Birmingham school board members want local candidate in superintendent search

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Three members of the Birmingham Board of Education held a town hall meeting Monday to discuss problems they see with the superintendent selection process. The list of 47 qualified applicants was narrowed to five, but none of the final candidates are from Alabama. Board members Cheri Gardner, Daagye Hendricks and Sherman Collins said today they have no idea how the five final candidates were selected, and they want more transparency in the process.

“We have been asking for a special called meeting, an opportunity to sit down as a board to discuss the issues that are unsettled. And we have been denied that,” said Gardner.

The three board members said they believe the lack of local candidates sends the wrong message to the people of Birmingham: that the state can’t provide qualified people for the position.

“To come back with five candidates outside of the state, to me that is a blatant disregard for what the citizens of Birmingham have asked us to do,” said Collins.

They also said they’re concerned about the learning curve for any outside candidate.

“We should be able to find someone local so that we don’t have to go through the process of learning the culture and climate of where our children are right now academically,” said Hendricks.

Gayle Gear, an attorney in Birmingham who attended the meeting, said she’s concerned about the inability of the board to work cooperatively on the selection.

“When there is a lack of transparency, then we have a lack of confidence in the decisions that they are making,” said Gear.

One student from Ramsey High School who also attended the meeting said she would like to see Larry Contri considered. He is currently serving as interim superintendent.

“Dr. Contri, he has been a good influence on me. He’s one of the reasons why I’m here now … He’s the only superintendent I’ve ever seen in any of my schools and I’ve been here for eight years,” said Azhane Levy.

But Levy said ultimately she just wants to see the best candidate get the job because it affects her education.

Gear says that can’t happen without cooperation.

“One of the fundamental things that we teach children from kindergarten on, let’s talk it over, let’s find out what we need to do to get together. Silence in this case is not golden,” said Gear.


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