By Larry Lee
Unfortunately, Governor Kay Ivey is now playing politics with our children. Three weeks ago she said she did not know enough about the performance of State School Chief Mike Sentance to join State Board members in evaluating him (By virtue of her office, she is President of the State Board).
However, she issued a statement on August 10 supporting Sentance and urging the board to give him more time.
Since it is highly unlikely that in that short time span she became intimately familiar with Sentance’s record, apparently her August 10 statement was motivated more by politics than a real concern for public school students.This is sad, especially considering that she was once a teacher herself.
Here is what she had to say:
MONTGOMERY – “Today, the elected Alabama State Board of Education delayed the question of the State Superintendent’s continued leadership of the State Department of Education.
“Mr. Sentance has been on the job for less than a year, and in that time, has advocated many necessary reforms. Though he is certainly not without fault, I trust that the Board will give him time to implement those reforms.
“Rather than focusing on differences of personality or opinion, we must focus on Alabama’s children and improving the quality of education provided across our State.”
Two things jump out of this brief statement. Number one is that there was no delay of the question about Mike Sentence’s leadership. This was not on the meeting agenda. Since the Governor is President of the State School Board, maybe she should attend some meetings so she will know what is going on.
(Governor Ivey took office on April 10, 2017. There have been ten State Board meetings since then. She briefly attended one on April 13. Her attendance is no different than Governor Robert Bentley who missed 90 percent of the meetings)
Secondly, what or where are the reforms she mentions?
Sentance’s time as state superintendent has been repeatedly marked by controversy. He has gone out of his way to downgrade Alabama teachers. He has attacked highly successful programs such as Career Tech, Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI) and Alabama Math & Science Initiative (AMSTI).He has repeatedly failed to communicate with the board that hired him.
He has been quick to hire consultants and six-figure administrators. He sought an Attorney General’s opinion that would prevent the state board from questioning him about money being spent on his Montgomery County schools’ intervention. Because of his total lack of administrative experience, the working atmosphere at the state department is considered “toxic” by many who work there.
The process that brought him to Alabama was seriously flawed and has led to pending civil action against a board member and four former and present employees. There has even been a Legislative investigation into these shenanigans. Sentence asked for an internal investigation of this process and when the report said that there was “collusion” to taint the search process, he took issue with the staff attorney he assigned to do the report.
The Governor studied education in college and is a former teacher. Unlike Sentence, who has no formal training to be an educator and has never been a teacher, prinicipal or local school superintendent.
But suddenly our almost brand-new governor says this is who she wants to lead our 730,000 student public education system?
For way too long we have let too many decisions about education be driven by a political agenda—rather than a children’s agenda. We were hoping this would change with Governor Ivey.
But her statement of August 10 loudly says it will not.
Larry Lee is a public school advocate and co-author of the study, Lessons Learned From Rural Schools. [email protected]