A bill requiring all local school districts in Mississippi to begin appointing superintendents is heading to the full Senate. Some lawmakers believe the measure will give districts a greater opportunity to find the best candidates for the job.
More than one-third of the state’s 144 school districts elect their local superintendents. That’s according to the state Department of Education. However, a bill passed by the Senate Education Committee yesterday, could put an end to that practice.
Senate Bill 2438 would require all local school boards in the state to begin appointing their superintendents by 2019.
Committee Chair, Republican Senator Gray Tollison of Oxford says appointing superintendents will allow districts to select from a greater pool of qualified applicants.
“You can select a football coach from across county lines, but you cannot select a superintendent from across county lines,” says Tollison. “We need to give smaller school districts an opportunity to go outside their county boundaries, if they so choose, to select a superintendent. There may be somebody more qualified there.”
The bill has already received support from the Mississippi Department of Education, and an overwhelming number of Senate Education Committee members, but others remain unsure.
Democratic Senator J-P Wilemon of Belmont worries appointing superintendents will lead to out of control salaries for the public school leaders.
“The state superintendent used to be elected, they started appointing them and they wound up with a salary two-and-a-half times much as the Governor [sic],” Wilemon says. “I feel like the same thing will happen to the school district superintendent.”
If the bill is eventually approved by the legislature as a whole, Committee Chair Gray Tollison says elected superintendents would be allowed to serve the entirety of their current terms.