Bless her heart, here comes Representative Terri Collins, chair of the house education policy committee, with a bill to change how the state board of education operates. Here is the AL.com article describing what Collins has in mind.
In 2012 the legislature passed the School Board Governance Improvement Act that requires all local school board members be trained by the Alabama Association of School Boards. Collins wants to amend the 2012 bill so that members of the state board are included in training.
While this seems reasonable at first glance, thinking that the training a local school board member of a system with 2,000 students needs is comparable to a board member of a system with 730,000 students is hardly apples to apples. I have probably attended more state board and local board meetings than Collins has. One thing that always strikes me is how totally different the items being discussed by each one are from what the other deals with.
So basically this is little more than window dressing.
Presently there are eight elected members of the state board. The governor is a voting board member by virtue of their office. The Collins’ bill makes no changes to this alignment. However, it does add two teachers and two high school students as non-voting members of the board. The teachers would be the two most recent Alabama Teachers of the Year, while the students would be selected by the Boys State and Girls State programs.
I don’t understand how adding four non-voting members to this body makes it more efficient or better. And one can’t help but be struck by the irony of this suggestion in light of Collins’ own record of ignoring input from educators. She is the sponsor of the much-maligned A-F school report card legislation. A committee of some of the state’s top educators worked with Collins for two years to develop an equitable formula to be used to grade schools. Finally, realizing that she could not be pleased, the committee gave up.
Another provision of the bill calls forth similar irony. The bill states: “That each member of a local board of education shall actively promote public support for the school system and each member of the state board or a local board of education shall actively promote a sound statewide system of public education, and shall endorse ideas, initiative, and program that are designed to improve the quality of public education for all students.”
Given her track record of supporting the Alabama Accountability Act, A-F report cards, charter schools, school choice, etc., it’s unlikely you can find a single public school educator in the state who thinks Collins is on their side. And for someone like this to call for support of public schools in legislation is just more window dressing.
The final eye-opener in the Collins’ bill is the requirement that the state superintendent will employ someone to act as a liaison between the superintendent and the state board.
The state board appoints the superintendent, but Collins thinks they should not have direct access to the person they employ?
I spent several years as executive director of the Southeast Alabama Regional Planning & Development Commission in Dothan. There were 35 board members, most of them local elected officials. And I can only imagine the hornet’s nest I would have stirred by suggesting that I needed to hire someone to interact with them on my behalf. That if they needed me, they would need to go through this person.
That would have been as dumb of an idea as the one Rep. Collins proposes.
Reporter Mary Sell of the Decatur Daily did her usual good job of covering the meeting of the House Ways & Means Education committee meeting on Oct. 25. Here is her article.
One of the committee members is Rep. Terri Collins of Decatur. So as good reporters do, Mary got comments from Collins to give the story a local angle. This is what she told Sell:
“You can’t get anyone to answer the phone, you could get several different answers to a question — I’ve had that happen to me,” Collins said after the presentation. “I leave messages and don’t get call-backs. That’s frustrating. But that he’s owning up to that, I think that’s good and he’s moving in a good direction.
“That he wants to enable the local systems to do their best jobs, that’s what we want from the department of education.”
Anyone who followed the dog and pony show at the state department of education during the year Mike Sentance was state superintendent immediately sees the irony in Collins’ comments since she was referring to his time running the department.
Collins supported Sentance from day one. While educators across the state were constantly pointing our the lack of management and leadership under Sentence, you never heard Collins complain.
The overwhelming choice of educators across the state of who they wanted to replace retiring state superintendent Tommy Bice was Craig Pouncey, Jefferson County superintendent and a former chief of staff for Bice.
But not Collins.
In fact, Collins sent an email to all state school board members during the 2016 search process that they should not select Craig Pouncey, Jefferson County superintendent, as state superintendent. Here is part of that email:
“Lastly, I’ve only been associated with one person that actually had a letter written to Dr. Bice, from the Speaker, asking him to not send a person back to the State House, and it was Dr. Pouncey. I hope you do not consider him, he does not fit the priorities you set as a Board.”
According to Bice, there was no such letter.
But there is a back story to the email from Collins. While chief of staff, Pouncey attended a legislative committee meeting where a representative was very vocal about the shortcomings of public schools. Pouncey took offense and spoke in opposition. The House member got mad and went to then Speaker Mike Hubbard to complain that someone was standing up for public schools.
Hubbard did not write the letter Collins says he did.
So Collins felt that Sentence, who had no experience in running schools or school systems, was a better choice than Pouncey.
And now that time has proven her wrong, she is anxious to straighten out problems HER candidate left behind.
Funny how such things work.
Though we just did a survey a few weeks ago, because of the way things are happening in Montgomery, we need your input again. And ASAP.
Go here to respond.
Unfortunately Governor Kay Ivey is now playing politics with our children. Three weeks ago she said she did not know enough about the performance of state school chief Mike Sentance to join state board members in evaluating him. (By virtue of her office, she is president of the state board.)
However, she issued a statement on August 10 supporting Sentance and urging the board to give him more time.
Since it is highly unlikely that in that short time span she became intimately familiar with Sentance’s record, it is obvious that her August 10 statement was motivated more by politics than a real concern for public school students. This is sad, especially considering that she was once a teacher.
What is your response to the governor’s action?
Go here to tell us.
As always, responses are anonymous. The instrument we use, Survey Monkey, makes sure of that. Also you should know that Survey Monkey only accepts ONE response from individual computers.
Governor Kay Ivey stunned Alabama’s education community when she released a statement on Aug. 10 asking the state school board, the one she is president of, to give state superintendent Mike Sentance more time in his job.
The governor’s action caught educators off guard for two reasons. One being that she is head of the state board and apparently did not consult with any of her fellow board members before issuing this statement. Another being that just two weeks ago when she was asked to participate with other board members in an evaluation of Sentance she declined, saying that she was not familiar enough with his time on the job.
So did she suddenly get up-to-speed in two weeks?
The evaluation resulted in low marks for Sentance, So apparently the governor wants those who know Sentance best to ignore their own judgements and observations and yield to someone who just two weeks ago said she did not know what kind of job Sentance was doing.
Sorry, but something about this just doesn’t add up.
So let’s go another route. Since taking office a few months ago, Governor Ivey has been replacing some folks in high level positions who were Governor Bentley appointees. This is the way politics works and we understand that.
Since Bently is the primary reason we now have Sentance, let’s suppose Governor Ivey is looking for someone to hire as state superintendent to run K 12 education. Obviously, she would be looking for a highly qualified person with excellent education credentials and experience.
Would she hire Mike Sentance, the guy she says should not be terminated? Make up your own mind.
Since the governor studied education at Auburn University and once taught school, it is probable to think she would first look for someone with the same background. But this eliminates Sentance right off the bat as he never studied education, never was a teacher, principal or local school superintendent. In other words, he can not relate to what the governor once experienced in a classroom.
She would certainly be aware that Alabama Code Section 16-4-1 says one of the required qualifications for state superintendent is “who is knowledgeable in school administration.” After all, this is law and no governor wants to break a law. Unfortunately since Sentance has no education administration experience under his belt she would have to eliminate him at the point.
No doubt she would also have a list of required qualifications similar to those the state board had in 2016. Among them “Experience in successfully managing a large organization as a superintendent or other educational leader” and “Experience in administering large budgets.” Shucks, more things Sentance does not have.
And the good governor would surely want to ask Sentance some questions and probe his background. Things like, “Mr Sentance you applied for the state superintendent’s job in Alabama in 2011 and did not get an interview. Why are you more qualified today than you were then?”
Or perhaps, “You hoped to be chosen as Commissioner of Elementary & Secondary Education in Massachusetts in 1998 but this did not happen. Why not? Or since her staff would have done extensive homework before the interview, she might have wanted to know, “From 2009 to 2016 you applied for jobs in Kentucky, Alabama, Nebraska, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Nashville and Ohio with no success. What do all of these folks know about you that we don’t know in Alabama?”
She might even ask something like this, “I see by your resume’ that from January, 2009 until now, you had only one job and that was for only eight months, what were you doing the rest of the time?”
Try as I might, I simply do not believe Governor Kay Ivey would ever hire Mike Sentance to head our state school system, based on the facts outlined above. To be honest, when she learned he had no experience in a classroom, I doubt he even gets an interview.
Yet, she is now telling us this very same man is who we should keep as our state superintendent.
Sorry, but something about this just doesn’t add up.
So today, Governor Kay Ivey, the same one who studied education at Auburn and was once a school teacher, put out this statement:
Governor Ivey’s Statement on Today’s State Board of Education Meeting
MONTGOMERY – “Today, the elected Alabama State Board of Education delayed the question of the State Superintendent’s continued leadership of the State Department of Education.
“Mr. Sentance has been on the job for less than a year, and in that time, has advocated many necessary reforms. Though he is certainly not without fault, I trust that the Board will give him time to implement those reforms.
“Rather than focusing on differences of personality or opinion, we must focus on Alabama’s children and improving the quality of education provided across our state.”
First of all, where did the governor see on today’s state board meeting agenda that there would be discussion about changing leadership? There was none. So the statement about “delayed the question” is not true.
But what is true is that right now thousands in the Alabama education community are asking, WHAT REFORMS?
Was it giving the principals of 27 low performing schools in Montgomery a 10 percent raise?
Was it spending $536,000 on a Massachusetts consulting firm Sentance used to be involved with?
Was it giving a $750,000 no bid contract to someone to be the Montgomery CFO for three years?
Was it when he ordered an internal review of the effort last summer to smear superintendent applicant Craig Pouncey by a state board member and four department employees and then disagreeing with the findings that said there was collusion to interfere in the selection process?
Was it when Governor Bentley said “education sucks” and he did not come to the defense of students and teachers?
Was it during one of his tirades when he berated our teachers about how weak they are? Was it when he said he wanted to dismantle our career tech program?
Was it when he wanted to drastically change the Alabama Reading Initative, the only Alabama program his home state of Massachusetts has ever copied from here?.
Was it when he got an AG’s opinion that allowed him to tell the elected state board they could not question money he is spending on his Montgomery intervention?
But here’s the real deal. This move by the governor is a bizarre political move. All successful politicians, whether they be democrats or republicans, liberals or conservatives, white or black, right-wing or middle of the road, have one thing in common.
THEY CAN ALL COUNT.
Someone on the governor’s staff is not counting. We just did a survey that got more than 1,275 responses. Teachers were 61 percent of respondents and those who work in public education made up 74 percent. So these answers are a very good indication of what the Alabama education community is thinking. And they overwhelmingly dislike Mike Sentance.
Some 96 percent say Sentance should not have been hired. Only two percent approve of him. Seventy-seven percent say he should be terminated ASAP. He gets a letter grade of D or F from 90 percent of respondents.
And Kay Ivey is hooking her own aspirations to be elected governor in 2018 to someone with a two percent approval rating? She wants to alienate almost all educators in the state. She needs to ask Bradley Byrne how that works.
Governor, this Titanic is sinking fast. Telling people to not abandon ship makes no sense.
And in case anyone reading this cares to contact Governor Ivey, go here.
As we recently reported, the legislative committee that looked at the “smear sheet” incident that occurred last year in the state superintendent search will re-convene on July 25 at 1 p.m. in the Statehouse. Senator Gerald Dial, who along with Senator Quinton Ross, asked that this committee be formed to conduct the investigation, thought their work was done after several meetings last fall.
However, a recent report by the Alabama department of education concluded there was a coordinated effort by the former interim state superintendent, department general counsel, two staff attorneys and a board member to discredit Jefferson County superintendent Craig Pouncey in his effort to become state superintendent.
In light of this, Senator Dial opted to re-open the He sent letters to the following requesting they appear on July 25: Tom Albritton, Ethics Commission Director; David Pope, ALSDE IT Director; Dee Fowler, ALSDE Chief of Staff; James Ward, ALSDE attorney; Juliana Dean, ALSDE general counsel; Michael Meyer, ALSDE attorney; former Governor Robert Bentley; Matt Brown, former state board member; Betty Peters, state board member; Stephanie Bell, state board member; Cynthia McCarty, state board member; Mary Scott Hunter, state board member; and Hugh Evans, Ethics Commission attorney.
Pouncey has pending legal action before circuit Judge Roman Shaul of Montgomery naming Dean, Ward and Hunter as three of five defendants. It is questionable as to whether their attorneys will allow them to appear before the Dial Committee.
All but Fowler, Meyer and Bentley have appeared before the committee previously.
Two issues that may be probed include an effort by Dean to have Myer terminated after Mike Sentance assigned him the task of the internal investigation and Pope’s recollection of a telephone conversation he sat in on between Hunter, interim superintendent Phillip Cleveland and Dean..
It has now been just over 12 months since this incident came to light. And amazingly, we still have not gotten to the bottom of it all.
July 25 is also the date for the next state school board meeting. A work session is scheduled for 10 a.m. and a board meeting for 11:30.
So once again the media will be telling the world about Alabama education. Unfortunately, they will again concentrate on the shenanigans of grownups–not the accomplishments of young people.