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State school board meeting could be a wild one

Alabama Superintendent Michael Sentance

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

At 10 this morning, the State Board of Education will meet to go over important plans for complying with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act and to set parameters for the board’s new legal counsel.

Few people will talk about either important topic when the board adjourns for the day.

That’s because at 11:30, the board will start a special called meeting at which members plan to go over an evaluation of state superintendent Michael Sentance – the first step in what many believe is an effort to fire him.

And before the meeting even starts, there is friction.

Board member Mary Scott Hunter told the Montgomery Advertiser on Monday that she is refusing to complete the evaluation of Sentance. Board member Betty Peters said she was filling it out in protest.

On the other side, board vice-president Stephanie Bell, the person who pushed the evaluation, told the Advertiser that she’s merely fulfilling the board’s obligation to conduct an annual review of Sentence – albeit two months before his hire date and three months before his start date.

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“This has all the makings of a circus,” said one longtime Alabama State Department of Education employee who asked not to be named. “People around here are just hoping for an end to the never-ending drama and confusion.”

The drama and confusion of Sentance’s tenure will play major roles in likely firing, whether it comes on Tuesday or at a later date. Board members have grown tired of the constant calls and complaints from teachers, principals and superintendents, and they believe the drama won’t end until Sentance is gone.

Two sources close to the board have told APR that they believe the board will fire him, and that the evaluation is the initial step. Those sources said board members have given no indication that they plan to back away from that decision.

But there is a concentrated pushback from conservative groups.

Over the weekend, YellowHammer News, which serves as an unfiltered conduit for BCA-aligned politicians, businesses and lobbyists, printed a glowing evaluation of Sentance’s nine-month tenure. (The conservative Alabama Policy Institute sent an email copying the YellowHammer story almost verbatim.)

Among the accomplishments listed for Sentance in the opinion piece were the unquantifiable achievements of “put the stars of the profession – the teachers – at the center of reform efforts” and that “he’s made great progress” with the Montgomery intervention.

Oddly, sources close to the board said Sentance’s failures in those two specific areas will be primary causes for his termination.

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Josh Moon
Written By

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.