By Dane Huffman
The Wake County Board of Education has called a special closed meeting for Monday at 12:30 p.m., and one Wake County commissioner and the head of an elementary school PTA are concerned that the meeting is about the future of Superintendent Tony Tata.
Tata was named superintendent Dec. 23, 2010, when the board had a Republican majority. In the October 2011, Democrats regained the majority, and the new board members and Tata have clashed at times.
School board member Chris Malone, who supports Tata, said he could not comment on what would be discussed at the meeting since it's a closed session on personnel. But he noted that no formal vote could be taken on Tata because that would have to be done in open session after the public has been given 48-hours notice.
This school year also got off to a rocky start in Wake County as many school children faced long waits for buses as the county implemented a new assignment plan. The head of transportation for the system, Don Haydon, resigned shortly after the traditional school year began.
Mike Cassetta, president of the Hilburn Academy PTA, said he is concerned Tata’s job is in danger and is looking to rally support for Tata before the meeting.
“He has been effective,” Cassetta said of Tata. “He has been a man of his word. He’s listened and he’s supported our school and our community.”
Cassetta said the Wake schools have been turmoil in recent years and he doesn’t want to see more change.
“My concern is that we are finally to the point where we have some stability in the school system,” Cassetta said. “Removing Superintendent Tata would greatly disrupt that.”
Cassetta said he first heard about this from the Facebook page of Wake County commissioner Phil Matthews.
Matthews, on his Facebook page Saturday, said again that he is hearing Tata’s job is threatened.
Matthews wrote: “Attention Everyone!! Rumor is the new liberal school board members are going to try to terminate Superintendent Tony Tata on Monday at their 12:30 at a closed session! They are using a lame excuse about buses to get rid of him. Everyone needs to show up at the meeting in Cary to show their support. He is a good friend, and is doing an outstanding job. I will take his firing personally so I am now ‘on record’!! Pass this on to everyone you know and contact your school board members to show your concern!”
In response to the rumors, the Wake County Republican Party has stepped out in support of Tata saying, “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.”
“When Republicans were elected to the School Board in 2009, they faced loud, irrational, unseemly and insulting protests to their reform policies,” Wake County GOP Chairwoman Susan Bryant said. “Calmly and diligently they persevered, and began implementation of reforms that led to significant improvements in the quality of education in Wake County.
“Most importantly of all, they hired Tata, whose commanding presence stabilized the unrest and permitted the passage of a sensible, moderate, bi-partisan assignment plan, as well as a dozen or more other reforms and innovative improvements.”
School board meetings are generally open to the media and public, but the system announced Monday’s meeting is “to consider confidential personnel matters.”
The Wake County GOP is urging its supporters to gather outside the school board meeting to “send a message loud and clear.”
Public bodies can go into private sessions to discuss personnel issues under the North Carolina Open Meetings Law.
Tata is under contract through December 2014.