The real problem with our Birmingham Board of Education

 

Michael Calvert

Comebacktown published by David Sher & Phyllis Neill to begin a discussion on creating better government for our region.

Today’s guest blogger is Michael Calvert.

The fundamental problem with the Birmingham Board of Education is the election of board members from the nine City Council districts. This structure explains much of the poor performance of board members.

The president of the board has publicly said he pursued election to the board of education because he “wanted to get into politics.” Political ambition appears to be the primary motivation of board members.

Instead of pursuing their personal political advancement, board members should serve the needs of our children. Their proper role is to develop policies in conjunction with the superintendent; they should oversee, but not micromanage, the administration of the school system.

The present board members lobby headquarters and interfere with the superintendent’s administrative and personnel decisions. Board members advocate for their districts in school closings and school construction rather than strengthening the overall school system. All of this is a direct result of our structure that elects board members from City Council districts.

Before board members were elected from districts, the Mayor nominated and the City Council approved “at large” board members who had a strong interest in education and represented the city as a whole. Appointing citizens primarily focused on our children could result in a board that would set general policies, stop interfering in administration, and cooperate with the superintendent to improve the quality of education in the City of Birmingham.

The Board of Education needs basic structural change.

Michael Calvert is an urban planner and retired president of Operation New Birmingham.  He’s currently leading efforts to save historic Powell School.

Let’s turn Birmingham around.  Click here to sign up for our newsletter.  There’s power in numbers. (Opt out at any time)

This entry was posted in Birmingham School System, Government structure, Guest blogger and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The real problem with our Birmingham Board of Education

  1. Taney A. Brazeal, Jr. says:

    *What if the Birmingham system were dissolved and the responsibility of educating the children went to Jefferson County schools?

  2. David Sher says:

    *Taney, that’s exactly what they are doing in Memphis right now.

  3. Mike Coffey says:

    *Calvert makes great points and his experience affirms his expertise.  Take a listen !

    Mike Coffey

    morcoffey@gmail.com

  4. WE SHOULD BE THANKFUL WE STILL HAVE FOLKS LIKE MIKE CALVERT AND DAVID SHER WHO ACTUALLY GIVE A DAMN. AND HAVE GIVEN THEIR SERVICES UNSELFIHSLY TO MAKE A BETTER BIRMINGHAM.

    UNFORTUNATELY THIS IS NOT THE MODUS OPERANDI FOR THOSE WHO PURSUE BOARD MEMBERSHIP AND QUITE FRANKLY POLITICAL OFFICE .

    WE SHOULD KEEP OUR EYE ON THE BALL OR IN THIS CASE THE BOARD [OF EDUCATION] AS THERE ARE STILL BAD ACTORS ON STAGE, WHO MAY VERY WELL BACKSLILDE ONCE THE SPOTLIGHT IS NO LONGER SHINING ON THEM.

  5. T.K. Thorne says:

    *This sounds very much like what happened with the County Commission and the City Council.  I am not suggesting appointment is appropriate in those cases, but somewhere in politics and the fear of not being at the table we lost a sense of the good for the whole.   Surely there is a balance that could be struck.

    PS Partisan elections for judges is another structure system that needs to be changed, while we are at it.

  6. Ronnie Williams says:

    *Mr. Calvert evidently does not remember that the citizens of Birmingham chose to “elect” their representatives after years of “appointments” by the Mayor and Council. There is something to be both said and respected about the vote of the people.

    Mr. Calvert also seems to place “blame” for the systems problems squarely on the Board.  I am a bit concerned about this blaming of the Board based primarily in the current Superintendent receiving 98% support from the Board for his recommendations.  Could it be that he (the Super) has a problem setting a precedence “with” the Board.  But this is now old news, let us hope in the new President April Williams.

    I take this position because of my concerns, but also because when White folks assess the problems of Black communities and leaders they see things from their view.  Mr. Calvert is respected for his work on Operation New Birmingham, but I wonder if he is aware of the views of the majority of residents of Birmingham of his (and the ongoing) work of ONB?  Personally, I see the progress made but sincerely believe more could have been a be done to assure the residents of Birmingham are “respected” in the process.

    It is important to consider bridging understanding of actions.  Often times leaders liked by outsiders are seen and advocated as “sell outs” of the community, and this adds to rather than take away from the existing and growing divide.  There has got to be a better way!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <br> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <dd> <dl> <dt> <em> <i> <img alt="" align="" border="" class="" height="" hspace="" longdesc="" vspace="" src="" style="" width=""> <ins datetime="" cite=""> <li> <ol> <p> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> <sub> <sup> <u> <ul>