The circus some pretend to be the Alabama State Department of Education took another bizarre step Aug. 31 when Mike Sentance fired Deputy Superintendent, Jeff Langham. (Sentance promoted Langham to his $168,621 annual salary a few months ago.)
Various sources tell me Langham was informed he should find a new job by the end of December and that his salary was needed to close the “gap” in deficit spending that came to light last week during a board meeting.
However, this contradicts what Chief of Staff Dee Fowler ($205,792) told board members of the School Superintendents of Alabama board meeting Aug. 30. According to Fowler there is no deficit in the budget and that it is only a “myth.” (But then he also said most things attributed to Sentance are myths.)
Langham was superintendent of Elmore County schools before former state superintendent Tommy Bice brought him to Montgomery a few years ago. While in Elmore County, he was named the Alabama Superintendent of the Year.
News of this firing brought instant response from educators who have worked with Langham. One told me, “He is the only one who has enough sense to work with the board, the legislature, local school systems, superintendents and state department staff. But everyone knew something was up because Langham was being left out of everything. If Sentance or Fowler had even one supporter at ALSDE, they just lost them.”
Langham is the second former local superintendent Sentance has run off. Linda Felton-Smith, former Troy city superintendent also joined the state staff under Bice. But a few months ago Sentance put her on administrative leave as his way of again throwing someone under the bus, instead of taking responsibility himself. Her supposed “sin” was playing a role in the premature release of bad data dealing with graduation rates.
She came back to work and retired shortly after, with 41 years in service to Alabama public schools. And though Sentance’s hand-picked consultant who studied this episode reported that no one was to blame, he did not have the decency to apologize to Felton-Smith for falsely accusing her.
Apparently Sentance is intent on ridding the state department of as much Alabama institutional knowledge as he can and replacing them with people from out-of-state who know as little about this state as he does.
(At this point, his State Special Assistant, Jermall Wright ($168,621) is waiting for the state board to lift a hiring freeze so he can bring in three more outsiders. Wright came from Philadelphia, PA.)
I have many friends at the state department. They are sick and tired of the Sentance “reign of terror” where every day they wonder who will be let go next. It is a toxic work environment where no one trusts anyone else.
One of Sentance’s first hires was Chasidy White, a teacher in a Tuscaloosa high school. She is paid $113,479 and has the title of Director-Strategic Initiatives. But the only strategic initiative she seems involved with now is chief cheerleader and political operative for Sentance. It is common knowledge she monitors social media accounts of various department employees to see if they speak ill of the head man. She also arranged for Sentance to meet with Alabama Tea Party leaders a few days ago.
Recently she went out of her way to tell members of the department’s Teacher Cabinet about how much Sentance was traveling around the state to visit schools and see teachers in action. So when Sentance joined the meeting a teacher asked him to tell them about some of the good things he has seen in Alabama schools. According to someone in attendance, this question brought dead silence from Sentance and he finally said he had seen passionate teachers.
And there are people who still support this guy???? UNBELIVEABLE.