A few days ago we told you about the mess in Montgomery about hiring teachers for the new school year and Mike Sentance blaming it all on the state school board.
Sentance declared in January he was intervening in the Montgomery County school system because it is the state capitol and they need a good school system.
(Intervention is normally for either financial or academic reasons, perhaps both. Sentance did not bother to tell us that Montgomery is one of 19 systems in the state with financial concerns and that according to the Alabama A-F report card, there are 18 systems with weaker academics than Montgomery. In light of this, his reason for taking over Montgomery is flimsy at best.)
There are nearly 400 employees of the state department of education. Forty-one of whom make $100,000 or more annually. Given this, one should be safe to assume that the department does not lack for well-trained, experienced educators capable of tackling a range of projects–such as evaluating the issues of Montgomery schools.
But since becoming state school chief last September, Sentance has hired “consultants” at the drop of a hat, rather than calling upon existing staff. He quickly let contracts of more than $1.2 million after taking over Montgomery. For the most part the state board of education was on the outside looking in as this unfolded since Sentance does not do a good job of communicating with the board he works for.
So at the June 8 board meeting a motion to have a resolution to halt all hires pertaining to the Montgomery takeover until Sentance gave the board budget figures for the takeover passed unanimously. This is the “resolution.”
RESOLUTION TO AUTHORIZE A HIRING FREEZE RELATED TO THE MONTGOMERY PUBLIC SCHOOLS INTERVENTION
WHEREAS, the Alabama State Board of Education requests an intervention budget reflecting the proposed appropriation for Montgomery Public Schools for the period commencing when the Alabama State Board of Education assumed oversight of the Montgomery County Board of Education’s operations to this date.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That the Alabama State Board of Education does hereby approve an authorization of a hiring freeze as to the Alabama State Department of Education and the Montgomery County Board of Education until the requested budgetary information has been provided to and reviewed by the Alabama State Board of Education.
Done this 8th day of June 2017.
(Editor’s note: I have yet to determine if this “resolution” was legally passed by the state board. Normally in such cases the board has the wording of the actual resolution before them when they approve it. There seems a question as to whether or not this was the case. I have tried to get the minutes of the June 8 board meeting but am told they will not be available until the July 11 meeting.)
However, properly executed or not, Sentance told the Montgomery County school board on June 28 in a meeting at ALSDE that his hands were tied and they could not hire teachers until the state board took action on July 11.
With a new school year just a few weeks away principals across the state are in a mad dash for teachers. Time is of the essence. Good teachers don’t stay on the market very long. So a two-week delay can be critical for many principals. One of the criticisms of Sentance is his lack of practical experience as a teacher, principal or local superintendent. His lack of concern about the Montgomery predicament shows he is oblivious to what it takes to make schools work.
So what did he do? The same guy who claims he wants to pull out all stops to improve Montgomery schools. The same guy who hires administrators for six-figure salaries to “save” Montgomery. Did he rush to correct it when he became aware of a potential problem? Did he bother to find out that this resolution could not stop teacher hiring because they are paid by the state’s foundation program and he has no control over that? If he was concerned, why didn’t he bring it up at board meetings on June 21 and June 23?
He sat on his hands. He was willing to harm 30,000 Montgomery students just so he could blame everything on the state board.
This is leadership? No. It is shameful.
Luckily, board members Stephanie Bell and Yvette Richardson learned of the situation and set to work immediately to fix it. A letter from vice-chair Richardson to Sentance clarifying the matter went out June 30. At last report, the Montgomery school board will meet on July 5 to begin hiring teachers.
Anyone with education credentials should have them pulled for an action so callous and senseless. But that doesn’t apply in this case because Sentance has no education credentials. Something that is more and more apparent every day.