Twenty-four hours after the state school board decided to hire Michael Sentance of Massachusetts to head our state school system, educators from Jackson County to Mobile County are still trying to get the tag number of the truck that ran over them.
There are more theories floating around than the ones about who shot President Kennedy. After telling one of her superintendents at 3 p.m. on Wednesday that she was supporting Craig Pouncey, why did member Betty Peters not carry through? Why were lobbyists for ALFA attending this meeting since no one has ever seen them at other SBOE meetings? Why was Peters several minutes late to the meeting? Was she huddled with the ALFA lobbyists?
Why would a 65-year old education consultant in New England want to re-locate to Alabama at this point in his life?
Ever since Tommy Bice announced his retirement I have been greatly concerned that there was no consensus on the state board as to what talents and experiences were needed by a new superintendent. Do we need a strong administrator who could manage the department? Do we need someone intimately familiar with how K 12 schools are funded in Alabama so they can help the legislature craft a realistic and meaningful budget? Do we need someone with a past record of dealing with the legislature? Do we need a realist or someone who can paint pretty pictures of what our schools might be in a land of rainbows and unicorns?
As it turned out my fear of a lack of consensus was true.
The six finalists were clearly divided into two groups. Four of the candidates (Dee Fowler, Craig Pouncey, Jeana Ross and Janet Womack) are steeped in knowledge about the realities of “doing” education in the state; while the other two (Bill Evers and Michael Sentance) are strictly policy guys with no hands on experience in either schools or Alabama. So it would stand to reason that SBOE members would go into the meeting with a clear understanding of which direction they would lean.
For example, Betty Peters cast three votes, one for Evers and two for Sentence. On the other side, Ella Bell, Jeff Newman and Yvette Richardson each only cast one vote for Pouncey. By comparison Mary Scott Hunter was all over the place, voting a total of five times, two for Sentance, one for Fowler, one for Womack and one for Ross. In other words, she was happy with four of the six finalists.
And I am reminded of the old saw, “Some of my friends are for it and some are against it and I’m for all of my friends.”