When Kids Are The Rope In A Political Tug Of War

One doesn’t need a Ph.D in soothsaying to know that the honeymoon between state superintendent Mike Sentance and some members of the state school board has ended.

Though Sentance has been chastised time after time by the board for not sharing information, he basically ignores them.  Which is the reason board meetings and work sessions now last four to five hours or more.  The board is trying to drag info out of Sentance about what he is doing, what the state department is doing, and especially, how much money is being spent.

Money has been a sore spot since Sentance decided in January to intervene in the Montgomery County school system.  Consider that Sentance did a no-bid contract for a Montgomery CFO for $750,000 for three years with no board input.  Or that he got a $500,000 contract for a Massachusetts consulting firm he once worked for.  Consider the annual salary of $164,913 he gave to Reggie Eggleston to run the Montgomery effort, or the $168,621 he is paying Jermall Wright, a “turnaround” school specialist from Philadelphia.  Or the search for a chief of staff for Eggleston paying up to $130,000.

So it is hardly any wonder that board member Stephanie Bell requested a resolution on June 8 to freeze all Montgomery system hires until Sentance gave the board a clear look at the financial situation pertaining to the intervention.  This passed unanimously.

Everyone in the room knew the intent of the resolution Bell wanted was to curtail spending on administrative slots–and not to interfere with running schools and hiring teachers.

Here is the resolution:

RESOLUTION TO AUTHORIZE A HIRING FREEZE RELATED TO THE MONTGOMERY PUBLIC SCHOOLS INTERVENTION

WHEREAS, the Alabama State Board of Education requests an intervention budget reflecting the proposed appropriation for Montgomery Public Schools for the period commencing when the Alabama State Board of Education assumed oversight of the Montgomery County Board of Education’s operations to this date.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That the Alabama State Board of Education does hereby approve an authorization of a hiring freeze as to the Alabama State Department of Education and the Montgomery County Board of Education until the requested budgetary information has been provided to and reviewed by the Alabama State Board of Education.

Done this 8th day of June 2017.

But there is a problem..

The resolution just says “hiring freeze” without setting any parameters as to what positions are covered and not covered.  We are now about six weeks from the start of a new school year.  This means many principals are frantically trying to get teachers in place for a new term.

But when the Montgomery County school board met on June 27 to hire new teachers, they were told that the state department would not allow them to do so because of the state school board’s resolution.

The Montgomery board met on June 28 with Mike Sentance and chief of staff Dee Fowler.  Sentance informed them that they would have to wait until the July 11 state board meeting to get this matter straightened out.  Fowler showed the Montgomery folks the resolution and pointed out exactly what it said.

I have tried without success to get info from the state department to find out who actually drafted the resolution, when it was done, when it was presented to Sentance and Fowler and whether or not the state board has actually seen it or taken action on the resolution itself.  (One board member I spoke with said she did not recall having seen it.)

It is also important to note that the great majority of teachers are hired with dollars allocated on a school by school basis from the state foundation program and that the state department of education has no control over such funds.

It is also important to know that the state board held meetings on June 21 and 23 and the Montgomery situation was never mentioned.

Unfortunately this is just one more example of the lack of leadership at ALSDE and the resulting confusion.  Is the resolution legal and properly executed by the state board?  Why would the state department try to impose its will over dollars it has no authority over?  If there is a problem, why hasn’t ALSDE notified the state school board and planned corrective action?  Why would the state superintendent tell one of the largest systems in the state they would have to wait 13 days for a remedy?

Is Sentance more interested in throwing the state board under the bus than he is the welfare of 30,000 students?

The fact that grownups can be so cavalier with children is amazing.  We deserve much, much better than this.

Editor’s note:  The Montgomery school system website on June 29 posted announcements for four secretaries.  One for the Chief of Staff at an annual salary of $37,693.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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