Convicted Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard appointed Rep. Terri Collins of Decatur to chair the House Education Policy Committee beginning in 2015. However, judging by her actions you have to wonder if she envisions herself as more “Education Czar” than simply “Committee Chair.”
The current search for someone to be State Superintendent of Education is a case in point.
The Code of Alabama (section 16-4-1) is very clear when it states: (The superintendent) shall be appointed by the State Board of Education and shall serve at the pleasure of the State Board of Education. It DOES NOT give power or authority to members of the legislature to make this choice.
There are eight elected members of the State Board. The Governor serves as chair by virtue of his office. He has a vote in the matter of selecting a state superintendent. There are 105 state representatives. This means each school board member has about 13 times more constituents than a state representative.
The deadline for applicants for state superintendent was noon on June 7. There are 12 applications, six from Alabama and six from outside the state. Three of the Alabama applications are from current local superintendents. Some are hopeful a new superintendent can be in place by Aug. 1.
But rather than trusting the State Board to do their job as directed by code, Collins has injected politics into the process by sending an email to some state board members.
Phillip Cleveland is the interim superintendent put in place by the board. He is a good guy and has done a great job directing state workforce development issues. He has never been a superintendent at any level. He took the job fully aware that it was only for a short span of time.
Now Rep. Collins is urging the board to keep him around for “a few more months.” She states that he is doing a “great job.” Unfortunately, many local superintendents disagree with this perception given how the state has handled the issue of state funding for the Alabama Reading Imitative under his watch.
Next Collins puts in a plug for applicant Jeana Ross, Secretary of the Department of Early Childhood Education., stressing her work with Pre-K programs. She is a fine, fine person and a good friend. However, among the qualifications the State Board stresses in their advertisement for this position is Experience in successfully managing a large organization as a superintendent or other educational leader and Experience in administering large budgets.
Like Phillip Cleveland, Ross has not been a school superintendent and while her agency’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year is $66.5 million, there are 24 local school systems in Alabama with larger budgets.
Finally she takes a shot at applicant Craig Pouncey, superintendent of the Jefferson County system and one time right-hand man for State Superintendent Tommy Bice. Collins’ email says, “I hope you do not consider him, he does not fit the priorities you set as a Board.” She claims that she opposes Pouncey because former Speaker Mike Hubbard wrote a letter to Bice telling him to not let Pouncey come back to the Statehouse.
While she did not elaborate, the “offense” Pouncey committed is that he stood up for public education in a legislative committee meeting when a legislator attacked public schools.
Collins’ contention about a letter from the Speaker is not true. There never was such a letter sent. I confirmed this with former State Superintendent Tommy Bice.
In fact, shortly after this Pouncey had a meeting with the Speaker, committee chair Mary Sue McClurkin, Rep. Ed Henry and Rep. Phil Williams to discuss the matter.
The truth is that this email by Collins is hardly a surprise given her past actions. She was the one in the past regular session who had legislation to take the appointment of the state superintendent away from the state board and let the governor fill this position In 2015, when the state board did not move quickly enough to suit her on making appointments to the new State Charter School Commission, Collins came up with a bill to strip the state board of making these appointments.
Ms. Collins would do well to also look at code section 16-3-11 which states: The State Board of Education shall exercise, through the State Superintendent of Education and his professional assistants, general control and supervision over the public schools of this state…”
Education is already way too “political” in Alabama. And this attempt by Terri Collins to make it even more so serves no useful purpose.