From almost the moment state superintendent Mike Sentance took over last fall, his administration has been one misstep after another. And with each one, the state school board has come under more scrutiny and fire. Many keep wondering when the board will step up and take control and demand accountability from their new superintendent.
After all, in spite of what Mike Sentance seems to think, it is the duty of the state school board, not the state superintendent, to be in charge. The law is very clear on this.
Alabama Code Section 16-3-11 says:
The State Board of Education shall exercise, through the State Superintendent of Education and his professional assistants, general control and supervision over the public schools of the state, except institutions of higher learning which by law are under the general supervision and control of a board of trustees, and shall consult with and advise through its executive officer and his professional assistants, county boards of education, city and town boards of education, superintendents of schools, school trustees, attendance officers, principals, teachers, supervisors and interested citizens, and shall seek in every way to direct and develop public sentiment in support of public education.
And here is what the constitution says:
General supervision of the public schools in Alabama shall be vested in a state board of education which shall be elected in such a manner as the state legislature shall provide.
The authority and duties of the superintendent of education shall be determined by the state board of education according to such regulations as the legislature may prescribe.
The news late last week that Sentance had hired three consultants (to the tune of $26,971) to create a new department reorganization plan which alters the chain of command for Career Tech and Workforce Development appears to be the straw that broke the camel’s back and prompted the state board to step in and seek answers to a lot of questions.
The agenda includes discussion about: Alabama Reading Initiative; Alabama Math Science and Technology Initiative (AMSTI); department salaries in excess of $75,000; contract approval policy; ACT Aspire; plan for failing schools; communications; list of school systems in need of financial interventions; career tech education/workforce development and strategic plan.
Basically the agenda is a list of grievances questioning the superintendent’s management style and his lack of keeping state board members informed as to what is going on.
The meeting will be held at 3:30 p.m. in Plaza 104 in the Gordon Persons building. Unfortunately, this is a small room with seating for about 50 people. Why such a small space? You tell me. But with Montgomery as the seat of state government, there is no shortage of much larger meeting spaces.
A reporter friend told me she was bringing snacks because it may be a very long meeting. She might include a bullet proof vest.
The fact that such a meeting is necessary is one more sad commentary on the overall state of K-12 public education in Alabama. In our last on-line survey in December, 92 percent of respondents said Mike Sentance should not have been hired to begin with. I have to believe that number has increased since.
It was a mistake to hire Mike Sentance. Not because he is a bad guy, but simply because he was not qualified for this position. But we all make mistakes. However, a much greater mistake is not admitting what is now so evident and taking immediate steps to correct the situation.