Raleigh, N.C. — Wake County schools Superintendent Tony Tata met Friday with three members of the Wake County Board of Education and the school system legal adviser to smooth things over after a heated email exchange put him in the spotlight last weekend.
Tata apologized to Susan Evans and Christine Kushner following an email exchange in which he accused them of supporting the Great Schools in Wake Coalition in its attack on his plan to change bus routes and bell schedules.
The group charged that Tata was using the shift in 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 Kushner and 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 another 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.
In Friday's discussion, the trio agreed "that Ms. Evans and Ms. Kushner have not violated any ethical rules," Board Chairman Kevin Hill said in a statement.
"We recognize the importance of a positive working relationship between the Board and the Superintendent and are all committed to working together on behalf of our students and our community," Hill stated.