Members of the Montgomery School Board are calling on Superintendent Barbara Thompson to resign or be fired. The demand comes as a shock to some who thought the school system was finally getting on the right track, by way of a state intervention, and owning up to the problem of grade-changing at some high schools.
Superintendent Thompson apparently has until a noon meeting Wednesday to make her decision. The parking space reserved for her outside the school board was empty Tuesday afternoon, begging the question of whether she was gone for the day or gone for good.
"Our attorney is meeting with her attorney," said board member Heather Sellers who told WSFA 12 News that if they cannot come to some agreement with Thompson and her attorney by noon on Wednesday, they are ready to move forward with the process to terminate her employment.
"We could have waited until next week, and I don't understand the rush. Why? Why now?" asked fellow board member Beverly Ross.
Not all MPS board members were in on the plan. "I was not aware of the meeting at all," Ross said. She, along with Board President Eleanor Dawkins and Robert Porterfield did not know the other four board members called the special meeting. Porterfield found out about the meeting through WSFA 12 News.
MPS spokesman Tom Salter says a majority of the Board called the special meeting. Those members include: Heather Sellers, Mary Briers, Durden Dean and Melissa Snowden. Because the board has a majority, the meeting will stand.
"It's just unfair to me because she has done so much," Ross explained, "and she could have done more if allowed the chance to do more."
WSFA 12 News reached out to other board members for reaction. Melissa Snowden and Mary Briers did not return phone calls. Durden Dean and Robert Porterfield declined on camera interviews.
"We have not...done a good job over the last several years," said Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange of the situation. "We've had just kind of a revolving door," referring to the number of superintendents that have come through the system.
Mayor Strange says the call for Thompson to resign didn't come as a surprise to him, although he says he and State Superintendent Tommy Bice thought Thompson could lead the system out of problems the state labeled "systemic."
"The negative things, if attacked correctly, and with the resources and the help, I think could be overcome," Strange said. "If they could not be, and if they were not, then shame on us, that's when you make that change."
With that said, the mayor suggested again the idea of the city starting its own school system. "I would be hard pressed not to at least think in that direction," Strange said with a sigh when asked if he would consider supporting a measure if the city council brought it to him.
Mayor Strange says starting a city school system would mean a clean slate of leadership, people he might appoint in the beginning. He says that is not an option at this time but could be brought up by the city council.
Thompson was hired in 2009. Her contract was renewed in 2011 for 3 years, so she has more than a year left on that contract. Her salary is $155,000 per year. If the board and Thompson don't reach an agreement, the board could vote to terminate her employment.
WSFA 12 News will carry Wednesday's noon meeting live on-air and online at WSFA.COM.
Superintendent Barbara Thompson's four-year tenure with Montgomery Public Schools is coming to an end. Her time at the helm of the state's third-largest school districtMore >>
Superintendent Barbara Thompson's four-year tenure with Montgomery Public Schools is coming to an end. Her time at the helm of the state's third-largest school district has been marred by controversy since its inception in 2009, but it also was marked by some significant successes as well.More >>