- Cullman, Alabama

May 20, 2014

EDITORIAL: Looking beyond the standard

The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — Cullman County schools superintendent Billy Coleman opened a wide door of opportunity when he supported a transition to an appointed executive to lead the local education system.

Coleman, who has recorded numerous successes for the school system in his term as an elected superintendent, gained the support of board of education members and local lawmakers in changing to an appointed superintendent. For Coleman, it was a selfless act that promises a lot of potential benefits for Cullman County’s students today and in the future.

Nonetheless, several school board members are voicing support for an applicant who has a long history in the school system. Vinemont High School principal Dr. Brandon Payne emerged as a clear front-runner for the superintendent’s post among the majority of school board members.

Among the reasons some board members gave for favoring the local applicant was deep roots in the community and familiarity with the current education system. Payne may well be the best of the finalists. He may perform admirably if given the opportunity to lead the system. His qualifications appear solid.

Nevertheless, the reasons board members note for placing Payne at the top of their lists are not exactly what should drive the selection process. The last thing board members want to do is take a provincial view of the education system. A highly qualified candidate without ties to the local system and community could bring expertise and viewpoints that are not skewed by local politics and established networks. The point of having an appointed superintendent has always been to find the person with the ability to establish effective guidance for improving education and wading past the pitfalls and problems created by years of deep political influence in the local education system.

School board members, who are elected, hold the final say on who becomes superintendent. If the local candidate is the best person for the job, award the position to him and demand the highest standards in leading the school system’s students to new heights in academic achievement. No matter who accepts the position, the goal should be to do what is absolutely right for the students’ future. Leadership in this role should not be rooted simply in familiarity. Look outside the box. Fresh ideas combined with excellent administrative and leadership skills will bring the system a superintendent who can look beyond local standards and deliver a new era of excellence in education.