Oh no! It’s happened again.
Birmingham City Schools lost another superintendent.
Kelley Castlin-Gacutan was fired after 16 months—the 8th superintendent in 17 years.
How can one school board after another continue to make such bad hiring and/or firing decisions?
Castlin-Gacutan was terminated without cause and this will likely cost the school system about $400,000 in severance.
We can’t afford to keep spitting out superintendents. We’re left with no continuity, wasted money, and poorly educated children. Our whole community suffers.
Some people want to blame lack of funding.
Birmingham City Schools are actually funded better than the next two largest school systems in the state and not much less than Vestavia Hills—one of our best school systems.
School Spending Per Pupil:
- Birmingham City Schools: $9,933
- Montgomery County Schools: $8,420
- Mobile County Schools: $8,937
- Vestavia Hills City Schools: $10,513
So if money’s not necessarily the issue, what is?
School board member Randall Woodfin got it exactly right, “We get into a situation when we have school board members elected by district and unfortunately they can’t look past their district and look at the system.”
Birmingham School Board members are elected from nine separate districts. No board member is elected city-wide. So it’s in the best interest of each school board member to please his or her constituents rather than to make decisions that may benefit the school system as a whole.
The end result is what you might expect. No superintendent can survive with nine board members pulling and pushing from different directions.
The same is true for the Birmingham City Council.
Birmingham City Council members are elected from the same nine districts as the school board. None are elected city-wide and the end result is bickering, backstabbing, and a lack of a common vision.
Our Birmingham region’s stagnation is caused by poor government structure.
Every single Birmingham school member for the past twenty years can’t be bad.
Every single Birmingham City Council member for the past 20 years can’t be bad.
Our government structure is bad.
Fix our structure—fix Birmingham.
Editor’s superintendent recommendation: The Birmingham Board of Education might consider appointing a superintendent already working in Birmingham schools. A local seasoned administrator is likely committed to our children and to Birmingham.
Though I don’t know Dr. Spencer Horn, the previous Interim Superintendent well, he might be a good candidate.
Or the Board might consider appointing Dr. Larry Contri, the current Interim Superintendent. I have known Dr. Contri my entire adult life and there is not a more selfless competent educator in the State of Alabama. Some people may think 70 year old Dr. Contri is too old, but he’s about the same age as both presidential candidates.
Let’s not recruit an unknown out-of-state candidate who doesn’t know our politics, our school employees, our business leaders, or our children.
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David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
Invite David to speak to your group about a better Birmingham. firstname.lastname@example.org.