Though it received scant attention, the state board of education took one action on Dec. 14 that was HUGE.
This were their unanimous vote to remove the Selma City school system from state intervention. The vote took place after Dee Fowler, chief of staff for interim superintendent Ed Richardson, made a recommendation that Selma be released.
The resolution stated, in part: “Whereas, the Selma City School System has made the necessary improvements regarding the issues for which the intervention was initiated, including addressing the conditions and deficiencies which adversely implicated the ability of the Selma City School System to comply with mandatory financial, legal, and programmatic standards and rquirements; and
Whereas, the Alabama State Department of Education has conducted on-site inspections, including multiple interviews, reviewed appropriate data, and utilized the services of an outswide experienced administrator to advance intervention goals and objectives.”
The intervention began in February 2014 at the recommendation of former state superintendent Tommy Bice. He asked retired Phenix City superintendent Larry DiChiara to lead the effort.
According to DiChiara, they addressed five deficiencies. 1) Academic accountability, 2) Human resources, 3) Student safety and security, 4) Governance and leadership, and 5) Fiscal and accounting.
Selma superintendent Avis Williams, board member Brenda Obomanu and board chair Johnny Moss were at the state meeting and naturally, were all smiles. Moss called the action, “A feeling of relief. This had been a dark cloud that followed us until today.”
I have spoken to DiChiara many times about the Selma effort. No doubt he could write a book about what took place and what the team he put in place did to reach this point. Nothing happened by accident. It was carefully planned and executed by experienced Alabama educators.
And it is impossible not to compare what took place in Selma with the on-going disaster of an intervention in the Montgomery County school system set in place last January by former state superintendent Mike Sentance. After hiring out-of-state consultants and adding central office personnel, Montgomery finds itself facing huge budget cuts, the loss of more than 100 jobs and interim state superintendent Ed Richardson telling the Montgomery Chamber recently that there is a question if Montgomery can maintain its accreditation.
DiChiara met with Sentence and his key staffers to explain what went on In Selma and to make them aware of rules and procedures that must be followed in an intervention.
Unfortunately, as we say in these parts, “It was all just water on a duck’s back.” And once again taxpayers are left holding the bag,
Congratulations to Selma and to all who worked hard to reach this milestone. A job well done.