We know that state school chief Mike Sentance has no formal training in the field of education (which he has demonstrated many times with his insensitivity towards teachers and their challenges), however, one would think that since he went to law school he would be able to read Alabama law and interpret it correctly. (Even though of the 25 grades he received in law school, 19 of them were Cs and Ds.)
Section 16 of the Alabama Code is exclusively about education. There are 67 chapters in it. Mike Sentance needs to spend more time digging into them.
In particular he should be familiar with Section 16-4-1 which states: “As the chief executive officer of the State Department of Education there shall be a State Superintendent of Education, who shall be appointed by the State Board of Education and shall serve at the pleasure of the State Board of Education…”
Also Section 16-2-2 which says: “The duties of the Department of Education shall be, through its personnel, to assist in executing the policies and procedures authorized by law and by regulations of the State Board of Education.”
And Section 16-3-11: “The State Board of Education shall exercise, through the State Superintendent of Education and his professional assistants, general control and supervision of the public schools of the state…..”
NO WHERE does the code of Alabama say the state superintendent is a czar, answering to no one but himself. Instead, this person answers to an eight-member elected board chosen by voters of this state in their respective districts. It was set up this way to give the citizens of the state the ultimate power of governance of K 12 education.
Yet Sentance seems to have difficulty understanding this.
The latest example is a letter he wrote to Jason Botel at the U.S. Department of Education on June 1, 2017. He told Botel, “Alabama is in the formative stages of a complete overhaul of its approach to education. We are replacing our former strategic plan, PLAN 2020, with a new and more comprehensive plan entitled Alabama Ascending.”
Really? Then why do no members of the State Board of Education know about this? Why can none of them recall taking a vote to abandon Plan 2020 and replace it with Alabama Ascending?
Plan 2020 was adopted by the board on August 30, 2012. It was put together after extensive efforts to get stakeholder input from across the state. In fact, a series of 31 meetings were held in 2012 throughout the state seeking input. (By contrast, Alabama Ascending was apparently cobbled together with input from only three committees and limited input from five meetings in the state.)
Truth is there has been no decision by the state board to replace Plan 2020 and to tell folks in Washington that there will be is very misleading.
Sentance has been chastised repeatedly by the board he answers to to be more forthcoming in communicating with them. This is why recent board meetings have been four and five hours long. Because the board is trying to get information about what the superintendent and the state department of education are doing.
Unfortunately for the educators and students of Alabama, this message is falling on deaf ears.