In this case, “next Tuesday” is July 25. The day the state board of education has a special called meeting in Montgomery and a legislative committee asks more questions about the tainted search process for a new state school superintendent in 2016.
Judging from the emails and phone calls I’ve received, much of the attention next week will on the board meeting. I have little doubt this will be the most watched school board meeting ever, with computers tuned in from Lauderdale to Geneva counties. And right now most educators are wondering if this will be the day when state superintendent Mike Sentance will be given the message that his services are no longer needed.
I do not know what will happen next week. However, I think we’ve come to the point where it is not a matter of if Sentance will be removed, it is just a matter of when.
This storm has been brewing since Sentance was the surprise pick of the state school board last August. To the best of my knowledge, NOT A SINGLE EDUCATOR in the state recommended him to a state board member. Reaction was swift–and predictable. My record for number of hits on this blog is 14,400 in one day. That happened Aug. 13, 2016, two days after Sentance was picked.
Last December we surveyed 978 blog readers. Some 92 percent disagreed with the Sentance hire, 92 percent felt the search was more about politics than finding the most qualified superintendent and 66 percent rated the state board of education with a letter grade of D or F.
We surveyed again in March. Nothing had improved. When asked what should happen to Mike Sentance, 81 percent of the 669 respondents said he should be terminated immediately or at best given three months probation. How many felt Sentance was qualified for the job? Two percent.
So anyone who failed to see this train wreck coming must have been sleeping with Rip Van Winkle.
Both talked to state board member Mary Scott Hunter of Huntsville, an announced candidate for Lt. Governor in 2018. Hunter, who never shies from the media, is upset about the evaluation process. Even though Sentance took office in mid-September, 2016, she feels more than ten months should go by before the board reviews his performance.
However, Hunter is one of the five votes Sentance got last August and has been a staunch supporter of his since. She has also been named in legal action brought by Jefferson County superintendent Craig Pouncey claiming that she was part of an effort to discredit his application for state superintendent. A recent internal report from the state department concluded that Hunter was part of a conspiracy against Pouncey.
In addition, she recently claimed that other state board members are being manipulated and that she is running for Lt. Governor because she is ready to move on to a “bigger” job.
Senator Gerald Dial has asked Hunter to again meet with a legislative committee looking at the “smear” campaign against Pouncey. This meeting will be in Montgomery the afternoon of July 25.
Long time board member Stephanie Bell was elected vice-chair of the state board on July 11. Bell has a reputation for doing her homework and being extremely thorough. There is no doubt who is guiding the process. And this is all the more interesting when one remembers that Bell voted to hire Sentance last August.
She is also the board member who recently reminded Sentance that he works for the board–not for the governor.
If the state board indicates on July 25 that their relationship with Mike Sentance is over, it will be quite a back to school present for Alabama educators.