March 15, 2012 9:54:30 AM
Three bills working their way through the Mississippi Senate offer encouraging news for Mississippi schools and school children.
The first would allow all school districts to appoint superintendents. Of the state's 152 school districts, 64 county districts, including Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Clay and Noxubee have elected superintendents. All of the city districts in Mississippi have appointed superintendents.
While we mean no criticism of incumbent elected superintendents -- the system of elected superintendents has in some cases yielded good leadership -- an appointed system would broaden the field of choices for school districts and put the responsibility on the backs of school board members. While we're at it, we'd like to see elected school boards as the four counties mentioned above have. For the most part, area city districts, Columbus, Starkville and West Point, have appointed school board members.
Senate Education Chairman Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, also said some people who would make good superintendents don't want to run for office, and in some cases, elected superintendents and school boards who don't get along can end up in a standoff that hurts the district.
The bill originally sought to end elections in all districts. An amendment to let voters petition by Jan. 1, 2015 to keep elections was added.
We also like a Senate bill passed Tuesday that would change the way districts are rated to a system everyone understands. Instead of star, high performing, successful, academic watch, at risk of failing and failing, schools would be graded just as they grade the children they're responsible for educating. Districts would get one of six letter grades: A, B, C, D, D- and F.
Another bill would make it easier for districts not to renew contracts of superintendents. By denying legal hearings for non-renewed superintendents, the bill would spare school districts legal costs associated with such. The Jackson city district last year spent $114,000 on a hearing when it decided not to rehire its superintendent. Districts would still have to have good cause to fire superintendents during the middle of their contracts.
The bills now move to the House where they may be modified.
We urge the House to pass these three bills. They are good for Mississippi schools and school children.