New board swears in, but can't agree on a president

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Birmingham's new school board failed repeatedly Tuesday to elect a new president just minutes after it was sworn in.

The school board was all smiles as the 4 incumbents and 5 newcomers were sworn in Tuesday afternoon. But an hour later, when they took up their first challenge of electing a board president, the smiles disappeared.

Former president, April Williams, nominated W.J. Maye, Jr., but she was his only vote because Maye had left town after the swearing in.

Virginia Volker received 4 votes, and Phyllis Wynne had 3, but it takes 5 to win the seat. The board tried again, but this time April Williams didn't vote for anyone.

"I think it's important we elect a leader who can bring this board together," Williams said. "It's obvious we have a lot of growth to do in that area."

Volker and Wynne split the votes the same way 4-3 in that round, and that's the way the votes went for 2 more rounds.

After 4 tries, the board was forced to adjourn until next week, unable to address even routine business.

Asked what message this sends to parents and voters who are expecting action on very troubling issues, new member Tyrone Belcher replied, "We know we can, we're gonna talk about it. We have some good board members coming on, we just want different things. And I think once we talk about what we all want, then we can come together."

"Really today I feel like it's best to vote with your heart, how you feel at the time with the present information you have, and not to be pressured by anyone," new board member Alana Edwards said.

"All of us do not know each other," Volker said. "But we will come to some amicable solution, I have no doubt about that."

The board will meet again next week to try again. All 9 board members are expected to be at that meeting. Everything on this week's agenda has been delayed.

This board will begin interviewing finalists for the superintendent job in a matter of weeks, and must also make a decision on what to cut out of its budget because of looming proration.