Alabama education superintendent responds to low evaluation

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Superintendent of Education Michael Sentance responded Thursday to a poor performance evaluation from board members, saying he’s proud of his work so far after taking the helm of the state’s public schools 11 months ago.

He said his accomplishments include creating the first office of school improvement, creating a strategic improvement plan and developing plans to better teacher education programs.

“Alabama is a great state. I believe that it could have a great future. It deserves a great public education system. It cannot continue to educate 20 to 30 percent of our students well and hope that is enough. We need more,” Sentance told board members.

Alabama Board of Education members last month handed low evaluation marks to the education reformer they picked less than a year ago to lead public schools. The evaluation, issued in a specially called meeting and over the objections of some members, could signal a push by some board members to demand changes or force his ouster before his contract expires.

Sentance apologized to board members if he had sometimes failed to communicate well with them.

“I have learned a great deal and have more to learn, but I also believe that I am making a contribution to this state. I would like to continue the great task at hand,” Sentance said.

Board members ended the meeting without responding to Sentance’s comments.

In their evaluation, the board members ranked the superintendent’s performance on a scale of one to three in several categories. Sentance scored averages between 1.28 and 2.07. One board member did not participate, calling the process unfair to Sentance.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday voiced support for the superintendent.

“Mr. Sentance has been on the job for less than a year, and in that time, has advocated many necessary reforms. Though he is certainly not without fault, I trust that the board will give him time to implement those reforms,” Ivey said in a statement.

Sentance was new to Alabama when a divided school board hired him last August. He previously served as Massachusetts education secretary. Board members who voted for him praised his innovation, saying he would bring fresh ideas. Others raised concerns about his lack of classroom and school experience.

Sentance was hired after the first choice of several board members became embroiled in controversy.

Before the 2016 vote, someone anonymously gave board members a packet of information, including internal department emails, accusing former deputy state superintendent Craig Pouncey of getting state staff to write his 2009 dissertation when he was with the department. Pouncey said the accusation was untrue.

Some board members said there had been an effort to malign Pouncey.

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