By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
Who’s picking up the tab?
That question is being asked a lot in the Montgomery Public Schools system these days, as the district searches for cash to fill a budget deficit and attempts to dig out from a disastrous state takeover.
One way that Montgomery officials hoped to trim down was by ridding itself of superfluous hires made by former state superintendent Michael Sentance and his team.
But there’s a problem.
Two sources have told APR that the contracts used to hire most of the positions are so ironclad that it would do no good to fire them, because the district would still be on the hook for their salaries.
And there’s an even bigger problem, as first reported by education blogger Larry Lee.
At least four of the highest paid hires don’t have valid Alabama teaching certificates. Which means not only are they unqualified to work in the positions they were hired to fill, the system will have a difficult time finding satisfactory positions for them.
“(New interim state superintendent Ed) Richardson is very, very unhappy about it,” a source within the Alabama State Department of Education said. “His first move was going to be to offer them severance and move them out.”
ALSDE officials did not respond to repeated requests for a response to the allegations.
“We have not been able to get much information from (Richardson) when we’ve asked (about the hires),” MPS board member Melissa Snowden said. “We have been told that there were problems with cancelling those contracts.”
The contracts in question were for three individuals working in Sentance’s Office of School Turnaround, under Jermall Wright, who was recently hired by Jefferson County’s system.
All four of Wright’s underlings were paid near or above $100,000 per year and were hired from out of state.
On his blog, Lee cited the state’s online certification database and noted that none of the three had an Alabama teaching certificate, despite the fact that the job descriptions for their current positions clearly indicated that a certificate was required.
Snowden said that the MPS board – which complained loudly about the abundance of top-dollar hires the state brought in, which MPS would then have to pay for – has asked if the state would cover those salaries now that Sentance is out. So far, that request has not received an answer.