Birmingham School Board Ousts Superintendent

Supporters of the former superintendent displayed these, but they were outnumbered in the crowd and on the school board. Credit: Dan Carsen / WBHM

Supporters of the former superintendent displayed these, but they were outnumbered in the crowd and on the school board. Credit: Dan Carsen / WBHM

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After a heated meeting Thursday night, the Birmingham school board surprised many by voting 6-3 to fire the district’s Superintendent. Kelley Castlin-Gacutan, more often called “Dr. G,” had held the position for 14 months.

Rumors were already swirling when board member April Williams moved to terminate Dr. Castlin-Gacutan’s contract. Board member Randall Woodfin spoke against the prevailing mood in the crowd and among his colleagues.

“You know, I never thought that the day would come where I’d be embarrassed to be a member of this body,” he said. “This evening’s action is both unwarranted and reckless. Should my colleagues decide to take this action, I would not in good conscience be able to ask anyone to consider taking this position in the future. The superintendent’s been here one year, and we’re going to terminate her without cause.”

That’s exactly what happened minutes later as Woodfin, Brian Giattina, and Lyord Watson lost to the majority – April Williams, board president Wardine Alexander, Daagye Hendricks, Sherman Collins Jr., Cheri Gardner, and Sandra Brown.

The superintendent’s critics allege, among other things, unauthorized spending and a lack of communication.

“We have made millions of dollars of decisions where we don’t have the return on the investment,” said Hendricks, who’s also a Birmingham City Schools parent. “Anyone on this board that believes that we can’t move past this [and] find leadership to support our children maybe should not serve … And if we are misappropriating funds, or the money we spend for our students is not reaching the classroom, we are out of order.”

Dr. G. will be on paid administrative leave for 60 days. Depending on whether she finds work, the district could have to pay her more than $400,000 disbursed monthly over the next two years.

The board voted in assistant superintendent Larry Contri as interim.

To hear the whole 28-minute meeting, listen below:

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