As we know, the state school board, on a 5-4 vote, selected Eric Mackey on April 20 as our new state school chief. I wish him all the best. I have known him since he came to his job at the School Superintendents of Alabama in 2010. Even know his wife Robin.
He is a bright, likeable young man who grew up in the big city of Sand Rock in Cherokee County. And since I am definitely partial to rural places, this is a plus in my book. Lord knows all of our small, rural school systems need all the friends they can get.
It is my fervent hope that Eric will seek God’s guidance in the days to come. And I have no doubt that he will.
I also hope that he will be the VOICE for education our 730,000 students and all their principals, teachers, bus drivers, custodians, lunch room workers and administrators desperately need at this time. Public education has been under attack in Alabama since 2010. In 2012 the legislature passed the A-F report card bill that serves no useful purpose in the eyes of educators and recently told students, teachers and principals in 104 schools they are failures–yet did not provide a helping hand to those most in need.
In 2013 we got the Alabama Accountability Act that was both highly suspect in the way it was handled in the legislature and its value to those it promised to help the most, children in struggling schools. Because of this act, we have now diverted $146 million from the Education Trust Fund and in all probability will see an effort in 2019 to increase it’s impact on public schools even more.
Education “leaders” HAVE GOT to draw the line in the sand on legislation such as this. They need to remind themselves daily that 90 percent of all the children in Alabama attend a public school and need all the help and support they can get. This definitively means being a strong advocate for public education at each and every opportunity–but most especially when the legislature aims a gun at a classroom near you.
Now that Eric is the leader of our state school system, I trust that he will embrace the role of being the VOICE we need.
Try as they might, the State Board of Education can’t seem to avoid being questioned when they conduct a state superintendent search. The board selected Eric Mackey, executive director of the School Superintendents of Alabama, on April 20. The vote was 5-4.
Mackey joined the association in July, 2010 after serving eight years as the Jacksonville, AL city system superintendent, one of the state’s smallest systems with two schools and 1,561 students.
He was one of three finalists. Others were Kathy Murphy, Hoover city superintendent and Craig Pouncey, Jefferson County superintendent and former chief of staff for state superintendent Tommy Bice.
Several media outlets have raised questions about how much political contributions may have influenced the process, did Governor Ivey ignore her own executive order prohibiting appointing registered lobbyists to serve on state boards and commissions and why was board member Mary Scott Hunter allowed to participate since she is being sued by Pouncey for supposed misconduct during the 2016 superintenent search. Trial date is set for Dec. 10.
Mackey has been a registered lobbyist while working for the superintendent’s group. This is common practice for association executives.
You can see articles here, here and here.
Having been involved in politics since forever and knowing that one of the first rules is to always FOLLOW THE MONEY, I spent time on the Secretary of State’s website looking at financial info.
I discovered that the votes for Mackey and Pouncey were in stark contrast when it came to campaign contributions from the Business Council of Alabama.
Those voting for Pouncey were Jackie Zeigler, Stephanie Bell, Ella Bell and Yvette Richardson. None of them have ever received campaign dollars from BCA. In fact, in 2016 BCA gave Zeigler’s opponent $149,000 and Bell’s challenger $107,255.
On the other side of the coin, of the five votes for Mackey, four of them have received a collective $284,230 from BCA since 2014. They were Governor Ivey and board members Jeff Newman, Cynthia McCarty and Mary Scott Hunter. (Betty Peters was the fifth vote for Mackey and has not gotten BCA support. In fact, they spent $70,000 on her opponent in 2014.)
BCA is not a friend of public education. They run something called the Business Education Alliance. Just look at their website to see what they promote. Charter schools, school choice, the Alabama Accountability Act, run schools like a business, etc. No public school advocates I know support such an agenda. They also endorsed Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education, arguably the most unquailed person ever appoint4ed to this position.
In the last four years BCA has spent $585,485 on state school board races. This DWARFS anyone else. I learned long ago when it comes to funding political campaigns, LITTLE MONEY GIVES, BIG MONEY INVESTS.
Is BCA looking for a return on their investment? I don’t know. Did BCA money play a part in the selection of a new superintendent? I can’t answer that either.
All we know for certain is what the numbers are.
The state school board, on a 5-4 vote, selected Eric Mackey as the new state superintendent April 20. Mackey is the one-time superintendent of the Jacksonville, AL city system and has directed the School Superintendents of Alabama for several years.
Craig Pouncey, Jefferson County superintendent and Kathy Murphy, Hoover superintendent, were also interviewed. A fourth candidate, Robert Scott of Texas, withdrew.
Those voting for Mackey were: Governor Ivey, Betty Peters, Jeff Newman, Mary Scott Hunter and Cynthia McCarty. Pouncey got support from Jackie Zeigler, Ella Bell, Stephanie Bell and Yvette Richardson. Murphy did not receive any votes.
At the end of the process, Ella Bell questioned why Mary Scott Hunter was allowed to participate in the selection process since she is being sued by Pouncey for alleged misconduct in the 2016 selection process. No one responded to Bell.
Immediately after the vote, I was contacted by a number of local superintendents expressing their surprise in what happened. They had all watched the interviews and could not believe Murphy did not get a single vote after what they considered to be an excellent presentation,. I have to agree.
I wish Eric well as he begins this new journey.
As I write it is 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 19,2018 and educators around Alabama are going on high alert because by this time in 24 hours we should know who the state board of education has selected to be the new permanent state school chief.
The selection process begins at 10 a.m.tomorrow, April 20. As we explained in this earlier post, you can have a ringside seat by pushing the correct buttons on your computer.
Candidates will be interviewed in alphabetical order. Interviews will last one hour. Each board member submitted two questions to the search firm, Ray & Associates. They will select questions to be asked. Mike Sibley, who heads the communications division at ALSDE will moderate and ask questions. All candidates will be asked the same questions.
There will be a 15 minute break between interviews. The search will follow a protocol for scoring they have used successfully for many years.
Vice-President of the board, Stephanie Bell, is confident the process chosen by the board is fair and equitable for each candidate. And considering how the last search for this position unfolded, that is critically important to all board members
The four finalists are: Eric Mackey, who runs the School Superintendents of Alabama, Kathy Murphy, superintendent od Hoover city schools, Craig Pouncey, superintendent of Jefferson County schools and Robert Scott, former Commissioner of Education in Texas..
So grab the popcorn and pull up a chair. The fun starts in just in just a few hours.
And don’t forget to say a special prayer for the governor and the eight board members as they contemplate this extremely important decision.
D Day is Friday, April 20. In this case, D stands for DECISION as the governor, plus the state school board, will interview four candidates for state superintendent and decide on one.
Ray & Associates, the search firm handling this project, brought seven names before the board on April 13. From these, a final four were selected. In alphabetical order they are:
Eric Mackey, former superintendent of the Jacksonville, AL city school system and currently executive director of the School Superintendents Association of Alabama.:
Kathy Murphy, superintendent of the Hoover city system and former superintendent of the Monroe County system.
Craig Pouncey, superintendent of the Jefferson County school system, former Assistant State Superintendent for both Ed Richardson and Joe Morton when they were state superintendent, former Chief of Staff to state superintendent Tommy Bice and former superintendent of the Crenshaw County system.
Robert Scott, former Education Commissioner for state of Texas. This is position is appointed by the governor and does not answer to the state board of education. He is an attorney by training, not an educator.
Courtesy of The Decatur Daily, here are excerpts from the four candidates’ letters to the Alabama State Board of Education:
“I am convinced that the vast majority of educators in our state believe in our students and want to help them excel. I am also convinced that we can do better, but only if we have a consistent and focused plan to support our teachers and local school administrators and, especially, the students and families they serve. The role of the state is to set clear expectations and direction as well as to empower and support our local educators by providing resources and strategies for meeting those expectations.”
“If you are interested in someone for state superintendent who knows there are many complex and challenging issues, I get it. If you are interested in degrees, I have them. If you are interested in experience, I have it. It you are interested in honesty, integrity, courage and tenacity, I’ve got it. If above all, you are interested in someone with a passion for children and someone on a mission to educate students, I’m all in.”
“… the (department of education) needs a superintendent who will look down the field. We cannot be simply reactive. The state superintendent and the state board must again become the leader with a clear vision in all of our efforts and communications. School success is not a result of one form of measure — it is the work of effective leadership at state and local levels, involving quality administrators, properly resourced teachers, informed and supportive legislative members, informed taxpayers and a supportive community.”
“I have spent nearly 30 years in education policy at the state and federal level and am currently in pursuit of new challenges to assist states and local school districts in improving student performance and outcomes.”
Friday will certainly be an interesting day.
To watch this on your computer go here to ALSDE web site. On left of top menu, click Department Offices. At top left of next menu. click State Board of Education. Scroll down to State Board of Education meeting which will be shown beginning at 10 a.m.
Most folks in Tallapoosa County just know that Joe Windle is the superintendent of the county school system. Some recall when he was principal at Reeltown high school.
What most do not know is that prior to becoming part of the school system, he spent 28 years in the U.S. Army retiring in 1996 as a full colonel. He had a number of important assignments, including Chief of Staff of the Army Infantry School at Fort Benning. He oversaw a $120 million annual budget and training for 40,000 soldiers a year.
Growing up at Reeltown in the mid-60s, Joe always figured he would become a teacher like his mother who taught for 37 years. But while in basic ROTC at Auburn University he learned that if he would continue in ROTC he would get $40 a month.
“And that sure beat working in a cotton mill in Tallassee,” he told me. While he got a degree in education, when he graduated he headed off to become a paratrooper and recalls, “I jumped out of the first airplane I ever flew in.”
Joe and I are good friends and he has often told me that he grew up in the best leadership lab available—the U.S. Army.
And it was because of his unique handle on what real leadership is all about that I sat down to talk to him recently.
In particular, I wanted his thoughts about leadership and what qualities of such we need in a new state school chief.
He was candid as I knew he would be. Among his thoughts:
“A great leader invests in their people and model leadership. Great leaders understand why people follow.
“People want a leader they trust, one who has compassion for their situation. Leaders bring stability to an organization and give hope that this is something better to come.”
So how does this apply to the current situation we face at the state department of education I wanted to know?
“Honestly, I see this department in disarray with a lack of internal communications, frustrated employees and little communications with local school systems. And definitely too many poor decisions in the last 18 months.
“So, to me, the top priority in a search for a new superintendent is finding a strong leader.”
Does he have anyone in mind?
“I wholeheartedly support Craig Pouncey, Jefferson County superintendent,” he said.
“We must restore confidence in public education. We must have a leader who those of us in local systems can count on to stand up and be counted when we are under attack like we have been the last few years.
“Just look at the A-F school report card and the legislation creating the Alabama Accountability Act as prime examples.
“Too many of our education ‘leaders’ have ducked and dodged when faced with tough decisions. Instead of drawing the line in the sand, they have given in to powerful legislators—at the expense of local schools and their students.
“I got a Purple Heart for service in Viet Nam. So, I know a little about what it means when you say someone will stay in the foxhole when bullets are flying.
“I think Craig Pouncey is this person.”
Given Joe’s record of service to both this country and to our schools, his perspective is insightful for sure.