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Opinion | Citizens should vote yes on appointed school board

Gov. Kay Ivey is exactly right, the citizenry should vote yes on March 3, concerning the Appointed Education Board Amendment (SB397), legislatively referred constitutional amendment.

First, let’s discuss the many reasons we should support this measure. Currently, our elected state board of education members who have been voted into office for years, have had numerous opportunities to provide real solutions and implement prudent decisions. They have failed miserably. No one is trying to take away the voters right to choose their elected board members, as some detractors are claiming.

By using their own maligned logic and illogical current statements; voters elected them into office; and they are still sitting in their current positions by performing very poorly. Our state has been designated dead last nationally in math. Schools in many districts have remained on the failure lists for seven to ten years. Although some schools are under intervention they are still performing poorly academically.

Numerous Charter schools are being put in place to supposedly improve education. A virtually new Charter School in Mobile has already been placed on the failure list. In Montgomery, a new charter school is currently in chaos, facing lawsuits and turmoil.

Many families have thrown up their hands and they have starting cursing. Some families have placed their kids in private schools or home-schooling. More calls are coming from families to shut down the public schools; and provide the per student dollar amounts to each individual family so that they may decide their kid’s future. Many families who are home-schooling their children in safer environments, in many instances, are outperforming the public schools academically.

Although the Montgomery County Board of Education has been replaced by many new members; they are wrongly advising the citizenry that more money is needed, and local property taxes must be increased. Although for years the Education Trust Fund Committee leaders have advised the public that most education dollars come from sales taxes. Montgomery has one of the highest sales taxes in the country at ten cents per dollar.

As an Air Force retiree, I have taught school in six different districts. Sadly, in many instances, decisions made are not primarily based on what’s best for our country, state, county and city. In contrast, old and tired ideas and initiatives, are based on self- interests, such as contract renewal, job security protections and potential votes.

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Another real good example of poor leadership from our state and county elected education leaders. Just a short period ago Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base was experiencing problems in which more than 56 percent of Air War College Students were not bringing their families, due to a poorly performing local education system in Montgomery.  Maxwell-Gunter has an annual economic impact of over $2 billion dollars into the local economy.

Over the years, I have been working with our Governor in an unofficial capacity on many issues. The solutions and remedies to these critical education issues were provided by Gov. Ivey, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, former President and Commander of Air University Lt. Gen. Anthony Cotton, former Secretary of Defense James Mattis and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford.

They averted numerous negative impact issues; which would have continued to have a degradation of Air Force mission accomplishment; and would have further provided limiting factors at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base.

Most strikingly is that the top leaders who are currently working daily within the field of education were missing in action (MIA). No solutions and remedies were provided by the Alabama State Department of Education, State Board of Education nor the Montgomery County School Board and its leadership.

Very disappointing is that the solutions and remedies came from outside the education environment.By virtue of her position, the governor sits on the State School Board as the President. It doesn’t speak well for our education system when our state’s chief executive and top Air Force military leaders and our nation’s top Department of Defense leaders must take time from their busy schedules to fix the state and county education system that top education leaders are getting paid to do.  Remember, these are elected education officials who according to our state and federal constitutions are in superior positions with appointment authority powers to select the state and county-level superintendents. Unless the county superintendent is in an elected position.

Due to the superb, highly outstanding leadership and exceptional management skills of the aforementioned- persons providing the remedies and solutions; military children and base assigned instructors, professors and faculty kids may now attend schools out of their districts; regardless if they live on base or off base. Students may enroll in the tri county area schools including, Autauga, Elmore, Montgomery and Pike Road City Schools. Families living at the base family camp, within recreational vehicles and fifth wheels, may enroll their kids in the on base school.

All persons who provided the education remedies and solutions, have been recommended and they are being considered, at the highest decision levels in Washington, to receive the top Air Force and highest Department of Defense Recognition and Awards.  To let them know how much we appreciate them. Leaders and managers properly handle the toughest and most controversial issues—not avoid them.

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By voting yes, the citizenry will have hope, opportunity to seek new ideas; gain better leadership and management, guidance, prudent decision making to move our education system forward. Most importantly to earn and gain the trust of the citizenry

A supportive yes vote would rename the State Board of Education the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education; requires members to be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. A yes vote would also change the name of the State Superintendent of Education to the Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education, who would be selected by the Commission and confirmed by the Senate. Further, the Governor will be able to appoint a committee of persons to provide ideas, suggestions, input and recommendations, to assist the new State Education Commission.

Voters must honestly and truthfully ask themselves, should we continue to do the same things? Top state elected education officials, whom for years voters have elected them to office, must ask, why is our state consistently on the bottom of all national education lists? Obviously, constantly voting top educators into office is not working, and today it’s not the right thing to do. A yes vote will provide a reliable North Star and accurate guidance systems that will place our Great State on the right road and proper direction.

Glenn Henry is retired from the U.S. Air Force. He has been a high school teacher and university adjunct professor. He has earned numerous IT Cisco certifications. He is a Certified Professional Ethical Hacker. He lives in Montgomery with his wife Teresa.

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