Wake County Schools

Gainey's focus: Keep Wake schools moving forward

Posted September 27, 2012

— The Wake County Public School System's acting superintendent says he plans to work on keeping the district moving forward after a controversial decision by the school board on Tuesday to fire its superintendent of less than two years.

"The last couple of days have been tough on Wake County schools, no doubt, but Wake County schools' mission is what's out in the 169 schools," Stephen Gainey told reporters Thursday at a Communities in Schools event at Barwell Road Elementary School in Raleigh.

"Let's get our focus there. We have 150,000 students coming to school every day," he added. "Everybody's mission is those students, so let's get our focus back there. And that's how we can start moving."

The school board named Gainey acting superintendent for 60 days after voting 5-4 to approve a separation agreement dismissing Tony Tata from his post.

The move prompted criticism of the Democrat-controlled board with Republican school board members, politicians and parents describing it as "disgusting," "thuggish" and partisan.

But school board leaders cited as grounds for termination Tata's leadership style, a strained relationship with board members and a chaotic start to the school year, including a debacle in which the district was flooded with complaints that buses were late or absent picking up or dropping off students.

That led to Tata publicly apologizing for the problems and the district putting buses it had taken out of commission to save money back on the street.

Gainey, the school system's assistant superintendent for human resources, said one of his priorities over the next two months will be to finish fixing the transportation problem.

"We're going to work to get as many drivers on the ground as we can. That's the key to solving this issue," he said. "But we have safety standards we have to abide by. We're not going to cut corners and jeopardize children's safety."

Another challenge will be working with a divided school board on revising this year's student assignment plan.

"You have to respect everybody's perspective on things, and that's what we're going to do," he said. "I'm going to try to work hard to manage the staff, keep a positive atmosphere."

Gainey has spent 17 years of his 20-year career in education in the Wake County school system.

He started as a math teacher at Apex High School before becoming assistant principal. He moved on to be principal at Leesville Road High School in Raleigh.

He's led the human resources department since 2009.

"I have a strong commitment to Wake County schools, and that's the reason why I'm in this role at this point," Gainey said. "We have tremendous talent in the schools, and we're going to rely on that. I've told principals who've emailed me, 'What I need you to do is to do the great job you do every day.'"


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  • kimandwill89 Sep 28, 2012

    Chaos and failure. Nothing will change with this board. Vote "NO" to any request for additional money. I wouldn't trust these people with a single dollar.

  • jnc67 Sep 28, 2012

    "Wake County Public Schools are a joke."

    Let's be careful here. While the Wake County Public School BOARD may be a joke, the schools themselves are no such thing. Administrators, teachers, parents, and students work very hard to bring pride to their campuses. Please don't allow the yahoos on the school board to ruin the reputation of the schools themselves.

  • charliespindle Sep 28, 2012

    Moving forward is the only way....this board has gone so far backwards. These jokers need to go. I can't wait to hear what Advanced Ed is going to say about this fiasco. And, WHO in their right mind would agree to a bond for new schools? This organization is so irresponsible...why on earth would anyone trust them with more responsibilities, such as building schools, etc. Teachers need to voice their disgust about this...they have every right. Horrible pay, poor working conditions, ignorant parents who think it's the schools' responsibility to raise their children, and a school board who is extremely incompetent, and a governor who claims "it's all about the children" is, as usual, keeping silent!! Maybe....because she knows this was a political move.

  • free2bme Sep 28, 2012

    I like him already. He has years of experience with the school system so I am sure he has seen many changes over the years. WCPSS has not always been so controversial. In years past as Mr. Gainey knows, WCPSS was less chaotic. Mr. Gainey has been in the schools dealing with the day to day task of educating students and that speaks volumes to me as a former teacher. The negativity needs to cease and as Mr. Gainey stated it is time get the focus back on the students.

  • Relic Sep 28, 2012

    "Moving forward..." Translation: You poor folks in Wake County are either getting another tax hike or the teachers will be out in the roadway with firemen holding a boot drive to pay the $250,000 your board just threw away. I used to envy that I couldn't send my kids to a system like Wake County's....not anymore.

  • drummerboy Sep 28, 2012

    neverindoubt, you are correct. The leader at the top of a school system should set the tone. But the policy is set by the legislature and the school boards. So, am I serious? Yes. I was in the trenches for the past thirty years. Tata was doing a good job, but was not in place long enough to set the tone that resulted in huge successes. That was my point, and that the kudos should go to the groups I mentioned. Wouldn't that be considered team work? The staff, parents, and students? And then hopefully some parental support. The next leader should be well-versed in the dictated curriculum and knowledgeable of the NC school laws, and also should have the ability to actually make people want to do their jobs. That's leadership.

  • mtnmama Sep 28, 2012

    This is laughable. Many (most) of you are doing the same thing you're upset about the board doing. Political bashing...my party is better than your party.....GROW UP! No wonder it never changes year after year. At some point politics has to be set aside, people need to respect their differences & find a way to work together. It would be nice if our US Congress set the pace, but I'm not holding my breath. Just like I'm not holding my breath that some if you won't recognize how hypocritical it looks to come here & make politically charged comments about how political the board has acted. I'm probably guilty, too, but it needs to stop if we want to move past this. People on both sides need to compromise & meet in the middle for the greater good...of schools and life in general.

  • more cowbell Sep 28, 2012

    Gainey's focus: Keep Wake schools moving forward.
    Uh, You can start any time. Looks to me like the board's latest "move" forward was actually a GIANT step BACKWARD.

  • wildpig777 Sep 28, 2012

    dont make me call in bev perdue to solve the problem. no wait -she is the proble. ths is the gov nor who wouldnt accept the people electin june ackinson so she cretated a position to over ride the will of the people. but her ew slogan is -- im in it for the children-- AND YALL WONDER ABOUT THE SAD STATE OF PUBLIC EDUCATION IN NOTH CAROLINA AND IN WAKE COUNTY.

  • Whosays Sep 28, 2012

    Wake County Public Schools are a joke.