Home ♃ Recent Stories ☄ Board of Education Contenders and Their Backgrounds

Board of Education Contenders and Their Backgrounds


In the Board of Education elections on August 24, each of the incumbents has challengers while three of the seats have vacancies.

Districts 1,2,3,4 and 7,8 each has incumbents with challengers while Districts 5,6, and 9 have vacancies. Here’s a look at each candidate for the school board.


Sherman Collins Jr. 

Sherman Collins Jr. Dist. 1, BOE

Age: 48
Residence: Birmingham
Political experience: Elected to Board of Education, 2012; ran for City Council, 2019
Professional experience: Business owner
Civic experience: Member of Masonic Lodge Geometry 410; volunteer coach and mentor at Sun Valley Elementary for past 10 years; recipient of NAACP Outstanding Community Service Award
Education: Graduate of Huffman High, 1992, and Samford University, 1996
Main issues: Emphasizing what direction the board will go and having board members who are not tied to special interest groups and charter schools, and who will speak for the students
Campaign: https://www.facebook.com/electshermancollins

Douglas Lee Ragland (Incumbent) 
Age: 64
Residence: Birmingham
Political experience: Ran for District 1 seat in August 2013; elected to District 1 in 2017
Professional experience: Retired educator and administrator, Birmingham City Schools; elementary and middle school teacher, 1978-1989; BCS assistant principal, 1989-1990; elementary school principal in the Eufaula City School System, 1990-1998; BCS K-5 personnel coordinator, 1998-2003; central office hearing officer, 2003-2004; superintendent of Greene County Schools, 2004-2007; superintendent of Midfield City Schools, 2007-2010; BCS Board of Education since 2017
Civic experience: Appointed by Gov. Ivey in 2019 to serve on the Alabama Educational Television Commission for Congressional District 7, as well as the Alabama Educational Television Authority, and confirmed by the Alabama Senate; member, Interstate Military Children’s Commission, 2017-present; Alabama prison ministry training for Julia Tutwiler Prison, 2014-present; Upper Room Fellowship Prison Ministry, 2014-present; Birmingham Public Building Authority Board, 2013-present; executive board of the Birmingham Planning Commission, 2012-present; Birmingham Zoning and Advisory Committee, 2012-present; Birmingham Planning Commission, 2011-present; Upper Room Fellowship Church leadership, 2008-present; Midfield Area Chamber of Commerce, 2007-present
Education: Bachelor’s degree, elementary education, UAB, 1977; master’s, elementary education, UAB, 1978; advanced certification in elementary education, UAB, 1980; master’s level certification in public school administration, 1981; education specialist degree in educational leadership, UAB, 1983; doctorate in educational leadership, UAB and the University of Alabama, 2000
Main Issues: Create responsible board policies to prepare children for global success; provide highly qualified teachers in single classroom; achieve 95% to 100% parental and community involvement in all schools, as well as the district; approve responsible recommendations that don’t infringe on rights, eliminate legal fees; create stability at the superintendent’s position, which in turn would maintain and sustain educational excellence.
Campaign: drdouglasragland.com and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Jerry Tate
Age: 53
Residence: Birmingham
Political experience: Ran for Birmingham Board of Education, 2017
Professional experience: Project management for Alagasco for 26 years
Education: Bachelor’s degree, computer information system, Alabama State University
Civic experience: Bethel Baptist Church, Pratt City; student/parent advocate, Birmingham Education Foundation Board, 25 years; received 2017 City of Birmingham’s Youth Service Award; over 100 volunteer hours for Birmingham City Schools; deacon/Sunday school superintendent; project management professional; Birmingham Council of PTA; vice president of Huffman High PTSA; Alabama PTA field representative: Phillips Academy PTA President; volunteer Birmingham school crossing guard; BCS Committees for Parent Advisory, Textbook, Career Academies and Calendar
Main issues: Give parents, students, community and stakeholders a seat at the table; increase third-grade reading and math proficiency levels; add vocational courses in all middle and high schools; hire an adequate number of teaches aides; add social workers in each school; work to eliminate bullying; add foreign language at all schools; make career academies available for all students; sell or lease vacant school properties to the communities; construct new Huffman and Smith Middle schools; build a new Ramsay High stadium and add major expansion/renovation there; capital improvement plan developed with community input; foster a culture and climate of academic excellence, accountability and transparency; no mandatory registration fees
Campaign: On Facebook, Elect Jerry Tate; and http://www.electtate.com


Terri Michal (Incumbent) 
Age: 56
Residence: Birmingham
Political experience: Elected to school board in 2017 representing District 2.
Professional experience: Employed by Birmingham American Federation of Teachers since 2014
Civic experience: Co-chair, Moral Monday, a movement begun by the South Carolina NAACP; member BATA, a national organization that advocates for public education, since 2013; founded SOS, Support Our Students, in 2012; member of Forward Alabama Arise; member New South Coalition, Jefferson County.
Education: Attended Purdue University
Main issues: She advocates for having a wider variety of options for workplace development and more students to take part. She said the workforce development center on Sixth Avenue South can handle 200 students but typically has 15. She wants to use Cares Act funds not only for remediation but also for mental health and social emotional learning programs, counselors and nurses. “I believe we need to build capacity in that area so we can serve the needs of our own students and not rely on other organizations, that’s why I will be advocating for at least another $7 million to go toward those services.”
Campaign Contacts: TeamTerri2021@gmail.com, Facebook.com/TeamTerri2021 and www.TeamTerri2021.com

Neonta Williams
Age: 45
Residence: Birmingham
Political experience: None
Professional experience: Substance/alcohol abuse counselor (1998 – 2000); U.S. Army, active duty, 2000-2004; HIV/AIDS prevention specialist, 2005-2008; substance abuse counselor, Alabama Department of Corrections, 2008-2011; United Way of Central Alabama 2011-2013; Black Alliance for Educational Options, 2013-2016; executive director, Nashville Rise, 2016-2017; found/executive director, 2017
Civic experience: Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and NAACP
Education: Bachelor of social work, Miles College, 2000; master’s degree in public administration, UAB, 2013
Main issues: Increase parental engagement and involvement; utilize state policies to create local policies that will close the academic gap within BCS; create and maintain partnerships that afford early exposure to career/college
Campaign: https://www.facebook.com/neonta.williams.3


Mary D. Boehm (Incumbent) 
Age: 68
Residence: Birmingham
Political experience: Elected to District 3 Board of Education, 2017
Professional experience: YWCA, 1986-1989; Alabama Power Foundation, 1989-1997; BellSouth/BellSouth Foundation,1997-2007; A+ College Ready, 2007-2017
Civic experience: Board of directors, Ruffner Mountain Nature Center; chairman of volunteers, American Red Cross; YWCA junior board; chairman of Mayor’s Task Force on Refugee Resettlement; member and community adviser of Junior League of Birmingham; founding board member of Voices for Alabama’s Children; Leadership Birmingham; Leadership Alabama; and ex-officio board member of A+ Education Partnership
Education: Bachelor’s degree, biology, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, 1978
Main issues: Continue implementation of BCS Strategic Plan with focus on increasing academic rigor, accountability, and social and emotional learning; address requirement of Alabama Accountability Act that third-grade students read at grade level or be held back; utilize $185M in CARES Act Funding in innovative ways to transform teaching and learning; reverse student enrollment losses and expand the number of students that attend Pre-K program; engage the community in support of the goals of the superintendent and his leadership team
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mary.boehm.980; https://www.boehmforbirmingham.com

Byron “Anti-Charter School” Lagrone
Age: 34
Residence: Sixth Street South, Birmingham
Political experience: None
Professional experience: Director of engineering, Abel Healthcare, 2020-present; configuration management supervisor, CCC Information Services 2019-2020; DevOps Automation Engineer, Stelligent, 2019, and Cotiviti 2016-2019; senior advisor, Apple Inc., 2013-2016; technical support adviser, Integrated Solutions, 2010-2013
Civic experience: TEALS computer science volunteer, Shades Valley High School, 2018-present; technology board, Glen Iris Neighborhood Association; Eagle Scout with projects in Leeds and the Birmingham metro area
Education: Attended University of Phoenix, 2008-2014; Auburn University 2005-2007; graduated from Shades Valley High School, 2005
Main issues: Advocate for teachers, students and parents; promote transparency; recovery from the pandemic’s effects on students, eduucators and parents
Campaign: https://www.facebook.com/ByronLagroneBoE/


Derek L. Billups 
Age: 46
Residence: Woodlawn
Political experience: None
Professional experience: Director of education and workforce development, Woodlawn Foundation, 2019-2021; science teacher/assistant principal at Birmingham, Jefferson County and Hoover school systems, 2005-2019; chemical plant operator, Sloss Industrial Corp., 1999-2001
Civic experience: Youth Leadership Development Program Advisory Committee 2019-2021; Birmingham Tech Council Advisory Committee, 2020-2021; Youth Leadership Forum, 2020; Hope Street Ministries Outreach, 2016-2021;
Advent Episcopal Day School basketball coach, 2010-2019; South Side Baseball Board of Directors, 2016-2019; Church of the Highlands Dream Center Team Leader 2010-2019
Education: Bachelor’s degree, University of Alabama, 1998; master’s degree in divinity, Samford University, 2004; master’s degree in education, UA, 2012.
Main issues: More accountability, collaboration and transparency in school system culture; continuity within the district and school leadership; advancement and innovations in the academic realm; better student preparedness and access to career and college pathways; improved school safety; better budget management and more community engagement in the schools
Campaign: Billups4BOE@gmail.com

Daagye Hendricks (Incumbent)
Age: 43
Residence: Birmingham
Political experience: Elected to Birmingham Board of Education, District 4, in 2013; current board president.
Professional experience: Patient navigator at UAB Kidney Transplant
Civic experience: Has worked with young people for more than 20 years; member of the Vulcan Kiwanis, Birmingham Holocaust Education Committee, Birmingham Chapter of The Links, Inc., Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and vice president of the Central Alabama Clark Atlanta Alumni Association Chapter; previously involved with the National Council for Community Justice and Norwood Resource Center boards, graduate of Leadership Birmingham, 2017; founding member of the Birmingham Urban League Young Professionals.
Education: Homewood and Shades Valley high schools; Bachelor of Arts in finance from Clark Atlanta University, 1996
Main issues: “I am running as a public servant to the parents, teachers and students in my district.”
Campaign: www.DaagyeHendricks.com; Facebook, Daagye Hendricks for Birmingham School Board District 4 and Support Daagye Hendricks


James A. Sullivan 
Age: 38
Residence: Central City
Political experience: None
Professional experience: Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, 2005-2010; Southern Company, entrepreneur, investor, 2010-present
Civic experience: Board member, Central City Neighborhood Association (downtown Birmingham); Birmingham Artwalk and Home Owners Association; president, board of trustees, Birmingham Public Library; co-chair, Public Athletic, Cultural and Entertainment (PACE) Facilities Board; affiliation with 100 Black Men of Metro Birmingham, Birmingham Change Fund, Associated Investors of Alabama Inc.; member, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.
Education: Bachelor of science, business management, Stillman College, 2005; master of science, management, Faulkner University, 2007; certified financial education instructor, 2015
Main issues: Promote strategic partners and relationships through programs that focus on mentoring, parental outreach, conflict resolution and violence prevention, youth entrepreneurship, investing, and financial education; hold leadership accountable through the 5 C framework, which is working through a common purpose, setting clear expectations, communicating and aligning team members, coaching and collaborating with each other, and making results and consequences visible; make disciplinary and promotional decisions more just through clear policies and procedures; increase investment in asset management, technology & COVID-19 lost learning
Campaign: FB: Committee to Elect James A. Sullivan

David Tarell McKinney
Age: 38
Residence: Birmingham
Political experience: Candidate for Birmingham Board of Education, District 5, 2017
Professional experience: Educator for 15 years, professor at Jefferson State Community College; taught at Miles College, UAB and the University of Alabama
Education: Bachelor’s degree, communication, Troy University; master’s degree, communication management, UAB; educational specialist degree in instructional technology, University of Alabama; currently a doctoral candidate in the educational leadership program at the University of Alabama
Civic experience: Educational coach to recruit and retain Black male educators, K-12; educational board member; high school dual enrollment instructor; advisory committees to fight for teacher tenure; Leaders of Color Pathways Initiative member and youth mentor
Main issues: Advocate for culturally relevant curriculum; prepare students to meet the reading requirements for the Literacy Act of 2023; more after-school programs and activities that will provide remediation and motivation toward academic success develop guidelines that support the pandemic recovery; create a three-year teacher mentoring program to prepare and retain new teachers; prepare students with the technological skills needed to be competitive in the global market; give the community a voice in working with the school system to develop relationships that support academic success


Jamaree Collins 
Age: 32
Residence: North Titusville
Political Experience: None
Professional experience: Founder, I AmGreatness Inc. Mentoring
Civic experience: Susan G. Komen North Central “Kids for the Cure” committee co-chair,2017-2020; Magic City Aids Walk committee, 2015-2017; Sidewalk Film Festival committee, 2018-19, and volunteer 2012-present; Blue Key Honor Society, lifetime membership); tutor, STAIR Birmingham reading program; instructor, DISCO Poetry Workshops; helped build playgrounds for Hemphill Elementary, South Hampton K-8 and Oak Grove Elementary; community partner, STRAP Foundation School Tour; volunteer, Boy Scouts of America; Birmingham Education Foundation, American Red Cross, Salvation Army and Alabama Possible “Cash for College” Workshops
Education: Booker T. Washington, K-8; A.H. Parker High; bachelor of science in psychology, University of West Alabama
Main issues: Leading recovery of Birmingham City Schools from the COVID pandemic, with every aspect rating a high priority
Campaign: Facebook, Jamaree’ Collins

Leticia Watkins
Age: 36
Residence: Titusville
Political experience: None
Professional experience: Scientist, Pharmaceutical Product Development; assistant program director, UAB; director of children and youth, Sixth Avenue Baptist Church
Residence: Launched free student center for BCS remote learners during pandemic; directed meal program that served over 40,000 meals to BCS students during pandemic; created school-based mentoring program in West End; partnered with Birmingham Talks to bring early literacy classes to District 6 families; president of Titusville Youth Sports Association; member of Birmingham Coalition for Student Mental Health and adviser of Solutions (youth conflict resolution initiative)
Education: Bachelor of science in biology, minor in chemistry, Virginia Commonwealth University; master’s in medical science, UAB
Main Issues: With the Alabama Literacy Act requiring that third graders read at grade level to advance to the next grade and students losing roughly 18 months of traditional classroom instruction due to the pandemic, prioritizing literacy improvements is critical; the growing challenge of student mental health; educational inequity, with emphasis on literacy, improved school-based mental health, and dismantling of racial and educational disparities.
Campaign: Website www.leticiawatkins.com ; Facebook @leticiaforschoolboard

Yancey Williams Sr.
Residence: Birmingham
Professional experience: U.S. Navy; works at Birmingham City Schools; founder of Birmingham Magic Lacrosse
Education: A.H. Parker High School, bachelor’s from Miles College; master’s in education and education specialist degree from UAB Mission: Students over politics
Campaign: www.yanceywilliams.org


Walter “Big Walt” Wilson (Incumbent)
Age: 47
Political experience: Won the seat in a special election in January, took office in February; Alabama constable, districts 57, 2012, 2016; ran unsuccessfully for Birmingham City Council District 7, 2009.
Professional experience: Area wide brush and trash supervisor, city of Birmingham Department of Public Works, 1999-present; substitute teacher, Birmingham City Schools, 2005; assistant football coach, Wenonah High, 1995-2009.
Civic experience: Executive board member, Laborers International Union of North America 559, 2017; parent community coordinator, Wenonah High, 2016; founder and executive director of Southwest Alliance Association Inc., 2005; founder of Wenonah Young Dragons Youth Football, 2006; founder of Roosevelt City Spartans Youth Football, 2012; softball coach, Partners of Neighborhood Growth; basketball coach, Police Athletics Teams; coach, Piper Davis Baseball, 1989-2017.
Education: Lawson State Community College, barber’s degree, 1993; American Intercontinental University, associates degree, business administration, 2006; Victory Christian Academy, 1992
Main issues: In 2017, Wilson said one of his main intentions was to “improve curriculum; ensuring that we hire and continue training of highly qualified teachers, especially in the areas of reading, science and mathematics. I want to address ensuring that adequate funding and support are available for extra-curricular activities. Most importantly, I will address making parental involvement a priority.”


Anoinette “Toni” King 
Age: 44
Residence: Ensley
Political experience: None
Professional experience: Emergency communications director, 911/ 311, City of Birmingham
Education: High school, some college
Civic experience: Public relations director for C4 Mentoring (volunteer position), NENA membership, APCO membership
Main issues: BCS needs stronger academics and vocational opportunities, and it should prepare students for college and the workforce; stronger vocational education; see that protocols are in place to ensure students are emotionally able to be in an environment with others after the pandemic; implement social-emotional learning
Campaign: Facebook: Elect Toni King BOE District 8

Curtis Tyrone Robinson
Age: 67
Residence: Birmingham
Political experience: None
Civic experience: Adjunct professor, Miles College; chaplain, Childrens Hospital of Alabama; U.S. Reserve Naval Chaplain Corp.; Christian Methodist Episcopal Church pastor
Education: Doctorate of ministry, Chicago Theological Seminary; master of arts, public affairs, UAB; bachelor of arts, sociology, Miles College; NAACP, community addressing school issues, Lake Interfaith Families Together
Main issues: The need to eliminate the practice of contracting out educational services to be delivered to BSC students, such as a three-year, $1.3 million contract with the Southern Research Education Board in 2017 to provide professional services to teachers and staff

Sonja Smith (Incumbent) 
Age: 40
Residence: Birmingham, Belview Heights neighborhood
Political experience: Elected to Birmingham Board of Education, District 8, 2017
Professional experience: Program manager for UAB’s Lifespan Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center; self-employed piano teacher; deputy director and project manager for Birmingham’s League Southern Museum; project coordinator of Enroll Alabama AIDS; assistant branch manager of Woodforest National Bank, Birmingham; adjunct music professor at Malcolm X College; high school teacher, Chicago
Education: Master’s in music, piano pedagogy, Louisiana State University, 2006; bachelor of arts, music/business administration, Birmingham-Southern College, 2003; certificate programs at UAB in project management, 2017; Harvard University, Public Education in Leadership Program, 2018; University of South Florida Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace, 2021
Civic experience: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, 2000-present; vestry of Chicago Church of the Ascension, 2007-2012; diocesan convention delegate, 2009; Birmingham Public Library Young Adult Board, 2015-2016; Birmingham Episcopal Campus Ministries Advisory Board, 2015-2018; Belview Heights Neighborhood Association, 2019-present; Birmingham Museum of Art Trustee Board, 2019-2020; Episcopal Diocese of Alabama bishop search team, 2019-2020; St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 1981-2004 and 2012-present, vestry member 2019-present (secretary in 2020); Five Points West Committee Framework Plan Committee, 2019-present; Flourish Alabama board, 2020-present, secretary; the Episcopal Church General Convention volunteer, 2009 & 2012; volunteer, Pathways, Community Food Bank of Alabama, AIDS Alabama, Better Basics
Main issues: Preparing third-grade students to be proficient readers to pass the Alabama Literacy Act exam; providing additional support for teachers by way of classroom aides to lower our student/teacher ratio and allow for more individualized student learning plans; supporting students physically and emotionally by expanding school-based health clinic partnership with ARMS; ensuring all students are college and career ready upon graduation
Campaign: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=23430204

Antwon Bernard Womack
Residence: Birmingham
Political experience: Ran for mayor of Tarrant in 2008; Ran for BOE District 6 in 2009, dropped out of race; ran for BOE in 2010, later withdrew; ran again in 2013 for BOE
Campaign: Antwonwomack2021@gmail.com; Facebook: Antwon Womack for Birmingham BOE 2021


Le’Darius Hilliard 
Age: 33
Residence: Pratt City, Birmingham.
Political experience: Unsuccessful run for Alabama House of Representatives District 60, 2018; elected to state and county Democratic Executive Committee, 2016; currently services on state Democratic Executive Committee, 2016-president.
Professional experience: Interned at the law office of Hilliard, Smith & Hunt LLC, 2011- 2013; Alabama Education Association Consultant, in Birmingham, Bessemer and Fairfield schools; 2014-2016; One Touch Consulting LLC, 2015-present
Education: St. Paul Elementary School; Daniel Payne Middle School; Jackson Olin High School; Minor High School; Jefferson State Community College; Meridian College, Meridian, Mississippi
Civic experience: Led efforts to stop arsons in Ensley; led efforts against legislation that took $40 million dollars from Birmingham City Schools; led the fight to raise the minimum wage and co-wrote the ordinance that passed for the city of Birmingham; president of Jefferson County Millennial Democrats (Formerly Young Democrats), which won Local Chapter of the Year for work on minimum wage; awarded NAACP Man of the Year; organized efforts to fight for Medicaid expansion; presented legislation for the City Council to enact a Domestic Violence Housing Ordinance to protect victims as it relates to lease or rental agreements; led efforts for kids that witnessed shootings to receive free counseling; former president of Pratt City Youth Organization; associate minister at Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church of North Pratt.
Main issues: Upgrade technology in classrooms; support mental health and social resources; reinvest in career technical training classes; collaborate with churches and nonprofits to support students outside of school; invest in student-led programs; and promote financial literacy curriculum as well as black history studies.
Campaign: FaceBook: Le’Darius Hilliard

Jason Meadows
Age: 40
Residence: Birmingham
Political experience: None
Civic experience: Merchandise sales/customer care, Alabama Power Co., 2015-2018; Woodlawn Foundation, 2018-current; youth assistant professor at Emanuel Temple, 2005-current.
Education: University of Alabama, degree in marketing, 2003
Main issues: Development of certified skills and trade academy pathway with agreements with corporations for employment; social-oriented emotional support for students and their families; stronger support for teachers and staff; comprehensive plan for technology resources for students.
Campaign: https://www.votemeadows.org/, https://www.facebook.com/jason.meadows.54738

Susan Diane Mitchell 
Residence: Birmingham
Age: 54
Professional experience: Owner, Divine Inspiration; founder, Community Visionary, Emancipatory Community Educator at Dynamite Hill-Smithfield Community Land Trust; high priestess at Udja Temple Ministries, an online ministry consecrated to the teachings that the Afrikan woman is divine.
Education: Studied transformative studies at California Institute of Integral Studies; studied literature at UAB; English at Jacksonville State University; Spanish at Spelman College
Campaign: FaceBook/susandiane.mitchell; susan4d9.com

birminghamwatch.org compiled the experience, education, contributors and main issues for each candidate. For more political coverage visit birminghamwatch.org.