The state school board voted today (August 8) on six openings for the 10-member state charter school commission. They picked five new members. Two “incumbents,” Tommy Ledbetter of Madison County and Melissa McInnis of Montgomery, were replaced. Only “incumbent” Henry Nelson of Birmingham retained his seat.
New members picked were: Paul Morin of Birmingham, Jamie Ison of Mobile, Syndey Rains of Mobile, Kimberly Terry of Morgan County and Marla Green of Montgomery.
The fact that Governor Ivey chose to not offer chairman Mac Buttram for reappointment is also quite significant.
Couple these five with Allison Haygood of Boaz, who went on the commission in May, and the dynamics of the group shift appreciably.
There is little doubt that the fiasco over Woodland Prep in Washington County played a HUGE role in all of this. As we have recounted over and over, the commission made bad decision after bad decision, beginning in May of 2018, when they ignored the recommendation of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers that Woodland Prep not be given the go ahead to their decision of June 7, 2019 to grant Woodland Prep a one-year extension on opening.
And though Washington County is very remote and very rural, news of what has gone on there has spread far and wide across Alabama. Former state representative Elaine Beech of Chatom recently told me that she can’t go anywhere in the state without someone mentioning Woodland Prep to her.
The people of Washington County have been relentless in telling their story and providing documentation that info the charter commission was given by Woodland Prep supporters was not reliable. Every educator in the state owes these good folks their gratitude.
And it is fair to say that there will be a substantial effort in the regular legislative session of 2020 to revisit the present charter law and make much-needed changes.
We were told when this law was passed in 2015 that it was the strongest charter law in the nation. However, as we have seen since, nothing could be farther from the truth.
The bylaws of the charter school commission say right up front that their mission is “to authorize high-quality public charter schools.” The vote by the state school board today says loudly that they don’t believe this has been being done.