If ever there were a time for Mississippi to end the absurd practice of electing school superintendents, the 2016 legislative session is it.....Mr. Pender is absolutely right. The madness of electing superintendents was on full display in Rankin County last year. There were three candidates for superintendent of the third largest schoold district in Mississippi. A recruiting firm searching for candidates on a national level would not have even considered any of these candidates. None of these candidates had any experience as a superintendent anywhere. None. Principals and district bureaucrats. Suppose Republican darling Michelle Rhee wanted to be Superintendent of Rankin County? No dice. The job instead goes to someone who wouldn't be able to be considered for the same job anywhere else in the country.
First, the problem: Electing superintendents limits the “gene pool” to people who live in a district and are crazy enough to run for public office and rich, popular or mean enough to win. Administrative skills and other qualifications get pushed down the list.
An analogy proponents of change have used for years is football: If Ole Miss were looking for a new coach, would it make sense to limit the search only to people in Oxford?
Also, an elected superintendent is more likely to focus on politics, and run a district more like Tammany Hall than Bretton Hall. It contributes to patronage hiring and contracts and nepotism, cronyism, rascal-ism and a host of other isms and prevents meaningful education reform. School boards should be elected, then in turn hire superintendents. But a countywide elected superintendent usually wields more clout than an elected board, and the tail wags the dog.
Mississippi has more elected school superintendents — about 60 — than any other state. It’s one of only three that elect any at all.....
Some recent GOP-led education reform efforts, such as the third-grade literacy program, have brought improvements and didn’t cause the world to end as many education advocates warned. This also might make them more open to working with legislative leaders on changes such as appointed superintendents.
Appointing rather than electing top school leaders won’t magically take politics out of public education. But it would help ten-fold. Heck it would save at least a little money just in the reduction of jobs and contracts created for superintendents’ friends, family and political supporters.
The change would still be a heavy lift in the Legislature. But the political stars may not ever again be in such convergence for it as this year. Rest of column.
Some will point to Jackson as Jackson appoints its Superintendent with not exactly satisfactory results. Jackson has an appointed school board and superintendent- the worst of all possible worlds as there is no accountability whatsoever. An elected school board in Rankin County can hold a Superintendent's feet to the fire if he fails to perform.
Fixing this law won't solve Mississippi's educational problems but its not a bad place to start.