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Appointed School Superintendent

Public education has been a long-standing area of study and interest for the League of Women Voters of the Pensacola Bay Area. Foremost among the reforms, which we believe would be beneficial to our school system, is the appointment of the district’s school superintendent by the elected school board.

While the overwhelming majority of school systems in the United States (including a number of Florida districts) appoint their superintendents, Escambia County voters have rejected several ballot opportunities to move the office to an appointed position. As a result, ours is the last large Florida county in which the office of superintendent remains elective.

Although appointment of the superintendent is not a panacea for an administration, this election year seems an appropriate time to remind Escambia County citizens of the significant and worthy benefits to be gained from adopting this reform:

  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.)

Dr. William Maloy, a former superintendent of Escambia County schools, supports the appointment of the superintendent and, indeed, did so while serving in that office. Applauding the earlier adoption of non-partisan election of school boards, Maloy further editorialized that school districts would benefit if school boards were non-salaried and expanded to include at-large members. “We might be surprised at how many good, thoughtful people would serve.”

Would it not make sense to continue to elect school board members and, in turn, give them the responsibility of selecting a superintendent with the appropriate qualifications to oversee the district school system?

Our students, teachers and principals would benefit from a more harmonious, efficient and productive administration and citizens would need look no further than their elected school board to express their desires, blame or praise.

With the adoption of an appointed school superintendent, the voters of Escambia County would replace politics with professionalism, taking a giant step toward excellence in education.




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