The Phenix City Council replaced two members of the Phenix City School Board Tuesday. Board President Eddie Lowe was replaced by Barbara Mitchell, and Vice President Lori B. White was replaced with Fran Ellis.
The vote to appoint the new members came after a failed motion to reappoint the two, who have both served on the board for 10 years.
When Max Wilkes made a motion to reappoint both members, no one seconded his motion. So, Mayor Sonny Coulter passed the gavel to Mayor Pro Tem Arthur Sumbry, so that he could second the motion.
"Mr. Lowe and Mrs. White have helped lead our schools to unprecedented growth and academic achievement over the years," Wilkes said. "Both of these individuals have represented our schools and this city with the utmost class and professionalism and are deserving of our nomination and vote of support."
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Coulter echoed his sentiment.
"You couldn't ask two people to do more for a school system than these two people have done," Coulter said. "They deserve nothing less than reappointment."
However, councilors Sumbry, Jimmy Wetzel and Michelle Walker voted against their reappointment, leaving the motion dead in the two-three vote.
After the vote, Coulter regained the gavel and Walker nominated Mitchell to replace Lowe.
Walker, Wetzel and Sumbry voted in favor of Mitchell, while Coulter and Wilkes voted against the move.
Wetzel then recommended Ellis to replace White.
"In my opinion, there needs to be input - when decisions are made affecting the school system - there needs to be people who have been there in education," Wetzel said, explaining the replacements during the meeting. "Both of these ladies are retired. They have a lot of years of experience. They've both got some age on them. They've got wisdom. I certainly recognize the 10 years that the other two people have served and I think the city of Phenix City appreciates that service and what they've done. But there are also many other people in our community who would like to serve, who have something to give in that area. I think this will balance our school board with people who have some background in education."
The motion carried four to one, with Wilkes being the only person to vote against the appointment of Ellis.
The new members will serve five years beginning in June. There are five other members on the board: Florence Bellamy, Matt Shirley, Paul Stamp, Frankie Horace and Mike Benefield.
White was in the audience, when the vote was taken.
"Of course I'm saddened that I won't be there anymore. I know Ms. Ellis; she is an excellent lady. She is very knowledgeable about education. I'm just thankful that they've chosen someone like her to replace me," White said. "We've got a good superintendent and an excellent staff and that's how those of us who maybe aren't educators know what we need to do."
When reached by phone Lowe said the vote came as no surprise to him.
“That's not a surprise to me," Lowe said. "They have the authority to decide who they want on it and that's what they did. They exercised their right."
Lowe and White's terms will end June 20. Their last board meeting will be May 13.
"I've enjoyed serving on the board. I served for the right reasons," Lowe said. "I've always been involved in the school system and I always will be involved in the school system. Seasons come and seasons go."
Both Lowe and White expressed an interest in remaining on the board, sending the council a letter of their continued interest.
"We have to give them a notice whether we want to be reappointed," Lowe said. "They don't have to give a reason why they decided not to appoint us. They have their reasons."