When AASA, the School Superintendents Association, names its National Superintendent of the year at its national conference on education in Nashville next week, it’s a good bet that person will have been appointed to the job. Only three states — Alabama, Florida and Mississippi — continue to elect county school superintendents.
Two decades ago, Tennessee lawmakers approved a visionary K-12 reform plan that included a provision requiring all school superintendents (who are also called director of schools in some districts) to be appointed by local boards of education instead of being elected every four years by the voters.
The idea behind the move was to bring a greater degree of professionalism to the position of school superintendent by insulating the job from petty politics. Appointing experienced school superintendents was not a new concept back in 1992. Most municipal school systems already were doing it in Tennessee.
Even so, there are always bills filed in the General Assembly to put the job of school superintendent back on the ballot. This year is no exception.
We would argue that instead of putting the school superintendent back on the ballot, voters should take more of an interest in local races for the Board of Education. Races for seats on the school board rarely get the attention they deserve. Electing the school superintendent does nothing to remedy that.