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Sentance & Saban

By Larry Lee
Education Matters

First there was Governor Robert Bentley telling a business group last September that hiring Mike Sentance as state school superintendent was “like hiring (Nick) Saban.” Of course, we now know Bentley was living in a fantasy world at that time and is the same guy who recently proclaimed himself to be the best governor Alabama ever had.

Now along comes the Alabama Policy Institute again trying to compare Sentance to Saban and pleading with the state board of education not to fire him. In an article of 514 words of mostly nonsense and few facts, they contend that since we gave Coach Saban more than one year to prove his worth, we should do the same for Sentance.

What they forget to point out is that when the University of Alabama hired Saban they knew what they were getting. A college head coach for 11 seasons, an overall record of 91 wins and 42 defeats. And the winner of a national championship at LSU in 2003.

By comparison, Sentance had ZERO record as a state superintendent when Alabama hired him. Nor did he have a record in a classroom as a teacher, running a school as a principal or running a local school system as a superintendent.

All we knew for certain is that he had tried to get hired by nine state and metro school systems to be their top guy without success. (One of them being in Alabama in 2011.)

Would athletic director Mal Moore have paid any attention to Saban’s resume’ if it said he never played football, never was an assistant coach, never was a head coach and had been rejected by nine colleges?

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The Alabama Policy Institute article says that Sentance “comes with a winning record from an exceptional state school system in Massachusetts.” But they don’t say what that record is, because truthfully, it doesn’t exist.

The person who oversees K 12 education in the Bay State is the Commissioner of Elementary & Secondary Education. Sentance never held this job. Instead, he served for 12 months in 1995-96 in a position appointed by the governor called Secretary of Education which had no administrative or budget duties. And when he attempted to get the job as commissioner in 1998 he was unsuccessful. (Apparently those who knew him best had not heard about his winning record.)

According to Sentance’s resume’ he last worked in Massachusetts education in 2001. That is 16 years ago.

Interestingly enough, while API says that the recent state board evaluation of Sentance “was a mess,” they totally ignore the shenanigans that took place during last summer’s selection process and resulted in pending legal action against one state board member, three state department of education attorneys and the former interim superintendent.

However, API does have one 100 percent correct statement. “Michael Sentance isn’t a magic cure for Alabama’s education challenges…”

After watching an endless stream of blunders, hiring high-priced consultants and trying to dismantle proven education programs, every educator in the state agrees that he is NOT a magic cure.

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

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