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Chism wants superintendents appointed


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Mississippi has more elected superintendents than the rest of the country combined. A measure Rep. Gary Chism introduced would change that, making the position appointed by each district''s school board. 


In many cases, school districts with elected superintendents end up run by the best politician, not the most-qualified candidate, said Chism, R-Columbus, a former Lowndes County school board member. 


And with a position as important as school superintendent, that''s not a gamble Chism wants to make. 


"In most counties, it''s probably the largest entity in the county -- as far as payroll, as far as money being spent, even bigger than the Board of Supervisors," Chism said. 


Of Mississippi''s 152 school districts, 65 have elected superintendents. There are 30,000 superintendents in the country; only 101 are elected. 


"The Board of Supervisors hires the county administrator, and they can go out and find the best candidate; the school board should be afforded the same opportunities," Chism said, noting he thinks all school boards should be elected. 


Lowndes County School District Superintendent of Education Mike Halford agrees with Chism''s measure. 


"I just think that all superintendents should be appointed," said Halford, whose position is elected. He is in his seventh year as Lowndes County superintendent; he ran unopposed for his re-election. 


"I have worked in a district (in Natchez) where the superintendents are appointed, and the appointed just works better," he said, noting it also "opens up the opportunities for a larger field of applicants." 


While Halford is a 37-year veteran educator, he admits the state has "numerous situations" where superintendents are elected but have no experience in administration. 


"Even after being a principal, it takes 18 to 24 months to get used to the superintendent''s position," Halford said. "No one is completely ready for the superintendent''s seat when they get here." 


"Do we have good elected superintendents? You bet," Chism added. "But do we have some that ought not be superintendent ... Sometimes, you can have someone who is a good politician, but doesn''t know a thing about administration." 


In addition to Lowndes County, superintendents of Oktibbeha and Clay county school districts are elected. Superintendents of Columbus, Starkville and West Point municipal districts are appointed. 


The measure is House Bill No. 585 and has been referred to the House Education Committee, chaired by Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, and the House Apportionment and Elections Committee, chaired by Tommy Reynolds, D-Charleston. 


Chism also has proposed a bill that would allow families living on a military base to choose which district and school their child can attend. Currently, school-age children residing within the bounds of Columbus Air Force Base can choose between Columbus city schools, where they were zoned according to a 1970 federal desegregation order, and Caledonia, where they are zoned according to state legislation. 


In 2007, the Columbus Municipal School District was released from the federal court order. A judge previously ruled the Lowndes County School District was in compliance with the order except for the area of facilities, allowing the two districts the opportunity to allow CAFB families school choice. Since then, the two districts have entered an interlocal agreement on a year-by-year basis to allow students living at CAFB to choose between Caledonia and city schools. The city elementary schools already allow a school-choice program, operated by a lottery system. The proposed bill would mean CAFB families also could choose New Hope or West Lowndes schools, in addition to city schools or Caledonia. 


The measure is House Bill No. 653 and has been referred to the House Education Committee. 


Hundreds of bills have been proposed by lawmakers, dealing with everything from education to strip clubs; many won''t make it out of committee. 


To read bills, track their status and see how legislators voted, go to the Mississippi Legislature''s Web site: 


The Web site also has live videocasts of the House and Senate when they''re taking up bills on the floor.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment sameolegary commented at 1/25/2010 2:10:00 PM:


Somethings never change for you. You still want to run the school system here in Lowndes County from Jackson. Just can't stand the fact that you don't have your dirty little hand in the pot.

I'm amazed that is is legal for you to sponsor bills that directly affect the insurance business. You will reap the benefits of something you proposed to the lawmakers in the form of a bill. That sir is what you are all about these days. You act like you represent the common man yet you go off and continue to introduce more bills that will directly put money into your pocket through your insurance company here in Columbus.

Speaking of you being a former Lowndes County Board of Education member, how does it feel to have an employee you and Mr. Hatcher hired under the table, who you had formerly FIRED (well, you told Mr. Shows to get rid of him or you would fire him, the principal at New Hope I think is they way Mr. Shows put it), suing the county now? Yeah, all of this could have been prevented if you and Mr. Hatcher had not hired this man and kept the hiring out of the local newspaper. You knew his past at other school districts and his breaking of purchasing laws while at New Hope, but you just couldn't say NO to your buddy Charlie.


Article Comment GJackson commented at 1/26/2010 12:10:00 AM:

Mr or Ms.Sameolegray sounds like to me you wanted the job that was at New Hope.


Article Comment MB commented at 1/26/2010 3:23:00 PM:

Well I think we need to cut the school districts down to on per county! There is no reason to have more than one per county. Save that extra money in administrative staff! I think we need appointed superintendents because most of the counties with elected ones have more schools that are failing! At least when the school board appoints/hires one the whole board and the superintendent are held accountable!


Article Comment jack commented at 1/26/2010 5:16:00 PM:



Article Comment Thom Geiger commented at 1/26/2010 9:01:00 PM:

Remember the adage that you get what you pay for? That sounds nice, like something our grandmothers would say, but it's too bad that's not always true. Of 152 school districts in the state, we have the highest paid superintendent, and what is our city's overall rating? Oh, and he was appointed. Appointments mean nothing if the ones making the appointments have a history of making bad decisions. Remember Level 5 by 2005?


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