- Cullman, Alabama


April 14, 2013

A time for change

CULLMAN — Alabama lawmakers will head into the final stretch of the legislative session with a new member on board, Randall Shedd of Cullman County.

With Shedd’s arrival comes the opportunity to pass a bill converting the county superintendent of education to an appointed position. This is a proposal favored by the current school board and elected superintendent, Billy Coleman.

The bill appeared to be headed for smooth sailing until Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, balked because the District 11 House of Representatives seat was unfilled when the session began. Henry reasoned he would be uncomfortable voting for the bill until the residents who fall under District 11 had a representative.

Residents already had representation through the elected school board, but that point was not taken into consideration. Now the bill will face an uphill battle because of the limited time remaining in the session.

Nevertheless, lawmakers should push hard to get the bill approved. Henry has indicated he will support the bill now that Shedd is in place.

Few places in the country still elected school superintendents. While that is not a convincing reason for change, there is an overwhelming point that should be taken into consideration. Residents would continue to have the power to elect school board members, who answer directly to voters for their decisions. The superintendent would be taken out of the political picture and would be free to concentrate solely on leading and improving the school system.

The school board becomes the employer of the superintendent and can develop a contract and expectations for the superintendent to meet. This system would put the school board and superintendent on the same page.

The school board would also be able to establish educational and professional standards for anyone seeking the superintendent’s position. For the parents, teachers and students, this would be a positive step forward.

Coleman has performed above and beyond in his role as superintendent of county schools. But he also recognizes that the change to an appointed superintendent would have longterm benefits for the school system.

If this bill is pushed aside in this session, the election cycle would be in full swing before it could come before the legislature again. Lawmakers need to take this bill seriously and use some of the remaining session to establish an appointed superintendent for Cullman County.

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