HALEYVILLE - The Haleyville City School system will soon be facing a pivotal election to fill a vacant seat on the school board, as well as vote on two more seats with expiring terms.
The election, normally held to coincide with municipal elections in August, has been moved up to Tuesday, July 12, meaning qualifying for candidates will begin in just a few weeks on Tuesday, May 10, city officials said.
Qualifying will last through Tuesday, May 24, the date of the primary elections.
We have moved it up because we want to have (the) place 2 (winner) take their seat as soon as possible when the school year opens,” stated acting Haleyville City Clerk Christy Harbin, who will be the election manager. “(The school board election) has traditionally been held in August because it usually coincides with our mayor and council election. We do it at the same time to save money.”
Since municipal elections are not being held this August, the school board election was moved ahead about a month to have time to allow any possible run-off election to take place on Aug. 9, the day before the new school year begins on Aug. 10. Run-off elections are held four weeks after the first election, city officials said.
“If we did the election the fourth Tuesday in August, as we normally do, we wouldn’t have the run-off until October,” Harbin pointed out.
Place 2 became officially vacant on the board of education September 28, 2021, the board approved Barry Burleson’s resignation. The City of Haleyville, which has the authority under Alabama law to decide the fate of the vacant seat, decided to let the seat remain vacant until an election could be held, city officials added.
The law currently reads that the city council would “elect a person to fill the vacancy of the unexpired term. The city council may set the time to fill the vacancy.”
This wording could mean either the council could appoint or, if not feasible, call an election, officials said.
Discussions between Haleyville Mayor Ken Sunseri and the board of education last year came to the conclusion that the city could potentially have a conflict of interest in filling the vacancy, due to the affiliation of council members and/or spouses with the school system. Council member Julie “Boo” Brooks could not vote due to being employed by HCS. Council members Blue Russell and Brian Berry both have wives employed by the school system, city officials pointed out.
A school board election was already set for 2022 due to the terms for places 4 and 5 both expiring, so the city decided to have all three seats listed on one ballot, Harbin explained. Kris Burleson currently holds Place 4 and Donna Jones currently holds Place 5. They both won their seats in 2017.
The rules for when school board members take their seats vary, depending on whether the seat is elected or appointed. For instance, by law, board members, when elected or reelected, do not take their seats until the first board meeting in March after the election, city officials said.
“The board of education shall be composed of five members, who shall be elected by public election to six-year terms,” according to wording in the Board Policy Manual of Haleyville City Schools.
However, since place 2 was left vacant because of a resignation, the person elected to that seat will take office at the next board meeting after the election, Harbin added. The person elected to fill the place 2 vacancy will serve the remainder of Barry’s term. Barry was elected to begin his second six-year term on Aug. 28, 2018, and officially began that term in March, 2019. That means, the person elected to fill Barry’s vacancy will serve until that term expires in 2025.
There has not been a set date on when the school board election can be held, only specific dates on when the person elected to that seat takes office, Jeff Mobley, who serves as the attorney for both the City of Haleyville and Haleyville City Schools, explained.
“In this case, given we have two board members who would be taking office in March as the new term begins and another member who would be filling the unexpired term of Barry Burleson, they are trying to get the election sooner than later so that person can be qualified and go ahead and start their board service,” he said.
The city’s budget for a typical election is between $23,000 to $25,000, including costs of having a run-off election, according to Harbin.
Rules for qualifying
Those seeking to qualify to run for a seat on the Haleyville Board of Education must reside in the Haleyville school district.
Polling sites within the Haleyville School District include the Neighborhood Facilities Building and Senior Center in Haleyville, Delmar fire station, Pebble Community Center and Waldrop Free Will Baptist Church in Needmore, city officials said.
Those seeking to qualify must also be over 18 and a registered voter, Harbin added.
According to Alabama Code Title 16, Education, 16-11-2, a person cannot be eligible for election or appointment to a city board of education unless he or she satisfies all of the following requirements:
1) person of good moral character;
2) obtained a high school diploma or equivalent:
3) not employed by that city board of education;
4) is not serving on a governing board of a private elementary or secondary educational institution;
5) is not on the national or state sex offender registries;
6) has not been convicted of a felony.
Qualification packets for candidates will be ready to pick up at City Hall after May 1, which will contain all needed information, Harbin said.
These packets can be returned to Harbin at City Hall between 8 a.m. May 10, and 5 p.m. May 24, she noted. The qualification fee is $50.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.