So the passing of another week has a new performer showing up to participate in the year-long circus unfortunately known as the Alabama State Department of Education.
The new act is headlined by Bryan Taylor, legal counsel to Governor Kay Ivey. He burst onto the stage with great fanfare late on August 17 clutching a letter decreeing that the music must stop and the clowns return to their makeup room.
As things now stand, the state board of education has a called meeting set for Aug. 23. But lawyer Taylor, the same guy who recently took to social media to instruct folks how to spot “fake news,” says this meeting is not legal and can not proceed.
He then cites Alabama code section 16-3-7 as the basis for his declaration. He states: “Aside from the required annual meeting to be held each July, the only exception to this law is for meetings set ‘by the president or by the State Superintendent of Education on written request of a majority of the board members.'”
But here is the entire code section:
“The State Board of Education shall hold a regular annual meeting on the second Tuesday in July at the office of the Department of Education in Montgomery, at which meeting one of its members shall be elected vice-president. Such other meetings may be held as the needs of public education may require, on dates to be set by the board in official session, by the president or by the State Superintendent of Education on written request of a majority of the board members. The rules generally adopted by deliberative bodies for their government shall be observed.”
Counselor Taylor conveniently forgot to notice the highlighted section above which flies in the face of his argument.
And making this latest act all the more interesting is the fact that since Governor Ivey took office in April there have been 10 state board meetings. She briefly attended the one on April 13. But no others. Of these 10, five been called in the same manner as the one scheduled for next week and Taylor has not had an objection.
So why now?
It should also be pointed out that the state department’s own general counsel, Juliana Dean, has not informed the board they are holding meetings they should not be having. And considering that an internal report by ALSDE said that Dean and others were in collusion last summer in an attempt to discredit Craig Pouncey’s attempt to become state superintendent, one has to think she is going out of her way these days to make sure all things are on the up and up..
The agenda for the meeting on the 23rd under “New Business” is a. Hiring Freeze; b. Personnel; c. Superintendent’s Contract.
Apparently it is the planned discussion regarding the contract of state superintendent Mike Sentance that sent Taylor into a tail spin. Taylor was a member of former Governor Bob Riley’s staff. And since Riley showed long ago that he is not a fan of public education, many wonder if Taylor is actually looking out for the best interests of Governor Ivey, or simply “channeling” Bob Riley through her.
Why shouldn’t the board have a discussion of Mike Sentance contract and performance? Just two meetings ago all board members had the opportunity to turn in a written evaluation of Sentance. Of the eight elected members, only six went about the job of evaluation with diligence. Betty Peters simply gave Sentance the highest score possible on each of 37 factors, while Mary Scott Hunter refused to participate. In essence, both of these members ignored the responsiblity of representing their districts to the best of their ability and played politics with our school children, rather than look out for them.
The members who showed responsiblity, did not give Sentance a passing grade. He scored less than proficient on 31 of 37 measures and proficient on only six measures. He had no exceptional scores.
(Governor Ivey declined to take part in this evaluation saying that she had not been on the job long enough to pass judgement. However, within two weeks of this she put out a statement of support for Sentance, which now seems as odd as her legal counsel’s recent manuever.)
After the evaluations were made known to Sentance, he was given an opportunity to respond which he did in a statement at the last board meeting. However, rather that address the board’s particular concerns, his statement was a rambling dissertation on what a wonderful job he has done since last September. He concluded by saying: Alabama is a great state. I believe that it could have a great future.”
Given the fact that he has gone out of his way to denigrate our state’s education community since becoming superintendent, these words rang very hollow.
So we have had the evaluation. The superintendent has responded. It is time to talk about his contract and his performance. It is the natural order of business.
Unless you are far more interested in flexing political muscle and drawing a line in the sand and daring the other guy to step over it–than you are about doing what is best for the 730,000 students who have just begun a new school year.