Tata alleges ethics violations by board members

February 22, 2012 4:40:05 AM PST
Wake County Schools Superintendent Tony Tata claimed there could be major ethics violations by two school board members Tuesday.

Moments before Tata and Susan Evans sat next to each other to listen to, and participate in, a discussion about proposed school bell changes at a meeting Tuesday afternoon, both Tata and Evans answered questions about a string of email exchanges in which the superintendent raised concerns about Evans and Christine Kushner's affiliation with Great Schools in Wake.

"I've sat down a couple of times with both board members, and felt like I wasn't getting the response that I needed to get the special interest out of the board room," said Tata.

Evans disputed that claim, and said she felt the superintendent should have handled the situation differently.

"I just think the whole thing was very inappropriate," said Evans. "Shouldn't have been played out in public email. If he has concerns with me, he needs to call me, and we need to talk about them privately."

Evans is a former member of Great Schools in Wake, which is a group that has been vocal about its opposition to the new student assignment plan. It has also been highly critical of Tata.

Tata told the Raleigh News and Observer that both Kushner and Evans's affiliation with the group raises "potential serious code of ethics violations."

Both board members have said they are no longer serving as activists for Great Schools in Wake.

"I'll just say that I'm free to associate with anyone I'd like, and I'll continue to do so," added Evans.

Meanwhile, Tata stood by his decision to send the email.

"I have a very clear conscience," he said. "I sleep well at night."

Tata also reiterated his concerns about how Great Schools in Wake might be influencing the board.

"It's all about the kids and the parents and we want good governance," said Tata. "We don't want special interest inside the board room."

Both Evans and Tata said they hope to have a private meeting to work out the issues.

Kushner did not discuss the emails with reporters.

At Tuesday's meeting, board members reversed a previous decision to lease a Morrisville office building for a ninth grade center for Panther Creek High School.

Board members said feedback from parents and staff led to their decision. They have scheduled a public hearing on the topic for March 6.

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