Board members explain Tata firing

September 26, 2012 3:23:15 PM PDT
Wake County School Board Chairman Kevin Hill and Vice Chairman Keith Sutton faced TV cameras Wednesday afternoon and attempted to explain why the Democratic majority on the board voted to fire superintendant Tony Tata on Tuesday.

Tata - who was appointed by a previous Republican majority on the board - was let go less than two years into his contract in an acrimonious vote that split along party lines.

Republican minority members on the board Tuesday called the decision to fire Tata partisan, and a waste of taxpayer's money.

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

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

But Hill said the decision was anything but political, suggesting that the timing couldn't have been worse from a political standpoint. He suggested a politically motivated firing would have been better scheduled last year or after the November elections.

Sutton said the board had to act "in order to restore confidence" in the school system after a disastrous start to this school year.

Both men cited problems implementing a new school assignment plan. The district has taken thousands of complaints from parent about late school buses and buses that have not arrived at all.

Hill said he also got feedback from principals and other staffers across the district who complained about Tata's leadership style.

It was "not a style that helped Wake County perform," Hill offered.

"They were keeping their heads down, afraid to make suggestions, afraid for their jobs," said Hill.

Hill said it wasn't a healthy environment in which staff members are able to give their ideas for improvement.

Both Sutton and Hill declined to get into specifics, citing employment confidentiality rules and their respect for Tata.

Hill called the criticism from Republicans unfortunate Wednesday and called on the full board to focus on what is important - the children.

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Stephen Gainey was appointed acting superintendent Tuesday. Hill said a national search will get underway as soon.

Hill said he hoped to have a new superintendent in place by July 1.

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