They’re trying to save Michael Sentance — again

September 12, 2017
Alabama Superintendent Michael Sentance

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

There is a last-ditch effort to – again – save Michael Sentance.

The beleaguered state superintendent is expected to be fired on Thursday at a meeting of the Alabama Board of Education. His termination is so assured that calls have been placed to potential interim and acting  superintendent candidates.

But not if the anti-Common Core crowd holds any sway.

Over the last few days, email blasts have gone out to state politicians and board of education members from an anti-common core group. Members of that group have also been calling board members and Gov. Kay Ivey’s office.

Their contention is an odd one: That Sentance, who has never claimed to be against Common Core, is being forced out because of his impassioned stance against the federal standards.

In fact, Sentance’s pushback against Common Core is a new position for the Massachusetts native, adopted in the midst of his fight for his job. Coincidentally, at the same time he took up this new position, state board member Betty Peters – a longtime opponent of the standards – began accompanying Sentance to meetings with state politicians and lobbyists.

And all of that would make sense if Alabama had adopted Common Core. But it didn’t.

Under former superintendent Tommy Bice, the pushback in the state against anything tied to former President Obama led the department to walk a fine line between implementing standards that would align closely enough to allow Alabama to receive some available federal money but still adequately assure most that the state was firmly in control of what is taught in classrooms. The result was the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards, which were widely accepted by most education and business groups.

That was not enough for the hardcore anti-Common Core folks, who have challenged everything from textbooks to individual teacher assignments. And in Sentance, they apparently believe they have found someone desperate enough to take up their cause.

“Firing Sentance = keeping Common Core,” an email from Lou Campomenosi read. Campomenosi is the “president” of a Common Core group in Spanish Fort.

Another email from Campomenosi – this one written in all caps – said the only hope for education in Alabama is to allow Sentence “to implement his reforms.”

Those reforms have only recently featured a repeal of Common Core.

Fringe letters were not the only lifelines tossed for Sentance.

Over the weekend, al.com published a surprising defense of Sentance’s hires, which have been heavily criticized by board members because of the expensive salaries doled out.

The al.com story compared the raw number of select positions within ALSDE, noting that Sentance’s staff numbers were lower than Bice’s. That’s true if you don’t factor in recent retirements, a hiring freeze preventing Sentance from bringing in three administrators and the several administrative hires Sentance made as part of the Montgomery Public Schools takeover.

All of those were included in the issues board members raised concerning Sentance’s hires. Along with issues relating to his lack of communication with the board and county superintendents, his mishandling of the Montgomery takeover and the general disorganization of ALSDE under his watch.

None of those issues have yet been addressed by email blasts or media stories. But there are still two days left before Thursday’s meeting.

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