By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
A scramble took place Wednesday at the Alabama State Department of Education and at the central office of Montgomery’s Public Schools to find the sources of a story that appeared on the Alabama Political Reporter.
Several sources told APR on Wednesday that state department employees were questioned about the leak. At MPS, officials were questioning board members and an attorney for the system called an APR reporter to inquire about the source of the information. (APR declined to provide any information about its sources, per company standards.)
Sources said the reason officials at both entities were so eager to find the source is because Sentance told MPS attendees at a meeting on Monday to refrain from leaking details of the state’s takeover plan to the media. Sentence told the group that he wanted to present “a united front” at Thursday’s State Board of Education meeting.
A joint press conference with State School Board members and officials from the Montgomery system is scheduled for just after Thursday’s board meeting to cement their agreement.
A spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Education said in an email that no threats were made to employees or to MPS officials.
“To be clear, at no point was anyone told that speaking to the media would warrant any repercussion or consequence,” said Michael Sibley, the director of communications for ALSDE. Sibley said he was in the room for the meeting.
Sibley’s response came, in part, to a question from APR about allegations raised by sources that Sentance threatened MPS officials with a full state takeover should they discuss the takeover plan publicly. Sibley called that “categorically incorrect.”
As it stands, the state department of education is set to take over all of MPS’ 23 priority schools but will leave the Montgomery County Board of Education in charge – to small extent – of the district’s remaining schools. However, the entire district will still be subject to any financial or operational plans implemented by Sentance and all hires, firings and personnel transfers must be approved by him.
The united front between ALSDE and MPS for the takeover wasn’t hard to achieve. Sources close to several MPS board members said that board members were generally supportive of the takeover and the additional resources it will bring the district.
In addition, the takeover is a popular move among city and county leaders and most Montgomery residents.