Parents, board members react to Tata's firing

September 24, 2012 9:00:00 PM PDT
The Wake County School Board voted along party lines to fire Superintendent Tony Tata Tuesday.

The move came after two days of closed door meetings to discuss "confidential personnel matters."

Republicans on the board expressed their dismay at the vote.

"I think this is the wrong thing to do at the wrong time for the wrong reason," offered John Tedesco.

Tedesco said paying Tata a quarter of a million dollars in a separation agreement was a waste of taxpayer's money.

"I wouldn't trust this board with my lunch money," Tedesco said.

"This is supposed to be a non-partisan board," offered Debra Goldman - who said the new Democratic majority on the board wanted to replace Tata because he hadn't done what they wanted.

"I am saddened the board has not learned from our mistakes," said Goldman - a reference to the major changes Republicans made to the board when they won a majority.

"This is a travesty, and quite frankly I think you ought to be ashamed of yourselves," offered Chris Malone.

Democrat Dr. Jim Martin angrily denied that his vote was in any way partisan.

"I have worked tirelessly to work together," he offered - saying he was offended at being labeled a liberal extremist by people who disagree with him.

Susan Evans said her vote was not based on Tata's politics, but after careful consideration of watching his job performance.

"I understand that the public does not need more turmoil at this time ... I would caution the public to understand there is more than meets the eye," she said.

Board chairman Kevin Hill called the vote a "sad day," but "nothing has changed about our commitment to our students."

Tata - a former Army general - was hired by the Republican majority on the school board in 2010 to carry out a new classroom assignment plan over Democratic opposition. GOP board members' decision to scrap the old plan that featured racial diversity led to protests, arrests, a federal civil rights complaint, and a threat to high school accreditations.

About an hour after his firing, Tata spoke to reporters.

"The board voted yesterday to seek my separation without cause. After which, I reluctantly entered into negotiations that resulted in an agreement that effective today I would no longer serve as superintendent of Wake County Public School System," said Tata. "I want to say thank you to the hundreds of citizens, parents and students who have sent me notes of encouragement over the past several days. I will profoundly miss the students, teachers, staff and principals as well as the many hardworking business partners, volunteers and parents who make our school system so great."

Click here to read Tata's full comments.

Meanwhile, School Board Chairman Kevin Hill is already looking toward the future. Hill told ABC11 that he hopes a national search will be launched soon and that a new superintendent will be in place by July 1.  

Hill also reinforced the board's commitment to the leadership academies which Tata helped establish.

Some parents said they weren't necessarily surprised by the decision to part ways with Tata.

"It's a lot going on in public schools that ain't right with transportation and everything and then with the schools being bused the way they are," said parent Kimberly Holmes. "To me, it's kind of a good call."

"I don't know what the right decision was for Mr. Tata," said parent Charles Weaver. "I know he had a good career in the military. He seemed to be good at organization, but he didn't have any educational experience compared to people who have made education a career."

What is still unclear is what exactly led board members to fire Tata. Hill said he was not ready to comment on that. He would only say it wasn't any one issue in particular that led to the decision.

The board voted to appoint Assistant Superintendent Dr. Stephen Gainey as acting superintendent.

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