School Superintendents Should Meet Qualifications

Article excerpt

Byline: William Bainbridge

Counties in Florida have basic minimum qualifications for most positions of public trust.

For example, it is common for medical examiners to have medical degrees, Circuit Court judges to hold law degrees and accountants to have college-level accounting degrees.

There are more than 13,000 school system superintendents throughout the country. These chief executives are responsible for managing school operations, leading instructional programs, building healthy relationships with other agencies and communicating with the public.

Studies reveal a high correlation between the success of school systems and the leadership of the superintendent. Effective executive leadership can be critical to any school system in maintaining or improving performance indicators such as dropout rates, graduation rates, norm-referenced tests, student attendance and college entrance examinations.

Across the country, it is typical for school superintendents to be required to have:

- State certification requiring a minimum of a master's degree plus specific graduate study in specific fields, such as management of instruction, curriculum, facilities, human resources, business, finance and communications.

- A strong academic and work record demonstrating significant accomplishments.

- A proven history in managing instructional programs, budgets and facilities.

- Achievement in previous positions, preferably as principals or managers in other public service arenas like health, children's services and the military.

- Evidence of working effectively with individuals, employees, businesses, diverse groups and the media.

- Experience speaking effectively for school district needs and generating financial support.

In this context, it is strange, surprising and potentially alarming that some county school district superintendent offices in Florida are being occupied by individuals who may not have any qualifications other than being a resident of the state.

In Florida, the 10 most populous county school districts employ appointed superintendents who hold credentials to compete for board-appointed positions. This is, for example, the case in Duval and St. Johns counties.

Fewer than 1 percent of school systems nationwide have elected superintendents.

However, the majority of medium and small population-size districts still employ elected school superintendents. …