By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
The Montgomery County School Board will accept the recommendation of a State takeover of the Montgomery school system and will work with the State to correct problems in the district, school board members said during a meeting on Friday.
The board voted unanimously to approve a plan recommended by Montgomery Superintendent Margaret Allen that called for teams of administrators to examine various aspects of MPS over the next two weeks and prepare recommendations on how to correct any issues.
Those recommendations will compiled in a report that will serve as MPS’ response to State Superintendent Michael Sentence.
Earlier this week, Sentance sent a letter to MPS officials detailing his causes for intervening in MPS. Following State law, Sentance has to wait on a response from MPS – that must come within 21 days – before beginning the takeover.
However, Sentance has stated publicly – and privately told Montgomery school board members – that he wants the takeover to be a collaborative endeavor and provide MPS officials with the means to identify and address many long-running issues.
“He says he wants us to provide a report and to work with him, so he’s going to get a report and we’ll see how serious he is about it,” MPS board member Mary Briers said. “I sincerely hope he means it.”
Friday’s meeting was not without contention.
Briers and fellow school board member Lesa Keith carried on a brief argument after Keith said she had her doubts about any corrective measures taken in the district if they couldn’t first “get rid of” problem students and problem teachers.
Keith cited issues of teacher attendance, saying some teachers at Bellingrath Elementary School weren’t coming to work because student behavior is so bad.
Briers took exception to Keith airing that issue during a public hearing, saying everyone knew of the problems and “talking about it for the media” would do little to solve it.
At a press conference last week, Sentance and State School Board members said they want to work with MPS officials during the intervention. Sources within the state department said that while it’s always good to get the district’s cooperation during a takeover, it’s very important in this instance because ALSDE lacks the manpower to effectively takeover and manage a school district as large as Montgomery’s.
Earlier this week, Sentance outlined in a letter to MPS his cause for the takeover, highlighting several problem areas in the district. The primary cause for the intervention is related to the financial requirement that each district maintain a month’s worth of operating expenses in savings. However, Sentance also noted problems with student nutrition programs and the district’s transportation program.