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Investigate Tata's Firing, Says Wake County Taxpayers Association

Guest blog post by Jaclyn Zubrzycki @jzubrzycki

The Wake County Taxpayers Association, a nonprofit organization focused on monitoring government spending, is calling for the group that accredits the county's schools to conduct an investigation into the firing of former superintendent Anthony Tata, the Raleigh News & Observer reported today.

The taxpayers association declaimed against the board for not having a public hearing before announcing that Tata would no longer be superintendent, and for leaving the district leaderless (the district currently has an acting superintendent, Stephen Gainey, while the board searches for an interim superintendent), the News & Observer reports.

The association had filed a series of complaints about the board's management and asked for an investigation even before the firing, but the members seem particularly irate about the firing of the retired brigadier general. Here's part of a press release from the organization's president, Russell Capps, released on October 1, before the current request for investigation:

You can hardly have failed to hear about the shameful situation now surrounding the Wake County School Board's actions. Tuesday afternoon's firing of Superintendent Tony Tata is a shameful, cowardly act brought about by three radical left-leaning Board members who have fought against him all the way. ...

On behalf of the Wake County Taxpayers Association, I as President, late last week, filed with the accrediting agency AdvancED, a 110-page summary of 16 complaints documenting proof that the board has violated the list of directives and caused dysfunction and instability in a very harmful way. Now this new problem explodes on the scene.

AdvancED, which accredits Wake County's school boards, has investigated and lowered the district's accreditation level in the past. The organization has already been in contact with the district, saying it must answer the taxpayers association's complaints. From the News & Observer:

"The complaint describes the continued practice of the Wake County Board of Education to legislate rather than govern the school system," wrote Mark Elgart, president of AdvancED, in the Oct. 2 letter. "For a statutorily recognized, nonpartisan governing board, determining major or significant policies and direction by partisan votes of simple majority is not an effective practice to govern the school system."

The school board—which is nominally nonpartisan, but whose members are widely referred to by their party affiliation—voted to fire Tata early this month, and the result was yet another firestorm of debate about the district's controversial integration plan and the politicization and management of the school board.

AdvanceED's previous investigation into the district came after the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP filed a complaint that the district was making its decisions based on politics rather than on the best interest of the students and community. That complaint came after the district began dismantling its much-analyzed and much-touted desegregation plans after a turnover in board leadership in 2009.

The district's current status is "advised," the News & Observer reports, an improvement over the "warned" status it earned after the first investigation (here are AdvancED's accreditation policies—"warned" is a step above "probation," the worst status a school can have and remain accredited). AdvancED praised former superintendent Tata's work in the report that accompanied the improved status, says the News & Observer.

The district is revising its student-assignment plan once again this year, and concerns that Tata would not be fully on board with a plan that focused on creating diversity have been cited by board leaders as reasons for his firing.

For a glimpse into the debate that's still raging in North Carolina, you can check out a Q&A with and an op-ed from the former superintendent, and a response from the Wake County school board's chair, Kevin Hill.

Want to keep up with school district and leadership news? Follow @district_doss on Twitter.

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