Wake County Schools

Tim Tyson response to Margiotta letter

Posted December 18, 2011 10:18 p.m. EST

When I would leave the house to go to school, my father often said, "Remember who you are." My mama would say, "Be sweet." And that is what I am trying to do here. Despite the Christmas season, Ron Margiotta does not find it a time to be generous. I am sure he is still smarting because the voters of Wake County rejected the grumpy, evasive and ideologically-driven attitude that he displays in his statement.


Mrs. Mary D. Williams of Wake County Human Services, Rev. Nancy Petty of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina State Conference of NAACP Branches and I joined hands in an act of civil disobedience because we felt that protecting North Carolina’s public schools was an urgent moral issue. We committed civil disobedience to remind the people of Wake County and the people of North Carolina of the values that most North Carolinians share, that we value all of God’s children and consider education their birthright. We never asked any special favors of the court. We will accept any judgment the court makes. We certainly never asked anything of Ron Margiotta, who has no authority in this matter. He needs to accept the verdict of the voters.


Mr. Margiotta promised not to create any more high-poverty schools and not to re-segregate the schools. But that is practically all he and his fellow Tea Party enthusiasts did: try to re-segregate and weaken the public schools, pushing the children of the poor into cages of hopelessness and trying to get the taxpayers to underwrite private academies with public money in their own little cul-de-sacs, where the price of tuition is the ability to pay a whopping mortgage. This is what he promised not to do and virtually all that he did as chair.

The voters spoke with real thunder of clarity and rejected the mess Margiotta made: in a record turnout, the margins in five districts went against Margiotta and the rest of Art Pope’s Tea Party puppets 82-18, 70-30, 70-30, 52-48 and 52-48. This amounted to roughly 60-40 overall; in American politics 60-40 is not considered a close call. The voters fired Ron Margiotta for trying to destroy public education and for overstepping his authority. He now represents only himself.


As anyone who watches the film footage can see, Mr. Margiotta’s statement misrepresents what we did at the school board meeting on June 15. I got arrested with two pastors and a gospel singer. We sang hymns and prayed. Unless prayer offends you, there was no “offensive language.” No one, not even Mr. Margiotta and Mr. Tedesco, was afraid of us. In fact, Mr. Tedesco came up and spoke with us quietly, and stayed right there with us. Ms. Goldman spoke with us, and stood there calmly with her arms folded. We cooperated with the police cheerfully and made their jobs easy.


I am proud of what we did because the people of Wake County rose up and overturned the school board that created the problem to which we were trying to call attention. I was born in the old Rex Hospital 53 years ago. My mother taught 4th grade in Wake County for many, many years and my father served Edenton Street United Methodist Church in Raleigh. I did my first historical work on African American communities in Wake County. I have taught in schools and churches all over Wake County. I am proud of what the people of Wake County have achieved in setting an example for public school systems all over the nation. We can have the nation's best schools in Wake County if we will all pull together, and remember who we are, and be sweet, like Mama says.


Timothy B. Tyson

Visiting Professor of American Christianity and Southern Culture, Duke Divinity School

Senior Research Scholar, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

Adjunct Professor of American Studies at the University of North Carolina

Education Chair, North Carolina State Conference of NAACP Branches