Three months ago (Nov. 8th to be exact) we told you about a group forming the Alabama Public School Defense Fund to take legal action concerning the very flawed process of choosing a state school superintendent last summer.
And thanks to the work of Senators Gerald Dial and Quinton Ross, a legislative committee has held several hearings to probe deeper into what took place. These sessions have certainly been revealing and have shown beyond doubt that certain individuals, perhaps acting on their own or at the direction of others, set about to create an uneven playing field for the six candidates interviewed for the job.
We now know that someone put together a “smear sheet” aimed at candidate Craig Pouncey, current Jefferson County school superintendent and former Chief of Staff for state superintendent Tommy Bice. Masked as a complaint to the Ethics Commission, this info was not signed which means it would not be investigated by the Ethics Commission
All eight elected board members testified before the legislative committee. Six of them said they discounted the smear sheet and knew it could not be pursued by Ethics. However, member Mary Scott Hunter said that she gave it to then interim state superintendent Phillip Cleveland and told him to get it to Juliana Dean, state department legal counsel. Hunter also called Tom Allbritton, Ethics Commission director, and told him about this info.
Allbritton contacted his legal counsel, Hugh Evans, III, and asked him to get a copy. He called Dean who hand-delivered the info that day and by the end of the day, Evans had written a letter to Dean acknowledging receipt of info about Pouncey. This letter was distributed to all school board members and soon found its way into the media.
Legislators were surprised to learn that the Ethics Commission had moved so fast on this issue, as that seldom happens. And when Senator Dial asked Hunter, an attorney, why she did not know anonymous complaints were not investigated, she told him, “I did not know the rules.”
We too know that shortly after this episode, Hunter was telling legislators at a Business Council of Alabama meeting that Pouncey was being investigated by the Ethics Commission. Of course, this was untrue since there never has been, nor ever will be, an investigation on the matter for reasons cited above.
We know that three weeks after the June deadline for candidates to apply, Mike Sentance withdrew his name in writing. Dean then called him and asked that he reconsider and he was allowed to withdraw his withdrawal letter. Dean made this call without knowledge of the state board.
During discussions of the six candidates, board member Jeff Newman of Lamar County, a former local superintendent, argued that once a candidate withdraws from any search in writing, they should no longer be considered. But apparently his argument fell on deaf ears.
There is no shadow of a doubt that this entire process was fatally flawed.
And to simply dismiss it all as “business as usual” would be unconscionable. Such behavior by elected officials is not forgivable. And especially when they are playing games at the expense of the 730,000 Alabama public school students. If nothing else, their actions were immoral.
Which is why legal action is on the horizon.
You can contribute to this cause by going to this link and donating on-line as many have done. Or if you prefer to write a check, as many have also done, make payable: APSDF and send to: APSDF, P. O. Box 3731, Montgomery, AL 36109.
Dozens and dozens of people from across the state have joined this effort to show that good people really do care about our children and our public schools and that they are sick and tired of Montgomery shenanigans.
Please join them.