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Mayor Woodfin To All ‘Lazy’ Birmingham School Teachers: ‘Resign … We Don’t Want You’

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin during a press conference on Tuesday at City Hall. (Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson)

By Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson

The Birmingham Times

Saying a “C” grade was unacceptable for Birmingham City Schools, Mayor Randall Woodfin on Tuesday called on all city schoolteachers who are lazy and don’t care about their students to “resign or retire.”

Birmingham City Schools received a letter grade of C on the most recent State Report Card released December 14 by the Alabama State Board of Education.

“C’s, in my humble opinion, are unacceptable … although a 72 is passing – it doesn’t cut it,” said the mayor.

In one of his most fiery education speeches since being elected to a first term in 2017, Woodfin said during a City Hall press conference that his passion for city schools “was personal” and what he was seeing from some in the school system was “unacceptable” — a word he used several times in his analysis of the system.

“If you are a teacher in the Birmingham City Schools and you are lazy and you’re doing the bare minimum or you don’t care about the children that come into your class, please resign. Please retire. Please leave. We don’t want you,” Woodfin said.

Woodfin, getting over a sinus infection, was at City Hall to talk about several of his initiatives from the year but saved his most pointed comments for the education system – and for a reason, he said.

“I attended Birmingham City Schools K-8 so this is personal,” the mayor said. “My mother was a teacher for 11 years in the county schools and my stepmother was a teacher for 33 years in Birmingham City Schools.”

Woodfin, a former Birmingham City Schools Board of Education president, talked about mentoring a group of six-, seven- and eight-grade boys shortly after graduating college and telling them that getting C’s and being comfortable with C’s meant the following: “That you were either lazy, didn’t care or doing the bare minimum.”

“The same thing I would say to those boys I would tell every adult employed with the Birmingham School system,” Woodfin said. “C’s, in my humble opinion, are unacceptable … Our children deserve A’s and B’s – not just the actual school. Not just the district.”

“…No, I’m not the superintendent, no, I am not the school board,” Woodfin said, “but I am the mayor of the city where I think everything we are attempting to do is directly attached education.”

Efforts to reach Birmingham City Schools superintendent Mark Sullivan for comment were unsuccessful.

The mayor went on to say he was not pointing fingers. “There is no time to blame teachers, there is no time to blame students, or parents or any adult group [and] that includes the school board or superintendent. We’re all accountable,” he said. “If you are an adult in this community, we are all responsible for educating our children … and we should not accept F’s and we should not be comfortable with C’s because these are our children.”

Woodfin said he understood that a number of principals and teachers do care. “Kudos to the teachers that are busting their butt every single day and giving everything, that they love their children and that they are passionate about presenting and being in front of their children, and what they do goes well beyond 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” he said.

Shining Example

Woodfin pointed to one Birmingham City School and its principal that everyone should be proud of, he said. Central Park Elementary School moved from a grade of F to a grade of C, according to the state report card.

“This principal (Rafiq Vaughn) has only been in the district three semesters … so in one school year, he moved that system from an F to a C. That is hard,” said Woodfin, pointing out that if can be done at Central if can be done at other schools as well.

The mayor said he asked the principal how he did it and Vaughn replied that he “’made more deposits into my human capital than withdrawals.’ He invested more into his teachers … washed their cars … staying after school late with them …  arrived early with them … figuring out their needs and wants so they can maximize their time in front of their children.”

Click to see a table of schools.