Educators throughout the country were appalled when Donald Trump chose billionaire Betsy DeVos to be his Secretary of Education. Their dismay grew even greater as DeVos flopped and floundered this week before a U.S. Senate confirmation committee. Her lack of knowledge about public education was painfully obvious.
However, state school board member Mary Scott Hunter of Huntsville told WAFF TV, “I support Betsy DeVos and the nomination, but it’s a qualified support. She needs to win my trust.”
Considering the antics of the state school board over past several months it is almost comical that Ms. Hunter talks about “trust.” All the missteps this group made in the “search” for a new state school chief has drastically eroded the public’s confidence in them. For instance, this survey of more than 970 people made in December shows that 94.8 percent rate the board with a letter grade of C, D or F. Only 5.32 percent give them an A or B. (This compares to only 2.35 percent giving the legislature an A or B.)
In addition, 91.32 percent either “strongly” or “somewhat” oppose the hiring of Mike Sentance as state school superintendent.
And testimony gathered by a legislative committee investigating details of the hire has shed additional light on how the process unfolded. None of which casts a favorable light on this body, especially on Ms. Hunter.
Even though six members of the board testified that they paid little to any attention to an anonymous “complaint” directed to board members ascertaining that candidate Craig Pouncey had run afoul of ethics rules and regulations when he did his 2009 doctoral dissertation, Hunter said she was greatly concerned and give it to interim superintendent Phillip Cleveland with directions to give it to state department of education legal counsel Juliana Dean. In addition, we also know from testimony given this week by Tom Allbritton, Ethics Commission director, that Hunter called him and told him about the complaint.
A key factor in this is the fact that the Ethics Commission does not investigate anonymous complaints. But Hunter, an attorney, told committee chair Senator Gerald Dial that “she did not know the rules.”
We have also learned that Hunter told some legislators attending a Business Council of Alabama meeting that Craig Pouncey would not be considered because of his ethics complaint. Yet the truth is that there never was an actionable complaint.
At this point in time, Mary Scott Hunter should be far more concerned about how the public views the job she is doing on the state school board than passing judgement on Betsy DeVos.