Board votes to send intervention notice to Montgomery Public Schools

Published: Jan. 12, 2017 at 4:11 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 12, 2017 at 8:54 PM CST
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The unanimous vote in favor of the resolution came in a Alabama State Board of Education...
The unanimous vote in favor of the resolution came in a Alabama State Board of Education meeting Thursday morning. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Members of the Alabama State Board of Education and Montgomery County Board of Education held a...
Members of the Alabama State Board of Education and Montgomery County Board of Education held a news conference after the vote. (Source: Alabama State Board of Education)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Alabama State Department of Education passed a resolution Thursday morning that gives written notice to leaders of the Montgomery Public Schools system of a possible intervention. The vote to notify of intervention was unanimous.

The state has not taken over the capital city's school system at this point, though the notice is the first step toward that. The school system has 21 days to respond once given notice.

An actual intervention will require a second vote by the Alabama State Board of Education, according to State Superintendent Michael Sentance. That second vote would likely come at the board's next meeting in early February.

Even then, Sentance said it could be some time before changes are seen or felt.

"We would be spending several months just doing a very hard and critical analysis of each school that we're working with and determining those needs," he added.

Sentance, who has only been on the job four months, said he has concerns about the financial and academic performance of Montgomery Public Schools. He specifically stated the reason for this decision was due to some schools in Montgomery being at a low level and staying at a low level for a long period of time.

"It's the first step in trying to create the kind of school system that Montgomery County deserves," Sentance said. "Schools were at a low level and staying at a low level. And I thought that needed to be addressed and addressed expeditiously."

Sentance said he determined when he took over as state superintendent in September that one of the first issues he wanted to take up was Montgomery Public Schools. Sentance said there are other districts in the state that need improvement, but one of the reasons he chose Montgomery was because it's the capital city.

Sentance said after thinking for months about a solution, he determined that a state intervention was the answer for Montgomery County. If the state does take over the district, Sentance said he believes it would take three to five years to "fundamentally change direction."

State Board member Ella Bell has represented Montgomery schools for 15 years and her parents were also both educators at MPS. That's why she considers the move by the state extraordinary.

"The black schools were always secondary," Bell said. "The black schools always had the largest classes. They had all kinds of negatives as compared to white schools in this city. I recognize this as the first time in the history of education in Montgomery Public Schools that the state has intervened to bring all Montgomery schools to a level of not just parity but a level where we have competence, that exudes a level of excellence that we will achieve."

State Board member Stephanie Bell also represents some Montgomery schools. She stressed it wasn't just the state that needs to intervene; she believes the community should step up and step in as well.

"We will be working together in this endeavor. And we can make it happen. And we will make it happen," Bell said. "This is the right time. We cannot wait and I look forward to working with the local board."

The state superintendent stressed if an intervention takes place, all of the attention from the state will be on the schools that need to improve, meaning there wouldn't be any changes at the district's high-performing schools.

"Getting involved with those schools struck me as being utterly without any real purpose," Sentance explained. "So I have no interest in trying to interfere in successful schools in any way."

MPS Board of Education President Robert Porterfield said Thursday the MPS board is in favor of the state action and said it will be a "collaborative" effort between MPS and the state.

At the end of the day Thursday, MPS still hadn't received the notice, so the details that would be in it like why the state thinks the intervention is necessary and the state's plan to fix those problems are still unclear.

The decision to notify MPS of the possibility of intervention comes on the same day the state education department released its list of failing schools. Of the 75 schools on the list, 10 are in the MPS system.

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