MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The search for Alabama’s next education superintendent was narrowed Friday to four finalists, as Alabama State Board of Education members looked mostly within the state for the next public schools chief.

Jefferson County Superintendent Craig Pouncey, Hoover City Schools Superintendent Kathy Murphy, Superintendent Association of Alabama Executive Director Eric Mackey and former Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott are the four finalists for the position

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, who as governor serves as board president, told board members Friday that this is one of the most important decisions they will make. “Having an effective superintendent is absolutely essential to the future of our educational endeavors,” Ivey said.

Board members are seeking a replacement for former Superintendent Michael Sentance who resigned in September after one year and one day on the job. Sentance stepped down after receiving a poor performance evaluation.

A search firm whittled a field of more than 40 applicants to seven semifinalists. The finalists were selected after board members ranked the seven semifinalists under a scoring matrix.

Board members are scheduled to interview finalists and select a new superintendent April 20.

Pouncey now heads the Jefferson County school system and has served as a deputy state superintendent and chief of staff at the Alabama Department of Education. Mackey has led the state superintendent association since 2010 and has served as superintendent of Jacksonville City Schools and a school principal. Murphy is the superintendent of Hoover City Schools and has served as superintendent of Monroe County schools and as high school principal. Scott is a principal at the Texas Star Alliance, a lobbying and public affairs firm, and served as Texas education commissioner for five years under Gov. Rick Perry.

Pouncey had been a finalist for the state superintendent post in 2016 but lost to Sentance. Pouncey has an ongoing lawsuit against one board member, Mary Scott Hunter, and others saying was a victim of a scheme to keep him from winning the superintendent post two years ago.

Before the 2016 vote, someone anonymously gave board members a packet of information, including internal department emails, accusing Pouncey of getting state staff to write his 2009 dissertation when he was with the department. Pouncey said the accusation was untrue, and a subsequent department report found that employee statements cleared Pouncey.

Hunter said she does not plan to recuse herself from the vote next week, saying she can be fair and impartial.

“It’s certainly an odd situation, but it’s not a situation of my making,” Hunter said.


This story has been corrected to show that finalists will be interviewed April 20.