Education writer Larry Lee recently wrote that Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) was “meddling” by sending an email to state school board members about her choice for state superintendent. Collins chairs the House Education Policy Committee. Most bills that are proposed by state lawmakers that affect education must first pass through Collins’ committee.
Lee’s education blog is popular among educators in Alabama and he is a popular choice to speak at education gatherings across the state. [Check out Lee’s latest, “Trust. The Missing Ingredient“, for insight on his perspective.]
Collins has championed a number of changes, including adding public charter schools and tax-credit scholarships to the Alabama public school landscape. Collins recently received the Business Council of Alabama’s Business Champion award for “her commitment to improving Alabama’s economic climate and education system”.
All sides aside, Lee’s article got me wondering whether state board members consider it “meddling” to hear from members of the public, including those not currently employed in public education in Alabama.
So I asked state board members if they were open to receiving input from the public and all who answered said yes, they do want to hear from the public about the candidates for state superintendent.
What Board Members Said
Betty Peters (R-District 2), said “Alabamians naturally have different opinions, some thoughtful and wise, some not so altruistic, but yes, I am glad to hear from anyone (Rep. Collins, a local superintendent or teacher, or the person down the street) who has a serious suggestion. We are, after all, representatives for our districts.”
Mary Scott Hunter (R-District 8), said, “Input is just so important, and I really welcome it. I’m getting lots of calls, texts, emails etc. That’s as it should be and totally expected. People are interested and have an opinion, and I respect that. At the end of the day, it’s a decision the board must make, and I have a great deal of confidence in my fellow State Board Members to make a wise choice.”
Matthew Brown (R-District 1) said he regularly asks for input and sends monthly emails that are meant to reach principals, superintendent, and local school board members in his district. He said he also, chambers of commerce, political groups, all the elected officials in his district, and he did ask for input from all about the superintendent search. Brown said, “I welcome input from anybody in the state of Alabama and certainly from those in my district. I wasn’t offended when Rep. Collins provided her input. She’s one person, and her thoughts are valued just like the many many other people who have given their input to me on this matter,” adding that most of the input he has received has come from the education community.
Stephanie Bell (R-District 3) provided a written statement, saying, “I have always welcomed as much input as possible. The decisions of the state school superintendent and state school board impact the lives of every Alabamian. Every taxpayer should have a voice in the selection process and I have always appreciated hearing from them regarding any issue. We should all be concerned about who will guide education policy, especially at a time when Alabama has gone from making historic progress on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) to last in the U.S.”
Three board members, Vice President Jeff Newman (R-District 7), Dr. Yvette Richardson (D- District 4), and Ella Bell (D- District 5) did not respond to email requests for comment. Dr. Cynthia McCarty (R-District 6) said she would be willing to talk about this, but we were unable to connect prior to publication of this article.
Time to Give Your Feedback
So here’s your chance. If you’d like to send your feedback about the applicants to the state board of education, here’s their contact information:
District 1 – Matthew Brown, firstname.lastname@example.org
District 2 – Betty Peters, email@example.com
District 3 – Stephanie Bell, firstname.lastname@example.org
District 4 – Yvette Richardson, President Pro Tem, email@example.com
District 5 – Ella Bell, firstname.lastname@example.org
District 6 – Cynthia McCarty, email@example.com
District 7 – Vice President, Jeff Newman, firstname.lastname@example.org
District 8 – Mary Scott Hunter, email@example.com
President, Gov. Robert Bentley – click here to complete contact form
State law requires the board to fill the state superintendent position within 120 days of when the position became vacant, but does allow for an interim to serve up to two consecutive six-month terms. Technically, the board filled the vacancy when they appointed Dr. Philip Cleveland as interim superintendent in April.
Initially, the board agreed they hoped to find a permanent replacement who would start not later than August 1. The board is expected to discuss the applicants and the process at their Tuesday, July 12 regular board meeting, which starts at 10:00 a.m.. The meeting will be live-streamed on the Alabama State Department of Education website.