Questions surrounding the $536,000 contract between the state department of education and Class Measures, a Massachusetts company with ties to new state superintendent Mike Sentance won’t go away.

As Decatur Daily reporter Mary Sell details in this article, several state board members are scratching their heads trying to figure out the circumstances of the contract, why they have not been informed about it by the state superintendent and why they were not asked to approve it.

One who is looking for answers is Cynthia McCarty.  Sell reports:

“Several members of the Alabama State Board of Education said Monday they still have concerns about a large proposed contract with a company that once employed the state superintendent — and with the board’s overall lack of control in contract selections.

“If we, the board of education, have a fiduciary responsibility over K-12 dollars, shouldn’t we have a role in the contract review process?” board member Cynthia McCarty, R-Anniston, said Monday. “I have some concerns and hope we will discuss this as soon as possible.”

About the $536,000 contract with Massachusetts-based Class Measures to review some schools and systems, McCarty and others said they still have questions.

 “I still want evidence that we need this entity to come in and do this study and (that Class Measures is) the best to do it … and (whether) that is a reasonable price,” said McCarty, whose district includes Morgan County.”
Long time member Stephanie Bell of Montgomery is also concerned:

“I have been able to get very little information from the current superintendent on this issue,” board member Stephanie Bell, R-Montgomery, said Monday. She said she’s asked for a copy of the proposed contract and hasn’t received it.

“Obviously, it hasn’t been signed, but there must be some proposal if they have a dollar amount,” Bell said. Sentance is the fourth superintendent Bell has worked with during her time on the board, and she said she’s consistently asked for information about contracts.

“The board, we have not been brought into this at all,” Bell said.

She and some other board members said they’re still not clear on what will be done under the contract. “I get vague answers with no details,” Bell said.”

And here is what member Jeff Newman of Lamar County told Sell:

“The selection process is not quite clear to me,” said Newman, who represents Lawrence County, half of Limestone County and the Shoals.

He’s also unclear on what and how many schools will be evaluated. “I can’t say a lot about it because I don’t know much about it,” Newman said.”

Local superintendents are dumbfounded that state policy apparently does not require board approval of such large contracts.  Many take all contracts to their board for approval, regardless the size.

One told me, “If I tried this with my board, I would be looking for a job the next day.”

The Education Trust Fund budget is still less than it was in 2008.  The state superintendent is wanting to cut funding for valuable programs such as AMST and ARI.  Again without discussing with his board.

Yet in light of this we wants a $536,000 contract for a company he was once involved with.

It’s no wonder people are asking questions.  And more power to them.