Craig Witherspoon should be allowed back on the job tomorrow morning, after being locked out of his office on Tuesday. The court has granted a temporary restraining order on behalf of Witherspoon, effectively reinstating him as the superintendent of Birmingham Schools.
Witherspoon's attorney U.W. Clemon filed the temporary restraining order for his client and says the court granted the order late Wednesday afternoon. Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Scott Vowell ruled that Witherspoon should be reinstated as the superintendent.
During Tuesday night's Birmingham Board of Education meeting, the board voted to fire Witherspoon. Birmingham City School Board President Edward Maddox made the motion to terminate Dr. Witherspoon and five of eight board members voted in favor of the termination. They then appointed Samuetta Drew as the interim superintendent.
Acting CFO Ed Richardson tried to stand up to comment after the vote, but was told he was not on the agenda and could not speak. The Birmingham School System is currently under a financial takeover by the State Department of Education and Richardson was appointed as CFO and lead investigator by State Superintendent Tommy Bice. Richardson says because Witherspoon's firing would involve financial decisions, he has the power to move in and override any decision based on finances. The State quickly vetoed the Birmingham BOE's vote to fire Witherspoon.
Clemon says the locks to the Birmingham Superintendent's office were changed sometime after the meeting and that his client cannot get into his office and gather his personal effects. Witherspoon's work cellphone has also been disconnected from service, according to Clemon.
The restraining order filed on Witherspoon's behalf will do so on a claim of wrongful termination. Clemon says the Birmingham BOE violated Witherspoon's contract by firing him without a 60 days notice and hopes to have a hearing on the restraining order Wednesday or Thursday.
"The superintendent is committed to fight for his legal rights and that means his right of 60 days notice," Clemon said.
Clemon, Alabama's first black federal judge who retired in 2009, says a young attorney for the Birmingham Board of Education gave him the "professional courtesy" of warning him about possible sanctions because of the restraining order. The attorney told him the filing was frivolous. Clemon says he laughed.
The interim superintendent appointed by the school board, Samuetta Drew, says her focus is on the students and getting schools open by Aug. 20.
"What is important is teachers are in place. The people who support schools are in place," Drew said.
Birmingham Board of Education president Ed Maddox and an attorney for the board met with State Superintendent Tommy Bice for much of the afternoon in Montgomery. They did not resolve their differences and have scheduled another meeting for Thursday. Bice will not release a statement today.
In related news, a new Facebook group consisting of concerned parents and Birmingham residents has come together. The group is called SAVE BIRMINGHAM'S SCHOOLS FROM THEIR BOARD. At the time of this writing, they had 293 members.
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