Today was a big day for the state of Alabama as the governor and all eight elected members of the state school board spent a long day interviewing six candidate for the job of state school superintendent.
The board will now vote on this matter at their next regular meeting on Aug. 11. State board members each deserve special thanks for the effort they are putting into this search
Like many others I watched via my computer. So I was free to take notes, get some water out of the refrigerator and tend to other matters at my leisure. Anyone wishing to watch the interviews can go here.
Each candidate had a five-minute opening statement, then each board member was allotted five minutes to ask questions. The session ended with the candidate doing a three-minute wrap up. Someone did a great job of making sure everything stayed on schedule.
An extremely wide range of topics were covered throughout the day. Subjects from the Alabama Reading Imitative to community involvement to professional development to the foundation funding program–and many, many more–were discussed. Some answers dealt with specifics relating to Alabama, while some were largely philosophical in nature.
I only recall charter schools being mentioned once and there was little mention of Common Core.
In order of their interviews, the candidates were: Dee Fowler, superintendent of Madison City schools; Craig Pouncey, superintendent of Jefferson County schools, Jeana Ross, Secretary of the Department of Early Childhood Education; education consultant Michael Sentance; Janet Womack, superintendent of Florence City schools and Williamson Evers, a fellow at the Hoover Institution. Sentance is from Massachusetts while Evers is from California.
It was an impressive group. Each brings qualities unique to themselves. I know the four Alabama candidates well and have great respect for each.
Obviously the candidates break into two groups. One with Alabama experiences, one without.
The board must decide it they want someone who can hit the ground running, or someone who will need on-the-job training.
It was obvious some board members were intrigued by what Sentence told them of how well Massachusetts does on national rankings. But it should be remembered this state invests far more into K-12 education than Alabama does. For instance, they spent $14,515 per student in 2013–nearly $5,500 more than Alabama. This was eighth in the U.S. And in 2012-13 the average teacher made $73,129 in Massachusetts.
The governor also seemed somewhat fixated on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores. He evidently believes our schools are falling farther and farther behind. But as I point out here and here, we have actually been closing the gap between Alabama and the rest of the country for years. A single point on a graph is not a trend line.
We should all say a prayer for each board member as they continue their deliberations.