Stunning upset in School Board Race as Incumbent President Fails To Make Runoff

By Sam Prickett

For The Birmingham Times

Birmingham School Board President Wardine Alexander (provided photo)

With only two current members of the Birmingham Board of Education re-elected outright on Tuesday, the surprise of the night was the defeat of Wardine Alexander, the incumbent board president, who couldn’t make the runoff.

Alexander, current president of the nine-member board, finished third in a three-person District 7 race with 26.23 percent of the vote behind Patricia Spigner McAdory, a former Birmingham City Schools (BCS) teacher, 40.24 percent, and , a Department of Public Works supervisor and former Birmingham City Schools substitute teacher, 33.53 percent.

McAdory and Wilson will face each other runoff in the runoff elections scheduled for Tuesday Oct. 3.

Cheri Gardner in District 6 and Sandra Brown in District 9 were the two board incumbents to secure their seats, collecting 79.24 percent and 68.10 of their districts’ votes, respectively. Both were originally elected to the board in 2013.

The remaining six seats, including Alexander’s, will be taken over by newcomers in the next term — though one election remains too close to call.

Five school board members chose not to seek re-election. In District 5 Randall Woodfin ran for mayor and will face incumbent William Bell in the runoff elections, while in District 1 Sherman Collins Jr. launched an unsuccessful bid to unseat city councilor Lashunda Scales.

Other open seats were left by District 2’s Lyord Watson Jr, District 3’s Brian Giattina, and District 8’s April Williams.

District 1

Cedric Small and Douglas Lee Ragland are in a runoff. Small, who received 37.1 percent of the vote, ran on the campaign platform of “creative ways to engage students, inform parents, equip educators and promote academic achievement,” according to his website. Ragland, who received 25.45 percent of the vote, ran on a platform of higher graduation rates, transparent and stable leadership, and a balanced budget. He had previously run for the seat in 2013, but was defeated by Sherman Collins Jr. in a runoff.

District 2

This one is too close to call. The unofficial count on Tuesday night saw Terri Michal with 1,717 votes, 50.18 and to Brandon McCray’s 1,705, 49.82, separated by a margin of just 12 votes; provisional ballots, which will be added to the official count next Tuesday, will decide the outcome. Michal ran on a platform of reviewing school contracts to prevent redundancies, increasing community and parenting involvement and implementing a fair employee evaluation system. McCray’s platform focused on accountability and communication between the school board, its employees, and the community.

District 3

 Mary Drennen Boehm scored a decisive win with 70.99 percent of the vote to Larry Contri’s 29.01 percent. Boehm had previously worked for the state’s A+ College Ready initiative and ran on a platform of establishing college readiness benchmarks at each grade level and increasing training and resources for educators. Contri, a 50-year veteran of Birmingham City Schools, had previously served as interim superintendent after the board voted to remove Dr. Kelley Castlin-Gacutan from the position last September.

District 4

Incumbent Daagye Hendricks finished second to former board of education president Edward Maddox. Maddox has 1,790 or 46.92 percent while Hendricks has 1,302, or 34.29 percent. Hendricks’ motto is “All Children Can Succeed, Provided the Tools and Opportunities To Do So.”  During her tenure as the District 4 representative, accreditation was restored for all 44 schools and District 4 reduced schools on the “failing list” by 50 percent. Efforts to reach Maddox for comment were unsuccessful.

District 5

Michael “Mickey” Millsap, an entrepreneurship and innovation professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a science teacher at Livingston High School, received nearly twice the votes of any other candidate, but the eight-person field split the remaining votes forcing a runoff between Millsap and second-place finisher David T. McKinney, a professor at Jefferson State Community College. Millsap received 30.23 percent of the vote; McKinney, 15.36 percent.

District 8

Sonja Q. Smith led the four-way race with 31.44 percent and will meet Patricia Bozeman-Henderson, 29.58 percent, in a runoff. Smith, a political newcomer, said she would focus on making her community’s voice heard on the school board through “advocacy, communication, and transparency.” Bozeman-Henderson previously ran for the seat in 2013; her campaign focused on improving workforce readiness in BCS students and improving community and corporate outreach.