Outgoing Wake County school board chairman Ron Margiotta had some advice to give to the incoming board members and those who will remain on the board after his Dec. 6 departure.
During his final meeting as chairman on Tuesday, Margiotta urged the new board members to work well with county commissioners, Superintendent Tony Tata and staff. Margiotta also urged the new members to not meddle in the operation and affairs of schools.
Margiotta also urged the new Democratic members who knocked him and the Republican majority out of power, to think outside the box and "not simply rely on old solutions."
Margiotta opened his remarks by talking about the difficult times he sometimes had during his eight years on the school board, with the first six spent in the overlooked minority.
"Over the past eight years, I have worked with many different board members, many different personalities and even though we've had some disagreements and difficult conversations, my experiences have been nothing but respectful and professional," he said. "I think we have differences of opinions, but we've always had the same goals in mind. I'm honored to have served with such dedicated individuals."
Margiotta then switched to talking about the last two years as board chairman of the Republican majority.
"During the past two years, this board has dealt with a considerable amount of criticism," he said. "I think we've been accused of being divisive. In reality, however, the majority of us and, in most cases, all of us have worked quite well together.
While not readily recognized by the news media, our board has had many accomplishments with contributions from all board members. I believe our discussions, some more heated than others, have exposed many inequities and obstacles within our school system and have led to a better understanding of the issues we face.
We were able to find areas of agreement and, due to these collaborative efforts, we have instituted many positive changes to the school system for the betterment of education in Wake County."
Margiotta then moved to the advice portion of the speech. starting where the new Democratic majority members could themselves at odds with the Republican-led county commissioners.
"I am hopeful that the incoming board will recognize the excellent relationship that this school board has developed with our county commissioners, and the importance of continuing this relationship for the sake of the citizens and taxpayers," he said. "I think we have to recognize that the county commissioners happen to be our bankers so it makes sense for us to be on good terms with the commissioners.
We have been able to save a great deal of tax dollars with the cooperation of the commissioners by eliminating the duplication of some services. There are still many areas of cooperation that with careful review from both sides can still be enacted.
Many areas of the government can be taken over by the county to save taxpayer's dollars. This savings can be redirected to our schools and at the same time relieve the school board of the consuming responsibilities."
Margiotta next talked about dealings with Tata and staff. Based on the words coming from supporters of the new majority, they are being urged to take a tough line on the superintendent.
"I also urge the incoming board to recognize the importance of working with our superintendent and our administrative team," he said. "We are fortunate in Wake County to have some excellent administrators and, in my opinion, one of the best leaders in Superintendent Tata."
Tata returned the love during remarks he made thanking outgoing board members Margiotta, Anne McLaurin and Carolyn Morrison.
"Chairman Margiotta, I have immensely enjoyed serving with you as you have focused the board on improving the school system for all children," Tata said. "I admire your excellent service as board chair in governing during a time that was sometimes turbulent, and moving the school system forward."
The school board members who are staying on also praised their departing colleagues.
Back to Margiotta, who talked about board members not meddling in school operations.
"I wish to remind my fellow board members, as well as the incoming members, that you must recognize your role and responsibilities," Margiotta said. "It's very easy to go astray from recognizing what our true role is. That as a board member you must refrain from meddling in the operation and affairs of the schools, but rather consult with our administrative staff.
I think a personal example of an exemplary school board member would be Dr. Carolyn Morrison, who is a former administrator in the system. However, never took the action of getting involved in the schools. I think her example should certainly be followed by all of us."
Margiotta closed things out by talking about his service as a board member.
"I am proud of my years serving in District 8 and the Wake County Public Schools," Margiotta said. "It certainly wasn't easy, but I can not look back and say that I would have done anything any differently. I've been committed to making sure each and every child and family was provided quality and effective representation.
I am hopeful that our school system will continue to think outside the box, to improve education for every child. Moving forward, I encourage the incoming board to continue seeking a new and innovative approach to education in Wake County and not to simply rely on old solutions.
Thanks to each of you and to every citizen of Wake County who has supported me throughout the years. I am grateful and appreciative."