Disbelief was written on the face of every school system superintendent filing out of today’s state school board meeting. When it was clear that five members of the nine member board had cast their lot with Michael Sentance of Massachusetts to replace Tommy Bice, people began to quietly file out of the meeting, most of them superintendents.
They were in shock at what they had just witnessed. How was it possible that the majority of this board turned its back on three Alabama superintendents in favor of someone who has never been an administrator at any level of education? An attorney and education consultant from a state that is vastly different than Alabama in most every imaginable way–especially resources. (Massachusetts spends $5,500 more per pupil than Alabama does.) Someone who said in his interview that he knows poverty because Massachusetts is the poorest state in New England. (Welcome to the Black Belt.)
Of course I do not know Michael Sentence. I watched him during his interview and he seemed very bright. He certainly is well-educated, having degrees from both Georgetown University and Boston University. And I wish him all the best.
Still I am very troubled that he applied to be head of education in Ohio (2016), Wyoming, Nevada, Nebraska (2013), Utah (2012 and Kentucky (2009) and was rejected each time. You have to wonder if any of the board members did much due diligence.
For sure if I need open heart surgery I don’t want a doctor whose last six patients died. Nor do I believe that the athletic director at either Auburn or Alabama would hire a head football coach they know had been turned down by six other universities.
It is also troubling that not a single Alabama school system superintendent, the very people who interact with the state superintendent most frequently, did not recommend him. However, they did recommend other applicants.
Alabamians are good and decent folks. They will be polite to Sentance. But will he gain the respect or trust of superintendents? This is an entirely different matter.
Time after time for the past few years the “leadership” of this state has said loud and clear to educators that you are to be seen and not heard. Remember the Alabama Accountability Act when we were told after the fact that educators were not told of what was going on because “they might have opposed it?” Or remember the RAISE Act that was cobbled together earlier this year with input from the education community only an afterthought?
Many are concerned that the ultimate goal of some is to radically change the governance of education in Alabama and to give the legislature more and more say. Was this another step in that direction?