By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—A growing number of individuals are banding together to stop the hiring of a non-educator, who has been chosen to lead Alabama schools.
The online petition is a reaction to the August 11 decision, made by the Alabama Board of Education, to hire Michael Sentance, a former Massachusetts bureaucrat-turned education consultant, to head the Alabama Department of Education. According to the online petition, the Board’s action, “was a hard slap in the face to every educator and concerned public school parent in the State.”
Education advocate, Larry Lee, created the petition on change.org. Lee hopes to rally educators, support staff and parents to demand the board rescind its hiring discussion immediately. “This decision [by the board] is indefensible,” wrote Lee. “The only solution is to rescind it.”
Lee believes the board should, “hire someone who has a proven record of understanding education in Alabama, and who will have the trust and respect of our hard-working educators, and others who value education.”
Reactions from the people signing the petition online have been plentiful and often blunt: “I find it incredible that the board thought a non-educator, that is not even familiar with public education in Alabama, was the best choice.” “This reeks of the same underhanded politics that have plagued us in Alabama. This needs to stop, and stop now!” Blame is cast not only at the Board in general, but specifically at Gov. Robert Bentley, Mary Scott Hunter (who represents the district covering Huntsville) and the Alabama Farmer Association (ALFA).
One suggestion is for educators, support staff and parents, who have ALFA Insurance, is to cancel their policies to show the insurance company there are consequences for meddling with education.
ALFA’s chief, Paul Pinyan, and two of his lobbyists, were on hand during Sentance’s approval by the Board.
“They were the only ones who applauded when he was chosen,” said an attendee, privately.
According to individuals with background knowledge of the events leading to the vote, ALFA lobbyists persuaded board member Betty Peters to break her pledge to support Dr. Craig Pouncey.
A Gadsden petitioner said, “I was involved in an online discussion with Mary Scott Hunter several weeks ago. When I stated that I hoped she would support Dr. Pouncey, she stated that she ‘believed it was time for a change.’ Her mind was already made up, before interviews. I do not trust that the process was fair, and ALFA officials should never have been involved. It appears that the votes were bought.”
A Huntsville petitioner wrote, “ONLY educators need to be considered for State Super of Education. Otherwise, schools suffer!”
A Wetumpka man was a bit more blunt: “I’m pissed! It’s like buying salsa made in New York City!”
Lee is using social media and his website to spur action, from those who were ignored during the selection process. “They are smug in their conviction that the Almighty has anointed them with more wisdom than the masses,” Lee said.
“So I simply ask that you join me, in ultimately speaking out for the 740,000 students who attend our public schools by signing.”