I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Elected or Appointed Superintendent of Schools, Part II

From Tennessee School Boards Association

I strongly support the model of an elected school board hiring, supervising, and evaluating a professional, highly-qualified superintendent of schools from a large, nationwide pool of talented applicants.

This is not a shot against our current elected superintendent of schools Malcolm Thomas.  I've talked to him about this.  It is not personal, as I happen to think Mr. Thomas is one of the hardest working men I have ever known and I agree with the majority of his initiatives.

But I think the overall system would greatly improve, and our district would be more responsive to

 constituents, if the Escambia  County School Board appointed the superintendent.
From Tennessee School Boards Association

Think of it like hiring a football coach: If Alabama could only recruit their coach from the citizens of Tuscaloosa, they would not have Nick Saban as their coach.  And under this same arcane practice Urban Meyer, a native of Toledo, would not have been eligible to be "elected" to take the Ohio State Coaching job in Columbus.  College football teams want the best candidate running their football teams, and so they recruit from a nationwide pool of highly qualified individuals.

Why shouldn't  school boards be allowed to utilize that same logic to look far and wide for the best superintendent to hire to run their schools?

The vast majority of American School Districts, more than 99% of the 14,500 nationwide, operate the way Alabama and Ohio State Football teams do, for very good reasons.  They want the best, not the best from a confined geographic area...

The Tennessee School Boards Association Strongly supports appointed superintendents, and they have an excellent presentation on this topic here:

Mississippi Republicans are working to make all superintendent positions in that state appointed, because it makes good sense.  From the Mississippi Business Journal:

"Senate Education chairman Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, also said some people who would make good superintendents don’t want to run for office, and in some cases, elected superintendents and school boards who don’t get along can end up in a standoff that hurts the district.
Tollison’s bill originally sought to end elections in all districts, but he agreed to an amendment to let voters petition by Jan. 1, 2015 to keep elections. He said he wasn’t sure how many districts might ultimately keep elected superintendents.
“As a matter of state policy, we think the appointed system is a better system of governance for our school districts,” Tollison said."

The League of Women Voters Of Pensacola, a liberal group,  supports appointing superintendents of schools, for a host of good reasons, to include the following:

  1. The school board would not only hire the superintendent, but may dismiss the individual if performance is unsatisfactory. (Presently, a sitting superintendent can be removed from office only by the governor.)
  2. The elected board may establish criteria for the position of superintendent in areas of administrative capability, education, training and experience. Present system limits candidates to county residents. (A large public school district is responsible for the expenditure of millions of taxpayer dollars, yet there is no requirement in the elective system for a candidate to possess an educational background or exhibit financial or administrative skills. Candidates are limited to county residents.)
  3. The elected School board solely determines policy; the appointed superintendent carries out the board’s directives through his administration. (With both offices elective, the board and the superintendent stand on equal footing. Responsibility and control are divided and diffuse, increasing the probability for ‘buck-passing’ or inaction. An elected superintendent is not obliged to do the board’s bidding, nor is the board required to accede to the superintendent’s desires.)
  4. An appointed superintendent is free to focus his attention on administrative matters. (An elected superintendent must deal with the distractions of public demands and campaigning and of making decisions with an eye to the next election.)

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