NAACP leader Barber accuses Tata of bias

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In an open letter to Wake County schools Superintendent Tony Tata, the Rev. William Barber, the state NAACP president, took Tata to task Thursday for criticizing two board members’ association with community group Great Schools in Wake Coalition.

In addition, Barber said he would pass on details of Tata’s statements to the accreditation agency AdvancEd and to a civil rights unit of the federal Department of Education, both of which have been investigating Wake schools based on NAACP complaints.

Efforts to reach Tata for comment on the letter were not immediately successful Thursday night.

After a heated weekend exchange of email, Tata wrote Monday that board members Christine Kushner and Susan Evans, both Democrats elected in October, had made potential “serious code of ethics violations” because of their involvement with Great Schools. The group, in which they had been active, recently criticized Tata and the new student assignment plan crafted under his leadership.

Tata had ‘a chance’

The NAACP, along with supporters such as author and Duke University professor Tim Tyson, strongly opposed the previous Republican board leadership, and initially criticized Tata for his links to Republican politics. But Tata and Barber met after Tata took office earlier this year, and relations between the superintendent and the civil rights group appeared to have thawed.

“When we met with you, you assured us that your family tradition included a respect for diversity and spoke with pride about your father receiving an award from the NAACP,” Barber and Tyson wrote in the letter. “Despite concerns regarding your past association, many in our community because of their love for education and their desire to see progress in our educational system, chose to give you a chance.”

Kushner and Evans, saying they were no longer in active in Great Schools, have also denied Tata’s statement that the group has a “stranglehold” on their opinions and maintained that the superintendent has no authority to oversee their associations with a variety of groups. Tata said later Monday that his remarks were made out of concern for good governance in Wake schools and for the continuing process of regaining full accreditation by AdvancEd.

Barber and Tyson wrote they intend to marshal forces against what the letter termed unprofessional bias by Tata, including in that description his uneven treatment of various advocacy groups.

“While you consider your next steps, we will consult with all our partners to determine their positions on what our next steps are,” Barber and Tyson wrote. “We intend to gather the community around these matters, inform Advanced Ed (sic) of this incident, as well as those handling our Title VI complaint at the Justice Department because we believe your conduct reveals a deep and unprofessional bias and a lack of fairness and willingness to hear all voices.”

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