Putting controversy to rest

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - When the mayor and the Montgomery County school board president called a news conference Monday morning it was to demonstrate unity among the participants.  Although their words spoke of togetherness, the ending of the news conference was far from harmonious.

They all tried to put the ill feelings and disagreements aside. "The chamber supports public education. The chamber supports this board and the chamber will support the superintendent selected by this board," says Daniel Hughes, Board Chairman of Commerce.

"We're going to face some extremely difficult financial years ahead," said Representative John Knight. "Now is not the time for us to be divided along racial lines, social economic lines or any other lines."

Everyone agreed that the controversy over the selection of the next school superintendnet is not about race. "The rhetoric that we have had over the last two weeks, we're past that, we're beyond that, we're above that. This is thirty years ago rhetoric," explained Mayor Todd Strange.

The dispute is divided along racial lines, with whites appearing to want Clay Slagel and blacks seemingly want one of the two finalists who are both black.

The president of the city council, Charles Jinright, says he didn't know that Slagel didn't meet the qualifications by law when he accused the black board members of not voting for him because he's white.  "I am better informed today than I was a month ago about the school board and what their credentials were," Jinright said. "I wish I had known what a superintendent's credentials had to be."

The mayor said, there are waivers and exceptions to that law, but a board member disagreed with that.  "You know you can take information and make it say whatever you want it to say Mayor Todd and I realize that but if you're going to give section 16-9-2, give it all," said school board member Mary Briers.

The mayor said the qualifications of Clay Slagel is a non-issue because he's not one of the two finalists and there are some board members who are still upset about that.