Decision time: BOE candidates hope council decision comes Thursday

Published 10:16 am Wednesday, June 20, 2012

When the bang of the gavel brings the Demopolis City Council into session Thursday night, the hot button issue on the agenda will be a long-debated board of education seat.

The seat, which is currently being kept warm by Bobby Armstead until an appointment can be made, has been on the agenda for months, continually provoking a deadlocked vote from the council.

Armstead’s second term on the board expired June 1, prompting a need to fill the spot and punctuate a decade of service by the long-standing Demopolis board member.

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The council’s first attempt to find Armstead’s successor came in May when Councilman Thomas Moore nominated Freddie Armstead Jr. and Demopolis Mayor Mike Grayson put Conrad Murdock’s name into consideration. Two weeks later, the council split 3-3 on each candidate.

When nominations opened again June 1, the same names surfaced again. The council is scheduled to vote on the matter again Thursday night.

While the outcome remains undecided, both candidates for the spot expressed their desire for resolution to be reached.

“I was really hoping, personally, the city council would get together and make a decision on one of us and let it be,” Murdock said of the split decision hanging up the board. “My feelings wouldn’t be hurt and neither would Freddie’s. Both of us actually want the best for the Demopolis City Schools.”

“I hope at some point and time, they can get to that point where they can go ahead and make an appointment. I don’t know if it will be either me or Conrad. It may not be either one of us at all,” Armstead Jr. said, pointing to what seems to be a consensus feeling throughout the community. “That is what we actually elected them to do, to make good decisions for whatever is in the best interest for the City of Demopolis.”

While opinions vary on either side, both candidates have striking similarities in certain areas and both express strong desires to help serve the school system.

“Demopolis has always been a good school system, has always been a strong school system. As a matter of fact, we have kids funneling into the Demopolis City Schools now from surrounding counties. That tells you what kind of school system we actually have,” Murdock, a 1985 graduate of Demopolis High School said. “I’ve been associated with the Demopolis City Schools for quite some time. As a matter of fact, for the last seven or eight years ago, I’ve dedicated a lot of my time to the school system as far as feeding the football team and the band on Friday night’s with tailgating. I graduated from here. I’ve been here all my life.”

“The school board is probably one of the most important boards in the city of the Demopolis, basically because it sets policies and procedures for the schools and it is involved in hiring the teachers and making sure the students’ curriculum is what it is supposed to be,” Armstead Jr., a 1990 DHS grad, said. “I see a lot of areas where the school system can do a whole lot better. I think they need some young, fresh ideas. Also, I think they need some independent thinkers. I think we have some that are allowing others to make decisions for them and we don’t need that. We need what’s best for the students.”

While each man has some differing ideas and opinions on the board itself, both are unified in their position that the group needs independent thinkers willing to work toward the continual betterment of the school system.

“I know a lot of the individuals that work for the school system and I think we would work well together,” Murdock, who has a daughter going into the third grade, said. “I would be willing to attend any conferences, any and all school functions. I try to make most of them now. I would always have an open door if a parent or any of the faculty would want to talk about and discuss any and every issue that I could at all times.”

“There are a lot of things I think I can bring to the table as far as the school board is concerned. We need some young minds in there to kind of move that school board forward a little bit. The things that we can change and make improvements on, we need to jump in there and do that,” Armstead Jr. said. “I believe I can bring some new, fresh ideas to it while putting some new things in place. You’ve kind of got to leave the friendship thing out of that and do what’s right. I am about doing what’s right. I’m not going to let anyone tell me how to vote. When people put you in those positions, that’s what they expect you to do.”

The Demopolis City Council will address the issue Thursday evening at its regularly scheduled meeting, which begins at 5:15 p.m. at Rooster Hall.