Newspaper article News Sentinel

Editorial: Bill to Elect Superintendents Looks Backwards

Newspaper article News Sentinel

Editorial: Bill to Elect Superintendents Looks Backwards

Article excerpt

U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. uncharacteristically waded into state and local politics recently, writing a letter to state Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, endorsing a misguided bill that would allow elected school superintendents. In the letter, written at the request of Claiborne County Mayor Jack Daniels, Duncan wrote that most people who have discussed the issue with him want to switch back to electing superintendents.

Duncan is a Tennessee resident and American citizen, of course, and can offer opinions on anything he likes. But members of Congress, Duncan included, generally stay out of state and local politics. The Knoxville Republican's choice of issues to support is curious -- Niceley's bill would turn back the clock two decades. Tennessee switched to appointed superintendents in 1992, with the Education Improvement Act. The proposal would allow local districts that had elected superintendents before 1992 to hold a referendum on whether to resume the practice.

Only three states -- Florida, Alabama and Mississippi -- allow school districts to elect superintendents. And a key part of Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant's pending education reform package is a bill requiring appointed superintendents. Mississippi, it seems, is entering the 21st century just as Niceley wants Tennessee to back out of it.

Niceley said that turnover is a problem with appointed superintendents, noting that Jefferson County went through five school leaders in a five-year period. A hiring record that dismal, though, seems to indicate the problem lies with the district or its hiring practices. …

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