Giving outsiders a shot at school superintendent

Giving outsiders a shot at school superintendent

(Texas) Action expected this week by the state board of education would allow candidates to be hired as school superintendents without benefit of any classroom experience.

The proposal, which already won support from the state’s educator certification board, has drawn both criticisms from teacher groups and support from school managers and the business community – but expectations are that the board will likely support the change.

“Educators should not prejudge outsiders and school boards should not be biased for them,” opined the Houston Chronicle in an editorial late last month. “Nontraditional and traditional candidates can bring different strengths to bear on this critical job.”

Currently Texas law requires that candidates for a school superintendent position have a master’s degree from an accredited university and have passed both an approved superintendent preparation program as well as a required exam. Also, the applicant needs to hold a principal certificate, which requires at least two years’ experience as a classroom teacher.

The proposed amendment coming to the state board at its regular November meeting would give school districts the option of hiring anyone that agrees to complete the certification preparation program, pass the certification test and have a post-baccalaureate degree.

According to a staff report to the board, the proposed change comes as the result of stakeholder meetings held last year with school representatives as well as business groups.

One key recommendations that came out of those meetings was that the state needed “to allow for a broader pathway to superintendent certification so that the pool of candidates for superintendent could include more diverse experiences and skillsets.”

Among the arguments in favor of the change is recognition that about a quarter of all superintendents nationally are nearly retirement age, according to a survey from the American Association of School Administrators.

Just like almost all other states, the retirement of baby boomers comes as the improving economy is pumping money back into schools and in turn, restoring deep cuts to educator positions made during the recession. In many locations, district boards are struggling to find qualified personnel to fill superintendent slots.

Still, some observers say allowing non-school professionals to hold top positions will not help student performance.

“Every superintendent needs to have a strong understanding of how the classroom works,” Kate Kuhlmann, a lobbyist with the Association of Texas Professional Educators, told the Times Record News in a recent story.  “They’re making decisions about classrooms and students on a regular basis.”

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