Michael Sentance resigns as Alabama schools superintendent - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Michael Sentance resigns as Alabama schools superintendent

(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)

Alabama State Superintendent Michael Sentance has resigned amid controversy and criticism from the State Board of Education, as well as others in education.

According to Gov. Kay Ivey's office and the Alabama Department of Education, Sentance handed in his resignation on Wednesday.

“I am humbled and appreciative of the opportunity to serve as state superintendent in Alabama,” Sentance said in a statement. “There are many good things happening in public education in this state. My hope is that Alabama makes educating all children the state’s highest priority, allowing the state to make significant educational gains and truly becoming the jewel of the south that it has the ability to become.”

Ivey released the following statement after receiving Sentance's resignation: 

“Today, I received the resignation of State Superintendent of Education Michael Sentance. I do not take this situation lightly, and as President of the State Board of Education, I will ask the Board to accept his resignation. 

“Over the past two years, Alabama has experienced far too many changes in state government.  As with previous changes in leadership positions, we will use the pending resignation of the state superintendent as an opportunity to move forward and begin a new chapter in public education.

“The State Board of Education has an opportunity to refocus its efforts to improve, support, and better prepare Alabama students for the 21st-Century global economy, so that they can compete successfully. Education continues to be the foundation of our communities and a key piece of the fabric that holds our state together — now is the time to strengthen our education system.

“I have spoken with Mr. Sentance, thanked him for his commitment to public service and education, and wished him well.”

A board meeting to discuss Sentence’s contract was scheduled for Thursday.

On Tuesday, 2,000 members of the Jefferson County Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers called Sentance’s year on the job “a dismal failure”. The chapter said because Sentance had never been a teacher, principal, or superintendent, he didn’t have the experience to lead the state’s schools. The group also called for the board to terminate him.

Rep. Craig Ford, D-Etowah County, released an editorial Tuesday expressing his opinion on whether Sentance should be fired. In the editorial, Ford stated Sentance had "failed to communicate adequately with his employer, been disrespectful and insubordinate to his employer and failed to take responsibility for his office's actions and mismanaged public funds."

The Alabama Policy Institute, meanwhile, called his resignation "a massive setback for education in Alabama".

"At API, we are saddened to hear that Michael Sentance was forced to resign as Alabama State Superintendent of Education. We see this as a massive setback for education in Alabama. This is not about Sentance. This is about many individuals in our state who like their starting position on a last-place team.  As a state, we have to change this mentality. If we do not, we will never improve, and we will have nobody to blame but ourselves."

During an ALSDE board meeting in March, state board members raised concerns that Sentance was leaving them in the dark on things like proposed contacts and interventions. Sentance promised to do better and the board proposed meeting twice a month instead of once to help.

At the same time, Sentence said the state department needed an overhaul, describing the management issues in the department as "profound" and the lack of procedures as "substantial."

In May, Sentance unveiled a strategic plan to improve education across Alabama. The goal of the plan, called Alabama Ascending, would be to make the state much more competitive in the future. The plan featured a series of incremental steps that would increase the quality of teachers “by challenging teachers with the right kind of curriculum”.

In July, Sentance was once again placed under a microscope by members of the school board who voted to evaluate his performance. The evaluation resulted in low marks for the superintendent and further scrutiny. Sentance admitted to the board that while he's made "mistakes," he still felt he was making progress.

Despite the low marks, Sentance said he was still making an effort to keep students and their education the focus.

Initially, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said she wanted to give Sentance more time on the job and felt he deserved it.

Following Sentance's evaluation by members of the state board, Ivey shifted her thinking saying "Well, obviously some information has come up since then so I'll be reviewing all that."

In January, the state board began the first steps in the takeover of the Montgomery Public Schools, one that Sentance would be instrumental in. Sentance described the intervention in a recent interview as the broadest, most ambitious state intervention in department history, an approach to fundamentally improve the district’s performance.

The Alabama Education Association filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Montgomery County Circuit Court against Sentance and MPS Chief Education Officer Reginald Eggleston, according to AEA. The AEA says it is suing because Sentance has blocked the Montgomery County Board of Education from appointing a county superintendent during the state's intervention of the system.

Sentance became the leader for Alabama public schools in August 2016. At the time, the State Department of Education was under a cloud of controversy surrounding key board members’ involvement in running an alleged smear campaign on well-known superintendent candidate Craig Pouncey.

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