GOP urges support for Wake superintendent

khui@newsobserver.comSeptember 23, 2012 

Wake County Republican leaders are urging people to show up at Monday’s school board meeting to support Superintendent Tony Tata amid rumors that the board’s Democratic majority might fire him that day.

In an email message Saturday, Wake County Republican Party Chairwoman Susan Bryant warned that “the radical extremists who have taken over the Wake County School Board are preparing to fire our great Superintendent Tony Tata, and we have to do everything we can to stop them.”

Bryant is urging people to contact school board members to voice their support for Tata and to show up at Monday’s board meeting. Board members have not commented on what will be discussed Monday because they’re meeting in closed session – out of the view of the public – to discuss “personnel matters,” but rumors have circulated that it could impact Tata’s job.

Phil Matthews, a Republican and vice chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, made a similar pitch on his Facebook page Saturday for Tata’s supporters to come Monday. The PTA at Hilburn Drive Academy in North Raleigh made a similar request Friday to its parents to contact school board members this weekend to lobby for Tata.

Tata was hired by the former Republican majority in December 2010. None of the Democrats voted for him.

After Democrats regained the majority after last fall’s elections, speculation has circulated about Tata’s future. Tata has had public run-ins with the new Democratic members since they took office, including apologizing to them for questioning whether they’re unduly influenced by the Great Schools in Wake Coalition, a group that criticized his hiring and many of his actions.

Tata has taken heat from the public and members of Great Schools over the bus problems that have marred the start of the school year. The initial decision to remove 52 buses from the road to save money led to problems such as thousands of complaints of buses coming late or not at all.

“They are using a lame excuse about buses to get rid of him,” Matthews wrote Saturday on his Facebook page. “Everyone needs to show up at the meeting in Cary to show their support.”

Republican board member Chris Malone said that Tata still enjoys the support of the GOP board members. But Malone acknowledged that the bus problems have made Tata more vulnerable to his critics.

Democratic board member Christine Kushner, who has been linked to some of the rumors about firing Tata, said she did not discuss personnel issues. Democratic board member Jim Martin, who has also been linked in the rumors, did not return a request for comment.

Bryant said that if Tata were fired, she would mobilize the Wake County Republican Party to oppose passage of a school construction bond referendum that the school board hopes to get on the ballot in 2013.

Tata is under contract through December 2014. If the board terminated his contract early, they’d either have to pay him one year’s salary – $255,222 – or try to show “good and just cause” as mandated by state law.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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