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Survey says: No one trusts the Governor, State Superintendent, School Board

Education Matters
By Larry Lee

At this writing, nearly 700 have responded to the survey we posted on Friday, March 17, 2017. Results basically track the last survey made in December which showed little confidence among educators in State level entities charged with helping public schools. You can see all results here.

Respondents were 69 percent female, 93 percent white, 70 percent work for a school system and 46 percent are teachers. Sixty percent have either children or grandchildren attending a public school.

While this is an on-line survey where demographics can not be controlled and therefore can not be considered “scientific” so to speak, we certainly get a clear look at what the education community is thinking.

In December, 87 percent felt the Governor was anti-public schools. This has now dropped to 82 percent. On the other hand, 95 percent now disapprove of the job the Governor is doing, up slightly since December.

As anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, a law suit was recently filed against Phillip Clevelend, former State Department of Education Interim Superintendent; State Board member Mary Scott Hunter; general counsel Juliana Dean and two of her staff attorneys concerning a “smear sheet” that surfaced during last summer’s search for a new State Superintendent. Some 87 percent of respondents agree with this suit being filed.

(Defendants have until April 10 to respond to the suit)

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As might be expected, this legal action reflects poorly on all members of the State School Board according to 62 percent of responses. And 80 percent say because of the suit and the controversy about hiring Mike Sentance as State Superintendent, they are not likely to vote for incumbent State Board members when they seek re-elecion.

When asked about the performance of Sentance, 46 percent say he should be terminated, while 35 percent say he should be given a probation period of three months. And 98 percent say that his lack of formal education training and no experience as a teacher, principal or local superintendent make him less qualified to do his job than someone with more education credentials. And 79 percent believe the State Superintendent should have experience running a local school system, which Sentance does not have.

The superintendent recently created an uproar when the education community thought he wanted to de-emphasise Career Tech Education. Ninety-three percent disagree with such a move. Similarly, Sentance has indicated a lack of confidence in the Alabama Science, Math Technology Initiative and the Alabama Reading Initiative and hinted at substantial changes. Again, 93 percent disagree.

When asked to give letter grades of A, B, C, D or F to both the State School Board and to Superintendent Sentance, again, the news was not good. The State Board had 65 percent Ds and Fs, while Sentance received 86 percent Ds and Fs.

The most notable change in response from the December survey was to this question; Overall, do you believe Alabama public schools are on the right track, wrong track, don’t know?

Three months ago 54 percent said right track, however, this has now plunged to 38 percent. While distressing, this is hardly surprising considering the constant news from Montgomery these days. News of law suits, manipulated search campaigns, huge contracts awarded without knowledge of the State Board, comments by the State Superintendent that belittle Alabama teachers and the lack of leadership from the State School Board do nothing to give one confidence in what they see unfolding.


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Larry Lee is a public school advocate and co-author of the study, Lessons Learned From Rural Schools. [email protected]


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