MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - With the fate of nearly 32,000 students hanging in the balance, board members spent their Saturday afternoon deciding who would get the chance to lead the Montgomery Public School System.
But it wasn't easy. After deciding how to vote, the tallies stacked closely.
The vote leaned in Dr. Samantha Ingram of South Carolina.
Dr. Barbara Thompson from Wisconsin earned Second place, with Interim Superintendent Clay Slagle trailing in third.
"I think it's only fair for us to continue to keep Mr. Slagle as part of this process," said board member Charlotte Meadows after the vote.
"Why are we prolonging something that's inevitable," asked board member Mary Briers.
Against the advice of the system's consulting firm listening over the phone, the board stuck with their original plan, cutting Slagle and Dr. Angela Mangum from the list.
But the decision doesn't sit well with some officials.
"When you look through all the paperwork, all of it was filled out by principals, by the community [...] and they all were undoubtedly for Clay," explained board member Heather Sellers.
Opponents say they want someone with a strong educational background.
""I want to know. Would you hire a surgeon that couldn't operate?" asked Briers.
"Just because you're a surgeon, doesn't mean you can run the hospital, Meadows said.
Business sense, according to others, could help by leaps and bounds.
"We really need someone who can be a leader of every aspect of the school system," Meadows said.
Don't forget the two remaining candidates.. Dr. Barbara Thompson has years of experience under her belt, but she presides over a tiny school system.
She's got 882 students there this year. That's about the size of our largest elementary school," Meadows said.
Dr. Samantha Ingram runs a slightly larger school district, but she's admitted to a controversial past as an administrator. She also says it's helped her experience.
Here at home, some board members agree.
"Anytime you do changes and you get rid of non tenured teachers as well as tenured teachers, you're going to have some enemies," Briers explained.
Either way, a constructive weekend meeting--meant to better the school system--has no doubt caused a bit of contention.
"I'm thinking about resigning from the school board. I'm not sure that this city needs me," Meadows said.
"I don't see [the remaining candidates] stacking up anywhere near what we have currently with Clay," Sellers said.
Now, the search process continues. Board members will visit the candidate's school systems.
They tell WSFA 12 News they reserve the right to restart the selection of the new superintendent if they find something they don't like.