A modest idea to end balkanization of Birmingham School System


Scotty Colson

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

Today’s guest blogger is Scotty Colson.

When the School Board went to an elected board is when my family pretty much gave up on quality changes in our system. At that time I asked anyone who would listen how adding 9 more politicians did anything to make our system better. Since then we have seen an exodus from our schools and a consistent descent into failure culminated in recent events.

Edward Glaeser correctly identified education as one of the keys to our home town being able to compete, grow and thrive. The below “modest proposal” hopefully will give us a chance to renew our schools while keeping elected representation and encouraging a broader view of this vital aspect of our hometown.

The Board should represent the city at large, stake holders and diverse parts of the city without creating or exacerbating electoral/political incentives to ‘balkanize” the system wherein board members represent very narrow districts and have no overall vision nor electoral responsibility to the city system at large.

• The Birmingham school system needs to have a smaller board that is broader based in its representation that would preserve district representation but also leadership by an elected President and representative from City Government so as to insure a role for the city and business community.

• The proposal is for the State legislature to draft and pass a bill that would at the next election of the school board implement the following plan:

• There would be five (5) members of the Birmingham school board who would serve 4 year terms. Three members would be elected from districts. The three districts would be elected as follows from candidates who reside in the new districts. The three districts would be based on present city council districts but would be grouped in the following way- District 1-(Council districts 1-4-7); District 2 (Council districts 2-5-8) and District 3 (council districts 3-6-9). This grouping would insure candidates would have to represent eastern, central and western areas and give them a broader mandate and focus. The President would be elected from the city at large and by having a city wide mandate would also have a city wide focus as chair of the board meetings. The fifth member would be appointed by the Mayor and approved by the Council ; which would serve to allow flexibility to appoint representatives of the business community and or other person with broad interests and talents that would bring diversity and experience to the board.

This proposal would maintain majority control by locally elected members with leadership by a city wide elected president and membership that would insure involvement by city government and flexibility in including a member with a diverse background and expertise who otherwise may not have an interest in campaigning but who could bring strong attributes to the board.

Scotty Colson is a Hemphill ’72, West End ’76, UAB ’80 and Cumberland Law School ’83 graduate born in Birmingham, Al. in 1958 and has worked at Birmingham City Hall since passing the bar in 1983 in a variety of positions. He is a member of the Alabama Bar, Board of Jimmie Hale Mission, Aletheia House, Jefferson-Blount-St. Clair mental health authority, Ruffner Mountain Nature Center, Police Athletic Teams and Crestway Baptist Church Sunday School teacher.

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3 thoughts on “A modest idea to end balkanization of Birmingham School System”

  1. Scotty, excellent ideas.  I expect nothing less.  I would like to add one thought though.  I think members of any board of education should be able to read, write and cipher.  Would you consider adding a requirement that candidates pass the battery of exams that students must take to graduate.  I know that is asking more from members of the board of education than we do other politicians but education is important.


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