An Alabama State Department of Education intervention in Birmingham city schools will not be stopped and the Birmingham Board of Education is permanently enjoined from interfering with BCS Superintendent Dr. Craig Witherspoon’s job, a judge ordered Monday. The judge also found that Birmingham BOE President Edward Maddox does not live in the city of Birmingham, ostensibly violating a law that requires BBOE members to live in the city limits.
The plaintiffs, the ALSDE and Witherspoon, filed suit last month after the Birmingham BOE attempted to fire Witherspoon in direct violation of a directive from Alabama State Schools Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice and interfered in a state investigation and takeover by the state. The Birmingham BOE and BCS Chief Operations Officer Samuetta Drew were defendants.
Maddox claimed that he lives in home he owns in Woodlawn, and that he rents rooms there. He also claimed that he and his wife separated almost a decade ago. But Jefferson County Circuit Judge Houston Brown did not believe Maddox.
“Defendant, Edward Maddox, is the President of the BBOE. Although he owns and rents out a duplex house at 914 53rd Street North, in the City of Birmingham, he has actually resided for more than a decade at 5440 Carrington Circle, in the City of Trussville,” Judge Brown wrote in his findings of fact. “The Court does not credit his testimony that he and his wife separated eight years ago.”
Brown also found that the ALSDE has the right to intervene in Birmingham’s schools, and that firing Witherspoon at this time would be detrimental to education in Birmingham. He ordered that Maddox and the BBOE cannot terminate Witherspoon “without prior approval of the Court, unless the district accreditation process has been completed.” The plaintiffs argued that firing Witherspoon would endanger an application for district-wide accreditation, and the accreditation agency recently sent a letter to Maddox informing the board they were suspending the application until the board explained their meddling and stopped it.
Brown ruled that the Birmingham Board of Education will have to pay Witherspoon’s attorney’s fees. “Because of the malicious, wanton and bad faith conduct of defendant, Birmingham Board of Education President Edward Maddox, in his official capacity … attorney’s fees will be awarded against the Birmingham Board of Education and in favor of plaintiff, Dr. Craig Witherspoon,” Brown wrote.
At two points in his findings of fact, the judge used an exclamation point. “Each Shelby County coordinator/director/supervisor/manager (‘director’) serves 125 students, while each Madison County director serves 146 students. Each Montgomery County director serves 36 students. But in Birmingham, there is a director for every 20 students!” Brown wrote in one instance. In another, he used italics along with the exclamation point: If SSOE Dr. Bice had not overridden the BBOE’s inaction on a Financial Recovery Plan, as of September 15, 2012, state and federal funds for the operation of Birmingham City Schools would likely have been withheld!”