Leslie Hughes is a candidate to become a National Board Certified Teacher soon.  She attended the May 31 meeting at Jacksonville High to listen as state superintendent Mike Sentence discussed the new strategic plan for education.

She posted her comments on Facebook.  She pulled no punches.  With her permission, here is an edited version of her original post.

“I somehow got in a group email with an attachment with the announcement from ALSDE – dated ONE DAY BEFORE this event. Otherwise, I’d never have heard. I know all sorts of folks who would have attended if they had known about it.

We came prepared to discuss it. But Sentence gave a power point presentation of the whole blessed thing. Much of it with several paragraphs per slide, and most impossible to read. YAWN. It made me laugh to myself when he kept talking about student engagement (his audience was not engaged even a little bit) and teacher mastery of content knowledge (he clearly did not have a clue about the buzz words that were scattered throughout his “plan” and presentation). The whole thing was such baloney.

* Sarcastic point of the day, “You can’t solve problems if you don’t have a deep knowledge and understanding of the subject matter.” This is his over-arching theme of how our teachers suck. He went on and on about how teachers don’t have a deep content knowledge. How we need to ramp up PD and retool our college teacher education programs. It’s really insulting. He has no education degree or experience. He has no idea what he’s talking about and is spouting lines from his various committees. He can’t fix anything because he doesn’t understand. And MAN, he has no public speaking skills. *

* He insulted our students: “We need students who can read A WHOLE BOOK!” he declared. He truly thinks our kids aren’t capable of reading books from beginning to end. 

*You “doom everyone to failure” when you put out teachers who aren’t prepared. Yes, I agree with this. He had no plans that he was putting forward. Just pointing out that he thinks we’re all morons. ..

* MICRO-CREDENTIALLING. I cussed a little in my notes at this point. This is “a series of incentives and professional recognition” (note: not monetary) whereby we prove that we’re not morons by being tested and earning special credits (free or low cost – note: we’ll have to pay for these ourselves).

* He parroted some talking points about the National Board certification process. He clearly didn’t know much about it. He threw it out like it was a weekend training or something instead of a crazy-intense humongous undertaking that consumes your life.

* He talked about funding/resource equity between schools and systems. I was excited to hear how he was going to approach that. Sorry to disappoint. He didn’t talk about “how”. There wasn’t a single “how” in anything he discussed.

AT THIS POINT, IT WAS FINALLY TIME TO ASK QUESTIONS. I was hoping for a more press-secretary-briefing sort of format where we could follow up or ask for clarification.

* A question about how these strategic plan committees were formed. Who was on them? How many? From where? He didn’t know, really. Asked some of his fellow suits and threw out a few names. It was evasive.

* A question about the emphasis on career tech moving forward, dual enrollment opportunities… more evasion. Lot of “good idea, we’re working on that” baloney. Lots and lots of baloney.

* Great question from a lady with 20 years teaching experience, National Board certified — she says that Plan 20/20 had concrete objectives. This plan has no concrete plan. Where are the plans for these goals? Answer: “These plans are not ready to go at the moment.”

* A question about how we are going to fund all these ideas when we can’t go very long without funding cuts. “Okay. Thank you. Next question?” HE DIDN’T ANSWER HER.

* I got my turn for a question. I went back to point out that he didn’t answer the question about cuts. I went deeper though – we get a good thing going (AMSTI, ARI), they’re cut and expected to do the same with fewer resources. Schools have to operate under budget cuts, we still don’t have the budgets we had in 2008… how are these new initiatives going to be funded – and will the money come from even more cuts to what we currently receive?

He said we’ll just be “marshalling our money better.” He slammed our PD and said we’re paying tons of money for PD that isn’t properly vetted. How about giving more support to the eleven regional in-service centers and expanding what they’re able to do?

Most of my favorite sources of PD weren’t present at this meeting because – shocker – they were busy presenting awesome PD sessions. The only thing holding them back is resources. And, in my estimation, moronic leadership in Montgomery.

It’s so very clear that the suits in Montgomery have no idea of what’s going on, what can be improved, and what can be done to improve it. This head suit, especially, needs to hear lots of useful input. Maybe he’ll “synthesize” that into a plan, an actual plan that will make a positive impact on Alabama’s students. But I’m not holding my breath.”

This is beyond alarming.  When a nationally-recognized teacher is this frustrated and dismayed at the lack of leadership coming from the state superintendent, we are witnessing a train wreck of epic proportions.  Why do we continue to force such incompetence on our 730,000 public school students?