Alabama state superintendent’s future still unclear after board vote

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. --  The Alabama Board of Education did not fire State Superintendent Michael Sentance Tuesday, as was speculated by the Huntsville-area representative on the state board, but his future in the role is unclear.

The board approved the acceptance of written evaluations of Sentance by seven board members. The board said he could address the results at the board’s next meeting on Aug. 10.

The evaluations had been called for by the board’s vice president, Stephanie Bell, and members were expected to complete them by Friday. Huntsville-area board member Mary Scott Hunter was outspoken in opposition to the way the board handled the evaluation process. She called it unfair. She didn’t complete an evaluation, arguing it was contrary to the board’s role as a public body.

“I chose not to respond because I did not want to confer legitimacy on what I saw as an unfair and illegitimate process,” Hunter said.

Hunter told WHNT News 19 on Friday that she thought the process would be used to justify Sentance’s firing. She complained several times during the meeting and Bell, who presided over the meeting, used her gavel to drown out Hunter’s remarks.

While Hunter said the board had no notice from the last meeting in the June that the evaluation for Sentance would occur before the July meeting, other board members, including Bell, insisted under the terms of Sentence called for an annual review. Board member Jeff Newman said the board had a duty to evaluate when they saw the need.

“I’m under the opinion that I agree with counsel. As an employer I think we have the right to evaluate at any time,” he said.

Board member Yvette Richardson said the board met in March and expressed concerns to Sentance. She said Tuesday she regarded the evaluation as a continuation of that process.

“And at that time Mr. Sentance was given an opportunity to give his opinion on the areas that perhaps some of us had concerns about,” she said. Sentance was hired last August. The results of the evaluations weren’t discussed in detail during Tuesday’s meeting.

The board rejected calls by Hunter and board member Betty Peters to delay the evaluation. Peters and Hunter both complained they had asked for more information from the board’s leadership and attorneys about the evaluation process, but didn’t receive any answers. Bell said the acceptance of the evaluations didn’t mean the board was accepting the results, but rather just moving forward with the process of review.

Peters said Sentance will be given a chance to respond to the review’s findings at the board’s August meeting.

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