State Department of Education to monitor Selma systemPublished 12:10am Sunday, November 17, 2013
After a lengthy investigation by the state Department of Education, brought on by teacher misconduct and rumors of even more inappropriate actions by faculty and staff, the state issued a scathing report heavily criticizing the system for their lack of response.
Now, the Alabama Department of Education has approved the Selma City Schools’ plan to take corrective action and restore the “public trust.”
Selma City Schools Superintendent Gerald Shirley announced the approval at the school board’s meeting Thursday.
“We received a letter from the Alabama State Department of Education on Wednesday, Nov. 13, in reference to the corrective action plan,” Shirley said. “The plan was approved by the State Department of Education. Board members will receive a copy of the plan, and also there will be an orientation there afterward.”
Shirley said he would release the date and time of the orientation, in which the board will discuss the corrective action plan, at a later date. The orientation will be open to the public.
The Selma City School Board denied the Times-Journal‘s request for a copy of the submitted corrective action plan, but the Alabama State Department emailed a copy of the plan, along with two letters between State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice and Shirley regarding the plan.
The 83-page corrective action plan is outlined with four broad goals and 17 detailed goals, complete with descriptions of the actions that will be taken.
According the plan, the local school system strives to: institutionalize processes and procedures to improved overall instructional program and academic performance; implement a comprehensive monitoring system to ensure accountability at every level of school operations; institute a continuous system-wide evaluation program including, but not limited to, assessing teachers, administrators, central office, superintendent and program areas; develop and implement a continues plan for building public trust in the Selma City School Community.
Dr. Craig Pouncey, the chief of staff for the Alabama State Department of Education, said he and Bice were “astounded to find out, upon reviewing the plan, that action has not already taken place.
He also said the Selma City School board failed to respond appropriately to the initial concerns voiced from the community.
“There was just a lack of proper reporting, and a lack of thorough investigations that resulted in a lot of allegations floating around the community about what was going and what wasn’t going on,” Pouncey said. “They should have been stamped out when they first surfaced. I think anytime there are allegations about students being mistreated one way or another, public school officials have a legal duty to get to the very bottom of it.”
Now that the board has been forced to take the proper action, Pouncey said he expects the administration to perform the necessary duties to comfort concerned parents.
“They do have a plan that hopefully will communicate clearly who is responsible for what and will, at a minimum, hopefully hold those people responsible for caring out their professional duties, so that those parents can regain that confidence they deserve,” he said.
Pouncey said the state has assigned Dr. James Wright, an educational consultant who works with a multiple of school districts throughout the state, to serve as state monitor for implementation.
“They are required to submit, over the next couple of years, orderly reports to ensure the state superintendent of a thorough implementation of the plan,” Pouncey said.
According to Bice’s letter addressed to Shirley, the strict deadline for the first progress update is March 15, 2014.
The state’s investigation launched in June in response to numerous allegations of sexual misconduct within the Selma City School System.
The investigation found evidence of sexual misconduct and other serious violations within the school district, including failure to follow and enforce state and local policies about graduation requirements and the awarding of academic course credit and disregard for financial accounting guidelines.
The findings were released on Sept. 25 and Selma City Schools was given 21 days to respond, but the school board was given an extension. The corrective action plan was submitted on Oct. 21.