By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
The Montgomery County School Board wrestled some control of its school system away from the Alabama State Department of Education on Thursday, by way of a settlement agreement reached in a lawsuit filed by the Alabama Education Association.
AEA sued the ALSDE on behalf of several employees who work within the Montgomery Public Schools system, alleging the state had violated its own rules when it took over the MPS system without a written plan and without outlining a shared system of governance that included the county board.
“When (the MPS board) agreed to the intervention, they didn’t make these folks (at ALSDE) comply with the law,” said Theon Stokes, an attorney who heads up AEA’s legal department. “They did it on trust and faith and it didn’t work. They trusted them to do the right thing and that wasn’t the way it worked out. (ALSDE), under the previous superintendent, was basically just making up as it went along.”
Under the settlement announced on Thursday, interim state Superintendent Ed Richardson must provide the MPS board with a written plan of action by Jan. 26. That plan must include the scope of ALSDE’s takeover, a plan for the MPS board and personnel to participate in the daily activity of operating the school system and benchmarks that, when met, will serve to lessen and shorten the intervention period.
In addition, the board will be allowed to appoint an interim county superintendent and in-house counsel — a long-held point of contention between the board and the state — within 30 days. MPS can appoint a permanent superintendent by May 30.
“There were a lot of people who in favor of this takeover when it happened, but the goal of an intervention should be to help the local system succeed,” Stokes said. “We didn’t see that happening in Montgomery. An intervention can’t last forever, which is why you’re supposed to have a plan in place.”