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Richardson takes control: changes coming to ALSDE, Montgomery intervention

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

There are changes coming to the Alabama Department of Education – starting with the Montgomery intervention.

Interim state superintendent Ed Richardson said during an Alabama Board of Education meeting on Wednesday that he is in the process of examining the takeover of the state’s third largest school system and will be implementing some changes.

Richardson, whose three-month contract was approved during Wednesday’s meeting, said he plans to meet with Montgomery County Board of Education members on Thursday evening to go over his proposed changes.

“We need to look very closely at the model of intervention,” Richardson said. “I will go over that with them. We will assess the personnel starting next week. There are some issues that we created and some that were there. We’ll get them sorted out.”

At least one of those personnel issues has already been sorted out.

Sources close to ALSDE said that Jermall Wright, who was brought in by former superintendent Michael Sentance to head up the newly-formed school turnaround department, was hired by Birmingham’s school system earlier this week and is expected to resign.

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Wright’s hire, at more than $168,000 annually, was one of many sore spots between Sentance and both the state board of education and the Montgomery County board.

Sources close to ALSDE said Wright’s exit is not the only one expected in the early days of Richardson’s interim tenure, as he attempts to “clean up the mess” left behind by Sentance.

However, Richardson was quick to point out during Wednesday’s meeting that while ALSDE bears some responsibility for the debacle of a takeover in Montgomery, the MPS board is at fault too. And ultimately, the system’s failure to properly educate local students doesn’t sit well with him.

“I have some great loyalty to Montgomery, but, on the other hand, loyalty only goes so far,” said Richardson, who was a principal in Montgomery several years ago. “If you’re not performing acceptably, that’s not OK with me.”

Budget deficits also don’t sit well with Richardson.

Starting next week, Richardson said he plans to work with ALSDE staff on a new budget and address the $3 million-plus shortfall that was reported last month.

“We will work very hard on a department budget and the k-12 budget,” Richardson said. “We will not submit a budget with a deficit.”

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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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