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It’s Judgment Day for State Superintendent Michael Sentance

Alabama Superintendent Michael Sentance

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

Will State Superintendent Michael Sentance stay or go?

That question will be answered by the Alabama Board of Education on Thursday during a scheduled 10 am meeting. Two sources close to the board say the decision on Sentance’s termination is fluid and can go either way, but that a solid majority were leaning towards firing Sentance as of late Wednesday afternoon.

A source close to board vice-president Stephanie Bell said she does plan to call for a vote to terminate Sentance during Thursday’s meeting.

Over the last three weeks, since Sentance was provided the very poor results of an annual evaluation by the board, various members have seemed to waffle back and forth on whether to vote to remove Sentance.

Immediately following that contentious meeting on July 25, there was a clear majority of the board that felt he should be relieved of duty.

But since then, there has been a full-court press put in place to push Sentance as an outsider who could change Alabama’s system and also to shine a more positive light on the Montgomery intervention. Sentance has sat down for several interviews with various media outlets, and used them to talk up his grand vision for Montgomery and the rest of the State.

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The problem is those on the ground in Montgomery – where the State Department intervention has taken over nearly half of the county’s schools – don’t see a move towards those lofty objectives of restructuring the funding mechanism and finding solutions to root causes of problems. Instead, they’ve seen an influx of new administrative hires.

“I am so very unhappy,” State School Board member, Ella Bell said of the intervention on Wednesday. Ella Bell helped push for the State takeover, believing it could be a means of reshaping the district and providing opportunities to children who have historically been given few.

“The change that was promised has not come,” she said. “We’re a day away from school starting back and these poor children will return to a system that’s no better than what they left. That’s very disappointing to me.”

Ella Bell said she would not guess the possible outcome of a board vote on Sentance’s termination, but when asked if she was satisfied with his performance as superintendent, she said no.

If Sentance does get fired Thursday, one factor will be his decision not to complete a response to the board evaluations made public at the July 25 meeting. Following the reveal of those evaluations, Stephanie Bell said she wouldn’t call for a vote on his termination, but instead would provide him until Thursday’s board meeting to submit a response.

The deadline for that response was last week. It came and went without a peep from Sentance.

“What does that say to you?” Ella Bell asked, rhetorically.

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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.

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