Wake County Schools

GOP board members are no-shows for student assignment work session

Posted September 29, 2012
Updated September 30, 2012

— Just days after voting to fire Superintendent Tony Tata, the Wake County Board of Education met in an unusual Saturday work session to tackle the sticky issue of student assignment.

Board Chairman Kevin Hill was joined at the table by Christine Kushner, Susan Evans, Keith Sutton and Jim Martin. All are Democrats. Absent were Republicans Chris Malone, John Tedesco, Deborah Prickett, and Debra Goldman. student School board majority meets on student assignment

Although the board is nominally non-partisan, the issue of student assignment and even Tata's hiring and firing, have been split along party lines. The Republican board members held the majority when Tata was hired in December 2010. They recorded the minority votes against his ouster on Tuesday.

Parent Dina Handa said Saturday that she was concerned when she didn't see the board's Republican members. 

"I can only ask why," she said. "I am concerned. I would like to think there is a reason – not the obvious one, which might be a non-professional one."

Board member Jim Martin said not having everyone at the work session makes it more difficult to hash out the details of the school system's third assignment plan change in as many years.

"I don't like to talk about Republicans and Democrats because we are all members of the school board, but I am disappointed that we don't have a larger contigent at the meeting," he said. "If we are willing to work together, we absolutely can, but you can't do it if you are not present."

WRAL News contacted three of the four Republican board members Saturday afternoon. Tedesco, Malone and Goldman said they had prior commitments.

The board is working on the details of a student assignment plan for the 2013-14 school year without the leadership of a superintendent or one of the assignment plan's chief architects. Judy Peppler, the district's chief transformation officer who was hired by Tata, said this week she would step down from her post on Oct. 6.

Tata came on board after a year of turmoil saw protests in downtown Raleigh and arrests at school board meetings as parents and board members clashed over the school system's policy of assigning students county-wide.

A Republican majority, elected in November 2009, ended the long-standing policy of using busing so that no school or cluster of schools would serve a disproportionately financially disadvantaged student population. Opponents complained that resulted in long bus rides and frequent reassignments. The board then hired Tata to develop a new plan, one he labeled "controlled choice," which went into effect this school year.

But still parents balked, saying that the plan did away with the idea of a "base" school in favor of a pool of choices at the elementary and middle school levels. The board discussed at length on Saturday whether to start from scratch in developing school attendance zones and high school feeder patterns or whether to build on the work already done.

"It's just upsetting, upsetting to have to such swift change within a year," Handa said. "A lot of unsettling times for us and our students. That's why we're looking to (the board) for more stability for them."

Last November, voters flipped the political balance again, putting Democrats in the majority on the board. Tata had been working with Peppler on a student assignment plan revision that would add "base" schools.

A flood of complaints about busing as the 2012 traditional school year began again put Tata and student assignment in the public eye, and it proved a glare he could not survive.

Tata will be paid about $250,000 – the remainder of his contract – while the board looks for a new leader. 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.

The board is scheduled to meet in a work session Tuesday, Oct. 2, at 2 p.m. That is to be followed by a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. Both will be available LIVE on WRAL.com. 


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  • jljwcj Oct 2, 2012

    Why not go back to home base schools and reassign principals and teachers to those schools that are failing? It makes no sense to drive past several schools to get to the one assigned to my child. Honestly someone please explain to me how it improves black kids test scores to be surrounded by white kids? That should be a slap in the face for them and all minorities. I was taught when someone fails or doesn’t do the job you work with them to accomplish their goal. Making others suffer who have worked hard and dedicated time so their kids succeed SHOULD NOT BE PUNISHED.

  • jupiter2014 Oct 2, 2012

    One word for the entire Board...Compromise....swallow your pride and forget about the past. Move ahead.

  • iwishihadariver Oct 1, 2012

    The Republicans showed their true colors. They didn't get their way so acted in an unprofessional manner. They are bullies and babies.

  • masontom56 Oct 1, 2012

    Great Schools in Wake (GSIW) = Votes for Dopes

  • masontom56 Oct 1, 2012

    The Democrats action's speak louder than words. They have shown an unwillingness to work with Tata snd the Republican board members.

    Their all or nothing approach will prove a detriment to the students

  • westernwake1 Oct 1, 2012

    Great Schools in Wake (GSIW) needs you help in coming up with a new name for "Diversity Policy" that sounds soft & gentle, and hides that the intent that the new Democratic assignment policy is just a redo of Bussing for Diversity.

    Please send your suggestions to info@letsfindabetterway.com

    Some suggestions: Hotchpotch Bussing, Mishmash Bussing, Fusion Bussing, Social Enhancement Bussing, Confluence Busing, Pastiche Bussing.

  • westernwake1 Oct 1, 2012

    superman - Rule No. 1 as an elected school board member is to keep your promises when you were elected to office and do what is best for the children. Both parties are guilty of not following this rule. However the Democratic school board members actions in the past week step over several boundaries with families that will make it next to impossible to pass a school bond or re-gain the trust of the community.

    I have heard plenty of support for Tata from families, teachers, and administrators in Wake County including multiple letters in the N&O. Feel free to further support Tony Tata by signing the petition:


  • superman Oct 1, 2012

    westernwake Rule no 2 when you get a job is that you MUST get along with your boss. Tata didnt do that. Dont make any difference in your work if you cant get along with your supervisor. Guess you didnt learn that either. Tata was not qualified by any stretch of the imagination. A supt, should have a PhD, 3 to 5 years experience as an assist supt, and have a Supt's certication from the state. He didnt have any of these. Being a general and commanding an army is very different that being an administrator and running a school. I have not seen or heard or read of any support for Tata from teachers, principals or support staff. For 250k we can do better than that. Every person with a college degree would have been qualifed for that position.

  • westernwake1 Oct 1, 2012

    "Hey, I got an idea let's send out a email to the Republican board members about an unsual Saturday planning session only 1/2 hour before the meeting... and then make a big fuss when they are not there" - the Democratic board members plan when they coordinated by phone on Friday.

  • westernwake1 Oct 1, 2012

    I may be the only one on this thread that watched the WRAL feed of the meeting on Saturday.

    Remember when the Democrats were elected they stated that they would not fire Tata and would not go back to busing for Diversity. Well, not only were they partisan - they were also less than truthful, this past week they fired Tata and this meeting is part two of the shoe dropping. Vice Chairman Keith Sutton spent most of his time outlining the need ship students out of Southeast Raleigh and the requirement to backfill them with students bussed in from western Wake. The other 4 board members spent their time agreeing with him, quoting the need to get back to diversity.

    While other issues such as feeder patterns and partial caps were discussed, it is pretty clear the board is marching as quickly as possible back to a bussing for diversity plan.

    BTW, you know those new base school assignments on the web - they are now meaningless and will be changed according to the Democratic board.