CARY, N.C. – A lack of respect and trust. That's what an independent leadership consultant said is wrong with the Wake County School Board. In fact, board members couldn't even agree to work on their interpersonal communications without launching into more attacks on each other.
“You said I was attacking,” board member Jim Martin said to Superintendent Tony Tata during a retreat Tuesday.
“I said I felt attacked,” Tata interrupted.
And that wasn't the only bickering back and forth.
“I was in the middle of speaking and in the middle of that, one of the board members across the table told me to just hush,” board member Debra Goldman explained to the consultant.
“To be clear, you were interrupting Mr. Martin when that was said to you,” retorted board member Susan Evans, who had the original exchange with Goldman during a previous meeting.
Board members were brutally honest with their opinions and their hard feelings towards their colleagues.
“I do feel some board members believe I have ill intent,” Tata said. “I was called untruthful today in an email from a board member.”
Martin responded by explaining he didn't believe he was getting honest answers from Tata and school system staff. He said they've been untruthful to him and parents responding to emailed concerns.
“The implication I hear, I'm not saying it's the intent, but what I hear is that you're specifically saying when I call you or I talk to you, it's undignified,” Martin said to Tata.
All the arguments even led to some name-calling from the independent consultant, Jim Huge, brought in to help the board better work together.
“You're a bright, well put together, dysfunctional family right now,” he said.
He concluded the board's biggest problem is a lack of respect and trust. It was the one thing the entire board could agree on.
Most, but not all of the board members said they thought the discussion was helpful and a good way for the embattled board to start from scratch.
“I think all of my colleagues were being honest which is important,” said Chairman Kevin Hill. “[I] look forward to moving forward as a strong unit, a nine-member board.”
“I really hope there was a raising of awareness and on some level, for all of us, an acceptance of responsibility for our behavior on this board,” Goldman said.
Before the retreat ended, board members vowed to put past hostilities behind them and bring civility back to the board room.