State intervention of Montgomery school system begins

State intervention of Montgomery school system begins

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Alabama State Department of Education has voted unanimously to authorize an intervention of the Montgomery Public School system. The board approved the takeover during a vote in a meeting Thursday morning.

According to the board resolution, Dr. Barbara Cooper has been appointed as the Chief Administrative Officer to oversee the intervention of the system. She will answer directly to the state superintendent.

Dr. Barbara Cooper was the Deputy Superintendent of Huntsville City Schools and became the Deputy State Superintendent of Teaching and Learning on Dec. 1.

The intervention will continue until the system has become compliant with Chapter 13A, Title 16, Code of Alabama 1975. In January, State Superintendent Michael Sentance said an intervention could take from three to five years.

On Wednesday, MPS submitted a response letter to the state board confirming that the school board would accept a state intervention in a "collaborative process."

The state board of education voted unanimously on Jan. 12 to send a notice of intervention to MPSThat notice gave MPS officials 21 days (Feb. 8) to respond, which the school system did on the final day.

On Jan. 19, the state released a letter outlining its issues with the school system, and the following day the MPS board voted unanimously to work with the state on the intervention.

Now that the early procedures are over, leaders say it's time to get to work.

"We will spend a lot of time in terms of planning. We're going to try to have visits and discussions with people who have turned around schools or turned around districts," said State Superintendent Michael Sentance.

Sentance said they will also hire a chief educational officer within the next few weeks to help directly with the takeover. Leaders reiterate this all is a collaborative effort between the state and MPS with the intervention focusing primarily on 20 to 23 schools that have had continuous difficulty improving.

MPS leaders, Superintendent Margaret Allen, and the MPS board will continue work on the remaining schools.

"We will have meetings, community meetings in the next few months that will be designed at keeping the community involved and engaged in the process," Dr. Cooper explained.

Of course, not everyone is pleased with the intervention. Some outspoken community members say switching hands won't necessarily fix the problem.

"If you don't put the money in education, you're never going to fix it," said Montgomery resident Charles Thomas. "We don't pay enough money per meal for our students. Hoover and Pike Road pay more money than Montgomery County pays. So, you have to fix education with money, not just changing hands. White hands or black hands is not going to fix education, the only way you fix education is with money."

Sentance said he understands the hesitation in trust and adds when it comes to finances, up to $1 million is being set aside by the state to help with this intervention.

"They're going to have to just start to work with me and understand that I'm serious and that we are focused on the interest of children," Sentance explained of detractors.

The new state superintendent said the hope is to also create an office within the Alabama State Department of Education which is focused directly on school turnaround and improvement. Right now, he said, the department is a regulatory and compliance agency and needs to be an improvement agency to get the necessary gains.?

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