State Supt. Sentence makes visit to Demopolis

 

State Supt. of Education Michael Sentence visits with Dana Hill's (left) gifted enrichment class on Thursday, Nov. 17. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

State Supt. of Education Michael Sentence visits with Dana Hill’s (left) gifted enrichment class on Thursday, Nov. 17. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

State Superintendent of Education Michael Sentence made his first visit to Demopolis Thursday since being hired in August.

Touring U.S. Jones Elementary and Demopolis Middle School, Sentence and assistant state superintendent Andy Craig observed students in their classrooms before attending a meeting of school superintendents from Region 2 at the Demopolis Board of Education office.

State Supt. of Education Michael Sentence is interviewed by the Demopolis Middle School broadcast team on Thursday, Nov. 17. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

State Supt. of Education Michael Sentence is interviewed by the Demopolis Middle School broadcast team on Thursday, Nov. 17. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

“I’ve had to try to work fairly hard to gain respect and trust” since coming to Alabama, said the Massachusetts native, especially, he added, since he has a different background from a traditional state superintendent.

“I have the experience of working in a top performing state,” but, he said, Massachusetts wasn’t among the best when he began there in the early 1990s. He feels the lessons learned there can be adapted for Alabama.

Recognizing the state has fewer resources than Massachusetts, Sentence said, “When you don’t have resources, you have to work smarter.” He pointed to other states that spend as much as or less than Alabama and said progress can happen that is not tied to resources.

He has found people in his new home “are warm and hospitable and welcoming” and have a desire to improve their schools and their state.

“I need to find more people to serve as models,” he said. He is looking for schools that break the mold and people who are innovators.

Gov. Robert Bentley recently said the schools in Alabama “suck.” Sentence called the governor’s statement “unfortunate.”

“I understand his desire to improve schools,” he said, which is a goal he shares. Bentley wants the pace of progress in the schools to accelerate. “I acknowledge that we can change,” he said.

Sentence also was interviewed in a live broadcast at DMS. A Red Sox fan, Sentence enthusiastically answered questions about his team and is hoping for a better outcome next season.

In the DMS interview, Sentence said he found the people friendlier and the weather nicer in Alabama, but citizens here share the same desire as those in Massachusetts about their future.

“People care about their children and care about their schools,” he said.