Diary

A White-Hat Hero for Alabama's Failing Education System

There is a very important vacancy to be filled in the Alabama Education hierarchy, that of Alabama Superintendent of Education. With Alabama’s NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) scores having dropped from mid-range to the very bottom in the last 4 years compared to all the other states, the clouds part and angels sing with the application of Dr. Williamson (Bill) Evers to fill this post.

Dr. Evers’ current position is Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, where he has been associated since 1995. His resume is so overwhelming one might think his application is some mistake, but it isn’t. The man genuinely feels an Alabama connection and sees our floundering educational system as a challenge he is uniquely suited to address.

First the Alabama connection. His mother’s ancestors came from Demopolis. He is related to Octavia Walton Le Vert (1811-1877), a trail-blazing female writer who gained national attention; Oakleigh House museum in Mobile has a section devoted to her and her accomplishments. Evers’ brother-in-law James Drake designed the acclaimed sculptures in Birmingham’s Kelly Ingram Park portraying police dogs and high-pressure hoses used against civil rights demonstrators. Evers’ wife attended high school in Mobile, while her father, an Air Force General, was Commander of Mobile Air Materiel Area at Brookley Air Force Base.

From his letter to the State Board of Education, he states: “I have served as a member of Hoover Institution’s prestigious research group, the Koret Task Force on K-12 Education, and I have written research articles on curriculum, teaching, testing accountability, and school finance. I recognize and respect the fundamental importance of local control and local knowledge. At the same time, it is valuable to have a state superintendent who is familiar with research and has a good sense of which proposed reforms are likely to be helpful and which a waste of money or even counterproductive.”

Dr. Evers is widely published, including op-eds in Education Week, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal. He has served as consultant, on review panels, various boards too numerous to list, in all facets of education, textbooks, curriculum, etc. He taped a program on education policy for Alabama Public Television in early 2014.

He is recommended by Margaret Spellings, President, University of North Carolina. “I met Bill during my term as U.S. Secretary of Education. In 2007 Bill served as my Senior Advisor. Later that year, he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, a role he held until January 2009.” While Assistant Secretary, he supervised creation of a new staff slot for an Education Department liaison to the Pentagon’s Department of Defense schools.

David Beito, History Professor at the University of Alabama and Chair of State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights, highly recommends Dr. Evers. Topics they have discussed include Evers’ “research on African-American education from the Civil War to the present … [and] his passion for finding ways to narrow the achievement gap.”

Jule R. Herbert, Jr. (Herbert Law Firm, Gulf Shores, AL) states, “[Bill] has always impressed me, and, I believe, all who have worked with him, with his scholarly brilliance and his presentation of complex issues with fairness and insightful analysis. He is an expert on fixing failing schools.”

Leslye Arsht, co-founder StandardsWork, Inc., says, “he and I served as co-leaders of the civilian Department of Defense team chosen to help re-establish the Iraqi K-12 system … operating in what were the remains of a war zone. Bill showed that he could work in challenging conditions … [he] was energetic and resourceful, drawing on his broad knowledge of educational research of teaching, curriculum, and other school topics to inform our work with Iraqi teachers and Administrators.”

A man who can get the war-torn Iraqi school system up and running in two months could probably accomplish a lot in the educational backwater that is Alabama.

But he won’t get the chance unless the State Board of Education votes him in.

There are 12 applicants for this position, 6 of them from in-state. The danger is that existing political alliances may sway the Board members to support personal favorites rather than the most qualified applicant.

Alabama, the Board members need to hear from you right away and realize you are not only paying attention, but you seriously want public education turned around and headed in the right direction again. The dregs at the bottom of the barrel will not do, and the 6 in-state applicants are part of the system that has failed our children.

They will meet July 12th to narrow the field down to five, and it is imperative that Bill Evers be one of the five. On August 11th they will interview the five and make their final choice.

Call or email the Board members and Governor Bentley and ask them to support and select Dr. Evers for Superintendent. Their contact info is at:

https://www.alsde.edu/sites/boe/Pages/boardmembers-all.aspx .

Please do this today! We must not let this opportunity slip away; our children’s education is too important.