By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY— State Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) sent a letter on Wednesday, cautioning members of the State Board of Education to ignore the corrupting influence of special interest groups and legislators, who are working to influence the appointment of a new Superintendent of Education.
In his letter Dial wrote, “I have read the many comments concerning the process of selecting the next Superintendent of Education. Several stories and articles have surfaced, the fact that Specific individual members of the legislature are trying to discredit one specific candidate by being less than truthful about his qualifications is very troubling to me and others.”
In June, Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) sent an email to members of the Board in which she praised Jeana Ross, who had been appointed Secretary of the Department of Early Childhood Education, by Gov. Robert Bentley in 2012. Mrs. Ross is the mother of John Ross, a partner at Swatek, Howe and Ross, who were part of Hubbard’s “kitchen cabinet,” which came to light during his criminal trial. Collins also took the opportunity to disparage Dr. Craig Pouncy, the former number two at the Department of Education.
Dial praised Dr. Pouncy in his letter saying, “I have personally known Dr. Craig Pouncy for over 20 years. Few individuals have demonstrated the sincere concern for the welfare of the students in our state. He has served in many positions in local and state education, and in each of those positions he has served with dignity, honor and honesty putting the interest of students first.”
He further states, “I have served on the Senate Education Committee for many years. Dr. Pouncy has always presented honest- straight forward answers to our committee and has had the total respect of the committee and other members of the legislature. He has never yielded to political pressure sometimes exerted by legislatures to support legislation that was not in the best interest of ALL the students in our schools.”
The long serving Senator then reminds the Board of special interest tactics and issues a warning: “In politics, a favorite tactic of special interest groups is to run down someone who might be a challenge to their choice. To allow special interest groups to influence the selection of the next Superintendent of Education will leave our entire Public Education System under the control and beholden to the special interest groups seeking to alter the fair, qualifications based selection process in place.”
Dial also asks them to allow the system to work as designed, and that the qualifications of each candidate is the primary consideration: “I encourage you to let qualifications be the deciding factor in this important decision. The people of our State have lost confidence in elected officials and they will be watching this process very closely. Your students, teachers and the future of our next generation will be shaped by your decision.”
An anonymous source recently told the Alabama Political Reporter, “The goal is ultimately to put both K-12 and post-secondary under the Department of Commerce, because they see education as workforce training.” In fact, several current education experts have privately repeated the same sentiment, while at the same time accusing Gov. Robert Bentley of being a “useful tool,” for Billy Canary and former Gov. Bob Riley.
Those with close ties to Bentley say, the Governor is fully behind the Mrs. Ross/Riley/Canary choice.