A look at the avalanche of emotion in the community in the wake of the school board's firing of Superintendent Tony Tata:
I was relieved to learn of the decision by the Wake County school board to replace Tony Tata as school superintendent. This is the same man who was quoted earlier as saying he thought Sarah Palin was just as qualified to be president of the United States as Barack Obama. My question is this: With this kind of clue as to his obvious lack of judgment, how did he get hired in the first place?
The Wake County school board has always been nonpartisan and is still officially nonpartisan. The partisan divide that now exists was started in 2009 when the Republican Party openly supported school board candidates and won a 5-4 board majority.
That majority had one single over-arching goal -- to end "diversity" as a factor in student assignment and install a "choice" plan. These board members were ideologues with an agenda. They listened to no one, curtailed public participation and changed the process whenever it suited them. They ruled the board with a succession of 5-4 votes.
Tony Tata was elected superintendent by one of those votes. He, too, was a right-wing ideologue. His only previous school management experience was in the Washington, D.C. system where he was chief operating officer.
In 2011, both parties backed candidates. The Democrat-backed candidates won a 5-4 board majority. Meanwhile, it became obvious that the Republican choice plan was not working and that some changes had to be made. Tata has not shown that he can work effectively with the new board majority; to the contrary, he has clashed with several of them publicly.
The board acted responsibly by firing Tata. There was really no other choice.
Outrageous! Tony Tata was the first person who tried to objectively fix our archaic school system. Shame on the school board who voted him out and the media for turning our children's schooling into something political.
The decision to terminate Tony Tata will have much deeper and far-reaching consequences than the money paid to Tata. The stability of the Wake County school system, which was already in question, will only weaken with this decision.
Tata finally had the Wake system going in a positive direction. Regardless of party affiliation, the infighting must cease. It is quite clear that the students and education system are far from what is important to many school board members.
We had best spend some money on our roads. The good teachers will be headed out in droves, families will be too. We have many great things in Wake County. Unfortunately, the operation and management of school system is not one them.
Anyone who believes Superintendent Tony Tata was calming the waters of WCPSS is engaging in more than a little bit of wishful thinking. They are burying their head in the sand. The reality is that he was a polarizing figure who was driving our school system into the ground.
The voluntary and involuntary exodus of highly qualified, long-time education professionals from central office, combined with the influx of overpaid non-educators and PR specialists, was one sign of trouble. The implosion of the choice student assignment plan was another. The widespread (but stifled) unhappiness of principals and teachers with Tata’s leadership is a third.
Tata’s severance package likely pales in comparison to the value of the work time lost by parents across Wake County as the result of the bus debacle. The other costs of the choice plan, from the enormous outlay to consultant Michael Alves to the cost of lost instructional time for students, have yet to be fully tallied.
Tata’s other profligate expenses include two ill-conceived single gender academies and an arbitrary hodgepodge of academic goodies doled out to incentivize choice. The board majority did what was necessary for the survival of our school system in firing Tata. They should be commended, not harangued.
By all accounts, Tony Tata performed well in his job and is to be thanked by all. However, his volatile temperament and shocking poor judgment in attacking new school board members revealed fatal flaws and made his termination inevitable.
The previous board bears the greatest responsibility for this mess, as they erred in choosing such a vulnerable and inexperienced superintendent. Well-intentioned as he was, he was ordained to be a lightning rod for the partisan bickering on both sides that we are enduring. Threats by political partisans to now withhold bond and other funding in the wake of his firing is a classic case of cutting the nose to spite the face and only harm the children and students of this county who deserve better. Move on.
I run a company that I started running at age 35. It took me two years just to figure out how to do the job, let alone be successful. I was lucky enough to have an intelligent board of directors who understood the difficulties of making something work. A board that didn’t always agree with me and what I was doing, but understood that it takes time, energy, effort and support to be successful. We are now a successful organization with a solid work force and strong potential for the future.
If Tony Tata isn’t considered a worthy professional to be superintendent, who is? Who in their right mind would actually want the job at this point? The only potential candidates now are spineless narcissists who will kowtow to the needs of the majority of school board members. It seems that is what this board wants.
My board doesn’t always like me. I don’t always like my board. But we get things done. Conflict often brings about the best results. What the school board has done is made the majority of folks (the ones who are usually quiet and keep their heads down) lift their heads up and say enough is enough.
We in Wake County have one of the best school systems in the state, and this school board is playing political football with that by firing a perfectly capable superintendent. Not to mention wasting $300,000 to pay him and search for someone else. That’s our tax money.
The Democrat and Republican Party affiliation of school board members should not have a bearing upon our school system. Why can’t we keep politics out of our school system? It will ruin it. Shame on portions of this school board for putting political ideals above the kids. This was a good man, a former general. No more politics, please.
This is a sad day to be a Democrat in Wake County! Like many Democrats, I was apprehensive when Tony Tata was hired as school superintendent. But he went about his job showing he was really here to do what was best for the kids. And he always tried to fulfill the many requests of the school board, whose main interest seems to be stroking their own ego.
I urge Wake County voters to send all current school board members, both Democrat and Republican, packing and replace them with a group whose main concern is the students.
Significant improvements for students? Raised accreditation? Smaller achievement gap? Less partisan bickering? We can't have that. Let's have a private meeting, fire the superintendent without providing a reason, and take $253,625 that could be going to students in order to do so. After all, the school board is meant to be divided along party lines and dismissive of parents concerns, right?
Anyone who believes the NFL replacement referees from the Green Bay-Seattle game on Monday night to be the most incompetent decision-makers obviously are unfamiliar with the Wake County school board.
I am extremely disappointed in the Wake County school board’s decision to fire Tony Tata. There has been nothing but turmoil over the past few years within this school board. Voting to relieve Tata of his superintendent duties only adds to this turmoil.
It is time for the members of the school board to resolve their issues and get down to the business of running the Wake County school system in a nonpartisan manner.
I’m grateful that I do not have a child in the school system.
I will be the first to admit that I was not thrilled with Tony Tata’s hiring after the WCPSS board made it clear to Del Burns that his time was short. I have not been an advocate of any part of Tata’s plan and, suffice it to say, the bus fiasco can be attributed to the measures he put in place.
Today, I am truly disappointed with the WCPSS board at the partisan politics that have filled the board room and have created misguided policies that squander precious resources.
Instead of hiring five (or more!) employees with the $250,000 that Wake County taxpayers will pay, we pay it now to a former employee.
When will politics be removed from the board room and replaced with getting down to the business of what they were elected for?
The WCPSS board continues to set a stellar example for students in ways to alienate colleagues, create disharmony in the workplace, do away with any hope of compromise and get nothing done other than partisan one-upmanship.
Amy Page Smith
By now, the residents of Wake County have probably come to one of two conclusions: Either their board of education is dysfunctional or they do not have the best interest of the students and community at heart. What other conclusions can we possibly come to after listening to the vitriolic discussions, unproductive threats and unprofessional behavior of people who should be setting the highest possible standards of behavior for our community?
The issues before the board are very serious and will likely determine the future success or failure of our children – this is why boards of education should remain nonpartisan and politically neutral.
It is time for everyone on the board to take a deep breath and renew their commitment to the children of Wake County. It is also time for the leadership of the local Republican and Democratic parties, as well as groups like the Great Schools in Wake Coalition, to stop interfering in the operation of our schools. Our students will succeed only if the board works as a team. You don’t have to like one another, but you certainly need to act professionally and respect one another.
Seems the voters did not learn from the last time the Democrats ran the school board. Once again they show their propensity to partisan politics in its ugliest form.
As the school district was starting to show some success in graduating a higher percentage of students, the Democratic majority has decided to throw us back to where we were when the Republicans took over.
Tony Tata has done an outstanding job of navigating the partisan politics and still showing improvement in Wake County schools, albeit not without some problems that one would expect.
Now without a viable plan, a new superintendent and continued political bickering, the Wake County school board wants to ask voters for a huge amount of money to finance new schools for a system with no consistent direction. Good luck. I am sure everyone wants to make sure our students have the tools they need to excel, but the partisan Democratic majority has made the passage of such a levy impossible.
Thanks, Democrats, for once again letting our students take a backseat to the execution of your vendetta. It is a sad day for WCPSS and Wake County.
The decision to fire Tony Tata by the Democratic majority of the Wake County school board is tragic and irresponsible on so many levels. The suggestion that this was not a partisan action is laughable, at best. It is clear to me that these folks just don’t get it. It is not about them or their political philosophies. It is about the education of our children. I recognize that the public’s memory tends to be short. However, in this case, I really hope the citizens of this county remember this action when the next election comes around.
It would appear the Democratic majority on the Wake County school board is more interested in economic diversity in the schools than it is in diversity of thought in its own midst. The school board continued to embarrass us with their hypocrisy and their incompetence.
I can’t believe that our school board has such power that they can fire a capable, hard working leader without feedback from Wake County families first.
When Tony Tata was first hired, we were impressed with his resume, and we had high hopes for his ability to lead our district. He has delivered. I have sat in meetings and been impressed by Tata’s calm, caring leadership style. He has worked beyond normal business hours, showing up at PTA meetings, listening to parents, and answering emails, always followed by action.
While the choice plan has perhaps caused some issues with the buses, for the most part the families I know are very happy with the results. We are grateful that our children are now attending the school closest to us, and our schools have received funding which has directly affected our children.
I was able to attend the meetings in which the school board fired Tata. I was shocked that these meetings were closed to the public, despite motions by the minority. The board majority had no explanation for firing an impressive leader and wasting $253,000 of tax payer money. To the board majority: Tata listened to us. You’re not even trying.
It will be a cold day when I vote Republican, but I think the entire Wake County Board of Education, Republican and Democrat alike, needs to be put on the next Amtrak train out – no return ticket.
Wake County school board member Jim Martin states the vote to oust superintendent Tony Tata wasn't political. Hmmm, let's see! Five to four along party lines. If the dialogue can't start with at least a slight nod to the obvious, the problem is worse than we think. Immediate dismissal of Tata, without cause and with no Plan B, boarders on complete lunacy and incompetence. If the board tried they couldn't have done a more thorough job of screwing things up.
Those claiming the Wake County school board fired superintendent Tony Tata over politics are speculating. The board has not disclosed the reasons for the firing and those claiming to know the reason, in fact, do not. The facts, however, suggest the more likely cause is job performance.
After the election last year, Tata told the board to wait and see and by doing so, he assumed responsibility for the success or failure of the student assignment plan. The board did wait and see and what they saw was not pretty. The algorithm the system used did not give proximity credit after the first round, contrary to the plan provisions. The staff failed to disclose to the board the those families with more kids have a mathematical advantage under the choice program.
WCPSS staff failed to adequately advise the board on the unintended impact on home sales and business recruiting as well. Add to that the very public disaster this summer when folks who were not assigned a school tried to register and had to wait hours, and in some cases days, to get a school and the table was set for the final straw that broke the camel’s back, the busing fiasco that many predicted months ago.
Tata hitched his wagon to the plan and failed to execute. Accordingly he was fired.
I really liked Anthony Tata, but that chapter of Wake County's history is finished and the next chapter fast upon us. Wake County with its 12 thriving municipalities has to prepare itself for the existing growth we have been experiencing and the increase that is inevitable in the very near future.
So the question is – are we prepared for the next chapter? In the next chapter we are going to have to figure out how we can balance partisan politics with the needs of the 12 municipalities and those that are not in a municipality. Are we up to the task?
Wake County, to continue its stellar growth and “quality of life,” has to become more unified in our basic common objectives and means to achieve them. We now have a chance to bring this county together in the leadership selection of our public school system or we can take this opportunity to prime the pump for the 2013 elections.
Chaos is the antithesis of predictability and predictability is the glue that binds competitive communities together. Wake County has been a competitive community for many years now. All we have to do is take inventory of where we are now and where we were – looking back by the decades. It is my sincere hope and desire that we keep the ball moving down the field.