State school board gives low marks to superintendent

Published 8:10 pm Tuesday, July 25, 2017

MONTGOMERY (AP) — State school board members on Tuesday handed low performance evaluation scores to Superintendent Michael Sentance, the education reformer they picked less than a year ago to lead the state’s public school system.

The evaluation, which took place in a specially called meeting, could signal a move by some board members to try to demand changes or force his ouster before his contract expires.

Board members ranked the superintendent’s performance on a scale of one to three in several categories.

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Sentance scored averages between 1.28 and 2.07, although one board member did not participate because she thought the process was unfair to Sentance.

“The idea of an evaluation is not only to have a discussion from the point of the employer but to give the employee an opportunity to address concerns,” Vice President Stephanie Bell said at the meeting’s start as she pushed for the evaluation.

Board members largely did not discuss their views of Sentance in Tuesday’s meeting — or what concerns they had — but mostly argued over the process.

“I think this was an illegitimate process,” board member Mary Scott Hunter said. Hunter said the evaluation should not have been placed on the agenda without a board vote.

Hunter did not submit a performance review.

The meeting became heated at times after board members clashed over whether to proceed.

“I did not approve this,” Hunter said.

“This is getting to be childish,” Bell said as she banged the gavel rapidly to chide Hunter for interrupting.

Sentance did not comment on the evaluation during the meeting. He will respond at the board’s next meeting.

A divided school board hired Sentance last August, naming the former Massachusetts education secretary as the next school superintendent.

Board members who voted for him praised his innovation, saying he would bring fresh ideas while others raised concerns about his lack of classroom and school experience.

His hiring dovetailed with a controversy surrounding another candidate.

Some board members said there was an effort to malign another leading candidate for the job, Craig Pouncey, a former deputy state superintendent.

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

Pouncey said the accusation was untrue.