The Hoover City Council tonight appointed commercial real estate manager Alan Paquette as the next member of the Hoover Board of Education, despite some concerns about this year’s selection process.
Paquette, a 55-year-old Chace Lake resident who has been vice president of property management for Jim Wilson & Associates since 2007, will replace Deanna Bamman on the school board when her five-year term expires at the end of May. The Galleries at 3000 Riverchase, formerly known as the Riverchase Galleria office tower, is one of the properties Paquette manages.
Paquette, who also will have a five-year term, was one of 15 people who applied for this year’s school board opening, though one withdrew his name from consideration.
Steve McClinton, chairman of the City Council’s Education Committee, said there were a lot of great applicants this year, but Paquette stood out because of his strong business mindset and being a very well respected and established member of the community, having lived in Hoover 27 years.
Paquette also is someone with a lot of discernment who knows how to “work well and play well with others,” McClinton said.
He seemed to have a good grasp of the need to have a good plan for helping students recover any learning losses experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic and has a good understanding of how the Hoover school system pays for about 300 teachers out of local revenues and how important those local revenues are, McClinton said.
Councilman Sam Swiney said that Paquette is very well qualified and that his business acumen and background will be an asset to the school board. Paquette also seemed very knowledgeable when discussing school system issues during interviews the council held on April 14, Swiney said.
“He’s a well respected member of the community, and he’s in it for the right reasons, and I think he’ll do a great job,” Swiney said.
CONCERNS OVER PROCESS
Five of the seven council members voted in favor of Paquette’s nomination. Councilman Casey Middlebrooks abstained, citing the fact he is employed by the Hoover Board of Education. Councilman Derrick Murphy also abstained, citing concerns with the selection process this year.
For many years, including the past four years when Murphy was chairman of the Education Committee, all applicants had a chance to participate in interviews with the City Council. This year, the new chairman, McClinton, chose to have the council narrow the candidate pool from 14 applicants to seven finalists and only interview the finalists.
Some people in the community expressed concern that none of the three Black applicants made the finalist list or had a chance to interview with the council.
Members of a group called Hoover-AHEAD, which has a mission of celebrating diversity and promoting equity and inclusion, sent a letter to the mayor and City Council, expressing dissatisfaction with this year’s process.
“Our school system is comprised of 25% Black/African American students who should be equitably represented on our appointed school board given the weight and gravity of the decisions the board makes that impact all students,” the letter stated. “Your process and decisions leave our organization wondering if our leadership shares our commitment to community, equity, inclusion, and to the minority students who attend Hoover City Schools.”
The group also noted that the Hoover school system is required to report at least twice a year to the federal judge overseeing a decades-old Jefferson County school desegregation lawsuit.
“We expect the lack of transparency and diversity in this selection process will be communicated in the upcoming report and could negatively impact the judge’s opinion of our progress,” the letter from Hoover-AHEAD said. “Furthermore, we expect it to deter Black/African American teachers from applying within our system, a critical focus of the desegregation order. We hope you consider the power you hold in making an important decision that will continue to move Hoover ahead.”
Cherinita Reese, a Black Ross Bridge resident on the Hoover Library Board, also wrote a letter to councilmen, expressing concern. She wrote that she sometimes has heard that one reason more minorities are not on city boards is because there aren’t many openings or minorities do not apply.
So when minorities do apply, some should at least be given a chance to interview, Reese said.
“We should ALWAYS strive to get a diverse group of skill AND representative race/ethnicities to these interviewing tables, especially of our African American neighbors, since it’s the second largest demographic in our district, even if it’s just to expose others to their voices as they consider other leadership opportunities,” Reese wrote.
The fact that all the City Council members who conducted this year’s interviews are Caucasian males (when the city is preaching diversity) also doesn’t look good, Reese wrote.
The Hoover Board of Education has one Black member out of five currently.
MCCLINTON: RACE NOT A FACTOR
McClinton said race did not play a role in the selection of the seven finalists for this year’s school board opening, noting there was nothing about race on the application. Each councilman on the committee was given a copy of all 15 applications, and McClinton said he asked each councilman, except Middlebrooks, to name their top seven candidates in order to pick the finalists.
The focus was on the content of their application, not the color of their skin, McClinton said. “Looking at someone’s race is like profiling,” he said. “Let’s pick the best person.”
McClinton said he viewed it much like a football coach chooses which players to make the starting lineup. “Does a coach care what color the quarterback is if he wins?” McClinton said.
Also, there is more to diversity than just race, he said. Gender and representation from different parts of Hoover also elements when considering diversity, he said.
Similarly, there is nothing that requires the City Council to interview everyone who applies for a position, McClinton said. That’s not the typical practice in the corporate world, he said.
McClinton tonight noted that both he and Councilman Curt Posey previously applied to be appointed to the Hoover Board of Education in years past, but neither was appointed. “We know how it feels,” he said.
Paquette tonight also noted that he applied for the school board three years ago and was not appointed.
“I understand the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, so to speak,” Paquette said. “But I’m looking forward to getting started and working with the great board you already have and the administration.”
Paquette thanked the City Council for putting its trust in him and said he will work hard not to disappoint the council and to represent the city and schools in the very best way he can. Over the next five years, he hopes to put his fingerprints into some positive things for the school system, he said. “This is a great honor, and I appreciate it.”
To see a video of Paquette’s interview with the City Council and written answers to questions from the council, click here. Interviews with the other finalists and their written answers can be found here.
To see biography summaries of all the original 15 applicants, go here.