Does the recent report examining the Wake County school transportation department show that former Superintendent Tony Tata shouldn't be blamed for this school year's problems?
As noted in today's article, the school board is scheduled to vote today on a $2.25 million plan to reorganize the transportation department. Based on the staff presentation showing that the department's structure is outdated, Republican board members say Tata was made a scapegoat by his critics.
"Superintendent Tata was trying to clean up something that had been happening in years past," said board member Deborah Prickett. "He was trying to do his best to fix it. It's not his fault."
“Superintendent Tony Tata had nothing to do with the problems,” Prickett later said. “He had everything to do with trying to fix a situation he was handed.”
School board member John Tedesco noted how the recommendations from the new report mirror those from the 2006 review that weren't implemented.
"It was never really Tony’s fault,” Tedesco said. “Tony always said the problems were a long time coming and (were) not getting fixed like they needed to be.”
But Democratic board members said this year's problems were so much more worse than prior years that Tata deserves blame.
"Whatever situation that may have happened in the past, the situation at the start of this school year was exacerbated,” said board member Kevin Hill. "It (new report) doesn't change my opinion at all about what took place this school year."
Board vice chairwoman Christine Kushner said you have to look at what's different between this year and prior years. She said that difference is that buses are traveling 10,000 more miles a day under the choice plan.
But Prickett attributed the extra mileage to the decision to grandfather students when the choice plan was implemented, something she said that the board and not Tata decided to do.
Tedesco said they might have acted differently in terms of implementing the choice plan had they known how bad the problems were with transportation. But Tedesco said that Tata and the board relied on the word of transportation staff who said they could implement the choice plan.
Regardless, board members said they agreed changes are needed to avoid a repeat of what took place at the start of school
"We have to make sure it never happens again," Kushner said.
For his part, Tata is staying out of the fray.
“Secretary Tata is now the leader of NCDOT," said Greer Beaty, a state DOT spokeswoman. "While he continues to care deeply about the students, parents and staff of WCPSS, and is glad that the system is addressing longstanding issues, his focus is on executing the Governor's transportation priorities of improving service at DMV and developing a 25 year infrastructure plan that creates jobs for North Carolinians.”
The school board unanimously approved the reorganization plan.