By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama State School Board plans to fire State Superintendent Michael Sentance, two source close to the board have told APR.
Those sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the board has not officially made a decision, said Tuesday’s meeting, at which board members will discuss an early evaluation of Sentance, is the first step in the process to terminate him.
On Thursday, al.com reported that the evaluation of Sentance – which comes at least three months before his scheduled annual evaluation – came as a surprise to some board members. Board Vice President Stephanie Bell sent the form this week and requested that all members fill out and return the evaluation form by the end of the day on Friday.
“It will not be a kind evaluation for him,” a source said.
Several members of the board have been perpetually unhappy with Sentance since his controversial hire last September. A number of missteps and political miscalculations have increased pressure on Sentance and slowly eroded his support.
The latest blow – and the defection that will ultimately cost Sentance his job, the sources said – is losing the support of longtime board member Ella Bell. For the last several weeks, Ella Bell – and her desire to see the intervention in Montgomery’s school system succeed – have protected Sentance from a faction of the board who wanted him fired. The other members have shown deference to Bell since Montgomery is in her district and she has been so invested in the intervention.
But when Sentance seemingly undercut a recent investigation into the smear campaign against superintendent candidate Craig Pouncey, Ella Bell told those close to her that she was finished.
Specifically, the sources said, it was Sentance’s decision to bring in former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Bernard Harwood to refute the report from an in-house investigation that angered Ella Bell.
“When he showed that he cared more about saving (board member) Mary Scott Hunter than he did about the Montgomery intervention, (Ella Bell) was finished with him,” one source said.
However, that was not the only factor for Bell, the sources said, and her other reasons matched complaints from several other board members. Specifically, Sentance’s doling out of millions of dollars in consulting contracts, his abrasive attitude, his lack of communication, the graduation rate reporting debacle and his handling of the Montgomery intervention.
The sources said board members plan to offer Sentance the opportunity to resign, but they plan to terminate his contract if he refuses to do so.
“At this point, they don’t even need (Ella Bell) to vote to fire him,” a source said. “They just don’t need (Bell) to fight it.”