No doubt some have thought I devoted too much attention to what I consider to be the very sordid mess of selecting a new state school superintendent in 2016. However, with the New Year just outside our front door various news sources have looked at the last 12 months and picked their top stories.
And what do you know, right there along side removing the Speaker of the House from office and chronicling the missteps of Judge Roy Moore and Governor Bentley is the tale of how the state board of education selected an attorney from Massachusetts with no formal education training to head the state school system of 740,000 students.
The Montgomery Advertiser included this story in their top 10.
They said, “But the Alabama Ethics Commission–which typically does not probe anonymous complaints–obtained a copy of the accusations after board member Mary Scott Hunter told them of its existence. In August, the board narrowly voted to give the job to Michael Sentance, a former Massachusetts Secretary of Education.
The leak of emails led to an investigation by a legislative committee. Other Board members who appeared before a legislative committee investigating the leak said they disregarded anonymous complaints. Hunter told the committee in November that she might have handled it differently in retrospect but said at the time she felt the allegations were serious.”
AL.com also gives the story a top 10 billing.
Ditto for the Alabama Political Reporter.
They said: “State school superintendent controversy: Craig Pouncey seemed destined to be Alabama’s next state superintendent of education. Yet, Michael Sentance holds the job. What happened?
An anonymous letter claiming that Pouncey cheated on his dissertation by misusing state resources happened to land on the desks of state school board members. One of those members just happened to pass that accusation along to the Alabama Ethics Commission. The Ethics Commission, which can barely return a phone call in a 24-hour period, somehow managed to work up a preliminary statement that Pouncey was being investigated in less than a day after receiving the complaint.
Tah-dah: Michael Sentance gets the job. And something stinks in Montgomery.”
The same publication also gave us the five stories they believe have not gotten enough media attention. Again, the search controversy is cited.
“Mary Scott Hunter/Sentance selection: This entry is less about media interest and more about public interest. Because there has been surprisingly little public outcry over one of the most blatant political scams in recent memory. That is particularly true considering the beneficiary of the scam was inserted into one of the most important and influential positions in the State – State superintendent.
It went like this: the favorite for the job, Craig Pouncey, was accused by anonymous letter of cheating on his dissertation. That anonymous letter was forwarded to the Ethics Commission by school board member Mary Scott Hunter by way of a State department of education attorney.
The Ethics Commission has a long-standing policy of not accepting anonymous complaints. But it took this one because the complaint came to them from Hunter, even if she was just forwarding an anonymous complaint. And then, to make things extra slimy, the commission, which routinely takes weeks to offer an official letter confirming a valid complaint and investigation, issued such a letter in less than 24 hours. And took the unprecedented step of issuing that letter in a manner that ensured it would be made public.
Sketchy, man. Very sketchy.”
I have to believe this is the first time a search for a state superintendent of education has ever risen to this level of interest. Which is a very sad commentary on the state of education in this state and those elected by the public to look our for the best interests of our 740,000 public school students.
And with legal action concerning this issue just over the 2017 horizon, this is a story that is not soon going away.