Appoint the superintendent

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By Jim Clark

This is something I've been wanting to propose for a long time, but have held off because we had an incumbent elected school superintendent.

Now that Cliff Norris has declared his intention not to run for re-election, it's time to look at the advantages of having an appointed, rather than elected, superintendent.

There are roughly 16,000 school districts in the U.S., and only about 1 percent of them elect superintendents, and all of those districts are in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. Our nearest neighbor, Georgia, did away with elected superintendents about 12 years ago.

There are various arguments both ways, and I used to subscribe to the theory that the public would have better control over the superintendent if it were an elected position. Since, I've discovered that was erroneous thinking.

The public has control only once every four years. Other than that, the superintendent can follow his own agenda and if he stays within the law, even the School Board can't stop him.

Conversely, if he is appointed rather than elected, he would have to be aware that he serves at the pleasure of the board, and that he and the board have to work together.

Can you imagine a multi-million dollar company that allows its stockholders to elect both the board of directors and the chief operating officer? Would that be good for business? I doubt it.

So why is it that we, the shareholders in the education system, a multi-million-dollar operation, elect our board of directors, better known as the School Board, AND the chief operating officer, known as the superintendent.

Can you also imagine that company's board saying that the firm would have to have somebody local, probably from within, be promoted to the top position? Don't many boards conduct nationwide searches for the top people possible?

What would it be like if we were able to conduct a nationwide search for a school superintendent? We might find someone from outside who would be amazingly qualified for the job, or, conversely, we might find out that the best possible superintendent comes from right here at home. It wouldn't hurt to find out.

OBITUARY LIST: A couple of weeks ago we ran a list of all the obituaries that were published last year. The list was taken from those who appeared on the obituary page.

Unfortunately, that meant we left out one prominent person who died last year, whose story was on Page 1. Pat Hammond, a key person in the history of her newspaper, died last spring and the story was printed on the front page.

Despite not being listed in the obituaries for the year, she was listed in the Year in Review by date that was published the same date.

Jim Clark is the editor of the Williston Pioneer Sun News. He can be reached at editor@willistonpioneer.com or at 528-3343.