This week, a team from the Alabama Department of Education will replace the Birmingham Board of Education as decision makers for the state's fourth-largest school system.
The move is unprecedented in that the state is not citing the usual reasons for intervention: finances and academic problems. Instead, the team will investigate Birmingham's nine-member elected board for actions and decisions that the state says has caused a "crisis of confidence" in the city school district.
"This was a major decision, and I commend the state superintendent for making it," said former state Superintendent Ed Richardson, who previously has said one of his biggest regrets is that he didn't take over the Birmingham school system when he was superintendent.
The move is clearly within the state's powers, Richardson said. "The issue is that all of the schools are state schools under the state Board of Education, which in turn delegates responsibilities to local boards, if local boards can do it. But if they can't..."