ZEBULON — Chad Ray, a local businessman and farmer, recently replaced Toni Caputo on the East Wake Academy Board of Directors.
East Wake Academy is a charter school that’s grown from an elementary school to a K-12 school with more than 1,000 students since its inception in 1998. The Zebulon charter is run by a seven-member Board of Directors, and led by a headmaster that they appoint.
Caputo, who could not be reached for comment, was a founding board member who resigned two months ago for undisclosed reasons. Mike Lester, the board chairman, described Caputo as a “steady, knowledgeable” board member “who will be missed.”
At its meeting on June 4, the charter school’s Board of Directors appointed Ray after considering 11 other applicants.
“The board saw his activity with the school over the years, standing in the community, business and his spirited service ... and was impressed,” Lester said.
Ray, 40, is a Bunn resident who owns Zebulon-based businesses: Olde Heritage Builders, Energy Savers of North Carolina, and Ray Family Farms.
Unlike Caputo, who had two children graduate from East Wake Academy, Ray doesn’t have children, or any personal connection to the school – a detail Lester and Ray think will add a unique but valuable perspective to the board.
Ray’s experience as a leader will also help the school, he said.
“Business owners add value to any board because they know how to make hard decisions that ensure longevity for a business,” Ray said. “Some (businesses) build cars, we’re churning out students to be upstanding citizens with a good education.”
Ray’s appointment is the first change on the Board of Directors since the school’s sexual harassment scandal last year. In spring 2012, two East Wake Academy teachers accused the school superintendent, Brandon Smith, of touching and talking to them in a sexual and inappropriate way.
Though the board fired Smith, the teachers accused the board of fostering a hostile work environment because it allowed Smith to continue working after the teachers first brought their allegations to the board. The board also experienced internal strife last year. In 2012, it reprimanded board members Robin Hicks and Aubrey “Peedie” Edwards for violating school policy by speaking to the teachers before the teachers filed formal complaints.
Hicks and Edwards remain on the board of directors along with Esther Bowling, Huey Allen, Lester and Bill Ausley, who the board recently reelected to another five-year term. Ray will serve the remainder of Caputo’s term, which ends in June 2016.
Ray said he didn’t take the board’s recent trials into consideration when applying for the open seat.
“It’s in the past. Everybody at some point in their life or career has to turn the page,” Ray said. “I certainly believe the academy has the right people and mission in place to continue moving forward for the kids and the community.”