Wake County Schools

Tata out as Wake schools chief after heated board vote

Posted September 25, 2012

— In a vote along party lines, the Wake County Board of Education voted Tuesday afternoon to fire the school district's superintendent, paying him approximately $250,000 in severance pay.

Tony Tata said he reluctantly entered into separation negotiations with the school board after a majority voted to dismiss him Monday afternoon.

"I am proud of all that we have accomplished as a school system in the last 20 months," Tata said Tuesday after the board publicly finalized his termination. "We have so much more to do, and so much more that I wanted to do."

Four Republican board members who voted to hire Tata nearly two years ago said they were disgusted by the move and blamed politics and board members carrying a grudge for the dismissal.

"I am fundamentally and 100 percent opposed," said board member John Tedesco. "I think this is the wrong thing to do at the wrong time for the wrong reasons, and will send the wrong message across our entire district and have lasting implications."

He added that the decision was the result of an "epic failure" of the board and is not a reflection of Tata.

"This is a big mistake. This is a political mistake, and the results are going to be felt for a long time," board member Chris Malone said. "I fear it won't be positive."

But Democratic board members defended their decision, saying the move had nothing to do with politics.

"The decision we're making tonight is a heavy decision for everyone. This is not a personal decision. It is a personnel decision," Jim Martin said. "The vote I cast is not a partisan vote. I never have and never will cast a partisan vote. My votes are independent. They are mine. They are based on facts. They are based on data. They are based on experience."

"It is based on a culmination of experience and feedback for the 10 months I've been on the board," Susan Evans added. "I want the public to know this is not an easy decision for any of us to get to. We're not gloating. We're not happy about this. I would have liked for it to have been any other way that we could have all seen this as a long-term working situation."

Board Chairman Kevin Hill called Tuesday's vote "a sad day" for the school system and community.

"But nothing has changed about our commitment to students, and I dare say that every member at this table would agree with that," Hill said. "This is no happy day in Wake County, but I do believe our teachers and support staff will work as hard as they can."

Stephen Gainey, the district's assistant superintendent for human resources, will serve as interim superintendent for up to 60 days while the board seeks Tata's permanent replacement.

Gainey began his career with Wake County schools as a math teacher at Apex High School before becoming assistant principal and then principal at Leesville Road High School in Raleigh.

Tuesday's vote comes after days of speculation that Tata would be fired.

About three dozen parents and members of the Wake County Republican Party rallied outside the school system's central office in Cary Monday morning, and emails circulated Tuesday from community members, including former school board candidates, calling the board majority's move "thuggish" and reminding them that recently elected board members "campaigned that they would NOT get rid of Tata NOR would they get rid of the assignment plan."

"If you vote to fire Superintendent Tata, you will have permanently burned all bridges of cooperation with many Wake County families," according to the email sent to school board members and the media.

"If you choose to relinquish him of his duties, you will only bring more animocity [sic] and upheaval in our community. I implore you to move past your political ideology and understand that keeping Tata is the right thing to do, not for you, but for our KIDS and THEIR futures," the email continued.

Questions abound about how removing Tata might affect the school system.

In addition to the three-year student assignment plan that Tata implemented – the board is looking to revise it for the upcoming school year – the school board also wants to campaign to sell bonds next year for new schools. Some in the political realm have already pledged to block those efforts if Tata is fired.

There's also issues dealing with accreditation, stemming from complaints about board leadership.

Last week, the Wake County Taxpayer's Association filed a complaint with the accreditation group AdvancED about what it calls "continuous mismanagement" and a "lack of governance" by the Democratic board majority.

349 Comments

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  • IndependentAmerican Sep 27, 6:01 p.m.

    I still wonder if we can get the board members - or maybe the democratic party - to pay for Mr. Tata's severance. Nope, us taxpayers are going to foot that bill.... I'm sure the Wake County budget had that extra surplus just waiting to be given away. Was his performance really that bad that we had to pay an extra $250,000 to stop him?

  • ConservativeVoter Sep 26, 7:20 p.m.

    For those who talk about their premier schools in Wake County, they need to talk to my sister and brother-in-law about what happened when they moved their rising fifth grader from Brassfield to a school out of state in one of the best performing school districts in the country based on test scores.

    Brassfield is one of the highest ranked elementary schools in Wake County.

    Their daughter has been struggling all year to keep up, yet she made straight A's for K-4 at Brassfield in Wake County.

    Wake County may be good but students from Wake County have a hard time adjusting to better schools in better performing counties.

    Guess what, that county has 240,000 population with 24 elementary schools and has no magnet schools or socio-economic diversity (race) based busing.

    This county has neighborhood schools and the only busing is within each school's attendance area.

    Doing more research, Wake County has a reputation because of it's diversity program, not it's classroom performance.

  • grandmanp Sep 26, 6:07 p.m.

    How are so many of the Board members also State employees. I do not live in Wake Cty and want to be sure that we are not paying for their Wake cty service. As a former state employee I know they should be using leave time or leave without pay. Is anyone checking on this?

  • wwgirl3636 Sep 26, 4:40 p.m.

    No..its not time to move on..as a parent to a special needs child Mr. Tata was a big supporter and was in the works of keeping our children on the front line instead of pushing them towards the back where they don't belong. Once again this is not fair for our children and oh yeah have you forgot all that money that is now wasted...another thing the majority knows how to do..waste my money..I say keep the heat on them!!!!

  • kpquiller Sep 26, 4:12 p.m.

    https://www.change.org/petitions/wcpss-school-board-reinstate-superintendent-tony-tata
    Sign this petition if you think the School Board handled this completely wrong. Show your support to Tony Tata! He was the only person who cared about WCPSS's children. The only person who EVER responded to my emails regarding the busing fiasco. Never got a single response from any one on the board... only Tata.

  • batcave Sep 26, 1:27 p.m.

    Well, gee.... we could start with the fiasco with the buses.
    Perdues fault

  • Wendellcatlover Sep 26, 11:59 a.m.

    "He added that the decision was the result of an "epic failure" of the board and is not a reflection of Tata."

    Really? Ya think??? The Wake County School Board is a joke! It's not because of Tony Tata! It's because there are a bunch of thumb-sucking, tantrum-throwing mor@ns on the school board! Tata never had a chance. So what are we gonna do? Start from scratch....again?????

  • hereinraleigh Sep 26, 11:25 a.m.

    I'm disappointed in this decision since we don't know anything about how it happened. I think any failure of the school district right now doesn't fall on the Superintendent, but on the BOARD.

    And everyone here who is blaming one party or another is contributing to the problem. If you throw your bias for Democrats or Republicans or Libertarians or whoever - you're as bad as the board in my opinion. If you can step back and look at the facts and not holler and rant and rave about democrats suck or republicans suck, then we stand a chance to fix the problem. But as long as "you" make it as R vs D, the kids in the school district will never win.

  • free2bme Sep 26, 10:40 a.m.

    Tata is gone and it is time to move on. There are many more qualified people for this job right in our area. School administrators should be people who have experience as educators in my opinion. As a former teacher, I know the plight of teachers today. Unless you have been in a classroom, you really can not understand the challenges teachers face from day to day educating young people. I still don't think Mr. Tata did such a horrible job considering his background is not directly educational operations. He is still much more qualified than Tedesco who is running for superintendent of public instruction. Regardless, it is time to move FORWARD and focus on educating the children of Wake County.

  • Logical insider Sep 26, 10:34 a.m.

    While I do enjoy the partisan hyperbole a cursory examination of information presented to the public would show cause example1:the old new REP( although technically non partisan) assignment plan provided for transportion & school choice. That plan also called for a change in school start times and a decrease in the number of buses and routes. That logic would allow for three houses lined up side by side in the same subdivision to choose three different elementary schools in three different areas of the county on three diff calendars with three different start times to have, at taxpayer expense three separate buses to drive those children to school. The result would be exactly what happened. Year round schools begin-no problem, modified calendar schools start,--- no problem, -- add traditional schools problem. Then rather than have the school board that approved the plan, and the Sup take responsibility, fire the guy in charge of transportation. EVERY school level employee saw this.

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