Auburn City Schools Superintendent Karen DeLano said she was "disheartened" when she first heard Governor Robert Bentley's comment that Alabama's education system "sucks."
Bentley made the comment last week to the Alabama Association of Regional Councils Conference, after which those in attendance laughed and applauded, according to a video from WSFA.
"I have to tell you that I was almost as appalled at the adults in the room that found that humorous and applauded him," DeLano said. "As a kindergarten teacher, a strategy that I used in my classroom for behavior management was to ignore that kind of behavior. So I would ask you and the media, don't give him any more press, please, on this particular topic."
Bentley also criticized the state's fourth grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, which DeLano said he should look at more closely.
"I think that if he will dig down, as many people have been doing today, there has been tremendous growth in the NAEP scores across the state over the last few years," she said. "In fact, they've only leveled off during his terms."
DeLano has drafted a letter to Bentley, which she intends to mail this week. She has sent out a system-wide email to faculty, including bus drivers, teachers, lunchroom workers and administrators, thanking them for all they do and telling them to stand up for their hard work. She also encouraged them to invite Bentley to visit their schools and classrooms.
"I don't think he's been in a classroom in this city," she said. "He's been to town, and he's done groundbreakings for industry, and he's used us as an example on how to get economic development. I really do not understand how his statement yesterday is going to encourage industry to come into our state."
DeLano said the school system is always working to improve, and she believes it has improved in some areas. She listed many examples, like the addition of more counselors and dual enrollment options, an enhanced focus on helping students dealing with mental health issues, the addition of the substance abuse policy that has added education and prevention programs as well as suicide prevention awareness, rising graduation rates and scholarship opportunities for students, and rising SAT scores, among other things.
"So, our teachers are doing an excellent job," DeLano said. "I don't think it was just an insult to teachers; I think it was an insult to community members who support what their schools and their children are working on and what we're trying to do. I just think it's very detrimental and very unfortunate that he chose those words."