Entering election season, Birmingham School Board - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Entering election season, Birmingham School Board remains divided

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It's the first day in many Alabama cities where candidates can qualify to run for office. In Birmingham,  elections for mayor, city council and the school board are open.

The school board race is already generating lots of attention.

The current board has its hands full. Between the state takeover and 11 failing schools, members are working to make improvements across the board.

But it's clear board members remain divided on who should run the system. The state stepped in about a year ago. State-appointed chief financial officer Dr. Ed Richardson has been over the meetings, which were once full of disagreements. Since the state takeover, the district has worked to restore money in its operating reserve, which included closing schools, reducing staff and re-assigning staff and administrators.

Board members April Williams and W.J. Maye Jr. say the state takeover has worked to get the board moving forward.

"Once you have gone over the top, you are now getting to a place of normalcy," Williams says.

"It's gotten better now since the state has come in and taken over," Maye says.

But at least one board member, Emanuel Ford, insists the state takeover was the beginning of a downward spiral.

"The morale in the district is at an all-time low," Ford says.

Ford contends the position of the board member has lost its power.

"Do you want board members to sit there and just say 'amen' to everything Dr. Richardson presents or Dr. Witherspoon? Or, do you want board members who have done their homework and ask questions?" Ford poses.

Williams admits the road to improvement hasn't been easy. That's why she says team-building exercises are crucial for both candidates and new members.

"Hopefully we can avoid some of the pitfalls we found ourselves in this term," Williams says.

The elections will be held August 27.

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