The Gadsden Times, a daily newspaper in Etowah County, recently ran an editorial that minces few words about state school chief Mike Sentance. Here are parts of the editorial.
“Jimmy Breslin wrote a novel in 1969, that became a movie (with one of Robert De Niro’s early screen appearances) in 1971, called “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.” It’s a comedy about the Mafia — really — detailing a “war” between a fearsome family and a bunch of imbeciles who’d be more at home with Moe, Larry and Curly (and Shemp, Joe and Curly-Joe) than with the Corleone clan.
The book is well-regarded, the movie less so, but the title has become a common pejorative to describe a group or entity that is making an absolute shambles of a situation.
We’ll drag it out in connection with the latest fiasco from the Alabama Department of Education.
We’ve documented Sentance’s (state superintendent Mike Sentance) difficult first few months as superintendent. He wasn’t a popular choice among career educators because he isn’t one. He’s a lawyer and education consultant and theorist.
He wasn’t a popular choice among people who wanted someone in tune with Alabama’s particular quirks and needs, because he’s from Massachusetts.
He wasn’t a popular choice among the most intense supporters of public schools, because he’s an advocate of charter schools.
There have been allegations of dirty tricks — prompting a civil court case against a state board member and some state office officials — toward one of the other finalists for the job. (We hate to be conspiratorial, but could last week have been a little payback?)
Sentance didn’t help himself by stepping into a particularly sticky vat of public relations mud last month with a proposal to reorganize career tech education and workforce development in the state office. (The state board, during a special work session, told him that ain’t happening, and chided him for a lack of communication with his bosses — them.)
We’ve tried to be fair and give the new guy a chance, but our patience there is not unlimited. And there doesn’t need to be this kind of strife in an entity tasked with such a crucial role — educating Alabama’s children.
Sentance needs to get a handle on both himself and the operations of his department, or the state board needs to begin contemplating whether it made a mistake in hiring him.”
No doubt as the mis-steps of Mike Sentance continue to mount, media will increasingly pay attention to the mess we have in Montgomery.