The Eufaula City Council, by a 3-2 vote, chose to not pursue an elected school board for Eufaula City Schools, opting instead to keep it an appointed board by the city council.
Monday evening’s vote kept the council from sending authorization to the state legislature to pursue the matter.
Prior to the vote, several residents voiced their opinion on the matter, including Rep. Berry Forte of Eufaula. Council President Johnny Knight asked everyone to be respectful of others, to speak directly to the council, and that no one should interrupt speakers.
Council member Lucious Cobbs said there must be a problem regarding the board when the district has had four superintendents since 2012.
“Our school district has been around since 1872 and is one of the oldest in Alabama,” Mary Wright said. “This would generate public interest in the school. An elected school board would be in better position to work closely with the superintendent in order to de-politicize things.”
Also speaking in favor of an election was Pastor AJ Jones of St. Luke A.M.E. Church in Eufaula.
“We need blacks and whites to come together,” Jones said, prior to comparing the appointed board to Apartheid in South Africa.
Richard Hunter, pastor of First African Baptist Church, said the reading and math scores for the school district were “ridiculous.” He added, “Forget about whether they are black, white, green, yellow or any other color, if they are educated they will be an asset to our community. This is not a black-white matter. (Kids) will not serve us well if they are not educated. They play ball at school, and we use ‘em in school, but they get to 12th grade and that’s as far as they can go.”
Frances Crews commended new ECS Superintendent Joey Brannan for what’s he’s done in his short time, but also voiced her wish for an elected school board.
“If what we’re doing is working so well, why are we afraid to vote?” asked Crews.
Former council member Jim Martin was one of the residents on hand in favor of keeping an appointed board.
“This is a very important issue for the city of Eufaula,” Martin said. “I moved to this city 45 years ago and have spent 12 of those sitting on this very council. I’ve seen many appointees come and go. I don’t remember one that was not a good appointment. We were all elected citizens trusted to make good appointments on the school board. They have served Eufaula well. There was one occasion I do remember when I voted against one appointment. Under Robert’s Rules of Order, three beats two every time (the vote total to appoint Yadira Chavez to the school board earlier this year). I didn’t run off and say ‘We’ve got to challenge the rules’ when I was beaten. I think y’all agree that we’ve been served mighty well over the years. I think this is a knee-jerk reaction and a short-sighted reason after losing 3-2.”
Another former member of the city council, Bob Powers, also supported the current system of appointing the school board.
“I think it’s very important that the community supports this system,” Powers said. “We have enough challenges supporting the children today. This will affect city government, the Chamber of Commerce and the ability to recruit teachers.”
Powers had previously sent a three-page letter to the city council and Mayor Jack Tibbs outlining why he felt an election would be too costly and keep many quality individuals from running for a school board seat.
Rep. Forte noted that Martin and Powers were two of his good friends, adding that he knew they were against an elected school board.
“People said the same thing during integration,” Forte said. “’Things are fine.’
“You’re going to deny of the citizens to vote for an elected school board. Give the citizens a chance, even if it’s for a dog catcher. Let’s don’t go back to when things were integrated. It’s a new day.”
Council member Tony Robertson noted the struggles of Barbour County Schools and its elected board.
“How’s that working out at Barbour County?” Robertson asked Forte.
Forte replied, “We’re not talking about Barbour County Schools.”
Council President Knight thanked everybody for being obedient and wondered if the council should table its decision.
“I don’t want to rush anything involving kids,” Knight said. “We need more feedback. We either need a workshop or work session.”
At that point, council member Linda Grice said, “We’ve been beating this dead horse. I dare say that no one up here hasn’t gotten feedback. We’ve put things off as a city council. I wouldn’t have this position if I didn’t care about the students.”
Grice made the motion to not have a resolution sent to the legislature, therefore not changing how the council appoints the school board. Council member Barbara Flurry seconded the motion. Robertson also voted against it. Cobbs and Knight voted for it. Therefore, it was voted down 3-2.