During a career that began in 1966 and ended in 2011 (that is 45 years for you Bama grads) I was the head of five different entities governed by a board.  Each time, the board did NOT work for me, I worked for THEM.  I communicated with them regularly, got their OK for most of what I did and knew that anything I said or did reflected upon them.

But judging from the way the State Board of Education and state superintendent Mike Sentance are operating right now, I had it all wrong.  Even though I was hired by a board I must’ve been crazy for paying any attention to them.

Because that is obviously the way things are running at the state department these days.  Just this week we’ve seen a contract worth more than $750,000 given to a company that has no work product to show, has never done business with anyone anywhere and did not have to turn in a bid–and no one on the state school board knew about it.  Same with another contract for more than $500,000 couple weeks ago.  (However, it was bid and the winning proposal went to a company in Massachusetts that once employed Mike Sentance.)

And in the last 24 hours we’ve learned that the state department has been restructured, there has been a substantial change in the chain of command for career tech education–and earlier today the superintendent sent notice to board members that he will discuss it all with them next Thursday at a work session.

Excuse me.

Isn’t this like opening the front door of the house, seeing $10,000 worth of new furniture in the living room that wasn’t there when you left this morning and your wife saying, “I’ve been meaning to tell you something?”

And all day long today it was he said/she said between career tech educators and staff at the department.  The Alabama Association for Career & technical Education would say one thing.  Then someone in the Gordon Persons Building, which houses the state ed department, would say they were using “fabrications of the truth.”  (Which I think in Red Level is called “lying.”)

At one point I shared info with a state board member and was told they were getting more information from me than from the superintendent.

Conspiracy theories flew around the internet.  Many of them dealing with HB 97, legislation by Rep. Terri Collins setting up the Alabama Network of Statewide Workforce and Education-Related Statistics, better known as ANSWERS.  Officially the bill says it establishes the Alabama Office of Education and Workforce Statistics in the Department of Labor.  This new bureaucracy will gather data from at least 10 state agencies (more of they want to.)

Did you wet the bed as a child?  ANSWERS may have the answer.  Make a D in 3rd grade math?  No doubt that info will be at someone’s fingertips.  Ever have ringworm, flat feet or an ingrown toe nail?  Ask ANSWERS.

Can you imagine the reaction in super red Alabama had President Obama told us to do this?  But it’s OK when our Republican-controlled legislature comes up with the idea.

And guess what, superintendent Mike Sentance told a Tea Party group in Montgomery that he supports this bill.  I’m surprised he wasn’t tarred and feathered on the spot.

Of course, what is the object of all bureaucracies?  To build more bureaucracy, to get more money, maybe even money that has been going to support career tech education at the department of education.

At present, the only thing we know for certain is that our state board of education will have no say so in the matter.  Recently we blogged about who is running education in Alabama.  We now have the answer.  Or maybe the ANSWERS.

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