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Huntsville’s School Board President stands behind superintendent search process

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - For the first time since the SCLC's news conference Friday morning, School Board President Elisa Ferrell is answering questions about the religious group's criticism.

Ferrell is insistent the school board did everything right, from selecting finalists for superintendent, to picking their man, Dr. Matt Akin.

Despite calls by the group for a new search process, she says in no uncertain terms, that won't happen.

"There's no need for us to do that again," said Ferrell.

The dream of every school board is to have a tough decision between several qualified finalists. That's exactly what Ferrell claims happened, and that Dr. Akin deserved to come out on top.

"It's basically who’s going to be the best fit for our community and that’s why I decided to choose Dr. Akin," explained Ferrell.

The SCLC accused the board of using unfounded, anonymous plagiarism claims against Dr. Katrise Perera, the religious group's preferred choice for superintendent, but Ferrell insists that had no bearing on the decision.

"When we get anonymous things like that it’s hard to take them seriously. None of us really put any credence into it. By the time I had received it on Saturday, I had already determined who I was going to vote for and that didn’t play into my decision at all," she said.

Now Ferrell wants to move forward in finalizing Dr. Akin's candidate, and with good reason. The clock is ticking.

When Dr. Wardynski resigned, the district was given 180 days by the Alabama Board of Education to find his replacement.

"And that runs out March 15th and after that time, we would either have to receive a waiver from the state to continue looking or they would put someone in place," said Ferrell.

Even receiving a state waiver wouldn't buy the district much time.

"The state has not really given anyone else waivers, and when they do, it's one or two days to accommodate someone moving or leaving another system but it is not three or four or five months," she said.

So even if the board wanted to grant the SCLC's request for a new superintendent search, restarting all over again would guarantee the state would take over Huntsville City Schools.

"It would be after the next school year starts before that would be completed which is unreasonable to expect. We are in the middle of a desegregation order. We need someone at the helm to help complete the processes we've already started," she said.

Thursday night, the school board voted to offer Matt Akin a three-year contract, with him making just under $180,000 a year.

Akin is expected to present a counter-offer on Monday.

If that happens, Ferrell said the board will likely call a special meeting Tuesday to review it.

Meanwhile, the SCLC said they haven't ruled out suing the district over the process they used to hire a new superintendent.