Ken Hare In Depth: State could lose 'Teacher of the Year' over technicality

Ken Hare In Depth: State could lose 'Teacher of the Year' over technicality

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Here's a look back at news events of the past week. The first falls into the "you've got to be kidding" category of news stories.

Alabama's 2014-2015 Teacher of the Year is resigning because a state and local school officials have informed her that she is not certified to teach the fifth grade.

Ann Marie Corgill is a 2015 National Teacher of the Year finalist. She has highly coveted National Board Certification to teach children ages 7-12, which would include most fifth grade students. According to, Corgill has Class A and B certifications to teach primary school through third grade students.

She started the year teaching second grade in the Birmingham City School System -- a troubled system that should be cutting cartwheels to have someone of her caliber teaching for them. But she was moved to the fifth grade by the system, and then informed by the state that this was an issue.

"After 21 years of teaching in grades 1-6, I have no answers as to why this is a problem now, so instead of paying more fees, taking more tests and proving once again that I am qualified to teach, I am resigning," she wrote in her resignation letter.

On top of all that, Corgill said she was not paid until two months after the school year started with no explanation from the system. Birmingham school officials told the news media only that they were working through the issues. Her exasperation with the education bureaucracy is completely understandable.

According to, Corgill's school -- Oliver Elementary -- is part of a network of schools that allows teachers to be hired without traditional teaching certificates.

So let me get this straight: If she had no certificate but was otherwise qualified -- which she clearly is -- it would be OK? But since she has a certificate for other grade levels but not the fifth grade, it's a problem? What a joke.

Birmingham City School officials need to issue an immediate, strong and public apology to Corgill and do all within their power to persuade her to return. They also owe the public an explanation of how all this came to be.

Meanwhile, other public school systems in Alabama should be beating down Corgill's door to attract her to their classrooms. Alabamians should just hope she decides to stay in the state instead of taking her talents somewhere else.


The numbers are mind-boggling: In just the first 10 weeks that payday loan sharks -- Oops, I mean businesses -- had to report their loans to a statewide database, they issued more than 462,000 such loans.

If that rate holds for the year, it means 300,000 or so Alabamians could get more than 2 million such loans in a year.

Since the loans come at an alarmingly high cost -- $17.50 for a $100 loan for just 14 days -- that should trouble every Alabamian. That translates into an annual percentage rate in the high triple digits.

The database is designed to keep borrowers from building up more than $500 in loans at one time. Payday lenders say that it is running them out of business, with about 20 percent of lenders in the state already closing their doors.

But if that means fewer of Alabama's poor citizens are caught in a spiraling web of debt, so be it.

I suspect that now that real numbers are coming to light because of the database, the public pressure on the Legislature to adopt more substantive reforms will increase.

In the meantime, wouldn't it be great if a non-profit business created a large-scale alternative loan model that charged the poor less than triple-digit annual percentage rates with reasonable repayment options?


This past week was the final work week for many of the state employees who were employed at five state parks that were closed because the Alabama Legislature failed to take reasonable steps to deal with the state's ailing General Fund budget.

Perhaps a case could have been made for closing the relatively low-use parks if it had been done to shift funds to better maintain the remaining state parks. But that was not the case.

Instead, the decision was made to close Roland Cooper, Bladon Springs, Chickasaw, Florala and Paul M. Grist state parks because the Alabama Legislature keeps transferring money from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to shore up other state agencies.

According to news reports, the budget for the coming year would transfer $3 million from the agency to the General Fund. That comes on top of more than $30 million in transfers over the past five years.

If the Legislature keeps this up, Alabamians can expect more parks to close in coming years. That would be shameful, because Alabama's park system has been something in which the state could take pride.

Ken Hare is a longtime newspaper editorial writer and editor who now writes a regular column for

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