Across the Board August 2021: Key Takeaways from the ALBOE Meeting

Recapping important education policy decisions for you

We’re continuing our monthly series dedicated to keeping you informed about key policy discussions and decisions made by the Alabama State Board of Education and the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE). The Alabama State Board of Education meets on the second Thursday of each month to discuss important policies, procedures, and changes for Alabama’s K-12 public schools. The Board takes official action during their monthly meeting and then follows up with a Work Session to get updates and discuss future action that will be voted on at the next board meeting. You can watch them live and see old meetings here

Here are our key takeaways from the August 12th State Board of Education meeting and work session – and what they mean for Alabama’s students. 

August 2021 Board Meeting 

> Board held a public hearing on the Critical Race Theory resolution.

Seven people participated in the public hearing on the Critical Race Theory resolution,  with five speaking against and two speaking for the resolution. Represented were various branches of the NAACP and a member of the Birmingham Board of Education. Calls to reject the resolution focused on teaching history as it happened and supporting honest, intellectual discussions. Earlier this week, A+ Education Partnership sent a letter to each board member outlining our concerns about the resolution and its potential consequences.

> Board recognized students and educators honored with state and national awards, and specifically highlighted the 2021 Teacher of the Year.

Usually, these resolutions are presented at the May board meeting, but was postponed this year due to COVID-19 concerns. Congratulations to this year’s honorees!

Also recognized were Alabama’s District Teachers of the Year and School Counseling Programs of Distinction. 

The Board also passed resolutions honoring the 5 National Cyber Scholars from Alabama. These were the only students out of 600 across the nation from our state: 

  • Casper Casey, Sparkman High School, Madison County Schools, District 8
  • Hunter Goffinett, Sparkman High School, Madison County Schools, District 8
  • William Grice, Homeschooled, District 8
  • Alex King, James Clemens High School, Madison City Schools, District 8
  • Austin Perry, Homeschooled, District 8

> Board unanimously appointed the State Textbook Committee for Career and Technical Education as well as the State Textbook Committee for English Language Arts.

> Board unanimously approved the appointment of Dr. Chuck Marcum as the ALSDE Chief of Staff.

Dr. Marcum is the current Superintendent of Roanoke City Schools, but will soon be joining the ALSDE. He succeeds Dr. Jeff Langham who retired this summer.

> Board passed Critical Race Theory Resolution after 2 months of discussion.

Dr. Wayne Reynolds moved to approve the resolution after explaining his vote. Before the vote, Dr. Yvette Richardson announced that she would not be voting for the resolution and asked that teachers be allowed to teach history that is factual. Dr. Tonya Chestnut also made comments, reiterating that CRT is not being taught in AL public schools, and noting that CRT is being made out to be a crisis but the real crisis in schools is COVID-19.

    • Votes in favor of the resolution: Dr. Wayne Reynolds (District 8), Jackie Ziegler (District 1), Stephanie Bell (District 3), Belinda McCrae (District 7), Tracie West (District 2), Dr. Cynthia McCarty (District 6)
    • Voting against the resolution: Dr. Tonya Chesnutt (District 5) and Dr. Yvette Richardson (District 4)

> Board passed a number of changes to the administrative code, including the implementation of the CRT resolution, the FY2022 budget, and changes to how funds for growing school districts are allotted.

> Board unanimously appointed Dr. Anthony Overton to the Alabama Public Charter School Commission.

Senator Greg Reed, the new Senate President Pro Tem, had nominated Dr. Overton, Chair of the Howard Department of Arts & Science at Samford University, and Tevin Jones, Chief of Staff for City of Birmingham District 9, for the Charter School Commission. Dr. Overton will replace Henry Nelson.

The Public Charter School Commission is appointed by the State Board of Education from a pool of nominations made by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, the Speaker of the House, and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. Each commissioner serves for 2 years. 

>Superintendent’s Report: Back to School Update

Dr. Mackey announced that by this time next week 90% of districts will be back in-person, with over 600,000 students back in classrooms. He also mentioned that several hundreds of students and dozens of teachers have already been sent home due to COVID-19.

August 2021 Work Session

> The Board discussed its upcoming annual retreat, scheduled for Tuesday, August 24, which will be livestreamed.

Some topics to be discussed include teacher recruitment, the FY22 budget, and PowerSchool. Dr. Wayne Reynolds suggested inviting the Chairmen of the House and Senate Education Policy Committees, and Ms. Stephanie Bell added that members of the minority caucus and Chairmen of the Education Trust Fund Committees should also be in attendance.

> Dr. Eric Mackey shared that ACAP data will be shared directly to district superintendents on August 16 for review.

ACAP data will be available publicly in September and will be reviewed at the State Board of Education Work Session on September 9.

> Dr. Jimmy Hull, Assistant Superintendent of Career Technical Education and Workforce Development, gave a presentation on Career & Tech Ed Workforce Development.

Some key topics included the drop in credentials earned in 2020, which was significant but not as bad as expected. He also talked about the JAG (Jobs for Alabama’s Graduates) Program, which exceeded all of the national performance goals, including having a 100% graduation rate. Dr. McCarty asked about the possibility of renovating some career tech centers, and they also discussed updating the CTE course of study to allow students to get their credentials more easily.

> Deputy Superintendent Dr. Andy Craig presented the State Department of Education’s operating budget for FY 2022, totaling $39.2 million with $25.4 million going towards personnel.

  • The influx of federal money has allowed the ALSDE to hire an EL administrator, something they have wanted to do for years.
  • One line item in the budget was the subject of much discussion, an additional $3 million for grants and benefits, which will be available for schools to apply for to meet unmet needs. Dr. Mackey shared that the department will be developing a grant application process to distribute these funds.

> Dr. Cynthia McCarty surfaced concerns from her constituents about student mental health and asked for an update on the School-Based Mental Health Collaboration, a partnership between the ALSDE and the AL Department of Mental Health.

  • Dr. Mackey reported that there are three tiers of support that this partnership is seeking to expand throughout the state.
  • The tier 1 level of support comes directly from teachers and school staff, whom the state is hoping to train in student mental health first aid.
  • Tier 2 supports are provided by the school-based mental health coordinators, who coordinate other district staff supporting students, like social workers. Currently, there are 101 school-based mental health coordinators, with an additional 14 in fiscal year 2022.  The ultimate goal is to ensure there is a coordinator in every school district.
  • Finally, the tier 3 support for the most severe needs are provided through the partnerships between school districts and local mental health clinics. Currently, there are 80 sites throughout the state that provide access to school-based mental health professionals.

The Board reviewed the following items that they will vote on at the September 9th Board Meeting:

  • The new Teacher Observation Tool will be formally adopted. There was a presentation to the Board about the new observation tool at the June Work Session. The tool has been tested, and will be implemented for the first time in January 2022. Training is currently beginning statewide.
  • The Board will announce its intent to make updates to the Administrative Code related to Instructional Services to reflect current practice, such as removing language referring to the Alabama Graduation Exam, which is no longer in use. 
  • The Board will vote on approval of the Faulkner University Educator Preparation Program. 
  • Assistant Superintendent Terry Roller presented an update on Specialized Treatment Centers and a corresponding amendment to the Administrative Code changing the requirements for the centers.

Contact Your Board Member:

Have feedback on any of the above items – or anything else? Contact your state school board member using the resources below:

-To contact your State Board of Education Member, click here.

-To find out which district you live and/or teach in, click here. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and enter your address in the “Polling Place Search” box. Once entered, it will take you to a page that shows your polling place and the districts you live in.

-To view a map of the state school board districts, click here.