two school board members following an email exchange in which he accused them of supporting a community group that attacked his truthfulness last week.

The Great Schools in Wake Coalition charged last Friday that Tata was using a proposed shift in school schedules for next fall to hide the costs of the parental-choice student assignment plan that his staff is implementing.

In an email sent Saturday morning to members of the Wake County Board of Education and a few senior staffers at the Wake County Public School System, Tata said he wanted to know if board members Christine Kushner and Susan Evans knew of the group's allegations in advance.

"Given each of your professed deep involvement in and adherence to the principles of this group, I am concerned that you endorse their attacks on me and my staff (unless of course you state publicly that you do not endorse them)," Tata wrote.

"Truthfully, I am having a hard time understanding your public endorsement of and involvement in this group that so fervently attacks me and my staff while each of you claims to want to have a professional relationship with us," he continued. "Attacks on my character such as those yesterday, which each of you implicitly endorse through your association and support of GSIW, undermine our ability to move forward as an effective governance team, in my view."

Evans and Kushner both fired back later Saturday, saying they haven't been involved with Great Schools in Wake since they were elected to the school board last fall. They took offense to his accusations and said he should have discussed the matter with them privately instead of in a mass email.

"The GSIW folks understand that my role as a school board member is separate and different from their role as a community activist group and we are all respecting those boundaries. I am disappointed that you would assume otherwise," Evans wrote.

"I am even more disappointed that you would choose to send such an accusatory public group email, prior to discussing your concerns with me privately," she continued. "I find this unacceptable behavior for a Superintendent to exhibit towards a Board Member and counterproductive to a respectful working relationship."

"With all of the public records requests for Board emails, I must assume you know your broadside attack on me and other Board member is, and that you intended it to be, a public record. I believe this raises a serious question of judgment," Kushner wrote.

"I have been completely respectful and open with you, even when you have had an 'aggressive' (your word) conversation with me," she continued. "This is not an acceptable way for a superintendent to treat a Board member."

Tata responded Sunday evening with a conciliatory message, saying he sought some "clarity" regarding their current relationship with Great Schools in Wake.

"I deeply apologize if you feel that I was disrespectful. While straight forward, I intended no disrespect and I certainly made no accusations or allegations of conspiracy," he wrote.

"I am glad to hear that neither of you endorse their position on this blatantly false press release. Of course, I would have preferred each of you made that comment to the media, as my primary concern was an implicit endorsement, which you have clarified for me today," he continued.

Under the new assignment plan, parents can choose from at least five elementary, two middle and two high schools, based on their address. The schools are a combination of traditional-calendar, year-round calendar, magnet and other specialty options.

The plan was created after the board decided to stop using busing to balance socio-economic diversity across schools and place more emphasis on allowing students to attend schools closer to their homes.

Great Schools in Wake wants the school district to publicly disclose the financial analysis used in drafting the plan. Chairwoman Yevonne Brannon alleged that changes to school schedules, which Tata has said could save up to $10 million in transportation costs, have been proposed to disguise the assignment plan's costs.

Some parents have balked at the schedule changes, noting that they would affect their ability to drop children off in the morning before work, volunteer at school and children's after-school schedules.

If the school board approves the schedule changes, Tata said parents would be allowed to switch their school choices so the hours of their selected schools meet their needs.

89 Comments

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  • Remy Feb 23, 12:35 p.m.

    "The children across the street did not go to the same base school as my children; nor did the child six doors down. All were in different nodes."
    westernwake1

    This petition is not about diversity, it is about the issues still not resolved with the new choice plan. With 5 elementary schools to choose from, do you really think all kids in your neighborhood are going to the same school? Get real. I don't see the choice plan as a neighbohood plan at all, it is more like a non-neighborhood plan.
    Whether you like it or not, the "great Schools" are tax paying citizens and have a right to their opinion just like you and I. The real difference is they actually try to do something about making changes instead of just posting on these comment forums.

  • westernwake1 Feb 22, 6:42 p.m.

    "Talk about grandstanding! Nice attempt to divert attention from the real issue

    https://www.change.org/petitions/wake-county-public-school-board-delay-the-newly-adopted-choice-student-assignment-plan" - SRGR_NC

    This petition is absurd. The seven given reasons to delay the new assignment plan are absurd allegations. Typical of what to expect from "Great Schools in Wake" and their supporters.

    I especially enjoyed the ludicrousness of Point 2:
    "(2) The plan destroys neighborhoods.
    No longer will neighbors have the choice to go to school with neighbors..."

    In view that the old diversity plan divided our neighborhood into nodes which were switched to different schools each year to maintain racial (or social economic) diversity. The children across the street did not go to the same base school as my children; nor did the child six doors down. All were in different nodes.

  • SRGR_NC Feb 22, 6:09 p.m.

    Talk about grandstanding! Nice attempt to divert attention from the real issue

    https://www.change.org/petitions/wake-county-public-school-board-delay-the-newly-adopted-choice-student-assignment-plan

  • westernwake1 Feb 22, 4:46 p.m.

    "Either way, until you know for sure there is some violation, it is all just opinion." - Shamrock

    Are you going to accept the upcoming school system's legal counsel's official opinion regarding the ethics violations? Or is this just another opinion.

    Will the SBI investigation that is sure to be kicked off just an "opinion" also.

  • Shamrock Feb 22, 1:41 p.m.

    ":Evans and Kushner are introduced as members of GSIW and receive awards from the organization while sitting on the school board.

    EQUALS
    ETHICS VIOLATION."
    westernwake1

    You seem to continue to leave out the primary word in your statements....awards for PREVIOUS work done. Until you can prove they are still affilitated with the group, there is no violation. If it was that obvious, we would be hearing more about it now and action would be taken. In fact, the voters voted these folks in so maybe they are doing what their constiuents want. Either way, until you know for sure there is some violation, it is all just opinion.

    "but all 3 of them are walking violations."
    4 Dollar Gas Is Your Fault

    You can't prove any wrongdoing or you would have. Nuff said.

  • Sunc Feb 22, 11:07 a.m.

    That is hardly the point. Did your competitor openly question your current boss's ethics and seek to undermine the success of your new employer with lies? Ridiculous to have to explain the obvious.
    injameswetrust2003

    One point to note here, Tata is not their boss, they are actually his boss. Remember, the school board hires and fires the superintendent, not the other way around.

  • Screw WrAl Feb 22, 10:10 a.m.

    Hey Sham Rock, I don't have to provide an ounce of proof to blind people. The proof follows Susan Evans everywhere she goes.

    As for this having 'ethics violations' implications, you bet it does. Check Mr. Martin's participation with them too. He's at least a little better at hiding his doings, but all 3 of them are walking violations.

  • westernwake1 Feb 22, 9:51 a.m.

    "Still no evidence of wrongdoing. He can call out all he wants, until he has proof, he is just an air thief." - Shamrock

    "Great Schools in Wake" attacks the school system in multiple press releases.

    PLUS

    Evans and Kushner are introduced as members of GSIW and receive awards from the organization while sitting on the school board.

    EQUALS

    ETHICS VIOLATION.

  • Shamrock Feb 22, 9:23 a.m.

    "Both Evans and the other one are card carrying members."
    4 Dollar Gas Is Your Fault

    You keep saying this but up to now you have not provided any proof.

  • Screw WrAl Feb 21, 7:09 p.m.

    "Have you read the nonsense coming out of the "Great Schools in Wake" organization... This group is not part of the board."

    Oh yes they are. Both Evans and the other one are card carrying members.

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