I just don’t understand why folks keep watering down what is happening in Birmingham concerning the search for a new Superintendent.
BOE President Wardine Alexander repeatedly stated during her April 13th press conference that “all nine board members agreed on” having the AASB (Alabama Association of School Boards) keep the applicant’s names a secret, only the final five being made available to them. She stated that they also agreed on the actual selection process. She went on to say “I do not have a majority of board members that seek to go in a different direction” when asked about stopping and/or changing the selection process.
The only problem? There has never been a vote on what the process should be to begin with.
As a matter of fact, there has only been one BOE vote taken concerning the appointment of our next Superintendent.
The first Search Committee meeting was an organizational meeting that occurred between Nov. 22nd and December 13th. The board voted at the December 13th board meeting to ‘accept the committee’s report and adopt the terms as presented, including the search timeline, consulting services from AASB, and other information’. The search timeline gave an entire month to collect applications, the final day was said to be Feb. 10th. The names of the qualified candidates were to be given to the board on Feb. 28th. Interviews were to be completed by March 10th, and a vote was to be taken on March 14th.
Then…silence. For three months.
When March 14th came there was no vote of course. Instead, April Williams gave an update. She mentioned the State’s approval to extend the deadline to accept applications, although no reason had ever been given as to why that was necessary, and no vote was taken to request the extension. Now the deadline for accepting applications would be March 17th. She felt the presentation by the AASB would be the first week of April with interviews starting April 10th. She never mentioned a committee meeting, she never addressed what the actual selection process would look like.
The next time there is public discussion about the search is at the special called meeting on Thursday, April 6. That night the AASB presented the Board with their selection process proposal. Board member Sherman Collins took issue with the process because it required the masking of the bottom three candidates’ names when all five final scores were revealed. He rightfully noted that there was absolutely no reason for doing this. They kept saying it would prevent the board members from inserting personal feelings into their scoring but in actuality, at the point of tallying the scores the numbers are what they are, and knowing who had what score would not change a thing. A few other board members were not comfortable with the proposal either so no vote was taken.
It was very apparent during this meeting that this secretive process was the idea of Committee Chair, April Williams, with a little help from Sandra Brown. Very few board members, even members of the selection committee, knew about this proposed process.
The AASB also announced that the five finalist’s names would be revealed at the Tuesday, April 11th meeting (no time was mentioned so folks assumed at the usual time, 5:30). Some board members seemed surprised since there had not been a discussion about the AASB narrowing the field to five candidates.
They also mentioned several times that we were on a tight timeline, even though we have until July 1st to have a Superintendent in place. One has to ask WHY the timeline is so tight, considering the approval to enter into an agreement with the AASB was back in December.
Then on Monday, April 10th, the BCS BOE Search Committee met FOR THE SECOND TIME. Due to the concerns of several board members and the general public, they changed the selection process from the secretive, opaque one that excluded the public completely, to one that gave an illusion of public involvement by way of online surveys and the online submission of questions for the candidates. The results of these surveys will hold as much weight as the board members’ opinions, which is completely bizarre. They went from one extreme to the other concerning community involvement. I’m wondering how the public will know that the survey results are accurate? There is absolutely no accountability, they basically switched one opaque process for another.
They also narrowed the pool of questions down to 12, but they have yet to publically report that.
This brings us to the unofficial meeting that was held at 4:30 on April 11th to announce the five finalists. It was not announced at any previous meetings and it was not listed on the front page of the website next to the regular board meeting that was at 5:30 that same day. Even now there is no mention of it under the past meetings listing. There is no agenda…there are no minutes. It’s almost like it never happened. Why go to all this trouble to keep this meeting a secret?
If it is an unofficial meeting that, apparently, never happened then wouldn’t that mean that nothing really happened? I mean, seriously, we have to scrap everything that was said and done in that 15-minute meeting.
If we did that then, officially, the board has yet to be notified of the five candidates. The five candidates, I might add, that the board has yet to vote on as to whether they will accept them as official candidates.
And since they were never, officially, given the names, and they never accepted the names they weren’t really given, then it doesn’t matter that they never voted on a process for doing what they aren’t really doing, legally.
I feel like I’m in a fantasy world created by Dr. Seuss, except in this case we aren’t empowering and educating children, we are robbing them of an education.
Why would they purposefully make a meeting be ‘unofficial’? The truth was revealed in the last few seconds of the meeting when Cheri Gardner stated she wanted to add Dr. Larry Contri to the list of candidates. Board President Wardine Alexander quickly shouted, “This is not an official meeting!” Had the names of the five finalists been presented in a LEGAL board meeting, then Ms. Gardner’s request, if receiving a second, would have to be voted on, as would any other names that may have been suggested.
Now it is clear why they went out of their way to make sure this meeting wasn’t ‘official’. They didn’t want any names added. Why? Because they know that some of the local applicants that the AASB turned down would be tough competition for the candidate that those on the search committee has already been chosen.
Honestly, after all of this I realized, I could have proven my point with far less than 1,200 words:
When the board President shouts “This isn’t an official meeting” while on a stage, in public, at a meeting to discuss district business with the entire board, without giving it a second thought…we are surely staring into the face of a corrupt process.
When a board President thinks nothing of repeatedly saying, in a press conference, that they don’t have the majority vote to do something that has never even been discussed in a public meeting…we are definitely staring into the face of a corrupt process.
Who is ‘the chosen one’? Find out more about that in Part 2 – The Fix is In