Wake County Schools

Wake school board member calls for 'swift conclusion' over Tata's job

Posted September 25, 2012 1:03 p.m. EDT
Updated September 25, 2012 3:26 p.m. EDT

— At least one Wake County Board of Education member is calling on the board to come to a "swift conclusion" on a personnel matter that many speculate has to do with whether to fire the school district's superintendent.

Prior to the school board meeting on the matter Tuesday afternoon, board member Chris Malone called what many are saying is a move by Democratic members of the board to oust Superintendent Tony Tata as a "tragedy."

If Tata is out, Malone, said, it must be done with "dignity" and "respect."

Democratic board members are not talking about the matter, but Malone and the three other Republic board members who voted to hire Tata in 2010 under a previous school board were visibly upset Monday afternoon and expressed outrage, saying they were "disgusted" by the topic of the meeting and that they feel it should be public.

Tedesco described the situation as an "epic failure in leadership at the board level."

He again on Tuesday asked that the meeting be held in the public eye.

"While I am certainly not in favor of this point in the action item, and will likely not change my mind, I think it is critical and imperative to our community to come out of closed session."

The board voted 5-4 along party lines to go into a closed session.

But members did vote to add the employment action item to the agenda, meaning a vote and decision could happen later Tuesday.

Supporters of Tata, including about three dozen parents and members of the Wake County Republican Party who rallied outside the school system's central office in Cary Monday morning, say Democratic board members elected last fall haven't given him a chance as superintendent and that politics are at play in the likely move to get rid of him.

Goldman said new Democratic board members are being "controlled" by Great Schools in Wake Coalition, a local group that is opposed to a new assignment plan that Tata implemented this year.

The group told WRAL News Monday that it was not going to comment on Tata or the matter before the board.

Emails also 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.

Although Democratic board members won't comment, WRAL News has learned that there has been scrutiny among some over his job performance.

Most recently is a busing debacle in which parents complained that school buses were showing up late or not showing up at all when school started last month.

The outpouring of criticism prompted Tata to publicly apologize for the problems and add about three dozen buses to the schedule – after cutting dozens to save money.

Tata and at least two Democratic school board members have also made headlines over heated email exchanges over Great Schools In Wake's criticism of his busing plan and Tata accusing the board members of being active in the group – an allegation they denied.

The issue led to the board bringing in a mediator to help resolve the issues.

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

If it decides to fire him, the board will have to decide whether it has a cause to get rid of him or pay him to leave.

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.