Hope Zeanah is assistant superintendent of the Baldwin County school system and probably understands elementary eduation as well as anyone in the state. A veteran of 30+ years in education, she was principal of Elberta Elementary for 16 years and was Alabama Principal of the Year in 2013. Every now and then you come across an educator who is not only good, but they have some specal gift for understanding what education is really all about. Hope has that gift. I wish Santa would give one Hope Zeanah to every school system in the state.
Dr. Christy Hiett is principal of Fruithurst Elementary in Cleburne County. She grew up in this little community, went to school where she is now principal and returned after graduating from Auburn University. She has a great little school in a very rural and poor part of Alabama. (The last time I was at her school she told me about a student who does not have running water.) This school excels at teaching math. The last time I checked, her free-reduced lunch students did better on math than their counterparts in any Auburn city school system. Our new state superintendent wants to boost our math scores. He should visit Fruithurst Elementary to see how it’s done. If only Santa would clone Christy and sprinkle dozens of her around the state.
The truth about what went on last summer during our search for a new state superintendent. Why was this process more about politics than education? Who put together a smear sheet to discredit Dr. Craig Pouncey? Why did state board member Mary Scott Hunter make sure the Ethics Commission knew about this smear sheet? After applicant Mike Sentance voluntarily withdrew his application for the top job, why did Juliana Dean, state ed department legal counsel, call him and ask him to reconsider? She is the attorney for the school board, did they tell her to call?
Litigation seeking answers to these and other questions awaits in 2017, I ask Santa to give the courts wisdom in dealing with this issue. It is important to the future of Alabama public education.
We need a State Board of Education who will work together to reach consensus and do what is right for the 740,000 public school students they represent. This lack of unity was never more apparent than in last summer’s superintendent search. There was never a meeting of the minds as to what kind of superintendent the state needed at this point in time. There were six candidates interviewed. Three were Alabama local superintendents with vast knowledge of how the state handles school finances, etc. There were two candidates from out-of-state, neither with experience at any level in a local school system. The sixth candidate was a member of the governor’s cabinet who was something of a compromise between the superintendents and the out-of-staters.
So there was a clear delineation among candidates. It was as if you had three offensive lineman, two running backs and one player who could play both offense and defense.
There were seven “rounds” of votes cast with each member, including the governor, able to cast one vote in each round.
Amazingly, one board member voted in five of the seven rounds. She voted for two local superintendents, the cabinet member and twice for Mike Sentance. In other words, of the six candidates, she was OK with any four of them. How is that for firm convictions?
Santa, can you tell the state board members that THEIR ONLY obligation is to do whatever they can to improve the education of 740,000 students. It is not to advance their own political ambitions or to promote some philosophical belief that most of us can not understand.
Santa, could you please tell our governor that our public schools, their students, teachers, principals, custodians, bus drivers, nurses, lunchroom workers and administrators are more than just a punch line for some pitiful attempt at getting a laugh from an audience. Give him a ride in your sleigh to Fruithurst Elementary to talk to Chrisy Hiett about her student with no running water. Drop him off to see superintendent Walter Gonsoulin in Fairfield where nearly one-third of his students are considered homeless. Take him to Hayneville to see superintendent Daniel Boyd so they can talk about how the Alabama Accountability Act that the governor signed into law has done absolutely NOTHING to help his students.
Rep. Bill Poole of Tuscaloosa would make any daddy proud. He is chair of the House committee that funds education. Bill is bright, hard-working, very conscientious and highly respected by his colleagues.
Santa, a year from now we will be gearing up for the 2018 legislative races. Can you please find more Bill Pooles and beg them to run for a legislative seat?
And Santa, allow me a moment of selfishness and ask for something for myself. Would you please tell the damn hackers who have hit my computer twice in the last 13 months and locked up all of my files to stay the hell away?