Alabama State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice said that the state's takeover of the Birmingham school system was intended to end its reputation for being top heavy with administrators, and he will do that with or without the cooperation of the city school board.
The state Department of Education took over the system Wednesday after the Birmingham board failed to agree on a cost-cutting plan. The state Board of Education met Thursday to implement Bice's management plan.
The management plan provides for former state school superintendent Ed Richardson to serve as Birmingham's chief financial officer, and it says his decisions are subject to review only by the state superintendent. Birmingham Superintendent Craig Witherspoon will remain in place to handle some administrative duties.
Bice said it's up to the Birmingham board whether changes are done collaboratively or by the state. If the board doesn't want to work together on cutting staff and curtailing costs, "I feel well suited to make those decisions," he said.
In a phone interview, Birmingham school board President Phyllis Wyne said she didn't want the takeover, but she is determined to work with state officials "to make sure Birmingham schools become better for it."
"I do understand if we don't cooperate, we lose even more rights," said Wyne, who has served on the board since 2002.
Bice said Birmingham's student population has shrunk over the last decade, including losing 800 in the last year, and is down to about 25,000. But he said the administrative staff has not been cut to reflect the decline.