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Shakeup in the Birmingham Board of Education

Tuesday’s municipal elections have brought a huge change to the makeup of the Birmingham Board of Education. Five members of the nine member board chose not to seek reelection. Moreover, the four incumbents in the race found it hard to garner support for reelection. It seems that voters want to bring new faces into the city’s controversial school board. Parent advocate Juliet Easlick told WBRC, “I think we’re at a crossroads this election season.”

Board President Wardine Alexander failed to win reelection in District 7, receiving the least amount of votes at 26.23 percent. District 4 incumbent Daagye Hendricks will have to survive a runoff with Edward Maddox. Cheri Gardner of District 6 was the only incumbent to handily win back her position, receiving 79.24 percent of votes. In the end, five district races – districts 1, 4, 5, 7, and 8 – will head into a runoff on October 8.

The backlash by voters comes nearly a year after the board chose to fire Superintendent Kelley Castlin-Gacutan in September 2016. She served only 16 months on the job and was replaced by current Superintendent Lisa Herring. Many voters did not approve of the lack of leadership on the board. In fact, Easlick told WBRC that she hopes the board will commit to Herring in place for at least five years. “We need continuity in leadership.  That leadership needs to start making changes, and the board of education needs to support her in making those changes,” she says.

Others hope to see a school board that is not only unified within but with the city as well. Richard Franklin, President of the Birmingham chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, told WBRC, “The school system can’t stand alone.  The city can’t stand alone. It has to be together, and I think that’s the big positive we have coming out of [the election].”

While it is unclear exactly what changes may come as a result of this shakeup in the school board, the voters have spoken. It is now time for the new board members to bring some order back to the Birmingham Board of Education.

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