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12 months ago

The Alabama State Board of Education’s Dubious Review of Michael Sentance

SBOE Member Stephanie Bell and State Superintendent Michael Sentance

As we predicted Saturday, yesterday’s meeting of the Alabama State Board of Education turned into a platform that may well have set the stage to oust Michael Sentance as State Superintendent of Education.

With a lopsided 6-2 vote, the SBOE accepted Sentence’s job evaluation forms that Board Member Stephanie Bell unilaterally requested last week. Only Mary Scott Hunter and Betty Peters, both Republicans, voted against accepting the evaluations, citing the lack of transparency and fairness.

On the lack of transparency front, the list is long, but a good starting point is with public comments. Virtually all Board of Education meetings provide for public comment on the agenda. This agenda did not.

Hunter, a practicing attorney, also engaged Bell about the fact that Bell demanded the evaluation without consulting other members and without a vote. The Alabama Administrative Code (Section 290-10-10) states that State Board actions have to be voted on, but no vote was taken on whether or not to conduct Sentance’s evaluation. Peters echoed those concerns, adding that in her long history on the Board, performance reviews have always been handled openly.

Another issue arose over Bell requesting the evaluations on email, rather than in a public forum. Board members were told to submit their evaluations to the board’s outside legal counsel, who compiled the results. When Peters and Hunter responded to Bell’s email with questions, they were told their questions would be answered at yesterday’s meeting. However, many of those questions remained unanswered, and when Hunter persisted, Bell gaveled her down on multiple occasions.

At some point in the meeting, Bell apparently grew weary of the scrutiny and called for an executive session so the public could no longer hear the discussions.

Hunter refused to participate telling Yellowhammer, “We owe it to the people of Alabama to be transparent in how we handle this matter. Unfortunately, nothing about this process has been transparent, and that’s the reason I refused to participate.”

Another issue was the method used to calculate the Superintendent’s evaluation score. Bell arbitrarily decided that because Hunter refused to submit a form, her evaluation of Sentance would be counted as a zero—on a scale of 1-3 scale—with “1” meaning “needs improvement,” a “2” meaning “proficient” and “3” meaning “exceptional.” Governor Ivey also declined to participate, but hers was not counted as a zero—it apparently wasn’t counted at all.

Hunter and Peters asked what divisor was used to tally individual scores. Attorneys for the Board answered that the number 8 was used for every score, even though there are nine members of the board, including Ivey. Since two of those members didn’t participate (Ivey and Hunter), the logical divisor would be 7.

After the meeting concluded, Bell apparently realized the questionable appearance the calculation method created and decided to adjust the divisor to 7, and to factor in unanswered questions by Board Member Cynthia McCarty. These moves slightly improved Sentance’s score, which ranged between a 1.28 to 2.07 on the 1 to 3 scale. The SBOE published the composite score last night—however, the scores of individual board members have not been published.

One of the most curious aspects is that Stephanie Bell, a Republican, has always purported to be opposed to Common Core, as is Sentance. Nevertheless, it appears that Bell, who’s been on the SBOE for over 20 years, has caucused with the Democrats and the education establishment to call Sentance’s performance into question.

Mary Scott Hunter spoke to Yellowhammer and said,

“Sadly this episode overshadows the great work that’s going on in our schools. Today’s news should have been about the draft strategic plan we discussed.  Sentence and his team did a ton of work to get input from across the state and prepare that plan.  We need educators and parents and others weighing in now on the proposals like school choice in Montgomery and monitoring chronic absenteeism of elementary school students.  These are reforms that should get attention because they affect kids, teachers, and communities, and people want us working for that, not wasting time and money like what happened today.”

Should Mike Sentance eventually be terminated, or even if he chooses to leave, the SBOE will likely have a difficult time convincing anyone else from another state to take the job in the foreseeable future. Perhaps that’s exactly the plan—to keep the establishment established. As we reported Saturday if that happens Alabama’s children will get the short end of the stick.

(News Analysis)


2 hours ago

Backed by Alfa, Rick Pate rolls to victory in Alabama ag commissioner race

Lowndesboro Mayor Rick Pate on Tuesday survived late-campaign attack ads dredging up a three-decade-old divorce to claim the Republican nomination for Alabama commissioner of agriculture and industries.

Pate defeated state Sen. Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) with about 57 percent of the vote. With no Democrat on the ballot in November, Pate is all but assured of succeeding Republican incumbent John McMillan, who is term-limited.

“We thought we would win,” Pate told “We had the right message. I am a farmer and a businessman. I thought that is what people would want.”


Dial made it to the runoff after running light-hearted ads featuring a catchy jingle proclaiming, “It’s Dial time.” Trailing by a significant margin, however, Dial went negative this month.

Ads by Dial’s campaign referenced a 1986 divorce petition filed by Pate’s ex-wife, Carolyn, that accused Pate of domestic violence.

Pate hotly disputed the allegation.

“I denied that then and I deny that now,” he told the Decatur Daily earlier this month.

Pate told the paper that he and his ex-wife now exchange Christmas cards and that she wrote a note in May explaining that she and her ex-husband hurled hurtful words at one another at the end of what had been a good marriage.

Pate had the backing of powerful agriculture and business interests, including the Alabama Farmers Federation, or Alfa. The group’s political action committee donated nearly $100,000 in cash and in-kind donations. That was nearly a fifth of Pate’s total.

Pate also racked up endorsements from the Business Council of Alabama, the Alabama Forestry Association, the Associated General Contractors of Alabama and the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, among others.

The Lowndesboro mayor, who owns a cattle ranch and runs a landscaping company, pledged to use the department to help farmers improve productivity.

Pate also promised to attack “over-regulation,” taxes and barriers to investment. He pointed out on his campaign website that some have estimated that food production will have to double by 2050 to meet worldwide demand.

It will take “visionary leaders who understand that we have to work smarter, not just harder, to achieve these goals,” according to the website.

Pate’s victory was broad. He won 59 counties — including Choctaw by a single vote — compared to just seven that went to Dial, who even lost his home base in Clay County.

The loss means Dial, come next year, will be out of elective office for the first time in 44 years.

@BrendanKKirby is a senior political reporter at LifeZette and author of “Wicked Mobile.”


2 hours ago

Ainsworth defeats Cavanaugh in Lt. Gov runoff election

After a long and hotly contested race, the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor in Alabama has been decided. Will Ainsworth defeated Public Service Commissioner Twinkle Cavanaugh in Tuesday night’s runoff election.

With 99 percent reporting, Ainsworth defeated Cavanaugh with a little more than ten thousand votes. Ainsworth received 51 percent of the vote, leaving Cavanaugh with 49 percent.

Ainsworth issued a tweet thanking those who supported and voted for him saying, “This is your victory as much as ours.”


Ainsworth also used the hashtag #ANewDayForAlabama in his first tweet since becoming the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor of Alabama.

Ainsworth mentioned his opponent as he spoke after the election results were revealed and said that he looked forward to working with her in the future.

Cavanaugh conceded around 9:30 p.m., saying,”He ran a strong race — Will Ainsworth — and he now, I hope, will go on to be our next lieutenant governor here in the state of Alabama.”

Ainsworth will now square off with Democrat Will Boyd in November.

3 hours ago

Steve Marshall beats Troy King in heated attorney general runoff

Alabama Republicans have chosen their candidate for attorney general: incumbent Steve Marshall.

Marshall beat his Republican competitor former attorney general Troy King in Tuesday’s primary election runoff, winning 62 percent of the vote as of 9:30 p.m., with 92 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

A last-minute endorsement by close Trump ally Roger Stone proved unable to deliver King a victory in what became at times both a heartbreaking and heated campaign.


Marshall and King both temporarily suspended their campaigns in late June, following the tragic death of Marshall’s wife, Bridgette.

In the race’s final weeks, King argued that Marshall’s acceptance of campaign contributions from the Republican Attorneys General Association was an infraction of Alabama’s campaign finance laws. He filed a lawsuit in Montgomery Circuit Court against Marshall last week, but a judge dismissed the case.

Marshall faces Democrat Joseph Siegelman in November’s general election.

8 hours ago

Live blog: Alabama votes — Runoff Returns

The state of Alabama (well, likely an “extraordinarily low” percentage) is voting Tuesday, July 14.

The lieutenant governor race pits Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh against Will Ainsworth in the runoff, while incumbent AG Steve Marshall squares off with former AG Troy King for attorney general. Also on today’s ballot, Martha Roby faces Bobby Bright for House District 2 and the race for commissioner of Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries between Gerald Dial and Rick Pate.


Update 9:40:
It’s no longer Dial time

Update 9:22:

Update 9:08:
Still a tight one for Cavanaugh and Ainsworth

Update 9:05:
A touching tribute

Update 9:01:

Down goes the King

Update 8:36:

AP calls House District 2 for Roby. She will face Tabitha Isner in November

Update 8:22:

NY Times has Roby 19,651 (67.2%) and Bright 9,599 (32.8%)

Update 8:15:

Update 7:48:

Marshall party enjoying the MLB All-Star Game

Update 7:40:

Update 7:25:

Per Montgomery Advertiser:
Lt. Gov race is a tight one.
Ainsworth: 105
Cavanaugh: 104

AG race also close early on.
Marshall: 125
King: 93

AG Commissioner close early.
Pate: 108
Dial: 96

NY Times shows big lead early for Roby in House District 2:
Roby: 261
Bright: 101

Update 7:00:

Polls are closed. Now we wait as results come in.

Update 6:50 p.m.:

Listen Live: Yellowhammer’s Jeff Poor and Dale Jackson on with Mobile FM Talk 106.5’s Sean Sullivan 8-10 p.m. at

Preview stories:

Five things to watch for on Runoff Election Night
The anatomy of races for attorney general and House District 2: What a win might mean
Here are the Alabama candidates who won the money race ahead of runoff

10 hours ago

Republicans don’t have to oppose Trump because he refuses to admit Russia meddled and wanted him to win

Russia meddled in the 2016 election and President Trump’s Director of National Intelligence acknowledges it. Russia wanted Trump to win, Russian President Vladimir Putin even admitted it. This does not mean there was collusion, it does not mean the election was stolen, and it doesn’t mean you have to support Hillary Clinton in 2020 or Democrats in 2018. It also doesn’t mean I, nor anyone else, has to second guess our reasoning for voting for Trump in 2016.

My reasoning was the open Supreme Court seat that would become Neal Gorsuch’s and the one that will become Brett Kavanaugh’s. A good friend of mine messaged me last night taunting me about Trump’s performance at the Trump/Putin press conference:


You know what, it was.

But the game here is quite simple: Putin wanted Trump over Hillary, therefore you shouldn’t have.

The problem with that is Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are actually to blame for all the problems that are being brought to bear today, and Trump fails to acknowledge that.

Take this by former Congressman Mike Rogers (not Alabama’s) Tweet as a guide:

Let’s check the timeline…

— Waged continuous & increasingly aggressive cyber attacks against us – 2015(?)-present
— Interfered in our 2016 elections – 2015-2016
— Annexed Crimea – 2014
— Shot down a civilian airliner – 2014
— Supports Assad in Syria – 2013
— Invaded our ally Georgia – 2008
— Murdered opponents in London – 2018

A grand total of one of those events started during Trump’s term.

More interestingly, the media, Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama continued to act as if Russia was an ally — or at best a nuisance.

Clinton offered a reset button:

Obama asked for space so he could win an election:

How is it that Trump’s failure to call out Russia’s acts before he was president is ushering in a more powerful Russian Federation, but years of straight-up weakness should have been rewarded with a third-term for team Obama? It makes no sense.

Now, I have been clear, President Trump should acknowledge Russian-meddling, but that meddling does not de-legitimize his win. He needs to acknowledge this, but so do his opponents.

There is more to the world than our relationship with Russia. The economy matters, the Supreme Court matters, controlling our borders matters, and no one can tell you that your choice in 2016 was wrong because Obama failed to do his job.