State school chief Mike Sentance has definitely generated media coverage since coming to Alabama last September. Unfortunately, most of it has been bad.
Most recently there was the graduation rate fiasco where erroneous data was released at 4 p.m. on Friday before a Monday state holiday without first notifying local school systems. There has been the on-going Montgomery school intervention where no one can find out what is actually being planned and who will pay the bills. The news about $1.2 in two contracts, one being no-bid for a high-priced CFO and another for a consulting company in Massachusetts he once worked for.
The media is beginning to pay attention and more and more are questioning his qualifications for the job he holds.
May 4 saw both the daily Opelkia-Auburn News and the weekly Auburn Villager run articles critical of him.
The headline in the Auburn Villager screamed Alabama may need new leadership at the top and went on to say, “When the State Board of Education hired a lawyer-consultant as state superintendent, eyes were raised. Now months later, those fears have not subsided and well placed individuals are questioning whether Mike Sentance is the person for the job.”
You can see the entire article here.
The daily paper ran an article by Rep. Craig Ford of Gadsden, former house minority leader. Here are excerpts:
“When we hear the words, “buyer’s remorse,” we usually think of somebody who bought a car they couldn’t afford or some luxury item that ended up not being as great as they thought it would be.
But the term also applies to the way a lot of members of the Alabama Legislature and the state board of education feel about our school superintendent, Michael Sentance.
The warning signs should have been there from the beginning.
After all, Mr. Sentance isn’t even an educator. He’s an attorney by trade specializing in tax law, and hasn’t spent a single day of his life in the classroom as a teacher or principal. He has no degree in education, and his only previous experience as an education administrator was from 1991-96 as secretary of education in Massachusetts.
Since taking over the state’s Department of Education, Mr. Sentance’s tenure has been one disaster after another.
His proposal last month to reorganize the state’s career technical education and workforce development programs caused a huge backlash from educators, students and members of the board of education. Mr. Sentance’s proposal was deeply unpopular and would have undermined all the success the program has achieved.
Equally as troubling, Mr. Sentance left the members of the board out of the loop on what he was planning. Board members were caught off guard by plans and blindsided by the media.
This is becoming a disturbing trend with Mr. Sentance, where a failure to communicate puts others in impossible situations when the media comes calling.
We saw this again just a few weeks ago when Mr. Sentance announced a drop in high school graduation rates, followed by a public release of numbers that were not only incorrect but had also never been seen by any of the state’s local superintendents.”
It is significant that these articles come from the Auburn-Opelika area where some of the best public schools in the state are located and where the general public probably is much more engaged in local schools than in many places.
Of course Sentance was hired by the State Board of Education. He works for them. Eight of their nine members are elected by districts. The ninth–and chair person–is new Governor Kay Ivey.
Politicians do not like to be taken to task. They certainly don’t care for negative press. In this case, every criticism leveled at Sentance is also leveled at the state school board because they are the reason he is in Alabama. Plus, Governor Ivey is a one-time teacher and a graduate of Auburn University with a degree in education. (In fact, she has more formal education training than Sentance does.)
As she sees the Sentance ship continue to take on water, how long before she jumps ship?