Why should we appoint superintendents instead of electing them?
1. Electing a superintendent takes money, and oftentimes, qualified candidates don’t have the money to run. Everyone knows it takes money to run, and we should not lose out on a truly, great qualified candidate bc they don’t have the money or money raising capability as someone else that is more ‘connected’ in the community.
2. Do you know how many incredible administrators and district employees at DCS don’t live in DeSoto County? It’s a bunch! But guess what! They can’t run for superintendent bc they don’t live in the county. Some live in Memphis and some in Marshall and Tate County. It doesn’t matter that they already work for the district, bc they don’t live in the district. What a shame that those individuals can’t be candidates due to their residency. So even though we may not fall into the category of not having anyone capable to run, we fall into the category of having less competition and less qualified candidates because we elect and a person has to live in the county.
3. Can school boards be bought? Anything is possible, but who in the world do people think has been bought and paid for now? Common Core is in DeSoto County because our former elected superintendent was and has been bought and paid for! He was bought, paid for and received kickbacks from educational vendors, educational programs companies, professional development companies, Pearson, PARCC, contractors, builders, architects, vendors and numerous others companies and individuals that wooed him. The district under MK and Weeks went through 25 programs at minimum and at a cost of millions and millions of dollars compared to what the district spent under Dr. Edith Robinson which was about $500,000 comparatively speaking. Did anyone know that? Most of these programs were only used for a year or less and did nothing to benefit our children. They benefitted the superintendent. And it doesn’t matter how angelic or evil a person is……..no one person should have that much power at the tax payers expense. Why would this be different for the board? The school board does not dictate or control curriculum, standards or programs nor does it have control over the administration of the schools. That all falls under the authority of the superintendent, and with an elected superintendent, the board has no authority to do anything about the choices the superintendent makes (good or bad). That is not their role. They can’t hold the superintendent accountable if he is elected.
4. What is the school board’s role? Their role as it stands now is a policy making board. That’s it. They implement policies but can’t even truly enforce them unless the superintendent wants them to do so. They can suggest a person be fired but they have ZERO control over the administration of the schools because we have an elected superintendent. They can’t make the superintendent fire anyone or do anything!!!! AND……state officials, MDE and the higher up elected officials and agencies don’t want to do anything bc they feel that would be going against the voters in the district that elected that person. They also don’t want to do anything because oftentimes, they are all in each other political pockets. Superintendents spend lots of time at MASS, SBA, in Jackson, in Biloxi and politicking. They woo people until they get elected, head south to build their power, forget about the schools and then try to woo people again before an election. Good superintendents and bad ones know that they have complete power until it is time to run again. School board members don’t have those constant political ‘meetings’ and reasons to travel the state to politick. THEY ONLY MAKE $2400/year. It’s not like there is a lot in it for them financially and much fewer political ‘meetings’ in Jackson or other parts of the state.
5. Once a person is elected, it is VERY DIFFICULT for those in a county to challenge them upon the next election. If a person does, they know they could likely be out of a job. Not to mention, the elected superintendent already has his/her campaign finances built up with plenty of educational vendor backers in the background to help them along their way. Has anyone ever taken the time to see the campaign finance reports for the superintendents vs. the school board members? I venture to say not. It is already hard enough for people to raise the money, but an elected superintendent is already an established political machine. How many people want to roll the dice going up against one when it could result in bankruptcy or job loss? This is the reason that so many run unopposed.
6. What happens in areas where the districts are so small that they don’t even have a candidate to run? Well, because of this, we ended up with the retired but still working in the district, not paying into PERs but taking money out and not having to work 40 hours a week problem. If a district is going to elect, it doesn’t matter if they have 100 people in the district. They can’t elect from outside. What we get is paying a person their full retirement plus a salary of 25% of their pre retirement salary, them collecting their 13th check and not paying into PERS just to keep a superintendent around in those areas,causing serious money issues for PERs. Why should children in any school district anywhere suffer bc of a system that doesn’t give them the opportunity to have a qualified leader?
7. As Robert Foster pointed put earlier today, 25,000 people voted in our last superintendent race. Well what option did they have? They could either vote or stay home, and I guess we could have drawn straws for it like we did in one of the state elections this year. And quite frankly, 25,000 people to choose in a county that has 160,000 people isn’t exactly stellar nor should their choosing to vote be viewed as a vote in favor of electing. They had no choice.
8. Now, I must ask those taking such a hard stand on this issue, how many have actually attended A school board meeting or more than one? How many have regular contact with the board? How many people have contacted the board about the myriad of issues I have exposed and asked for their help. No offense, but the local educational system is much more than just Common Core. There are many, many aspects to running a district with a $272,000,000 budget, 42 schools and over 4,000 employees than people can even fathom. If people want to criticize the board, I ask what they have actually contacted them about, how many board meetings they have attended and what relationship they have developed with our board members. I already know the answer to this for most. While I have not agreed with the board on every issue nor have they fulfilled all of my expectations, I also know that THEY HAVE BEEN THE ONLY SAVING GRACE ON MANY ISSUES THAT MOST PEOPLE NEVER EVEN PAID ATTENTION TO! Do you know what we were able to do through the school board and the board that was in MK’s control against all odds? Probably not but you should. We had much more success with them even with their limitations than we ever have with the elected superintendent. It is much easier to find 5 people around town than it is to track down 1 and one that is constantly traveling and politicking bc they know their future depends on money, backing and politics.
9. What should the focus be of everyone? THE CHILDREN!! How many years are children set back when you have a superintendent that is ineffective or that is making bad decisions for the students and their educators? Children are set back for 4 years or longer. How sad is that?! You can’t let your personal feelings for the elected superintendent dictate this decision. Whether he/she is good, bad or indifferent is irrelevant. What is relevant is what makes sense and will produce the best outcome for our children. Parents and citizens should be able to get rid of an educational leader that isn’t doing their job! Because we elect, our children have been stuck in certain situations with criminals. No matter how many facts prove as such, we were stuck. Nothing has been done.
Lastly, I want to address the Grant Callen and Empower issue that seems to be seriously influencing some people’s mindsets. (I could be wrong about this but it appears that way). Empower did NOT come to DeSoto to take over and control our educational system. In fact, DeSoto citizens, myself included, reached out to him for help! Before many of you were ever involved in education or politics, there were those of us that knew we had to have outside help to overthrow the regime. I spent several years laying the ground work, networking and reaching out to people all across the state: legislators, policy groups, advocacy groups, SuperTalk, MS PEP, Jackson Jambalya, the Senate Conservative Coalition and other like minded individuals. I was beyond thankful that Grant was willing to help us here! As far as I knew, Tom Minyard and his wife were also very close with Grant and supported his efforts. Many of us supported Empower. Before Empower, Grant was formerly with the MS Center for Public Policy, who has done great work on issues in this state. I knew him from there before I knew him as connected to Empower. He took a lot of time to meet with many of our citizens before getting behind the candidates this past year. Grant asked for many of our opinions all along the way. He never tried to control who we chose as the candidates to oppose the former regime!! The ONLY thing that he did not listen to (IMO) were the negative ads he sent out which many of us believe hurt our candidates (luckily not too badly) and destroyed many DeSoto citizens’ viewpoint of him and Empower. None of us can change that now, and it doesn’t change the fact that he helped us accomplish our goal. It should just be noted that he came because we asked him to come and not the other way around.
The appointment of superintendents is not about government control. It is not about taking your vote away. It is about what is best for our schools and most importantly for our children. The school board does not have the power to destroy our schools, only the superintendent does. Why should we not empower the school board to terminate the superintendent’s employment when and if he/she fails our district?! Why do people not understand that there is no accountability as it stands now.