The list of eight candidates who applied for the vacant District 4 seat on the Birmingham Board of Education has been pared to four, Weld learned this afternoon. Four of the applicants were found to reside outside the district, according to Ed Richardson, the former Alabama State School Superintendent who is heading the ongoing state investigation into the Birmingham City Schools.
Earlier on Tuesday, the board announced that it will interview the finalists for the District 4 seat this Thursday, November 8. Following the interviews, the board has called a special meeting for 8 p.m., at which time it is expected to select a replacement for the former District 4 representative, Edward Maddox, who resigned on October 17.
Maddox, who also served as president of the school board, had been arrested the previous day on charges of using his office for personal gain. His resignation was part of a plea agreement with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office. Weld reported in October on Maddox’s resignation and the status of the highly contentious board since the takeover of the Birmingham school system by State Superintendent Tommy Bice last June.
The remaining candidates for the board position are Carol Clarke, vice president of corporate procurement and supplier diversity management for Regions Bank; Anissia Hatcher, policies and procedures process coordinator for Children’s of Alabama (formerly Children’s Hospital); Daagye Hendricks, who formerly worked for the Birmingham Parking Authority and is currently a student in the Executive Master’s of Business Administration program at the University of Alabama; and Robert L. Walker, Jr., a sheet metal worker who is vice president of the Wahouma Neighborhood Association.
Maddox had been part of a board majority consistently questioned the motives of the state’s takeover and the accompanying investigation of the system’s finances and management. In Weld’s October story, Richardson said had seen some weakening of that majority and that expected to see the board name a replacement who would “help the board begin to work with the state to move the system forward.” Reached for comment today, Richardson stressed that naming the replacement is “strictly the decision of the board,” but stood by his earlier comment.
“I’m very optimistic that a majority of the board will come to a consensus,” said Richardson. “There are some top-drawer applicants, and I think you’ll see the board reach a good conclusion on someone who will be a strong addition.”
The new board member will be expected to hit the ground running as the school system deals with numerous financial and management issues it must address to avoid endangering its accreditation. In addition to electing new officers at its regular meeting next Tuesday, November 13, Richardson said the board will begin responding to a letter from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the agency responsible for accrediting the city schools. The board in October adopted a resolution pledging to deal with the issues raised by SACS, and now must put a firm plan in place by December 1, Richardson said today.
“The letter from SACS simply says that they received the board’s resolution, and now they want specific timetables and actions that are going to be taken,” Richardson said. “We’ve already been working board policies and some other directives SACS gave us. Now we have to be fairly substantive in our response, including having the board members individually sign affirmations that they agree to take full responsibility for maintaining the accreditation of the system.”
Richardson said he is confident that the December 1 deadline will be met. A work session with the board and state officials has been scheduled for Tuesday, November 27.
Interviews for the vacant board position will be conducted in the board room of the city schools Administration Building, beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday. The Administration Building is located at 2015 Park Place, across the street from Linn Park, near the Jefferson County Courthouse and Birmingham City Hall.