If Alabama’s State Department of Education wants someone to get it on the right track after the tumultuous tenure of Michael Sentance, then its board has picked the right man.
On Thursday, the state’s Board of Education chose Dr. Ed Richardson by an 8-1 vote as the person to lead them into the post-Sentance era.
Richardson is a man of action. I know. I worked with him in my tenure as media relations manager at Auburn University. I saw the action.
Richardson was chosen as president at Auburn because the university was in disarray. He was hired to fix it. He did. The Auburn that Jay Gogue inherited was a much better place, much more in order, than when Richardson arrived.
Did heads roll at Auburn? Yes, but they were heads that needed rolling. I’m sure the same will happen as Richardson begins his second tenure as state superintendent of education, this time on an interim basis.
In true Richardson fashion, he has already settled on four priorities for what he says will be an “initial 90-day term” as state superintendent:
- Finalize the state’s federal plan for education under the Every Student Succeeds Act. “That’s clearly got to be a priority,” Richardson told AL.com. “We’ll be getting on that first thing next week.”
- Dealing with the state Department of Education’s budget, which, according to Richardson, is carrying a “big deficit.”
- Working on a plan to identify a new standardized test to replace the ACT Aspire, which the board voted to quit using in June.
- The intervention into the Montgomery Public Schools. “I will be devoting a good part of my time to getting that better focused,” Richardson said. “I really don’t know that much about it, but I do know there are some issues that need to be addressed.”
Richardson is a man that ticks off priorities and attacks them with singular purpose. Expect these priorities to be largely dealt with by the time a new permanent superintendent is selected.
But for all of the fear that he inspires in some – he was often called “Chainsaw Ed” at Auburn – Richardson is a likeable person. He is, however, one that expects that you do your job and if he has an opinion about how it should be done, he will let you know. If you work for him, you are best off to listen to those opinions.
I often worked closely with the man, jetted around the state with him on one occasion. My memory of that is that he called back to Auburn and complained to his secretary about renting us the priciest cars available. That and that the man likes popcorn and barbecue.
I was having a discussion with someone the morning that Sentance announced his resignation and inquired of this person what kind of replacement the board should look for. In the conversation, Ed Richardson’s name and what he did at Auburn came up as examples of the kind of person and the job that needs doing with the state education department.
Little did we know that the next day Richardson would be chosen by a near-unanimous vote of the state’s board of education to be the man to come in and work to right the ship.
Take it from someone who worked with him on a day-to-day basis for a time.
Take it from me.
Richardson is the right choice.