Newspaper article News Sentinel

Electing School Superintendents Flawed Proposal

Newspaper article News Sentinel

Electing School Superintendents Flawed Proposal

Article excerpt

The echoes barely had faded away from Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre's resignation announcement last week when a Tennessee legislator used the situation as a pretext for pushing for elected school directors.

McIntyre divulged his intent to resign, pending school board approval of a severance package, on Jan. 4. Two days later state Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, said he would introduce a bill that would allow local districts to once again elect superintendents -- a step backwards for education in the state.

Until the reforms of the 1990s, school superintendents were elected in Tennessee. The Education Improvement Act of 1992 mandated the switch to superintendents being appointed by each district's board of education.

Prior to the change, superintendents had to be politicians, keeping one eye on the election cycle instead of the school system. Elected superintendents are not accountable to school boards, which would have no means to discipline or fire an incompetent or ineffective one.

Appointed superintendents do not have to solicit votes, raise campaign money or make deals with other politicians for support. They do not have to host chili suppers, though attending a few and eating the occasional bowl might help build relationships with community leaders.

Appointing superintendents broadens the pool of available applicants because elected officials must reside in the district they represent. A larger pool of applicants leads to more qualified candidates. The University of Tennessee Athletic Department would not have been able to hire Butch Jones as football coach three years ago if it had restricted its search only to college coaches who lived in Tennessee. …

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