March 25, 2011 1:34:00 PM
This November, Lowndes County voters have some big decisions to make. Perhaps the most momentous, with the most sweeping ramifications for the county''s future, is school district superintendent.
Two-term Superintendent Mike Halford isn''t seeking a third one, and six candidates are looking to replace him.
Halford, speaking at the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link''s quarterly luncheon this week, didn''t endorse any of his potential successors, who will oversee the county''s third largest employer (behind Columbus Air Force Base and Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle), but he did urge county voters to be deliberate in choosing his successor.
We do think that the job deserves someone with expertise beyond the ability to garner the most votes. Unfortunately, under our current system of employing the county superintendent, that''s what this boils down to.
Mississippi is one of only three states that allows for elected superintendents. Sixty-five of Mississippi''s 152 public school districts have elected superintendents. Nationwide, only 101 superintendents are elected. That''s 101 out of 30,000.
One of them will be elected here during primaries in August and the general election in November. Our choices: Sam Allison, 39, the principal of New Hope Middle School; Edna McGill, 55, assistant superintendent for Lowndes County schools; Cliff Reynolds, 47, the principal at West Lowndes High School; Lynn Wright, 58, the former principal of New Hope High School; Rusty Greene, a former coach, teacher, assistant principal and current athletic director for Columbus schools; and Roger Hill, 64, the 34-year principal of Caledonia Elementary School.
All have education experience. Since they''re running for a county election, they also all live here, and over the years, have built a base of support. What this slate of applicants lacks is an infusion of outside blood, who could bring a fresh perspective to the job. That''s not an option, this being an elected position.
The superintendent''s job is a big one. Not only do we charge this person with supervising 710 employees, we place in his hands the future of more than 5,000 Lowndes County children.
This at a time when the job has never been harder. Education budgets are shrinking amid the recession, while we demand ever more from our students, and those who teach them.
Ideally, we''d cast a wide net for this job. We''d do a nationwide search. We''d have the biggest pool of applicants possible. An elected school board would appoint the superintendent.
That''s not to say that any of the candidates running for this job couldn''t run the district, or that in a perfect world, we wouldn''t have ended up with the winner of the election anyway.
However, this job shouldn''t be a partisan popularity contest -- it''s too big for that. Unfortunately, that''s what this Is.
During the course of the campaign, we''ll know more about each candidate''s strengths and weaknesses. It''s up to each of us to do our homework on the candidates, and cast an educated vote.