Sentance at least deserves a fair shot

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

Poor Michael Sentance.

For the better part of two hours on Wednesday afternoon, at a special called state school board meeting, Alabama’s schools chief was subjected to a barrage of complaints from the board members who serve as his boss.

The complaints ranged from the issues with communication between Sentance and the board to the Alabama State Department of Education’s website.

By the end, after two hours of apologies and contrition from Sentance, you couldn’t help but feel bad for the guy.

Because to be quite honest, some of the things he was taken to task for doing were silly. Like not notifying board members of his meetings with the governor or with lawmakers.

I mean, come on. You want to tie a GPS tracker on the guy?

A lot of the complaints about Sentance were like that. They were things that, on paper, seemed serious or even had a modicum of truth attached. But most were hopelessly overblown or misconstrued.

Like the uproar a week ago over the changes to the career tech program.

There was no reason for the hand-wringing. I had longtime, rational educators calling me last Friday, all of them up in arms about this “Nazi from Massachusetts” destroying career tech.

That wasn’t the case. At all.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Sentance said he had merely told his staff of proposed changes that just moved the program around. It didn’t really change anything.

But once the rumors hit, they spread like wildfire. It didn’t seem to matter what the truth was.

And that’s a pretty big problem in this current uproar over Sentance – too often the truth doesn’t matter much. Too often people are seeing and believing only what they want to believe.

That’s understandable to a point, given the way Sentance was hired. The process was an absolute disaster and has resulted in a state Senate committee investigation and lawsuit.

But at this point, a whole lot of people need to start separating Sentance from the search that landed him. Because that’s not on him. All he did was exactly what the other candidates did.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine to not like the guy. And to be honest, even after the separation of Sentance and the search, there are still a multitude of issues that should cause concern.

But the irrational fears and constant end-of-the-world proclamations from all corners of the education community is overkill, particularly only six months into his tenure. And it’s even more unnecessary given Sentance’s apparent contrition and willingness to work with the board to improve his shortcomings.

Maybe everyone should take a breath and entertain the crazy idea that the guy might be exactly what this state  needs – a fresh set of eyes to judge the practicality and effectiveness of what we’ve been doing.

Because, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Alabama’s public education system, isn’t exactly a fine-tuned machine.

There are myriad reasons for that, and there is plenty of blame to go around. But maybe an outsider with no allegiances could help straighten that out. Maybe he could right the state’s poor funding model and reroute funds to the students who need them most.

Or maybe he’ll do none of that.

Maybe he’ll fail spectacularly at it.

Maybe he’ll start throwing chairs one day like I thought he might during Wednesday’s meeting.

But whatever happens, let’s give the guy a fair shot.

Because the constant turmoil is helping no one, particularly the public school children of this state.

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