The General flips his lid

Caring and thoughtful people have been skeptical of Wake County schools superintendent Anthony Tata ever since the Tea Partying former military man with extremely limited education experience was installed a little over a year ago by the re-segregationist school board majority that had been wielding a wrecking ball on the school system. Many of these people, however, bit their tongues over the past 13 months in an effort to be open-minded and supportive of attempts to build bridges and find common ground.

Now, however, it’s quite clear that such efforts were futile and that Tata is little more than a puppet voice for the same forces that owned and manipulated the former “gang of five” — that is, the far right, Art Pope-Bob Luddy-Paul Stam school privatization crowd that’s been doing everything in its power to undermine free and diverse public schools.

The final confirmation of Tata’s true colors can be seen in his recent dishonest and politically-calculated assault on school board members Christine Kushner and Susan Evans for their past association with the heroic citizens group Great School in Wake. In a “through-the-looking-glass”  smear of the kind that one of Tata’s political heroes Sarah Palin specializes in, the Lil’ General is claiming that Kushner and Evans are somehow out of bounds for at times raising questions similar to ones raised by the Great Schools in Wake folks and for accepting awards from the group. He even claims that these actions somehow raise ethical questions on the grounds that they amount to kowtowing to “special interest groups.”

It’s hard to know where to begin in responding to such an outrageous set of lies. 

First of all, for Fox News Tony – a man who made one of his first orders of business upon assuming office to meet with the ultra-right, anti-government Wake County Taxpayers Association to accuse anyone of improper association with a special interest group is a bit like Newt Gingrich attacking someone for being a philanderer.

Seriously, General, is this really a road you want to go down? Because if it is, know that you’re embarking upon a slippery slope. Consider the following:

1. Your buddy and fellow Tea Partier, John Tedesco — the guy who hired you — is the PAID executive director of a right-wing education advocacy group funded by the same right-wing crowd that helped get him elected and that is now bankrolling his run for State Superintendent. Tedesco also spoke at Tea Party rally while in office.

2. In 2010, one of your other buddies and patrons, former chair Ron Margiotta cavorted with the North Wake Republican Club while serving as board chair.  Margiotta also served as a board member of a private school controlled by a right-wing patron (a school that has billed itself as in competition with the public schools) at the same time that he served on the Wake County board.   

3. Two other members of the gang of five that hired you, Chris Malone and Debra Goldman are actively seeking the Republican nominations for, respectively, state representative and state auditor. Who do you think they are appealing to for campaign contributions?

4, Just before you were hired, Malone, Tedesco and Margiotta attended a “school board training” organized and conducted by the extremists at the Pope-Civitas Institute.  

5. As superintendent, you have actively courted the support and input of numeorus private interest groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, various Realtor groups as well as nonprofit advocates like the Wake Education Partnership and Communities in Schools. Why doesn’t this raise ethical questions?

And the list goes on.

Now, you want to attack Kushner and Evans for being former members of a shoestring, non-partisan group made up almost of exclusively of concerned moms and claim that they are somehow undermining you by having the temerity to raise a few questions about your unproven and potentially destructive and costly reassignment plan?!

This is hypocrisy and obliviousness to the truth of the highest order. It would be downright funny if it weren’t so sad and serious and if Tata weren’t so powerful.

(As an aside, the assertion that Kushner and Evans’ acceptance of an award from GSIW is akin to legislators on a Banking Committee receiving awards from the banking industry is preposterous. GSIW is a citizens group motivated by commitment to the welfare of children. It is nothing like a bank or other private for-profit interest. The comment is also remarkably ignorant: such awards are conferred by banks and other similar (and genuine) special interests on elected officials practically every day of the week.)

The bottom line: Absent some kind of sincere apology, Tata has irreparably compromised his ability to lead the Wake County schools in an honest and productive way.   





  1. Rob Schofield

    February 22, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Indeed, under the current regime, board members have even claimed/obtained necessary continuing education/training credits by attending Pope-Civitas events!

  2. jlp75

    February 22, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Kind of like Speaker Tillis getting Legislator of the year from ALEC. He was so proud of himself.

  3. James

    February 22, 2012 at 10:50 am

  4. John I

    February 22, 2012 at 10:50 am

    It’s pretty amazing how quickly this situation deteriorated. It’s to the credit Democratic board members that they haven’t escalated in kind.

  5. Evan

    February 22, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Let’s not forget that the Northern Wake Republican Club hosted a dinner with Tata as their guest speaker (in September if I remember correctly).

  6. TJ

    February 22, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Kudos to Evans and Kushner for the dignified way in which they are handling this, notwithstanding how infuriating Tata’s behavior is.

  7. John

    February 22, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    As the parents of a special needs child my wife and I have been ecstatic over the positive changes Mr. Tata has brought for our subset of the community. He listens, and he expects his senior staff to listen too. Your criticism of his recent emails and ethics accusations may be right, but I suggest a less politically charged evaluation of Mr. Tata might be in order. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  8. Roz Savitt

    February 22, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    General Tata has, unlike in his military career, forgotten that we and the elected school board members do not work for him and that he works for us. If he cannot tolerate this reality then he should leave before he is thrown out.

  9. Rob Schofield

    February 22, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    Hey John — A couple of folks have contacted me with comments along these lines and I hear you. As I said to one person, I understand that Tata has many appealing aspects and has done some things that don’t fit the right-wing anti-public school model favored by the people that hired him.

    That’s great and I really wish he would be that person many fantasize he would be — a closet progressive who will confound the Pope crowd.

    Unfortunately, when he goes down political roads like the one he’s embarked upon recently (i.e. attacking the extremely modest questions raised by new board members after having never even uttered a peep about actions of right-wingers who’ve served on the board) it’s hard to divine any other explanation than that his true colors as a loyal member of the politcal far right are showing through.

  10. TJ

    February 22, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    I would suggest that the most troubling thing about his behavior is not whatever political impulses it reveals, but that it is complete subversion of the chain of command. He doesn’t seem to get that the board members are his commanders-in-chief, not vice versa. That is extremely disturbing, because it suggests that if they — as the elected representatives of the public — pursue a policy path that he does not agree with, he will actively subvert their aims. That is the textbook definition of insubordination.

    Former Superintendent Del Burns had the gumption to tender his resignation as the price for speaking his mind. We’ll see if Tata has that kind of courage, or is, instead, simply a bully.

  11. Mary

    February 22, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    Seriously Rob……GSIW is a “heroic citizens group”? GSIW, a group that I initially supported has lost all credibility with many people, especially me. If Tata says the sky is blue, you can count on GSIW to issue a press release that the sky is red!

    GSIW needs to quit attacking Tata. The most recent attack was over the school time changes. This subject comes up every couple of years. As a matter of fact, changing specific school start times occurs frequently, only affecting a few schools but the difference between then and now is parent input; in times prior,you read abiut te change after the fact, in the newspaper. At least Tata is transparent, asks for input and readily admits that he will adjust as needed. GSIW protested against the Leadership Academies…..well guess what, demand is far exceeding the number of seats available. Rob, ease off. Use your magnifying glass equally.

  12. youthinkso

    February 22, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    The General launched a countermeasure! He will retreat to his foxhole and reload.

    Tata fired a shot (distraction) that is will blow up in his face. He is in way over his head. Central Services is functioning at an all time low.

    Six months from now the board needs to Fire his Ass!

  13. Mary Pollard

    February 23, 2012 at 7:57 am

    Hey Rob, I agree with the other Mary who posted about GSIW. I am not defending Tata’s public response, but I don’t blame the guy for losing his temper over their last press release. We have to remember that Wake parents had legitimate concerns about the prior school administration that were exploited by the ideologue Margiotta majority as being a mandate to end socioeconomic diversity. Tata is far more responsive to parent concerns than his predecessor. And he’s made some good moves, like requiring foreign language instruction in middle school. I lobbied hard for that with the prior administration and never even got a response. Everyone needs to disarm here; if the guy won’t follow the board’s directions they can fire him, but all sides here have degenerated into silliness.

  14. Rob Schofield

    February 23, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Dear Marys — Please see my comment above that starts “Hey John…”

  15. Mary

    February 23, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    Dear Rob: if I had read your article one year ago, I would have agreed with your opinion of Tata. However, it has been one year and We have all seen a much different man than what was portrayed to us. Tata has worked harder than any Superintendent before him. No one can deny that Del Burns was a very kind man and experienced educator……but he cannot compare to Tata by rolling up his sleeves and getting to work. Tata has visited each school in Wake County, spending weekends at school functions, attending high school graduations. If GSIW would try to work with him to make his plans better rather than criticizing his every move, we would not be where we are right now.

  16. […] apology a hopeful sign Post on February 27, 2012 by Rob Schofield No Comments As noted in this space last week, Wake County schools Superintendent Anthony Tata blew his cool and overstepped the bounds of his […]

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